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5 from 7 votes

Vegan Lion's Head Stew (素狮子头)

This vegan lion's head stew (素狮子头) is made from tofu and other crunchy vegetables and then braised in a pool of sweet Napa cabbage. The recipe is easy to make, delicious, and healthy.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Asian, Chinese
Keyword: comfortfood, tofu
Servings: 3 people
Author: woonheng


Tofu Balls

  • 14 oz [397g] firm tofu pressed
  • 3-4 caps mushrooms used Bella
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped carrot
  • 1 tablespoon toasted cashew chopped
  • 3-4 water chestnut finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • a drizzle of toasted sesame oil
  • tablespoons corn starch
  • a handful of chopped scallions
  • oil for cooking

Stew Ingredients

  • 3-4 cups chopped Napa cabbage
  • 1 small carrot sliced
  • 4 large dried shiitake mushrooms softened and stems removed
  • 4 slices ginger
  • 1 small bulb garlic smashed
  • 2 cups [473g] vegetable stock

Broth seasoning

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon salt or more if needed
  • a pinch of white pepper
  • a drizzle of toasted sesame oil


  • Chop mushrooms, cashews, carrot, and water chestnut into tiny bits and set aside.
  • To prepare the tofu, place tofu in a cheesecloth bag and wring out as much liquid as possible into a somewhat dry paste.
  • Transfer tofu into a large mixing bowl, add the chopped ingredients, then season with soy sauce, salt, sugar, white pepper, a drizzle of toasted sesame oil, cornstarch and mix until well combined.
  • Divide the mixture into 9 portions. Form each portion into a ball by pressing it between both palms.
  • Preheat the air fryer to 390°F (200°C) for 3 minutes, then air fry tofu balls until golden brown, about 10 - 12 minutes. Remove and set aside

How to make the stew

  • Heat a ceramic pot over high heat, then add 1 tablespoon of oil to coat the bottom of the pot.
  • Add in the ginger and sauté until golden brown, then add the mushrooms. Continue to cook until mushrooms release its fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and then carrot and continue to cook for another minute or so by stirring continously.
  • Slowly pour in the vegetable stock and bring the mixture to a rolling boil. Add the Napa cabbage and sauce seasoning, then stir to combine.
  • Arrange the tofu balls on top of the Napa Cabbage, place a lid over, reduce the heat, and simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes. Check to make sure there is enough liquid to cook the vegetables from time to time.
  • Garnish with chopped scallions, a drizzle of toasted sesame oil and season accordingly, if needed. Serve warm and enjoy!



  • TIP: To prepare the tofu with the best binding, you'll need to remove as much moisture as possible. Additional cornstarch can be added to increase the binding but do not go over 3 tablespoons.
  • For a gluten-free option, please use tamari or any gluten-free soy sauce. 
  • If you can't find water chestnuts, please use other crunchy vegetables such as jicama or edamame beans
  • Other nuts can be used to replace cashews or omit if you are allergic to nuts
  • White pepper has a wonderful aroma and more peppery but black pepper is also a good sub. 
  • Napa cabbage is the best option but other vegetables such as cabbage, bok choy, and Savoy cabbage are great alternatives.