Vegan sweet and sour crispy tofu is a delicious combination of an easy vegan sweet and sour sauce with pineapple juice and oil-free crispy tofu.
Add your favorite stir fry veggies and rice for a healthy plant-based dinner to please the whole family!
Why You’ll love this Recipe
This sweet and sour sauce recipe is a quick stir and simmer of 6 simple ingredients. Make it ahead or freeze a second batch for the next day. It's all good!
Add any veggies you like. A prepped bag from the grocery store, frozen stir fry veggies, or mixed bell pepper turn this delicious recipe into a weeknight main dish that's healthier and yummier than any take-out.
Ingredients, Notes, and Substitutions
Tofu. For best results, use firm or extra-firm tofu. Soft tofu won't firm, even if you use a tofu press to eliminate the excess water. This isn't the recipe for silken tofu.
Cornstarch. Accessible, cheap cornstarch crisps the tofu cubes and thickens the sweet and sour sauce. Tapioca starch or arrowroot are the best substitutes.
Pineapple juice. If you can’t find pineapple juice, use the juice from a can of pineapple chunks and toss the pineapple into the stir fry. Use pineapple packed in juice, not syrup.
Maple syrup. Where there's a sour, there must be sweet! I recommend date paste as a substitute. Try homemade date paste for an easy sweetening solution. Whisk to dissolve if you use granulated brown sugar or date sugar.
Soy sauce. Use tamari or coconut aminos as alternatives.
Rice vinegar. Mellow and smooth rice (or rice wine) vinegar is preferable. Make this tangy sauce with white or apple cider vinegar as a substitute.
Garlic. Use 2 cloves of fresh garlic or ½ a teaspoon of garlic powder.
Please see the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the complete list of ingredients with measurements plus recipe instructions.
For clarity, I've separated the instructions into making the sweet and sour sauce and crispy tofu.
How to make the sweet and sour sauce
Step 1: Add the pineapple juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce, maple syrup, and garlic to a small saucepan. Whisk over medium heat for a minute to combine the ingredients.
Step 2: Stir 2 tablespoons of cornstarch in a small bowl with ½ a cup of water. Once it is smooth, add it to the sauce.
Step 3: Vigorously stir the sauce and let it simmer until it bubbles.
Step 4: Turn the heat on low and let the sauce simmer until you are ready with the rest of the ingredients.
How to make crispy tofu
Step 1: Wrap the block of tofu in a paper towel and squeeze out the moisture. If the tofu has a lot of excess liquid, use a tofu press, place it on a plate with a flat surface, and weighted down on the top.
Step 2: Cut the tofu into bite-sized pieces or cubes, then put them in a large bowl and toss them with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce.
Step 3: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 C) if you are baking tofu. For the air fryer, preheat to 375 degrees (190 C). Before cooking it, toss 1 tablespoon of cornstarch over the top of the tofu. Gently mix it in until there is no cornstarch powder showing.
Step 4: Place the tofu separately, in a single layer on a lined baking sheet or in the air fryer basked. Bake the tofu for 15 minutes. Flip it and bake another 5-10 minutes until it is crispy. In the air fryer, cook the tofu for 8 minutes, shake it, and fry another 5 minutes until it is golden and crisp.
For a wholesome meal, stiry fry veggies of your choice, then toss in the tofu and sauce. Serve it over healthy brown rice (brown basmati is our favorite) or ramen noodles. You're set for a homemade, take-out meal.
You aren't obligated to make sweet and sour tofu stir fry. You can also serve crispy tofu with the sauce on the side as a dipping sauce.
Frequently Asked Questions
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. I don’t recommend storing it with leftover rice. It’s better to start with fresh rice or reheat it separately.
Sweet and sour sauce is excellent for freezing. After making it, cool to room temperaute, then store it in an airtight container. Freeze it for 3 months.
Soggy tofu results from not letting it get crispy enough when baking or air frying and then adding it to a sauce for an extended time. We've also noticed that when substituting cornstarch with arrowroot, tofu tends to get soggier when added to sauces.
To ensure that sweet and sour sauce is gluten-free, replace soy sauce with tamari or coconut aminos. Use a gluten-free thickener such as cornstarch or tapioca starch. Use the same substitutions for crispy tofu; the entire recipe is gluten-free.
More Vegan Tofu Recipes
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Vegan Sweet and Sour Crispy Tofu
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- 14-16 ounces tofu - firm or extra firm
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 ½ cups pineapple juice
- ¼ cup rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 cloves garlic - minced or pressed
- 2-3 tablespoons maple syrup
- ½ cup water
- 4 cups stir fry vegetables - optional
- Wrap the tofu in a paper towel and press out the excess water. If it has a lot of liquid, press it for 10 minutes using a tofu press. Alternatively, place the block of tofu on a plate and cover it with a flat surface, weighted down.
- Cut the tofu into cubes, add it to a large bowl, and toss it with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice plus 1 tablespoon of soy sauce. Set aside.
- To make the sauce, add the pineapple juice, rice vinegar, ¼ cup soy sauce, maple syrup, and garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir to combine the ingredients.
- Mix 2 tablespoons of cornstarch in ½ a cup of water in a small dish until smooth. Add the cornstarch to the sauce and whisk vigorously, so there are no lumps.
- Reduce the heat to low and simmer the sauce until you are ready to use.
- Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C) or the air fryer to 375 F (190 C). Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of cornstarch over the top of the tofu and gently mix it until it is absorbed.
- To bake: place the tofu cubes on a lined baking sheet, separated into a single layer. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the tofu starts to brown. Then flip and bake another 5-10 minutes until the tofu is crispy.
- To air fry: Add the tofu to the air fryer basket in a single layer. Air fry for 10-12 minutes. Toss the tofu after 5-6 minutes. Air fry until brown and crispy.
- Heat a large skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat for the stir fry. Add the veggies and stir them for 2-3 minutes until they are slightly brown, tender, but crispy.
- Add the sauce and crispy tofu to the stir fry veggies. Or serve the tofu in the sauce directly over rice or noodles.
- Cook time is based on oven-baking the tofu.
- For a gluten-free meal, substitute soy sauce with tamari or coconut aminos. Cornstarch and tapioca starch are naturally gluten-free.
- If you don't have prepared pineapple juice, use the juice from a can of pineapple (not in heavy syrup). Use can toss additional pineapple in the final dish.
- For more information about crispy tofu, visit our crispy baked tofu recipe or crispy air fryer tofu post.
- Nutritional information is based only on crispy tofu and sweet and sour sauce.
Nutritional information is an estimation only.