Broccoli & Tofu Stir-Fry with Spicy Peanut Sauce
This dish’s Chinese-inspired creamy, spicy peanut sauce is so easy to make – simply whisk your ingredients in a bowl, no blender necessary! The whole recipe uses just one pot, so it’s super-easy to make when you don’t have a lot of time to cook and clean during a busy work and school week. It’s also kid-approved — my two teenagers are constantly requesting this for dinner, which makes me very happy given how healthy it is!
Broccoli & Tofu Stir-Fry with Spicy Peanut Sauce
- Cuisine: Entrees, Gluten-Free, Savory Recipes Tags asian, broccoli, garlic, ginger, peanut, sauce, soy sauce, stir fry, tofu, vegetarian
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 20 minutes
- Allergens: Peanuts, Soy
- Servings: 2
- 5 tablespoons water
- 4 tablespoons peanut butter (natural, smooth)
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons ginger (minced)
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups broccoli (blanched)
- 4 scallions (thinly sliced)
- 14 oz tofu (extra-firm)
In a small bowl, whisk together the water, peanut butter, rice vinegar, soy sauce, maple syrup, ginger, and garlic. Set aside.
Drain and rinse the tofu, then pat dry and slice it in half horizontally.
Cut te sliced tofu vertically into quarters, then crosswise. You should end up with tofu cubes roughly 1 inch by 1 inch.
In a skillet, heat oil over high heat.
Add tofu and cook in a single layer, without stirring, until the pieces begin to turn golden brown on the bottom (about 5 minutes).
Gently turn the tofu and cook until both sides are golden brown (about 5-7 minutes).
In a separate skillet, add the peanut sauce and blanched broccoli, and cook for 2 minutes.
Add the tofu to that skillet and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
Remove the mixture from the heat, garnish with scallions and serve.
WHAT IS PEANUT SAUCE MADE OF?
Peanut sauce is commonly found in many Asian cultures, most often served with spring and summer rolls and satay or poured over vegetables. While it has been associated with Thai cuisine, peanut sauce actually found its start in Indonesia. Traditional Indonesian stir-fry dishes are typically made with roasted ground peanuts, sweet soy sauce, shallots, lime, and red chilis, which make for a much spicier sauce. This Chinese-inspired recipe doesn’t have as much heat as your classic peanut sauce, but it’s very flavorful. The ingredients are:
- Peanut Butter: Peanut butter is the star of the show here. Use a smooth variety and make sure it doesn’t contain any extra oil, salt, or sugar. Substitute with almond butter if you have a peanut allergy, or just like almonds better!
- Soy Sauce or Tamari: I like to use gluten-free tamari when a recipe calls for soy sauce. The difference in taste between the two is almost indistinguishable and automatically turns this dish into a gluten-free recipe!
- Rice Vinegar: Asian sauces are all about flavor balancing, and rice vinegar helps to balance out our sweet and savory flavors as well as cut down on the fat from peanut butter. Use brown rice vinegar for a healthier alternative.
- Maple Syrup: Adding sugar balances out the soy sauce in this peanut sauce and makes it extra-delicious. If you don’t follow a strictly vegan diet you can use agave or honey as an alternative.
- Ginger & Garlic: The use of fresh minced ginger and garlic make up the base flavor for an Asian-style sauce. Both pack a flavorful punch in the sauce and should not be substituted for their powdered form!
WHAT OIL TO USE FOR STIR FRY
Stir-frying is a commonly used cooking method in traditional Chinese cuisine and has gained popularity with Western chefs. The main idea behind an amazing stir-fry is to rapidly cook food over medium-to-high heat so that the combination of high heat and oil create a Maillard reaction, adding browning and crispiness to the food. Because stir-frying often involves high temperatures, it’s imperative to use an oil that bears a high smoke point, otherwise the oil will burn and impart a burnt flavor to the food at hand. A surefire (pun intended!) way to tell if your oil has reached its smoke point is when you actually start to see smoke coming up from the pan. When cooking dishes that require high heat, try to use neutral-flavored oils such as canola oil, refined avocado oil, refined coconut oil, or grapeseed oil (made from the seeds of grapes after the wine has been pressed). Also, if you can get your hands on it, peanut oil provides a nutty flavor to any stir-fry that requires high heat due to its smoke point. Another common oil used in Asian cooking is toasted sesame oil, which will make the dish even more fragrant and smoky — just be sure to use it as a finishing oil, drizzling it at the end of the cooking time as it oxidizes easily!
In this broccoli and tofu stir-fry, I use extra-virgin olive oil simply because it’s always on hand in my house and I pan-fry the tofu on medium heat. Be sure to cut the tofu into cubes before heating the oil, because once the oil is hot you’ll want to pan-fry the tofu quickly so that the oil doesn’t get too hot and start to burn.
HOW TO PROPERLY COOK BROCCOLI
While eating broccoli raw is perfectly safe, I definitely recommend cooking it slightly to unlock the antioxidant activity of the vegetable. It’s also so much easier to digest and chew on when you steam or blanch it. When cooking vegetables in water, you run the risk of having the vitamins leach into the cooking water, which is why steaming is my preferred method — the cruciferous vegetable doesn’t actually come into contact with water but is just lightly steamed, keeping all of its nutrients intact. Steaming broccoli also creates a bright green color (blanching provides this as well) and after about five minutes you’ll have a vegetable that’s fully cooked all the way through.
In this recipe, first you blanch the broccoli and add it to the dish at the end so it doesn’t become overcooked, mushy, and dark green. Blanching is my second-most preferred way to cook broccoli and other vegetables such as asparagus, string beans, snow peas, and cauliflower, to name a few! To do this, you cook the broccoli in boiling water for a brief moment then you plunge it into an ice bath (just a large bowl with ice and water in it) to halt the cooking process and lock in the bright green color and flavor.
Follow this detailed process to prepare blanched broccoli:
- Trim the florets off of the main, large broccoli stem and cut them into bite-sized pieces. The stem is edible and can be cut into thin julienned pieces that you can also blanch, or save it for later and juice the stem!
- Rinse the florets under cold water to make sure you wash away any debris. I’ve noticed that when you buy organic broccoli, it tends to have tiny green bugs in between the crevices of the florets, so look carefully and wash them out!
- Take a large pot and fill it with water, then add a heaping tablespoon of salt to speed up the boiling process and add flavor to the broccoli florets. Put a cover on so that the water reaches its boiling point much faster.
- Fill a separate large bowl with cold water and ice cubes and keep it near the stove.
- Add a handful of broccoli at a time to the boiling water and allow it to cook for 30 seconds to 2 minutes, depending on how large your florets are and how tender you want them to be.
- Use a slotted spoon to remove the broccoli and quickly plunge it into the ice bath.
- When you’re ready to add the broccoli to the stir-fry, just drain it from the water and pat the florets dry with a towel.
IS PEANUT BUTTER HEALTHY FOR YOU?
Peanuts and peanut butter are an absolute staple in my vegetarian household. I use raw peanuts to make simple snacks such as my Spicy Cocktail Peanuts, in sauces by way of peanut butter, and often just roasted, crushed, and used as a garnish for savory dishes. While they’re high in calories and fat (albeit healthy fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated), they make up for it in protein — just two tablespoons of peanut butter give you eight grams of protein, which is about 16% of your total daily value, according to livestrong.com. Peanuts are legumes (not nuts!), and when combined with grains such as rice and quinoa on a daily basis provide all nine essential amino acids, which is important to take note of when following a vegan or vegetarian diet.
IDEAS to enhance this STIR-FRY
- Do as I do and serve this tofu peanut dish over some jasmine rice or quinoa for a complete meal. Use cauliflower rice for a lighter meal.
- Allergic to peanuts, or cooking for someone who is? Substitute with smooth almond butter for a similar consistency and taste profile.
- Play around with adding other vegetables to this dish such as sliced bok choy, strips of red pepper, sliced carrots, or even cabbage, which pairs well with tofu and peanut sauce.
- The sauce part of this recipe is so good you may want to double the ingredient amounts and drizzle it on bowls and salads throughout the week!
OTHER STIR-FRY IDEAS
Stir-fries are quick, easy, and can be easily personalized when you’re having a busy day and need to get something on the table quickly but don’t want to deal with lots of messy dishes. All they require is some vegetables, a protein (tofu is perfect!), and a delicious sauce. If you love tofu and need some inspiration for your next stir-fry meal, check out some of my other stir-fry recipes: