Tofu Stir-Fry with Peanut Sauce

Story by Miranda
Tofu Stir-Fry with Peanut Sauce in a pan with a spoon
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Creamy, garlicky, gingery homemade peanut sauce makes this super healthy tofu and vegetable stir-fry into a hearty, satisfying vegan dinner even omnivores will love. 

Tofu Stir-Fry with Vegetables and Peanut Sauce

Loaded with fresh ginger and garlic, super-savory homemade peanut sauce makes this tofu stir-fry a vegan comfort food that even omnivores will love.

Healthy and fast, we rely on this peanut sauce-drizzled tofu stir fry to keep ourselves fed and happy in the midst of even the busiest week. Packaged tofu keeps for a long time in the fridge, and the same goes for our favorite stir-fry vegetables like cabbage and broccoli, so it’s easy to have all the ingredients for this tofu stir-fry on-hand. 

While it may not sound like the most exciting dinner ever, we swear that this particular tofu stir-fry recipe really is pretty exciting. Cooked quickly at high heat and—this is the KEY—drizzled with lots of homemade peanut sauce that bursts with umami goodness, it’s a wildly flavorful celebration of how delicious a plant-based dinner can be.

Tofu Stir-Fry with Peanut Sauce and broccoli in a pan with extra sauce in a bowl with a spoon
Ingredients laid out for starry broccoli, ginger, garlic, cabbage, peanut sauce, tofu

What Can You Put in a Stir-Fry?

This tofu stir-fry (that just happens to qualify as a vegan stir-fry, too) is super adaptable. Just about anything would taste good coated in homemade peanut sauce, so let your imagination run wild. Stir-fry vegetables that are in season, vegetables that you love‚ and you can’t go wrong. At high heat—which is what you want when you’re making a stir-fry—most vegetables will cook quickly, so keep a close eye on whatever you toss into the pot, testing for doneness as you go. Here are a few of our favorite tofu and vegetable stir-fry combinations:

  • Cabbage and tofu: this is our go-to combo, but that’s largely because both tofu and cabbage keep for ages in the fridge, so we always have them around. It’s comforting to know they’ll be there for us when we need them.
  • Broccoli, cabbage and tofu: a super healthy, super satisfying trio. Take a little extra time to cut the broccoli into rather small florets, so it cooks a bit faster. Alternatively, give the broccoli a quick steam before stir-frying.  
  • Sweet potatoes, broccoli and tofu: sweet potatoes and peanut sauce are an unbelievably hearty, savory, satisfying pair. We love this version of our peanut sauce stir-fry especially during the late autumn and winter months, because it’s extra rib-sticking. Just the stir-frying alone won’t be enough to cook it, so steam the sweet potato before tossing it into the stir-fry, so that it’s tender and ready to go.
Tofu frying in oil in a pan

Are Stir-Fries Healthy?

They certainly can be! And this particular vegan tofu and vegetable stir-fry is healthy for sure. Here’s why:

  1. Tofu! Tofu is an excellent, lean source of iron and protein. Soy-based foods, like tofu, have gotten some unflattering press in the past few years, but—as with any food—moderation is name of the game. There’s a lot to love about tofu, but it may not be a food that you would want to eat every single day. But a few times a week? Great!
  2. High heat + vegetables = delicious. A bit of oil and some pretty-high heat mean that your vegetables will cook quickly, retaining their vibrant color and lovely crispness. That means an exciting, texturally-interesting, veggie-packed meal. You don’t need a nutritionist to tell you that that’s a really good thing, right?
  3. Peanut stir-fry sauce. Since we don’t eat meat in our household, we’re always hunting for ways to get a little extra protein and iron into our meals, and this homemade peanut stir-fry sauce is an ideal protein-and-iron delivery system. No, it’s not low in calories, but it is high in plant-derived protein, fiber and fats, so all of those calories are pulling their weight. Since this tofu stir-fry is otherwise quite low in calories, there’s room for a little healthy splurge like this creamy, flavorful peanut sauce. And speaking of peanut sauce....

What is Peanut Sauce Made of?

This peanut sauce recipe has been passed back and forth between a best friend and I since we were about 15 years old, and in all honesty I can’t remember where it originated from beyond that. It was hers originally, but I have made some tweaks over the years, so now I think it can officially be called “ours”. It’s spicy, creamy, and so-very-simple—just toss all of the ingredients listed below in a blender or food processor, give it a good long pulse, and enjoy. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Peanut butter. I know, I know. We’re really blowing your mind here. You’ll need about a cup of peanut butter—almost a whole jar—to make a batch of this peanut sauce. You can use the grind-your-own kind (found in the bulk aisle of most grocery stores), or any brand you prefer. As long as it's a peanut butter that's made of just peanuts (no sugar or palm oil), you’re good to go.
  • Soy sauce. We like to use the low-sodium variety, to keep this dish healthy, and so that we have a little more control over the saltiness of the final product. Or, if you’d like to keep the stir-fry gluten-free, use a gluten-free tamari in place of soy sauce.
  • Chinese black vinegar. Not exactly a staple in most of our kitchens (yet!) this dark, richly-flavored, slightly sweet vinegar is, however, quite widely available. You should be able to find it in the Asian-foods section of your grocery store. However, if you don’t want to make a special trip, you can swap almost any other vinegar you have on hand without a huge sacrifice in flavor. We’ve swapped in both Mirin (Japanese rice vinegar) and apple cider vinegar, and the resulting peanut sauce was still delicious.
  • Toasted sesame oil. Fragrant and nutty, the aroma of toasted sesame oil gives our peanut sauce an addictive, heady richness.
  • Fresh ginger and garlic. Loads of chopped, warming fresh ginger makes this peanut sauce a particular favorite during the winter months, and garlic—I mean, what is dinner without garlic?
  • Sambal oelek or sriracha. These are optional, but recommended if you’re craving something spicy. If you’ve got little ones who prefer things mild, leave this out of the peanut sauce and simply serve it at dinner along with the stir-fry so everyone can make their own serving as spicy as they please.
peanut sauce in food processor

What Can I Use Peanut Sauce On?

Almost anything—and I speak from personal experience. I’ve gobbled up this peanut sauce on:  

  • Hot noodles. Sometimes we throw caution to the wind and eat this tofu stir-fry over noodles. Fresh, steaming ramen noodles, or thick, toothsome udon—it’s a simple way to make this healthy vegan dinner into a weeknight indulgence.
  • Cold noodles. When the dog days of summer hit, boil some pasta in the cooler morning hours, whizz up some peanut sauce in the blender, dump it all together and toss it in the fridge. If you’re feeling ambitious, toss in some chopped bell peppers and sugar snap peas. A few hours later, with zero effort, dinner is served. Oven? What oven?
  • Raw veggies. Thick and creamy, this peanut sauce has been known to make an appearance at parties as part of our appetizer spread. Vegan, gluten-free (if you use tamari instead of soy sauce), and low-carb—this sauce checks all the boxes for all the people. It’s party-perfect.
  • Tortellini. OK, we admit, this is YET ANOTHER way to say “noodles”, which we’ve already mentioned twice. But the friend (hi, Cali!) whose recipe this originally was always had this peanut sauce out at her family’s annual Boxing Day party alongside a bowl of simple, boiled cheese tortellini and a little cup of toothpicks. Stab a tortellini, dip it in the peanut sauce, pop it in your mouth. Repeat. It may sound a bit odd, but it was a killer party snack. Don’t knock it ‘til you try it!
Close up of Tofu Stir Fry With Broccoli, Cabbage and peanut sauce

What Oil Should You Use for a Stir-Fry?

For this tofu stir-fry, canola oil is usually our preference. It’s neutral flavor doesn’t compete with the sharp richness of the peanut sauce or the veggies, and it’s something that we usually have in the cupboard. Grapeseed oil is a favorite for stir-fries, too, because of its similarly neutral flavor and high smoke-point.

Tools You Will Need:

Tofu Stir Fry With Broccoli, Cabbage and peanut sauce in a pan with serving spoon.

Other Quick and Easy Weeknight Stir-Fries:

A veggie-laden one-pot meal that’s ready in about 15 minutes? Yes please! Stir-fries for all! We also are pretty proud of our:

  • Garlic Shrimp Stir-Fry: garlicky and brilliantly, cheerfully pink, shrimp fries up fast in a super-hot pan and pairs beautifully with bright green, crunchy asparagus.
  • Crispy Chicken Stir-Fry: you’ll love this easy, foolproof technique for making the crispiest stir-fried chicken ever. Toss in some green beans and call it a (delicious) day.
  • Garlic Butter Steak Stir-Fry: Last but not least try this addicting steak stir fry for dinner tonight...you won't regret it! 

Did you Make our Tofu-Vegetable Stir-Fry with Peanut Sauce?

If you did, we’d love to hear about it! Be sure to snap a photo, add it to your Instagram feed or stories and tag us @themodernproper and #themodernproper if you do. Also, feel free to leave a comment on the post and tell your friends where you discovered the recipe.

Tofu Stir-Fry with Peanut Sauce

Serves 4

Peanut Sauce

2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced or grated
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup natural peanut butter (unsalted)
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce (or tamari)
1/2 cup water
4 tbsp Chinese black vinegar (or 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar)
1 tsp sambal oelek or sriracha (optional)
4 tbsp toasted sesame oil

Ingredients

2 tbsp canola oil
2 (14 oz) packages extra firm tofu, drained on a towel and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 head cabbage, cored and roughly chopped
1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
1 batch peanut sauce

Method

  1. Combine all peanut sauce ingredients in a food processor or blender, and blend until the peanut sauce is smooth, cohesive and creamy—about 30 seconds.* Can easily be made a few days ahead and stored in the fridge.
  2. In a large skillet or wok, warm the oil over medium-high heat. Add the tofu, and let it fry for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. When the tofu has gotten crispy remove from pan and set aside on a dish. Depending on the size of your pan, this step can be done in batches.
  3. In the same skillet add the cabbage and broccoli, and sauté until the vegetables are soft and tender. Turn the heat down to medium, return tofu to the skillet and add the peanut sauce. Toss to coat and allow to cook for another minute or two.
  4. Serve over steamed brown rice, noodles, or simply as-is.