Ottolenghi’s Black Pepper Tofu

Black Pepper Tofu
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Credit: Jonathan Lovekin

You will definitely surprise yourself with this one. It is an extremely delicious dish that’s quick and straightforward to make, but looks as if it’s been prepared at a top Chinese restaurant. It is fiery, both from the chiles and the black pepper; you can moderate this by reducing their quantity a little. However, the whole point is spiciness so don’t go too far.

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Black Pepper Tofu

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


  • 1 3/4 pounds

    firm tofu

  • Vegetable oil for frying

  • Cornstarch to dust the tofu

  • 11 tablespoons


  • 12

    small shallots (12 ounces in total), thinly sliced

  • 8

    fresh red chiles (fairly mild ones), thinly sliced

  • 12

    garlic cloves, crushed

  • 3 tablespoons

    chopped fresh ginger

  • 3 tablespoons

    sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)

  • 3 tablespoons

    light soy sauce

  • 4 teaspoons

    dark soy sauce

  • 2 tablespoons


  • 5 tablespoons

    coarsely crushed black peppercorns (use a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder)

  • 16

    small and thin green onions, cut into 1 1/4-inch segments


  1. Start with the tofu. Pour enough oil into a large frying pan or wok to come 1/4 inch up the sides and heat. Cut the tofu into large cubes, about 1 x 1 inch. Toss them in some cornstarch and shake off the excess, then add to the hot oil. (You’ll need to fry the tofu pieces in a few batches so they don’t stew in the pan.) Fry, turning them around as you go, until they are golden all over and have a thin crust. As they are cooked, transfer them onto paper towels.

  2. Remove the oil and any sediment from the pan, then put the butter inside and melt it. Add the shallots, chiles, garlic and ginger. Sauté on low to medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the ingredients have turned shiny and are totally soft. Next, add the soy sauces and sugar and stir, then add the crushed black pepper.

  3. Add the tofu to warm it up in the sauce for about a minute. Finally, stir in the green onions. Serve hot, with steamed rice.

Recipe Notes

Reprinted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi with permission by Chronicle Books, 2011.