This Thai basil tofu stir fry is an easy and delicious dinner you can make on busy weeknights. Eat it with plain boiled rice or transform it into basil tofu fried rice, noodles or lettuce wraps. (Tips included in the post.)
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
A beginner-friendly recipe, Thai basil tofu is one of the easiest vegan main dishes that can be made in 15 minutes flat. If you’re planning to eat it with rice, you’ll have to start cooking the rice first since the tofu stir fry will get done much quicker than the rice.
We can never get enough of Thai dishes, right?
Basil, garlic, chillies, onions and a 3-ingredient sauce are all it takes to make this basil tofu stir fry taste delicious! More importantly, it has all the exciting flavors of the popular Thai minced chicken stir-fry. Except, of course, the chicken is replaced by tofu.
Tofu may taste bland, but it works to our advantage in this recipe. It can easily take on any flavor that we add to it. That’s why recipes like Honey garlic tofu, tofu bok choy stir fry and chilli garlic tofu turn out so delicious.
This basil tofu recipe is quite versatile. You can easily make it a wholesome meal by adding more veggies or eggs. Or double the flavoring ingredients and transform it into fried rice or lettuce cups. Check out the instructions below in the “how to use” section.
This tofu stir-fry recipe is somewhat similar to my sesame chicken stir fry. It is even easier because there’s no need to marinate tofu and it cooks faster than chicken. The sauce is also simpler (it is literally just soy sauce and palm sugar).
(You can find the exact measurements and instructions in the printable recipe card at the end of this page.)
- Tofu: Extra-firm tofu with its crumbly texture is the right one for this recipe.
- Basil: Use ONLY Thai basil (that has a peppery flavor) and not the Italian one.
- Bird’s eye chillies and garlic: Apart from Thai basil, these 2 are the most important ingredients that provide flavor in this stir fry recipe. The red chillies are spicier than the green ones. Feel free to reduce the number of chillies if you want less spice. But remember, if you’re going to eat this basil tofu with plain boiled rice, you might want it to be extra flavorful and spicy.
- Peanut oil: It is one of the preferred oils for stir-frying since it has a high smoking point. It also goes well with Thai flavors.
- Onion and bell pepper: They add crunch, flavor and color to the tofu stir fry. More veggies like blanched beans, carrots and green peas may be added.
- Soy sauce: I’ve used dark soy sauce for its strong umami flavor and light soy sauce to complement it. You can replace both with regular soy sauce. (In that case, you will have to add a teaspoon more than both soy sauces put together.)
- Palm sugar: This again complements Thai flavors. If not available, use brown sugar/ coconut sugar/ jaggery.
How To Make Thai Basil Tofu- Step by step
1. Prepare tofu
- Though we’re using extra-firm tofu here, it has to be pressed for at least 15 minutes. If there is extra moisture in the tofu, it would get steamed rather than browned.
- Wrap tofu with an absorbent towel and place it between 2 chopping boards. Place a heavy object on the top board. (My mortar is made of marble and comes to my rescue here!) Leave it undisturbed for about 15 minutes, while you prep the other ingredients.
- After 15 minutes, take out the tofu and crumble it. The easiest way to do it is to dice the tofu and crush the cubes with your hands. You can also use a potato masher.
2. Prepare chili-garlic paste
- Roughly chop garlic and chilies. (IMPORTANT NOTE: Please, PLEASE use gloves when handling the chilies. Or else, the burning sensation on your hands will not let you enjoy the meal. Have lots of experience 🙁
- Crush them using a mortar and pestle until you get a crumbly paste.
3. Make stir fry sauce
- Add dark and light soy sauce, brown sugar, water and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Mix until the palm sugar dissolves. Keep aside.
4. Stir fry
- Heat peanut oil in a wok or skillet. When the oil is hot, add crushed garlic and chillies and fry for 2 minutes on medium flame.
- Increase the flame and add crumbled tofu. Do not stir immediately. Wait for 2 to 3 minutes, then stir. Repeat (waiting and stirring) until tofu starts changing color.
- Add finely chopped onions and thinly sliced bell pepper. Stir-fry on high for about 5 minutes.
- Add the prepared sauce.
- Reduce flame and cook until the sauce thickens.
- Turn off the flame and mix in Thai basil leaves.
How To Use Basil Tofu Stir fry
Tofu basil stir fry recipe can be adapted to make more exciting dishes (apart from serving it with rice):
Thai basil tofu fried rice: Double the quantity of sauce and oil. Fry 1 teaspoon grated ginger along with garlic and chillies. Add cooked rice after step 3 (after stir-frying the vegetables). Fry the rice for about 4 to 5 minutes, then add the sauce and proceed as per the recipe.
A day-old rice or leftover rice from the fridge works best here. The quantity would be 2 cups of cooked rice (about ⅔ cups of uncooked rice) for 4 servings.
Tofu basil noodles: Follow the same as for the fried rice above, use noodles instead of rice. For 4 servings you’ll need 8 oz (226 grams) of uncooked noodles. Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds when you add basil.
Thai basil tofu lettuce wraps/ cups: Double the quantity of sauce. Proceed as per the original recipe. Reserve one half of the sauce. Boil it in a small saucepan and simmer for a couple of minutes until it thickens. Serve basil tofu on lettuce cups and drizzle the sauce. Top with crushed peanuts.
You can also have a complete Thai experience by pairing this basil tofu with green curry fried rice.
- DO NOT crush tofu too much. You need those bits and pieces for texture.
- Pounding (with patience!) the garlic and chillies with mortar and pestle gives the best results. If you don’t have a mortar, no worries. Put them in a ziploc bag and crush using a heavy object. Using a blender will reduce the flavor slightly, because of the heat generated. But if nothing else works, the blender will be your best friend.
- Cook tofu on high flame and DO NOT keep stirring it. Allow it to brown, then stir. Repeat until it gets browned uniformly. This is the secret to getting the right texture of stir-fried tofu without corn flour.
- Turn off the flame as soon as you add basil leaves. Overcooked basil leaves tend to become chewy.
Common Questions about Tofu Basil Stir-fry
What happens if you don’t press tofu?
Tofu is packaged with water to preserve it. Since it has been sitting in so much water, you need to press it even if it is the extra-firm variety. If you don’t, you won’t get the desired crumbly texture for this recipe. Also, the tofu would require more oil for stir-frying. It would also take longer to brown. The fourth and the most important reason you need to press tofu is that the moisture in unpressed tofu will dilute the sauce and reduce the flavors.
What seasoning is good on tofu?
Tofu is flavorless and hence versatile. It can easily absorb any flavors. It can take on the Asian spicy flavors like Thai, Chinese and Indian flavors so well. Chilies, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, fish sauce and fresh herbs like basil, coriander and mint are all winning combos. Tofu also tastes great with Mexican flavors like paprika, oregano and cumin. It can be used as vegan taco meat, for example. The complex Indian spices also taste great on tofu. Tandoori tofu and tofu tikka masala are classic examples.
Is tofu good for weight loss diet?
Tofu is processed soybean curd. That means it is full of low-calorie plant-based protein. Like beans and lentils, tofu has high protein content but is lower in carbohydrates. What’s more, tofu’s weight-loss claims are backed by science. In a study in PLoS Medicine that looked at a variety of fruits and vegetables (including soy) and their effect on weight, daily tofu consumption was associated with a 2.5-pound weight loss over a four-year span. That may seem like a small change, but that’s the effect of just one food. Combining tofu with a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can lead to greater weight change, the study shows. (Source)
How long does tofu last in the fridge?
Once you open the package, tofu lasts for about 4 to 5 days if stored properly in the refrigerator. Tofu HAS TO BE SUBMERGED IN CLEAN WATER in an airtight container. The water has to be replaced daily. If you want to store tofu for longer than 5 days, drain the water and freeze it. Tofu can be frozen for about 3 months.
This basil tofu stir fry can be stored in the refrigerator for about 3 days or frozen for about a month. Thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
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Hi! I’m Sheeba, welcome to Go Healthy ever after!
I have a passion for cooking delicious nourishing food that’s easy to cook with fresh natural ingredients free from additives or preservatives. The easy healthy recipes you find here will inspire you to cook with creativity.