This Spicy Korean Tofu in Gochujang Sauce is a delicious way to enjoy pan-fried tofu simmered in a sweet and salty, spicy and flavourful sauce. My favourite way to enjoy this tofu? On a bowl of hot steamed rice.
What is tofu?
Tofu is a Chinese food made from soy milk coagulated with a coagulant (eg. calcium chloride) and is pressed into a block.
There are many types of tofu, ranging in texture from soft to firm. The most common types are:
- silken: used in Korean stews or in Chinese desserts (dau fu fa)
- soft: used in dishes like Mapo Tofu
- extra firm: used in baked dishes, with a meaty texture
Tofu has a neutral taste and can be enjoyed in sweet or savoury dishes.
What is gochujang?
Gochujang is a sweet and savoury Korean red chili pepper paste, used commonly in Korean cuisine.
It is made from gochugaru (Korean chili powder), glutinous rice, fermented soybean powder, barley malt powder, salt and fermented in earthenware over a period of time.
Why you'll love this recipe
This Spicy Korean Tofu is hands down one of my favourite recipes to whip up during the week.
If you're looking for ways to decrease your meat intake, this is a great dish to try out.
It's plant-based, vegetarian, and vegan (if you use kimchi that doesn't use anchovies).
The tofu is pan-fried until the exterior is crisp, and then it is simmered in that sweet and salty, spicy red gochujang sauce , which can also be used in Tteokbokki (Korean rice cakes)..
Pan-frying adds a crisp texture to the tofu that helps absorbs the sauce nicely.
Ingredients you'll need
You'll need the following ingredients:
- firm or extra firm tofu: drained and blotted dry; don't use soft or silken tofu for this dish
- vegetable oil: any neutral oil will do
- white onion: or green onions, sliced
- gochujang: is also known as Korean red pepper paste
- gochugaru: Korean red pepper powder, comes in various textures from fine to coarse; is milder in spiciness but bold in colour; add accordingly to how spicy you like it
- soy sauce: use a light soy sauce
- maple syrup: you can use granulated sugar or any sweetener you prefer
- kimchi juice or water: if you're vegan, check to see if your kimchi has anchovies or fish
You can find these ingredients in Korean grocery stores or in an Asian supermarket.
How to make it
Make the gochujang sauce:
In a bowl, combine together the gochujang (red pepper paste), gochugaru (chili powder), soy sauce, maple syrup, and kimchi juice (or water). Give it a stir and set aside. (Step 1 below).
For the tofu:
Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.
Place the tofu pieces into the pan (making sure not to overcrowd the pan -- you may need to fry in batches) and cook until lightly golden in colour on both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side.
Transfer the pan-fried tofu to a plate lined with paper towel and repeat with the remaining tofu (Step 2 below).
Pour in the remaining 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and add in the sliced onion.
Saute the onion for 1-2 minutes, until slightly softened (Step 3 below).
Nestle the pan-fried tofu on top of the onions.
Dollop the gochujang sauce onto the tofu, add 2 tablespoon of water and coat the tofu with the sauce. Cover with a lid and let the tofu simmer for 10 minutes (Step 4 below).
Remove from the heat and garnish with 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, sesame seeds and cilantro (if you wish).
How to serve & store
Serve the Spicy Korean Tofu with hot steamed rice or Kimchi Fried Rice.
You can also serve the tofu chilled.
Store the Spicy Korean Tofu in Gochujang Sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
You can simmer the tofu in a claypot or a regular pan.
The Spicy Korean Tofu will taste even better after it has had a chance to sit in the fridge overnight.
Pan-frying the tofu in batches will allow the tofu to remain crisp and not steam up.
You can also bake the tofu on a baking sheet at 375F for 20-25 minutes. (However, I prefer the taste and texture of pan-fried).
The onions will release some moisture as it cooks down, so start with 1-2 tablespoon of additional water and adjust accordingly.
You can adjust the amount of gochugaru (chili powder) to your liking; if you like it spicy, add more, if not, add less.
Some kimchi is made with anchovies -- if you are vegan or plant-based, check the ingredients of your kimchi.
You can use this versatile gochujang sauce in other ways -- it would be great on breaded cauliflower, eggs in purgatory or fried chicken (if you're not vegan).
Other recipes you may like
Be sure to check out these recipes:
Shortcut Homemade Gochujang (Korean Chili Pepper Paste)
Spicy Gochujang Eggs in Purgatory
Budae Jiggae (Korean Army Stew)
Jjajangmyeon (Korean Noodles in Black Bean Sauce)
Korean Braised Potatoes (Gamja Jorim)
Let me know if you try out this recipe -- tag me on Instagram @siftandsimmer or leave me a comment/rating below!
Spicy Korean-Style Tofu in Gochujang Sauce
For accuracy and precision in baking recipes, use weight (metric) measurements when available.
- 1 tablespoon gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
- 1-2 tablespoon gochugaru (Korean red pepper powder) depending on how spicy you like it
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 tablespoon maple syrup or granulated sugar
- ¼ C kimchi juice or water + extra water as needed
- 1 pkg firm tofu drained and blotted dry, cut into 1 ½" pieces
- 2 tablespoon vegetable oil divided
- ½ large onion sliced
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- sesame seeds
- cilantro chopped
Make the gochujang sauce:
- In a bowl, combine together the gochujang (red pepper paste), gochugaru (chili powder), soy sauce, maple syrup, and kimchi juice (or water). Give it a stir and set aside.
For the tofu:
- Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.
- Place the tofu pieces into the pan (making sure not to overcrowd the pan -- you may need to fry in batches) and cook until lightly golden in colour on both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side.
- Transfer the pan-fried tofu to a plate lined with paper towel and repeat with the remaining tofu.
- Pour in the remaining 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and add in the sliced onion.
- Saute the onion for 1-2 minutes, until slightly softened.
- Nestle the pan-fried tofu on top of the onions.
- Dollop the gochujang sauce onto the tofu, add 2 tablespoon of water (or as needed) and coat the tofu with the sauce. Cover with a lid and let the tofu simmer for 10 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and garnish with 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, sesame seeds and cilantro (if you wish).
The nutritional information provided should be considered as approximate and is not guaranteed. Please use your best judgment to ensure food is safely prepared and/or a good fit for your diet.
David @ Spiced
You know, I've never really been a fan of tofu - it's a texture thing for me. But this recipe sounds fantastic with the crispy edges on the tofu. And the seasonings? Holy cow this sounds delicious! It's only 7:45am here, but I'm craving savory food now!
Pan-frying the tofu definitely helps with the texture -- it gives it a crispy edge which I find helps absorb the sauce better. You'll have to give it a try David, it might change your mind about tofu 😉
I like to pan fry tofu with any kind of spicy sauce including chili, curry sauce or mix in veggies and meat sauce. Yes, best serve with rice. Yum!