Photos by Emily Caruso
I love remaking restaurant dishes at home, but usually they don’t quite measure up to the original. This Sweet and Sour Baked Tofu? It’s not going to be mistaken for the takeout version. That’s because, in my humble opinion, it’s even better. Yes, I said it! It’s better.
Sweet and Sour Tofu is a dish I frequently order, and then as soon as I take a bite, I instantly regret it. Either the sweet is so sweet that my teeth itch or the sour is so sour that it verges on unpleasantly acidic. The key to a good Sweet and Sour dish is nailing that balance between the two flavors so the end result is neither too cloying nor too sharp.
When I’ve made Sweet and Sour dishes at home in the past, I always used pineapple juice. This time, I selected orange juice instead. Why orange juice? Well, pineapple juice contains an enzyme that breaks down proteins; this is fine in a quick stir fry, but since this tofu is baked, I didn’t want it sitting in the juice for too long and becoming mushy. Orange juice adds sweetness, a hint of citrus flavor, and it lets the tofu keep its satisfying chewy texture.
Orange juice, brown sugar, and ketchup are the sweet element of this recipe and Nakano Natural Rice Vinegar is the sour. Rice vinegar is one of my favorite vinegars to cook with—I’m not a fan of strong vinegars and I find rice vinegar adds just the right amount of acid to a recipe without dominating the other flavors. I love Nakano Rice Vinegar because it’s contains no artificial ingredients, no preservatives, and no high-fructose corn syrup. A little soy sauce, garlic, and fresh ginger result in a perfectly balanced sauce for this dish.
The sauce and the cooking method might be a little unexpected, but I kept things traditional with the rest of the ingredients: in addition to extra-firm tofu, bell peppers and pineapple are baked in the sauce. Serve this dish over a bed of rice or quinoa and finish it with a garnish of sliced green onions.
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 1/4 cup Nakano Natural Rice Vinegar
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons ketchup
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 1-inch piece ginger, grated
- 1 15-ounce package extra-firm tofu, pressed for 30 minutes and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 small green bell pepper diced
- 1 small red bell pepper diced
- 1 cup diced fresh or frozen pineapple
- Cooked rice or quinoa for serving
- 1/4 cup sliced green onions
- Preheat oven to 400ºF and grease an 8x8-inch baking dish with coconut oil or coat with cooking spray.
- Whisk together the orange juice, rice vinegar, brown sugar, ketchup, soy sauce, garlic and ginger in a small bowl. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, gently toss the tofu with the cornstarch, being careful not to break the tofu. Once the tofu is coated with the cornstarch, transfer it to the prepared baking dish. Add the bell peppers and pineapple, then pour in the sauce and gently stir to coat.
- Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes or until the sauce has thickened, stirring halfway through the cooking time. Let stand for 5 minutes, then serve over rice or quinoa and garnish with green onions.
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This recipe was created in connection with my appointment as a contributor to the Nakano Natural and Seasoned Rice Vinegar.