This silken tofu recipe delivers a delicious vegan side dish that takes less than five minutes to pull together. I’m talking zero cook time here. And it’s a great way to add a protein-rich plant-based side dish to your dinner table in no time.
The lusciously creamy texture of soft silken tofu is a canvas for all sorts of flavour-packed sauces.
In this spicy soft tofu recipe, we use a simple dressing of soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, rice vinegar, maple syrup, scallions and chilli crisp to create a spicy, savoury and sweet sauce that coats every bite of custard-like soft tofu.
Why you’ll love this recipe
Silken tofu with soy sauce is a simple yet flavour-packed cold tofu side dish – perfect for busy weeknights and those too-hot-to-cook summer days.
Here are more reasons to love this delicious five-minute recipe as much as I do:
- Easy to make: Grab a block of silken tofu and a few pantry ingredients to make this quick and tasty vegan side. Plus, there’s no special equipment or cooking involved! Not sure about silken tofu yet? Just keep reading – there are many reasons to love silken tofu!
- Flavour-packed: The spicy, savoury-sweet dressing uses soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, rice vinegar and chilli crisp. It’s a delicious combination of sweet, salty, and spicy flavours. Mix a double batch and use it as noodle sauce, rice seasoning or Asian salad dressing.
- Super flexible: This easy silken tofu recipe is incredibly adaptable. Swap and change flavours to make it your own. Try chile oil instead of chilli crisp, toasted peanuts instead of sesame seeds or Thai basil instead of coriander.
- Protein-rich: Silken tofu is a great source of plant-based protein. This vegan silken tofu recipe is also naturally dairy-free and easy to make gluten-free (swap soy sauce for tamari) – and therefore easy to serve most guests.
But most of all? It is utterly delicious. Think chawanmushi custard-like texture showered in umami flavours with hardly any prep at all.
Silken tofu vs regular tofu
To make regular tofu (block tofu), soy milk is separated into curds and whey. The soy curds are placed into moulds lined with cloth. Applying pressure allows the excess whey to drain away. And the longer you press it, the firmer the resulting tofu. Firm tofu (and extra-firm tofu) is great for tofu stir-fry, or try it in this Korean braised gochujang tofu.
Silken tofu is also made from soy milk but without curdling the milk. It means the silken tofu retains more moisture with no curds resulting in a smooth and silky appearance. Silken tofu is great for steaming, or Korean-style tofu stew (like sundubu jjigae) or in raw silken tofu recipes like this one. Firm silken tofu (or extra-firm silken tofu) also works well in a silken tofu scramble, tofu miso soup, and the iconic mapo tofu. Soft silken tofu is ideal for vegan mayo and other sauces.
Serious Eats has a great article on the different types of tofu – that include a variety of vegan silken tofu recipes – if you’re interested in learning more.
This recipe relies on the smooth custard-like texture of fresh silken tofu that I adore, but you can use the silken tofu variety you prefer.
Ingredients and substitutes
This easy tofu recipe relies on only a handful of simple ingredients. Using the right tofu is key. But the spicy soy dressing you can make your own by incorporating different Asian flavours.
Which tofu should I use?
I use an extra smooth silken tofu from Singapore. You can find this type of tofu in the refrigerated section of Asian grocery stores. It typically has a solid plastic tub covered with a clear plastic film.
If you can’t find this type of silken tofu, you also get shelf-stable silken tofu sold in cartons. These cartons are available in soft tofu, firm tofu and extra-firm tofu. I prefer soft tofu for cold tofu dishes, but you can also use firm or extra-firm tofu if that is what you have. Just open the carton container and drain excess moisture before sliding it onto a serving plate.
Or try Korean sundubu (sold in plastic-wrapped logs) sliced into thick disks.
Using silken tofu for the first time can be intimidating. Take care when you slide the soft tofu block from its packaging. But don’t worry if your tofu block breaks. Go with it and slice the tofu into large chunks before pouring over the dressing. It will taste just as great.
Spicy soy dressing ingredients
- Soy sauce: Use all-purpose or light soy sauce (dark soy sauce is too intense). Or try tamari or coconut aminos for a gluten-free option. You can also use sweet soy sauce (kecap manis) and skip the maple syrup.
- Toasted sesame oil: This nutty-flavoured oil adds depth and complexity to the dressing. You can substitute it with regular sesame oil, but the flavour won’t be as nutty.
- Rice vinegar: Rice vinegar adds a sweet-sour flavour to the dressing. If you don’t have any, use mirin, Chinkiang vinegar (black vinegar) or half the amount of wine vinegar.
- Maple syrup (or sugar): The sweetness balances the heat and acidity. It also makes the sauce a bit sticky to better cling to the tofu. You can use any type of sugar or syrup.
- Chilli crisp: The star of the show! I use Lao Gan Ma brand when I don’t have homemade chilli crisp. You can also use chile oil, sambal oelek, gochujang or Korean red pepper flakes for a Korean-style silken tofu. Or omit it if you want your soy dressing non-spicy.
- Scallions: If you don’t have green onions (scallions) or spring onions, you can also use finely chopped shallots. Or sprinkle the finished dish with garlic chives.
- Sesame seeds: Toasted sesame seeds add a slight crunch with a nutty flavour. But you can skip them if you prefer.
This soy sauce dressing is versatile and plays well with a variety of flavours. Use what you have available to add your own flavour stamp.
- Swap the toasted sesame seeds for peanuts, roughly chopped and toasted.
- Add a teaspoon of grated fresh ginger instead of the chilli crisp for a milder spicy soy sauce dressing.
- Or add fresh herbs like cilantro leaves or Thai basil to boost the freshness.
There is no need to go shopping if you have a block of soft silky tofu. Use the ingredients you have to dress it up.
How to make silken tofu with soy sauce
This silken tofu with spicy soy dressing is a simple vegan dish that comes together in minutes. It is as easy as prepping the marinade, plating the tofu, and drizzling over the sauce.
Step 1: Prepare the marinade
In a small bowl, whisk together the marinade ingredients:
- 1½ tablespoons of soy sauce,
- 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil,
- 2 teaspoons of rice vinegar,
- ½ tablespoon of maple syrup (or a teaspoon sugar),
- 1 thinly sliced scallion (some green slices reserved for garnish), and
- 2 teaspoons of chilli crisp.
Have a taste and add more chilli crisp for extra spice.
Refrigerate the dressing until you are ready to serve the silken tofu.
Step 2: Dry the silken tofu
Peel back the film on diagonally opposing edges of the tofu package and tilt to strain off the excess liquid.
Flip the package over and use a sharp pairing knife to pierce the bottom plastic container. Turn around again and fully remove the clear plastic film. Loosen the edges of the tofu block by gently pulling away the sides of the plastic, or running a sharp knife along the inside of the package.
Turn the whole block onto a serving plate. Gently wiggle off the plastic container. Use a paper towel (or clean kitchen towel) and gently pat it dry.
If you’re using long-life silken tofu – the one packaged in a small carton – snip open the end of the carton and an opposing corner. Then drain off excess water before sliding it onto your serving plate.
Step 3: Dress and serve
Pour the spicy soy dressing over the silken tofu block.
Garnish with the reserved green scallion and toasted sesame seeds and serve straight away. This simple tofu dish is best served cold or at room temperature.
You can refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
How to serve silken tofu
Smooth silken tofu makes a deliciously creamy vegan side dish or appetiser. It’s especially great when you are short on time or not in the mood to cook. Served with a simple bowl of steamed rice to soak up the dressing, it even makes an easy vegan tofu main dish.
Silken tofu is renowned for its silky smooth texture, but the flavour leaves a blank canvas to dress up as you see fit.
That’s why we make an umami-rich soy-based dressing to drizzle over the silky smooth tofu.
Simply place your drained tofu block on a rimmed serving plate and coat in a sweetened soy sauce dressing. Then add your favourite crunchy ingredient – chilli crisp, toasted peanuts or even pine nuts (as Meera Sodha does in her book East).
Frequently asked questions
Silken tofu is a versatile ingredient often used in dairy-free sauces, baking, soups, smoothies, and desserts. You can also serve silken tofu straight from the package dressed in a sweetened soy sauce.
No, silken tofu has a very high water content and does not go crispy when pan-fried. Use it for its silken smooth, creamy texture. Or coat it in a batter to crisp it up.
You can enjoy silken tofu without any preparation – it is ready to use straight out of the package. But you can also steam silken tofu or simmer it in soups and stews
Silken Tofu With Spicy Soy Dressing
- 1 12-ounce block silken tofu*
Spicy soy dressing:
- 1½ tablespoons soy sauce , light or all-purpose
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
- ½ tablespoon maple syrup , or sugar
- 1 scallion , thinly sliced with a few green slices reserved for garnish
- 2 teaspoons chilli crisp* , more to taste
- ½ tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- In a small bowl, whisk together the marinade ingredients. Taste and add more chilli crisp if you want it spicier. Refrigerate the marinade until you are ready to serve the silken tofu.
- Peel back the film on diagonally opposing edges of the tofu package and tilt to strain off the excess liquid. Flip the package over and use a sharp pairing knife to pierce the bottom plastic container. Turn around again and fully remove the clear plastic film. Loosen the edges of the tofu block by gently pulling away the sides of the plastic, or running a sharp knife along the inside of the package. Then turn the whole block onto a serving plate. Use a paper towel (or a clean kitchen towel) to gently pat it dry.
- Pour the spicy soy dressing over the silken tofu block. Garnish with the reserved green scallion and toasted sesame seeds. This simple tofu dish is best served cold or at room temperature.
- The soft and silky texture is a massive part of the appeal here. I use extra smooth silken tofu from the refrigeration section, not the shelf-stable one sold in a carton. But you can also use silken long-life soft tofu if that is what you have – just cut open the carton container and drain excess moisture before sliding it onto a serving plate. Or try Korean sundubu sliced into thick disks.
- Using silken tofu for the first time can be intimidating. So, don’t worry if your tofu block falls apart when you slide it out of the packaging. Go with it and slice the tofu into large chunks before pouring the dressing over. It will taste just as great.
- I use Lao Gan Ma brand when I don’t have homemade chilli crisp. You can also use chile oil or red pepper flakes to taste. See the ingredients and substitutes section for more information on substitutes and variations.
- Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
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