Table of Contents
⭐ Why you'll love this recipe
- Another winner of a flavorful dinner using healthy, plant-based ingredients and no added oil. You can even substitute for coconut milk!
- Great tofu curry means great tofu. Crispy on the outside, firm, and slightly chewy on the inside. And never mushy. No marinating or fussy ingredients for this one, plus it's adaptable for the air fryer or oven.
- This recipe has been tested using both homemade curry paste and curry powder. Both are great options. It all depends on your preference.
- This versatile dish is perfect for using extra veggies you already have. We like bell peppers and spinach (fresh or frozen), but you can add green beans, snap peas, snow peas, carrots, baby corn, or even a frozen veggie mix.
📋 Key Ingredients, Notes, and Substitutions
Tofu. Use firm or extra firm tofu for the best results. If there isn’t much excess water, wrap it in a paper towel and press it with your hands. Otherwise, use a tofu press, or place it between a plate and a weighted flat surface.
Tomatoes. This recipe requires a cup of tomatoes, so it's easier to dice a fresh tomato. But you can substitute with canned tomatoes if required.
Tomato paste. This accentuates but doesn't dominate the tomato flavor. The tomato paste sweetens the taste without adding coconut sugar, maple syrup, or brown sugar.
Coconut milk. Light coconut milk works best for this recipe. If you use a can of full-fat coconut milk, you may need to add water or vegetable broth to thin it out. You can also use a substitute coconut milk using plant milk and a few drops of coconut extract.
Thai curry paste or curry powder. Thai flavor is all about spices and flavorful ingredients. Commercial curry paste is a convenient solution, although some vegan brands can be challenging to find, particularly if you want them oil-free. That's how my Thai curry powder landed in my spice rack. It takes a few minutes to make, and you'll have enough for several curry dishes. Plus, it's less expensive.
Spinach. I used 2 cups of fresh chopped spinach (about 200 grams). You can always use another leafy green, such as kale or thawed frozen spinach.
Bell Peppers. I used an orange pepper for this recipe because that's what I happened to have. Red bell pepper is suitably sweet (so it is yellow), and green bell pepper is slightly bitter, but both are good substitutes.
Please see the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the complete list of ingredients with measurements plus recipe instructions.
🔪 Step-by-Step Instructions
Step 1: Press and cube the tofu. Toss the cubes in lemon juice and soy sauce. After preheating the oven or air fryer, toss the cubes in corn starch. Then bake or air fry while you make the sauce.
Step 2: Heat a medium pot or large frying pan, then add the onions and peppers. Cook for about 5 minutes until they soften, then add the garlic, ginger, and curry paste or powder. Mix in the tomatoes and tomato paste.
Step 3: Stir in the coconut milk and crispy tofu cubes. Simmer for a few minutes to thicken the sauce.
Step 4: Add the spinach, lime juice, and lime zest.
🧂 Pro Tips
- Keep them no thicker than ½ - ¾ inch cubes so they cook in the middle.
- Right before cooking it, sprinkle a tablespoon of cornstarch over the tofu. Cover the pieces and let the cornstarch absorb.
- It takes about 10 minutes in the air fryer or 20 in the oven for the tofu to get firm and crispy. Don't worry about timing. The tofu can reheat once you've added it to the curry. I've made it hours ahead to save a few steps later.
- Always heat the pot (or pan) to medium heat before adding onions or other veggies. Heat and moving ingredients around keep them from sticking when you aren't using added oil.
🍛 Serving Suggestions
Coconut tofu curry is best served over rice or rice noodles. We prefer brown rice; brown basmati is our favorite. Jasmine rice is another good option. Check the cooking times for rice. Standard white rice will take less time than long-grain varieties.
Garnish coconut curry with lime wedges, chopped coriander, or slices of red chili. It also goes well with a few pieces of sweet potato flatbread for scooping up the last bits of sauce left on the plate.
🌡️ Storage / Freezing / Reheating
Store leftover curry in an airtight container for 4 days or freeze it for 3 months. Refrigerate or freeze rice separately or make a fresh batch next time.
Reheat the curry on the stove or microwave before mixing it with rice. You may need to add a little vegetable broth, water, or a drop of coconut milk, as it will thicken as it cooks.
💭 Frequently Asked Questions
It’s possible that after air frying or baking tofu, it gets too crispy and hard. Whether it's left cooking too long or because it continues to cook in the middle as it cools. No worries. It will soften once it's dropped in curry sauce and simmered for a few minutes.
Thickening up curry sauce is usually a matter of time. The longer you simmer it, the more it reduces. For a little extra help, add another tablespoon of tomato paste. Consider adding more coconut milk if you thinned it using vegetable broth, and now it's too thin.
Curry paste will have a different flavor profile than Thai curry powder, so you may need to experiment a little when substituting it. Start with 2 tablespoons of curry paste and then adjust according to your taste.
If you have a good non-stick pan, it’s possible to dry fry the tofu after mixing it with cornstarch. Be sure you have the pan heated before adding the tofu cubes. Keep them moving as you cook them so they don't stick.
It's best to thaw and gently press frozen spinach before adding it to curry or other sauces or soups. Directly adding frozen spinach cubes can make curry sauce too thin and will dilute the spices and other flavors.
📖 Thai Curry Recipes
Do you have a question or recipe request or need a cooking tip? Leave a comment below or contact Denise. I’m here to help! If you want more healthy vegan recipes, please subscribe to my newsletter or follow me on Facebook or Pinterest for the latest updates.
If you make this recipe, please leave a ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ rating. It’s much appreciated!
Vegan Thai Coconut Tofu Curry
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- 1 pound tofu - firm or extra firm
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 medium yellow onion - chopped
- 1 medium bell pepper - any color, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic - minced or pressed
- 1- inch fresh ginger - grated (1 tablespoon)
- 1 tablespoon Thai curry powder - or 2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 large tomato - 1 cup chopped
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 14 ounces light coconut milk - 1 can (see notes for substitution)
- 2 cups spinach - chopped
- 1 medium lime - zest and juice
- ½ cup cilantro - optional
- Prepare the tofu. Warp the tofu block in a paper towel and squeeze the excess water. If it has a lot, press it between two surfaces, weighing down the top. You can also use a commercial tofu press.
- Cut and season tofu cubes. Cut the tofu into cubes that are ½ - ¾ of an inch. Add the lemon or lime juice and soy sauce to a shallow dish and toss the cubes. Before baking or air frying, toss the tofu cubes with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch until it is absorbed.
- To bake the tofu. Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C). Add the tofu pieces, separated into a single layer, on a baking tray lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Bake the tofu for 15 minutes, then toss the cubes and bake for another 5-10 minutes until it is brown and crispy.
- Air Fry. Preheat the air fryer to 325 F (190 C). Add the tofu cubes, separated, in a single layer. Air fry for 10-12 minutes, shaking it after 5 minutes. You may need to adjust the time depending on the size of the tofu cubes.
- Make the curry sauce. Heat a pot over medium heat. Then add the onions and peppers. Sauté the ingredients for 2-3 minutes until they soften. Then the garlic, ginger, and 1 tablespoon of curry powder. Mix and then add the tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir well.
- Add coconut milk and tofu. Stir in the coconut milk and baked tofu. Let the sauce simmer for about 5 minutes.
- Finish the curry. Fold in the chopped spinach, lime juice, and zest. Cook for another minute to wilt the spinach.
- Serve over rice and garnish with chopped cilantro and lime wedges if desired.
- Use 1 ½ cups of plant milk with a few drops of coconut extract as a substitute for coconut milk.
- You can replace the fresh tomatoes with 1 cup of canned tomatoes. If you add the entire can, the curry will have a more pronounced tomato flavor and be slightly thinner.
- If you pan-fry the tofu, be sure to heat the pan first and stir the tofu constantly. Use a non-stick pan for the best results. We don't recommend this as the tofu often sticks without oil (and we don't use added oil).
- Crispy tofu will reheat in the curry, so you can make it ahead, if desired.
Nutritional information is an estimation only.