This vegan Sweet and Sticky Tofu Satay is an Asian-inspired dish that is super quick and easy to prepare. Each bite is so very satisfying with its sweet, savoury, sticky peanut flavours and textures. This meat-free satay is ideal for a family fake-away or take-out at home. As well as being an amazing side-dish to enjoy along with your favourite noodles, rice, salad bowls, and stir fry dishes.
Enjoy these delicious quick and easy stir-fried tofu cubes that are enveloped within a sticky and sweet peanut sauce with your favourite fresh veggies, noodles or rice.
Origin of Satay
Sweet sticky peanut sauce, also known as satay sauce, has its origins in Southeast Asia, specifically in Indonesia and Malaysia. Satay is a popular street food in the region, and the sauce is a common accompaniment to the grilled meat skewers.
Although some sources believe that satay may have originated from the Middle East, and may have been introduced to Southeast Asia by Arab traders. The Arabs would use their swords to skewer meat to barbeque over campfires. While others claim that Indian Muslim immigrants brought with them their own style of grilled meat skewers that led to the origins of satay.
Others suggest that satay may have evolved from a local dish in Indonesia, where meat or fish was grilled over charcoal and served with a spicy peanut sauce.
The sauce typically consists of peanuts, soy sauce, sugar, and spices such as coriander, cumin, and chili peppers. It may also include other ingredients such as garlic, lemongrass, and tamarind paste, which add depth of flavor and complexity to the sauce.
Over time, the sauce has spread throughout the region and has been adapted to suit local tastes. In Thailand, for example, the sauce may be sweeter and made with coconut milk. In the Philippines, it may be spicier and include vinegar and calamansi juice.
Today, satay sauce is enjoyed around the world and is a popular dipping sauce for a variety of foods, including vegetables, rice, tofu and noodles. It is also used as a marinade or cooking sauce for meats and seafood.
Origin of tofu
Tofu, also known as bean curd, has its origins in ancient China, where it has been a dietary staple for thousands of years. The exact origin of tofu is not known, but it is believed to have been invented during the Han dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE).
According to legend, tofu was first made by accident when a Chinese cook added a coagulating agent to soy milk, causing it to solidify into a soft, cheese-like substance. Over time, tofu became an important source of protein for the Chinese, and its production and consumption spread throughout Asia.
Tofu is made by coagulating soy milk before adding the milk to a mould where it solidifies. The coagulating agent can be a variety of substances, including calcium sulfate, magnesium chloride, or nigari (a natural mineral extract). The type of coagulating agent used, as well as the method of pressing and shaping the tofu, can result in different textures and flavors.
Today, tofu is enjoyed all over the world and is a popular source of protein for vegetarians and vegans. It can be used in lots of different recipes, including stir-fries, chilli's, stews, casseroles, lasagnas, soups, salads, sandwiches, pies, and even desserts.
Lots of delicious easy vegan tofu recipes!
We have a few tofu recipes on the blog as we love the versatility of tofu.
Our favourite tofu dessert recipe that is also a favourite with visitors to the blog is this Silken Tofu Chocolate Pudding, only 4 ingredients and is ready in minutes!
Vegan Tofu Satay Fake-Away
This recipe's sweet peanut sauce is inspired by the traditional Asian Satay sauce.
Traditionally Asian peanut sauces would be prepared by grinding roasted peanuts in a pestle and mortar to achieve a rustic peanut butter style base.
However, it is common in Western countries to use already prepared peanut butter as I have done with this recipe.
I have used Biona Organic Peanut Butter which I source on Amazon UK in a huge 1 kg bucket. It tastes really good and lasts for so many meals. Including my kids enjoying the odd peanut butter sandwich.
This recipe also uses one tablespoon of coconut oil and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil. I have purposefully kept the oil down as it is mainly for added flavour. However, if your on an oil-free diet I have provided easy substitutions below in the recipe notes.
How to prepare tofu satay
It's so simple to prepare this vegan tofu satay. The tofu cubes cook beautifully and crispy within the coconut oil before being enveloped with a sweet and sticky irresistible peanut sauce.
Melt the coconut oil.
Cook the tofu over a medium heat for 10-15 minutes until golden brown with crispy parts.
Flip the tofu pieces over regularly so that all the sides colour a lovely golden brown.
Prepare the sweet peanut brown sauce by stirring together the peanut butter, soy sauce, sesame oil, chilli flakes, maple syrup [or brown sugar], ginger and water, and pour into the pan with the tofu.
Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes until the sauce is sticky and coats the tofu.
Serve with lots of fresh veggies, and noodles or rice.
Recipe notes and frequently asked questions
How to store tofu satay
- Let the tofu satay cool down to room temperature.
- Transfer the tofu satay to an airtight container.
- Store within the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
How to reheat tofu satay
To reheat leftover tofu satay, here are some simple steps:
- Remove the tofu satay from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for about 10-15 minutes. This will help to prevent the tofu from becoming too cold or stiff when reheating.
- If you have time consider making up some more of the satay sauce to drizzle over the tofu as this will help it cook better whilst adding more of the tastiness! But this step is not essential.
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C).
- Place the tofu satay in a single layer on a baking sheet or in a baking dish.
- Cover the baking sheet or dish with aluminum foil, and bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes.
- Remove the aluminum foil and continue to bake for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until the tofu is heated through and the peanut sauce is hot.
Alternatively, you can reheat leftover tofu satay in the microwave. Place the tofu satay in a microwave-safe dish and cover with a microwave-safe lid or a piece of plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 1-2 minutes, or until heated through, stirring once or twice during the process.
Absolutely, the main consideration is to use a gluten-free soy sauce such as Tamari.
Tofu is generally gluten-free, as it is made from soybeans, which do not contain gluten. However, some tofu products may contain gluten if they have been processed in facilities that also handle wheat or other gluten-containing grains.
In addition, some tofu products may contain gluten if they have added ingredients or flavorings that contain gluten, such as soy sauce or wheat flour.
Therefore, if you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, it's important to read the labels carefully and choose tofu products that are certified gluten-free.
Firm tofu may need to be pressed to remove excess liquid, but there are some brands of tofu that have already been pressed so they don't require pressing. But if you do need to press your tofu follow these easy steps:
1.Remove the tofu from the packaging and drain off any excess liquid.
2.Wrap the tofu in a clean kitchen towel or paper towels, and place it on a plate or cutting or chopping board
3.Place a heavy object, such as a cast-iron skillet or other heavy pan, on top of the wrapped tofu. Make sure the weight is evenly distributed and pressing down on the entire surface of the tofu.
4.Let the tofu sit and press for at least 10-15 minutes.
5.After the tofu has been pressed, unwrap it and pat it dry with a clean towel or paper towels. It should now have a firmer texture and be ready to use in your recipe.
Note: If you plan to press tofu frequently, you may want to invest in a tofu press, which can make the process easier and more efficient. A tofu press typically consists of two plates that can be tightened with screws or clamps to apply pressure to the tofu.
Rice: Tofu satay goes well with rice, either plain steamed or boiled rice or flavorful rice dishes like fried rice or coconut rice.
Noodles: Vermicelli noodles or soba noodles are great choices to serve with tofu satay. You can toss the noodles with a light dressing or sauce to add flavor.
Stir-fried vegetables: A stir-fry of mixed vegetables like broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, beansprouts, baby corncobs, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots and onions makes a tasty and healthy side dish.
Salad: A fresh salad with mixed greens, cucumber, and tomato is a refreshing complement to tofu satay. You can also add a crunchy element like roasted peanuts or sesame seeds.
Grilled vegetables: Grilled or roasted vegetables like zucchini, eggplant, and bell peppers are a great accompaniment to tofu satay. You can season them with salt, pepper, and herbs to enhance their flavor or prepare extra satay sauce and brush the veggies with it before grilling.
Dipping sauce: a spicy chili sauce is a tasty addition. You can also try a sweet and sour sauce or a creamy coconut sauce for a different flavor.
Fresh fruit: A platter of fresh fruit like pineapple, mango, or papaya can add an additional sweet and juicy element to your meal.
Fresh herbs: Chopped fresh herbs like coriander [cilantro], mint, or basil can add a burst of freshness and color to your vegan satay.
Crushed peanuts: A sprinkle of crushed peanuts over the top of your vegan satay can add a satisfying crunch and nutty flavor.
Lime wedges: A squeeze of fresh lime juice over your vegan satay can brighten the flavors and add a tangy kick.
Chili flakes: A pinch of chili flakes can add a spicy kick to your vegan satay, especially if you prefer it to be on the spicier side.
Sesame seeds: A sprinkle of sesame seeds can add a nutty flavor and a nice crunch to your vegan satay.
Scallions: Sliced scallions can add a mild onion flavor and a pop of green color to your vegan satay.
Carrot or cucumber ribbons: Thinly sliced carrot or cucumber ribbons can be used as a decorative garnish to add a pop of color and freshness to your vegan satay.
Yes of course. Although the flavour and texture of the finished dish will change depending on the substitution its important that you create a dish that's suited to your preferences and what ingredients you have available.
Soy sauce: You can substitute soy sauce with tamari sauce or coconut aminos if you are gluten-free or if you want a milder flavor.
Peanut butter: You can substitute peanut butter with almond butter, cashew butter, or sunflower seed butter if you have allergies or preferences.
Maple syrup: You can substitute maple syrup with vegan honey, agave nectar, or brown sugar if you want a different sweetener.
Chilli flakes: You can substitute chilli flakes with cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, or Sriracha sauce if you want a spicier flavor.
Fresh ginger: You can substitute fresh ginger with ground ginger or ginger paste if you don't have fresh ginger or if you want a milder flavor.
Sesame oil: You can substitute sesame oil with olive oil, vegetable oil, or coconut oil if you don't have sesame oil or if you want a milder flavor.
Tofu: You can substitute tofu with tempeh, seitan, or Portobello mushrooms if you want a different texture or protein source.
Coconut oil: You can substitute coconut oil with any other cooking oil or vegan butter if you don't have coconut oil or if you want a different flavor.
Looking for some healthy and delicious meal prep ideas? Check out these vegan satay meal prep ideas for a plant-based meal that's easy to make ahead of time!
Here are some tips for preparing healthy and delicious vegan satay meal prep ideas:
- Plan ahead: Take the time to plan your meals in advance, so you know exactly what ingredients you need and how much time you'll need to prep and cook.
- Batch cook: Cook large quantities of tofu, tempeh or other plant-based proteins and store them in the fridge or freezer. This way, you can easily add them to your meals throughout the week.
- Use a variety of vegetables as a side: Incorporate a variety of vegetables into your vegan satay meal prep to ensure that you are getting a range of nutrients. Broccoli, peppers, carrots, baby corncobs, and snap peas are all great options.
- Prepare the Satay sauce in advance: Make up the Satay sauce and store within the refrigerator for 3-4 days. This is a great time saver, and the sauce can also be used as a tasty salad dressing.
- Use meal prep containers: Invest in some meal prep containers to store your prepped meals. This will make it easier to grab and go in the morning or during busy weekdays. Cooked and chilled tofu satay can be added to salads for a quick lunch.
By following these tips, you can easily prepare a tasty wholesome vegan satay dish that is easy to make ahead of time, saving you valuable time and effort!
More easy vegan family take-out at home recipes
***please note: for US measurements click the 'US customary button' within the recipe and the measurements will switch to tablespoons, cups, and ounces.***
Vegan Tofu with a Sweet and Sticky Satay Sauce
- Non stick skillet or wok or deep fry pan
- kitchen paper
- 350 gram firm tofu
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil or ½ cup vegetable broth
peanut satay sauce:
- 65 grams peanut butter crunchy peanut butter adds extra texture
- 2 tablespoon soy sauce
- 5 tablespoon maple syrup or syrup or sugar of your choice, brown sugar is fine
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon chilli flakes
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger fine grated or fine diced, or replace with 2 teaspoons ginger powder
- 2 tablespoon water
- If necessary gently squeeze the water out of your tofu using some kitchen paper [see recipe notes above on tips for pressing tofu]. [Some tofu brands are already pressed so only need a little pat with a tea towel or kitchen paper while others may need a plate gently pressed on top of the tofu to remove excess liquid.]350 gram firm tofu
- Slice the tofu into bitesize or large cubes.
- Melt the coconut oil in the non-stick pan, over a medium heat.1 tablespoon coconut oil
- Stir-fry the tofu in the coconut oil for 10-15 minutes or until the tofu is golden with crispy bits. Turn over the tofu cubes frequently so that each side browns.
Prepare the sweet satay sauce:
- Meanwhile prepare the sauce by mixing maple syrup, soy sauce, peanut butter, sesame oil, chilli flakes, ginger, and water.65 grams peanut butter, 2 tablespoon soy sauce, 5 tablespoon maple syrup, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, ½ teaspoon chilli flakes, 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, 2 tablespoon water
Finish the tofu satay:
- Once the tofu is golden the satay can be added and simmered until just thick and sticky. This will take about 2-3 minutes.
- Nutritional analysis is for guidance only and is not a strict calculation as ingredients vary.
- Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- Reheat by adding to a skillet, and gently heating for a few minutes until hot, a little veggie stock or water may be required to loosen up the sauce just a little.
- Or enjoy leftovers chilled straight from the fridge added to a salad, tortilla wrap, or as a side dish.
- Garnish with chopped coriander [cilantro], chopped peanuts, cashews, or toasted sunflower, pumpkin seeds or sesame seeds. Sliced spring onions [scallions] are also a nice addition.
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