Home Cooking: Broccoli & Tofu in Spicy Peanut Sauce

This Thai-influenced dish was Meiling’s all-time favorite meal when she was young. She would have happily eaten it several times a week, for breakfast and lunch as well as dinner, and she has already requested I make it when she’s here in December. I came across the recipe many years ago in Molly Katzen’s The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, and the rest, they say, is history. There was a time I could have probably made the sauce for this in my sleep because I’d fixed it so many times.

It’s actually a very quick recipe to pull together, and is very amenable to variation (substituting chicken or pork for the tofu, for example), but we’ve always preferred tofu. I used to boil the tofu cubes for around 10 minutes before adding them to the stir fry as it “set” the tofu so it wouldn’t crumble, but these days I press the tofu before cooking and it holds it shape just fine.

All the ingredients are low cost, and most, if not many, are items I usually have on hand in the pantry, refrigerator, or freezer (frozen broccoli florets can be used, if necessary). Again, chicken or pork can be substituted for the tofu; just stir fry it first and then remove it from the pan while you cook the broccoli and onions. The spiciness of the sauce can also be adjusted by changing the amount of cayenne or chili-garlic paste that’s added (we like it kind of spicy).

Although I usually serve the stir fry over steamed rice, (jasmine rice is especially yummy), I have also tossed the sauce with noodles (spaghetti or rice noodles) for another simple main dish.

BROCCOLI & TOFU IN SPICY PEANUT SAUCE

  • 1 package firm tofu
  • 1 pound broccoli florets
  • 1-2 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sliced onion
  • 1 TBSP fresh grated ginger
  • 4 medium cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3/4 tsp salt (optional)
  • 2 green onions, minced
  • Spicy Peanut Sauce (recipe below)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped peanuts (optional, especially if using chunky peanut butter)
  • steamed rice

Press the tofu for about an hour before cooking to remove a much of the water as possible (I press between layers of a dish towel to keep the water from going everywhere). Cut into 1-inch cubes and set aside.

Make the spicy peanut sauce and set aside.

(If using chicken or pork instead of tofu, stir fry the meat first, then set aside and wipe out the wok before proceeding.)

Heat a large wok or large skillet. After about a minute, add the vegetable oil and then the onion slices. Cook over high heat until crisp-tender.

Add the broccoli florets, ginger, garlic (and salt, if using). Continue to stir fry over high heat for about 5 minutes, or until the broccoli is bright green and just tender. Add the tofu cubes and the green onions, and stir-fry about 2-3 minutes more, until the tofu is heated through.

Pour in the sauce, and stir until everything is coated. The sauce will thicken as it cooks. Serve immediately over hot rice, topped with the chopped peanuts (if desired).

SPICY PEANUT SAUCE

  • 3/4 cup natural peanut butter (no added sugar)
  • 3/4 cup very hot (but not boiling) water
  • 5 TBSP rice or cider vinegar
  • 3 TBSP soy sauce
  • 3 TBSP molasses or brown sugar
  • cayenne pepper or chili-garlic paste to taste

Mix the peanut butter into the hot water until well blended. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk together. If you use molasses, be sure to whisk the sauce again right before using because some of the molasses can settle at the bottom.

4 thoughts on “Home Cooking: Broccoli & Tofu in Spicy Peanut Sauce

    1. Cindy, this recipe is so good! You can make it as spicy as you like too. We will be putting it into regular rotation now. We had it with rice for dinner, but enjoyed the leftovers on their own.

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  1. Can you believe I’ve never eaten or cooked tofu in a main dish? Out of curiosity, I nibbled a bite of someone’s plain, raw tofu once, but haven’t seen the attraction, really! So, this just might be my first real tofu experience. I will need to read again about kind of tofu and the pressing part. Would boiling, as mentioned, be better for a newbie? I really want to like it!

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    1. Tofu on its own is completely flavorless, and it’s why so many don’t like it. However, it takes on the flavor of whatever it’s cooked with from marinating, so cooking in a spicy sauce gives it loads of flavor. I think this is a good recipe for trying out tofu, especially if you like peanut flavors and broccoli. The semi-crunchy broccoli is a good fit with the soft tofu.

      I layer a block of tofu in a dishtowel and then put a cast iron bacon press on top for about an hour before cooking – it’s amazing how much water comes out! But, the boiling works as well although it’s more work.

      The varieties of tofu available in Japan are amazing, from almost a custard like consistency to baked to fried. I could eat it every day there and never grow tired of it.

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