Inspired by a famous dish at a beloved local Vietnamese restaurant, this lemongrass tofu is rich with flavor and is one of my family’s very favorite ways to eat tofu. Made with fresh lemongrass or lemongrass paste, chiles, and fish sauce, this savory dish is delicious!
What Makes Lemongrass Tofu So Good
- There’s this famous little Vietnamese joint in midtown Memphis called Pho Hoa Binh, which offers a cheap and painfully delicious (and equally generous) buffet for lunch. Their lemongrass tofu is known city-wide as being one of the most delicious things, ever. This recipe successfully recreates that incredible dish right in the comfort of your kitchen.
- This recipe is full of aromatic lemongrass and pungent onion and garlic, and fiery with Thai red chili peppers! Seriously, this stuff is hot. You can reduce the amount in the recipe, but I really enjoyed how intense the slow burn was.
- A touch of agave gives the lemongrass tofu this sweetness that compliments the saltiness of the fish sauce and soy sauce and the heat of the peppers and chili flakes in this mouth-watering, mind-blowing way that you just can’t get enough of. It’s the ultimate sweet-meets-salty dish.
Key Ingredients for Lemongrass Tofu
Tofu – Both firm and extra-firm will work well here, so use your favorite!
Lemongrass Stalks – Not only does lemongrass taste amazing, it’s good for you, too! It’s full of antioxidants, and it’s anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal. If you can’t find lemongrass stalks, you could try using powdered lemongrass instead. I’d start with 2 ½ tablespoons and adjust from there as needed. Lemongrass paste would also work – use roughly 1 teaspoon paste in place of 1 lemongrass stalk.
Thai Red Chili Peppers – If you’re new to red chili peppers, definitely cut the quantity you use at first. They’re much hotter than peppers like jalapeños, and it’s not easy to walk that heat back if you use too much. You can always add more, though!
Fish Sauce – If you’re vegan or vegetarian, skip the fish sauce and use extra soy sauce in its place.
- Make sure to drain your tofu for at least 30 minutes prior to cooking, so you get the perfect lemongrass tofu texture. Wrap the block of tofu in a paper towel and set a heavy frying pan on top of it to press out as much excess liquid as possible.
- You can totally enjoy lemongrass tofu all on its own, but a simple helping of steamed rice compliments it nicely. Noodles would also work, or you could do some stir-fried veggies.
- Both the fish sauce and the soy sauce are salty, so if you’re sensitive to salt, use less than the recipe calls for and add more to taste. I’m a huge lover of all things salty, so I tend to be really heavy handed with my fish sauce, using even more than the 2 teaspoons called for here. I know that doesn’t work for everyone, though!
Love Tofu? Try These Recipes Next!
- Vegan Fried “Chicken” (Made with Tofu)
- Crispy Baked Tofu
- Tofu and Broccoli
- Delicious Baked Tofu
- Air Fryer Tofu
- Tofu Sofritas Bowl
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- Large bowl
- Large non-stick skillet
- Paper towels
- 2 stalks lemongrass finely minced
- 2 teaspoons fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 2 Thai red chili peppers chopped, see Notes
- ¼ teaspoon dried red chili flakes
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2 teaspoons agave
- 1 large pinch salt use more or less to taste
- 1 pound firm or extra-firm tofu cubed
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or other neutral oil, divided
- ½ of one onion sliced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- ¼ cup chopped peanuts divided
- 1 cup steamed rice optional, to serve
- 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro optional, for garnish
- In large bowl, combine lemongrass, fish sauce, soy sauce, diced chili peppers, chili flakes, ground turmeric, agave, and salt. Once combined, add cubed tofu and stir to coat tofu evenly. Set aside and let tofu marinate in mixture for 30 minutes.
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic to hot oil and stir until fragrant, approximately 1 minute. Reduce to low heat and cook until onions are soft, approximately 3 minutes. Transfer onions and garlic to plate and keep warm.
- Quickly wipe out skillet with paper towels. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to skillet and heat over medium heat. Once oil is hot, add tofu and marinade to skillet. Turn tofu regularly to ensure cubes cook evenly on all sides, cooking approximately 4 to 5 minutes.
- Return onions and garlic to skillet. Cook, uncovered, 2 to 3 minutes, then add ⅛ cup (2 tablespoons) chopped peanuts to skillet. Stir to incorporate.
- Portion lemongrass tofu into serving bowls over steamed rice (optional) and garnish with remaining peanuts and chopped cilantro (optional).
- The Thai red chili peppers are really hot, especially if you’re not used to them, so feel free to lower the quantity used. You can always add more if you need more kick.
- Make it Vegetarian/Vegan: Skip the fish sauce and use additional soy sauce in its place.
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Cheryl Malik is the recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind the healthy, flavorful, family friendly recipes at 40 Aprons. She’s been a blogger for 10+ years and is known for her delicious recipes and detailed recipe instructions. Cheryl is a mom of three who lives in Memphis, TN.