Chilli Tofu

Chilli Tofu

I love it when I can find irony in the most unlikely places– like my Chilli Tofu.

Chilli Tofu is based off an Indo-Chinese recipe called Chilli Paneer. This is a spicy, saucy blend of Indian spices and Chinese condiments, and the star, of course, is the paneer, an Indian cottage cheese that’s usually sold in blocks, just like tofu.

Paneer is a bland cheese that soaks up the flavors of the curries and gravies it is added to, as does tofu. They even have similar textures but the tofu, of course, is far healthier. I’ve posted other recipes before that use tofu instead of paneer, like my Palak “Paneer” and Tofu Makhani.

Now here’s the fun part. While substitutions usually have the effect of taking a dish away from its roots, this time, as I swapped the tofu for the paneer for my Chilli Tofu recipe, I realized that the modification makes this dish even more Chinese. Get it?

vegan chilli paneer

So here’s my recipe for Chilli Tofu in all of its modified glory– a surefire winner that would give the original a run for the rupee any day. It’s a healthy, protein-rich, low-fat dish full of flavor and zest, and it would pair perfectly with some Mandarin Pancakes or with some white rice.

Enjoy, all!

Chilli Tofu


Chilli Tofu
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Indo-Chinese
Serves: 6
  • 1 block extra-firm tofu (swaddle in paper towels and place in a colander for 30 minutes with a heavy weight on top, like a saucepan, to press our any water.). Cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes and coat with the marinade (recipe below).
  • 1 large green bell pepper, sliced (you can use other colors, but I just love the flavor of green pepper in this dish)
  • 1 green chili, like serrano, minced
  • 3 tsp canola oil or sesame oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander powder
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp garlic, grated
  • 1 tsp ginger, grated
  • 1 tsp cornflour mixed into ¼ cup water
  • 1-2 tbsp tamari (can use soy sauce instead)
  • Salt to taste
  • Green, leafy coriander for garnish, about ¼ cup chopped
  • For the marinade:
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1 tsp ginger paste
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • 1 tsp tamari (can use soy sauce instead)
  1. Mix the marinade ingredients with enough water to make a paste. Toss the tofu cubes in it to coat.
  2. Heat 2 tsp of the oil in a nonstick or cast-iron pan. Saute the tofu cubes on all sides until they are golden-brown. Remove to a plate.
  3. Heat the remaining 1 tsp of oil and add the cumin seeds. When they sputter, add the ginger and garlic and onion.
  4. Saute until the onion becomes transparent. Now add the coriander powder, black pepper, and minced green chilli. Toss to coat with the spices and then add the green pepper.
  5. Stir-fry until the bell pepper starts to soften but still has a good bite to it. Now add the tofu cubes and toss them with the spices. Add the tamari or soy sauce and the cornflour mixed with water (this will give the tofu a nice glaze). Stir until well mixed and remove from the heat.
  6. Toss in the coriander and serve hot.


I love poppies, not just because they’re gloriously beautiful but because they remind you that patience has its rewards.

I planted this glorious Oriental Poppy in my yard last year and then forgot all about it. When the plant shot up this spring Desi looked at the hard, ugly buds and insisted it was a weed. After several weeks of willing the buds to open I was getting inclined to agree. Then one Sunday morning I opened the front door to get the newspaper and there was the most gorgeous flower I’d ever seen: large, showy, brilliantly red, with delicate, crepe-like petals. It was a little miracle.

The poppies are long gone but I will never tire of telling Desi, I told you so.


Thanks to all of you kind folks for sending your love and best wishes to Lucy. She’s doing well, in good spirits, and we’re giving her lots of hugs and kisses — and treats — to let her know she has a lot to live and fight for.

She sends you all a big wag of her bushy, fox-like tail and a very friendly “Woof!”

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

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  1. says

    Ah, block of tofu and a green pepper in the fridge, and a hungry Mrs Spud on the train home, sounds like a winning combination for tonight :o)


    • says

      Glad you asked that– I forgot to add it. I actually didn’t let the tofu stand in the marinade this time because I was running short, but if you have the time let it stand for at least 30 minutes to even several hours.

  2. says

    This looks fantastic and sounds so delicious, I’ll have to try it out soon. I made your palak “paneer” recipe for a family curry night recently and everyone loved it.

    Sending more love and hugs to Lucy, you and Desi. I’m thinking of all of you everyday. xx

  3. Eleanor says

    I made this a couple of nights ago and it was delicious. After marinating, it’s quick and easy too. I bounced it back from Chinese to Indian by having it with a dollop of mango chutney – very nice!

  4. Anonymous says

    Amazing recipe!! Could I ask how you got your dish to be so colourful (red!)? Mine came out to be brownish (which I think is due to soy sauce). Did you add any food colouring to get that? Thanks. :)

  5. says

    Wonderful indian-style tofu recipe. This one’s going to my journal. I added a little more minced chilli and some lemon juice and it was PERFECT! Thank you :)

  6. Maria says

    Thanks for this! I came across it while looking for an Indo-Chinese tofu recipe. I made it low FODMAP by replacing the green bell pepper with red and the onion and garlic with chives and asafoetida (hing), and it still tasted great!

  7. Meera says

    Hi vaishali,
    I tried this recipe. It came out well…

    But I used dark soy sauce, coriander powder and pepper powder as the amount mentioned. It tasted like it was more of spices…

    So the coriander powder and pepper powder, do we need to use the 1 tbsp coriander seed and grind it? Similarly is it fine to use 1 tsp pepper seed and grind it?
    And how much dark soy sauce is to be used?

    • says

      Hi Meera, always feel free to reduce the spices to suit your tastebuds, and the same goes for the condiments like soy sauce. Start out by adding a little, taste, and add more if needed. J definitely like tons of coriander and pepper in this.
      Glad you tried this!

  8. janette says

    Delicious! The spices were well balanced and so interesting. Did not have bell pepper or chilies on hand, so added a little red pepper flake for some heat. Looking forward to making it again soon!

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