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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!

Two bowls of lemongrass tofu with white rice

What Makes This Recipe 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

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.

Chef’s Tips

  • 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!
Lemongrass tofu marinade poured over tofu in a large bowl

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Recipe By: Cheryl Malik
5 from 12 votes

Lemongrass Tofu


Prep 15 minutes
Cook 15 minutes
Marinating Time 30 minutes
Total 1 hour
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!
4

Equipment

  • Large bowl
  • Large non-stick skillet
  • Plate
  • Paper towels

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.
    All ingredients for lemongrass tofu, with tofu in a large bowl
  • 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.
    Lemongrass tofu in large skillet
  • 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.
 
Recipe yields approximately 4 servings. Actual number of servings will depend on your preferred portion sizes.
Nutritional values shown are general guidelines and reflect information for 1 serving using ingredients listed, including steamed rice. Actual macros may vary slightly depending on specific brands and types of ingredients used.
To determine the weight of one serving, prepare the recipe as instructed. Weigh the finished recipe, then divide the weight of the finished recipe (not including the weight of the container the food is in) by 4. Result will be the weight of one serving.

Approximate Information for One Serving

Serving Size: 1servingCalories: 293calProtein: 14gFat: 17gSaturated Fat: 7gSodium: 340mgPotassium: 188mgTotal Carbs: 23gFiber: 2gSugar: 5gNet Carbs: 21gVitamin A: 63IUVitamin C: 5mgCalcium: 169mgIron: 3mg
Nutrition Disclaimers
Number of total servings shown is approximate. Actual number of servings will depend on your preferred portion sizes.
Nutritional values shown are general guidelines and reflect information for 1 serving using the ingredients listed, not including any optional ingredients. Actual macros may vary slightly depending on specific brands and types of ingredients used.
To determine the weight of one serving, prepare the recipe as instructed. Weigh the finished recipe, then divide the weight of the finished recipe (not including the weight of the container the food is in) by the desired number of servings. Result will be the weight of one serving.

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51 Comments

  1. Avatar Carrie Feinstein says:

    Making this tonite. Can I leave out the agave or is there something I can substitute?

    1. Avatar Savannah | 40 Aprons Team says:

      The agave is for sweetening things. You can leave it out or swap with your preferred sweetener 🙂5 stars

  2. This is an old post, but I felt compelled to comment. While under Covid-19 house arrest I started searching for a lemongrass tofu recipe like the one from my favorite Vietnamese place in Memphis, Saigon Le. Siagon Le burned down and never reopened and I have been mourning it ever since. I was born and raised in Midtown and Saigon Le was like a second home. No longer living in Memphis, I found that it’s hard to find Vietnamese restaurants in other parts on the country and I miss the cuisine desperately. I was so excited to see this recipe and the Memphis connection! Pho Hoa Binh is definitely a close second to Saigon Le, and I am crazy excited to give this recipe a try. Thanks for bringing a little Midtown back into my life!

    1. Let us know how you like it! I’m definitely considering making some since Pho Binh is closed because of this crazy stuff.5 stars

      1. What do you do to get the tofu texture!!

      2. Avatar Savannah | 40 Aprons Team says:

        We definitely make sure to drain our tofu for at least 30 minutes prior to cooking! We wrap it up in a paper tower and put a frying pan on it for 30 minutes.5 stars

    2. I’m excited to try this as well. We have a great Vietnamese restaurant in town and this picture looks just like the dish!

  3. hello cheryl!

    i’ve seen your blog pop up here and there (when i’m looking for awesome recipes ;), but this is the first time i took notice, and noticed you’re in memphis! I’m from memphis originally, but now in the bay area. I love seeing little reminders of home! Pho Hoa Binh and Pho Saigon are two of my favorite places 🙂

    I made this last night, and thought it was delicious! Me and the huzb are big tofu fans. Thought i would bring one thing to your attention- the recipe list does not include peanuts, yet you mention them in the cooking directions- i just threw a few crushed peanuts in and it was great.
    Next time i think i’ll also put in some veggie broth while cooking, to make a little bit more sauce.

    all the best from the bay, and thinking about my southern hometown!

    julie

    1. Avatar Cheryl Malik says:

      How fun! I used to not really mention anything about Memphis but I love to hear that the little notes provoke good memories 🙂 Thanks so much for pointing that out.. definitely updating the recipe notes. And great idea on the veggie broth! I ended up adding extra fish sauce because I’m such a nerd for anything super salty, but a bit extra sauce is always welcome. I’ll try it that way next!

    2. Avatar Ann Verga says:

      Thanks for this great recipe! It was so easy and delicious, and quick! Will definitely make again and again 🙂5 stars

  4. Oh, wow. I have been in search of new but still easy dishes to make for weeknight dinners. I think we have a winner! (Sorry for the rhyme)

    1. Avatar Cheryl Malik says:

      I expect a full-blown limerick next time, Nora! 🙂

      I’d have responded with a rhyme but.. I still feel like my brain is revolting ’til I provide more coffee.

  5. Okay, you’ve convinced me to give tofu a chance—-this looks totally stunning, Cheryl! My kinda all-in-one dinner right here. 😉

  6. Ok, I may not be from Memphis, but I’m am definitely saying mmmmmmmmmmmmm to this recipe! I’m a huge tofu fan, but I usually just cook it the same way all the time with the same seasonings and I’m always looking for interesting ways to change it up! I’ve never actually cooked with lemongrass, but I saw some at the grocery store the other day and I was thinking I should try some! I hope you had a great time at your friend’s baby shower and I bet those apple cider muffins were a huge hit 🙂

    1. Avatar Cheryl Malik says:

      This comment is showing up as unapproved but I feel like I’ve responded.. so don’t judge me if I’m double-responding! 🙂 We used to make soooo much tofu each week and always did it the same way, too! Browned until super crispy in a cast iron skillet and then a vegan gravy.. mm! But this recipe is so aromatic and spicy and interesting, you should definitely try it – you’ll fall in love with lemongrass! 🙂

  7. Avatar Kat from curlsnchard.com says:

    Hey Cheryl, I stumbled across your blog today and I’m so happy I found you 🙂 I love your recipes and your photos, they look wonderful! I haven’t made tofu in a while, but your recipe looks so delicious, I might just have to head out soon to buy some tofu and give it a try 😉 xoxo, Kat

    1. Avatar Cheryl Malik says:

      I’m so glad you found me, too! 🙂 Hope you try this recipe and love it!

  8. Yumm, I love lemongrass it’s so aromatic and wonderful. This looks so good! I will have to try it out soon!

    1. Avatar Cheryl Malik says:

      Oh yes, I adore it, too! Thanks Karishma 🙂 I hope you try it and love it!

  9. I looooove the flavour of lemongrass! What a great dish. Do you think the fish sauce should be replaced with a bit of extra soy sauce for a vegetarian version? I’ll definitely be trying this out, it’s just the spicy comforting kind of dish I need right now. Thanks for the recipe!

    1. Avatar Cheryl Malik says:

      Yep, that’s what I’d recommend! But as the two differ a bit in level of saltiness, I’d add extra to taste. If you try it, let me know how you like it. Thanks Katie! 🙂

  10. Avatar chelsea @ eat with chelsea says:

    Oh my goodness, this tofu looks sublime! I’m always looking for new/exotic tofu recipes, and thai food is my favorite. Will definitely be trying this! Thanks for sharing! xox

    1. Avatar Cheryl Malik says:

      Thanks Chelsea! This has definitely become one of our favorite tofu iterations.. and we eat a LOT of tofu. So aromatic and spicy for a more exotic weeknight dinner! Yumm.

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