While braised tofu might not sound overly appealing to some, consider that it is braised in a sweet and spicy gochujang soy sauce that delivers serious umami. The crisped tofu slices absorb the classic Korean flavours while the outside ends up coated in a spicy, umami glaze.
Top the tofu with green onion and sesame seeds, and you have a weeknight vegan dinner or delicious side dish that brings home the flavours of Korean cuisine.
This spicy tofu recipe is super easy, uses only one pan and will convert all the tofu haters out there. If you are one of them, it’s because you have not tried tofu like this.
What is dubu jorim?
Jorim is any simmered Korean dish where vegetables, meat, fish, seafood, or tofu are braised in a seasoned broth until reduced. In Korean, dubu means tofu. So dubu jorim (or tofu jorim) is a Korean braised tofu dish.
I first fell in love with Korean tofu when I made Meera Sodha’s version, “Honey, soy and ginger braised tofu” from her cookbook East. She uses gochujang instead of gochugaru. She also breaks away from tradition by adding grated pears and ginger.
My version of Korean braised tofu does not stray as far from tradition. But I do opt for gochujang paste instead of the traditional gochugaru (Korean chilli flakes). Gochujang is a fermented soybean and red chilli paste made with gochugaru that packs serious umami.
Gochujang is a common ingredient in Korean food. You should be able to find it in the Asian section of your grocery store. But I suggest alternatives if you can’t or if you require a gluten-free substitute.
Korean braised tofu ingredients & substitutions
The main ingredient in this Korean tofu recipe is, of course, tofu. When pan-frying tofu, it is best to use extra-firm tofu. But firm tofu will also work. Just avoid silken tofu or soft tofu.
Firm tofu can withstand pan-frying and flipping, and the outside crisps up beautifully.
- Soy sauce: Use regular soy sauce, like Kikkoman. But light soy sauce also works a treat. Just avoid the much stronger dark soy sauce.
- Gluten-free substitute: You can use any gluten-free soy sauce alternative, like tamari or coconut aminos.
- Toasted sesame oil: Make sure you use toasted sesame oil. It adds a delicious nutty flavour to the spicy, savoury sauce.
- Gochujang: I braise the spicy tofu in a sweet and spicy gochujang sauce. Gochujang is not gluten-free.
- Substitute: Traditional dubu jorim uses gochugaru. So you can substitute the tablespoon of gochujang with a teaspoon of gochugaru or fine chilli flakes if you need it to be sans gluten. See best gochujang substitutes and best gochugaru substitutes for more information.
- Maple syrup: I adore the smoky sweetness of maple syrup. It works well with the sweet and savoury gochujang and attributes stickiness to the final tofu coating.
- Substitute: Use brown sugar or any other sweetener. You can also omit it if you need to.
- Garlic: Garlic adds a deliciously savoury punch to the sauce, so I add three standard-sized garlic cloves (roughly 15 grams). While not traditional, grated ginger is also a delicious addition.
- Spring onions: You can also use scallions (green onions).
Read more about substituting gochujang or gochugaru in Korean cooking:
How to make dubu jurim
Korean braised tofu is a simple dish that dirties only one pan and is ready in less than 30 minutes. It’s the perfect quick-and-easy vegetarian dish for a weeknight meal!
Step 1: Prepare the tofu
Take your firm tofu block and gently press out as much water as possible over the kitchen sink. Dry tofu crisps up better when pan-fried and creates different textures in the final dish.
Cut the tofu into 1 cm (or ½ inch) thick rectangular pieces. And thoroughly dry the slices with a paper towel.
Step 2: Pan-fry the tofu
Heat a large non-stick pan or seasoned cast iron skillet over medium-high heat with a tablespoon of oil.
I use the skillet part of the 10.5-inch Lodge Combo Cooker Cast Iron Skillet (Amazon affiliate link). If you don’t have a non-stick pan, use two tablespoons of oil instead.
Once very hot, gently add the tofu slices. Take care because the sliced tofu rectangles are fragile, and any excess moisture may cause the oil to sputter.
Fry the tofu until golden on both sides with a crispy texture, about four minutes per side.
Line a plate with paper towels and transfer the crispy tofu to the plate. The paper towel will absorb the excess oil.
Step 3: Add the sauce
Add all of the sauce ingredients to a small bowl and whisk well. You can add them to the same bowl while prepping your ingredients since they go into the pan together.
Reduce the heat to medium and carefully wipe excess oil from the tofu cooking pan with a paper towel. Add the sauce mix and stir for a minute.
Saucy tip: The sauce reduces until it coats the tofu in a beautiful glaze. But you can double the sauce recipe if you want extra sauce to drizzle over your rice.
Step 4: Braise the tofu in the sauce
Return the tofu to the pan with the sauce. And simmer for four minutes over medium heat. Gently flip the tofu pieces and simmer for another minute, spooning the sauce over the tofu rectangles.
Sprinkle with the reserved green onion and sesame seeds.
This spicy tofu dish is a traditional Korean side. But I serve this spicy tofu as a vegan main dish surrounded by other Korean side dishes.
For an easy weeknight dinner, serve the tofu with popular banchan like:
- spicy cucumber salad,
- sesame broccoli salad or bok choy,
- and, of course, short-grain rice (try this easy stovetop short-grain rice recipe or this Instant Pot sushi rice recipe).
Spicy Korean Braised Tofu (Dubu Jorim)
- A non-stick pan or seasoned skillet – I use a 10-inch Lodge cast iron skillet.
- 450 gram (18 oz) extra-firm tofu
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 3 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons regular soy sauce, or 3 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon gochujang paste, or 1 teaspoon gochugaru
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup, or sugar
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 spring onions, finely chopped (reserve some green parts for sprinkling at the end)
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- reserved spring onion
- Take the tofu block between your hands and gently press out as much water as possible over the kitchen sink. Cut the tofu block into 1 cm (or ½ inch) thick rectangular pieces. Thoroughly pat it dry with a paper towel.
- Prepare the sauce by mixing all the ingredients in a bowl.
- Heat a large non-stick pan or seasoned cast iron skillet over medium-high heat with a tablespoon of oil. Once very hot, gently add the tofu slices. Be careful because the tofu slices are fragile, and any excess moisture may cause the oil to sputter.
- Sear the tofu until lightly golden brown on both sides, about four minutes per side.
- Line a plate with paper towels and transfer the golden tofu to the plate, allowing the paper to absorb the excess oil.
- Reduce the heat to medium and carefully wipe away the excess oil with a paper towel. Add the sauce mix to the pan and stir for a minute. Return the tofu to the pan with the sauce.
- Simmer for four minutes over medium heat. Gently flip the tofu pieces and simmer for another minute, spooning the sauce over the tofu rectangles.
- Sprinkle with the reserved green onion and sesame seeds.
- Use more oil to fry the tofu if your pan is not non-stick and carefully wipe out excess oil before adding the sauce ingredients.
- The sauce reduces until it coats the tofu in a beautiful glaze. You can double the sauce recipe if you want extra sauce to drizzle over your rice
- Gochujang and chilli flakes come in varying degrees of spiciness. I use medium-hot gochujang, and the one tablespoon makes the sauce plenty spicy. Add the chilli flakes or chilli paste according to your preferred spice level.
- Find more ingredient and substitute information.
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If you love this spicy Korean tofu dish as much as I do, why not try more Korean recipes:
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