Tofu satay bowls are a brilliant way to spice up a few crispy cubes of tofu and a bowlful of rice. The spicy peanut sauce, made with brown sugar, lime juice, toasted sesame oil, and red pepper flakes is so flavorful that you’ll be slathering it on everything. Don’t forget peanuts, cucumber, and fresh cilantro for serving!
Extra-firm tofu and rice take center stage with a peanut-focused, satay-inspired tofu skewer playing the main role. The sauce is notable in its own right, but the whole dish is a triumph.–Cassy Joy Garcia
Tofu Satay Bowls
- Metal or pre-soaked wooden skewers
For the tofu kabobs
- 1 block (14 ounce) extra-firm tofu*
- 1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 1 lime)
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 2 garlic cloves grated
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon store-bought or homemade sambal oelek (Indonesian chile paste)
- 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
For the peanut sauce
- 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
- 2 tablespoons coconut aminos or soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil for cooking the kabobs
- 3 cups (17 oz) cooked white rice
- 1 (4 oz) cucumber thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro for garnish
- 2 tablespoons crushed salted peanuts for garnish
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes for garnish
- 1 lime cut into wedges, for serving
Make the tofu kabobs
- If you have a tofu press, press the tofu for at least 10 minutes. Otherwise, wrap tofu in a clean kitchen towel, set it on a plate, and top with a heavy pan (or another plate weighted down with a few cans), and let stand for 10 minutes to press the tofu. Cut tofu into 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes.
- In a large bowl, whisk together coconut milk, lime juice, soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, sambal oelek, brown sugar, and turmeric until smooth. Add tofu and toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 12 hours.
Make the peanut sauce
- In a blender, combine peanut butter, coconut aminos or soy sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, sesame oil, and red pepper flakes. Add 2 tablespoons of water and blend until smooth. (If you won’t be serving the sauce right away, it will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.)
Cook the tofu
- Thread 5 or 6 pieces of tofu onto metal or wooden skewers.
- In a large skillet or grill pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Working in batches, add tofu kabobs and sear until they darken in color, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Don't let them burn. Move to a large plate and repeat with the remaining kabobs.
- Divvy rice among four bowls. Top with tofu kabobs, then drizzle with peanut sauce. Garnish with cucumber, cilantro, peanuts, and red pepper flakes and serve, with lime wedges alongside for squeezing over the top.
*How do I make extra-firm tofu crispy?If you feel like this dish would benefit from a bit of a crisp, brown edge on those tofu cubes, here’s a tip. The best way to get crispy tofu is to make sure that it’s fully drained of water. If you have time, follow the instructions in step 1 to press the tofu, then wrap it in a fresh kitchen towel, set it on a plate, and store it in the refrigerator until ready to use. Sear until crisp and serve.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Don’t throw out the marinade! This tofu satay bowl recipe is a flavor bomb, so keep the tofu marinade and use it to add extra flavor to the cooked rice or your side of choice. I drizzled it over a cucumber and spring onion salad as well as stirring it through the rice, and it was divine.
I only had very long wooden skewers and a small frying pan on hand so I simply put the tofu chunks in the pan and cooked and turned them individually, which worked very well. As for servings, I got only 4 or 5 chunks of tofu per person so if you’re serving four people it’s going to be a smaller, lighter meal.
These tofu satay bowls turned out to be not only an excellent dish for a meat-free dinner, they even yielded a second satay for the carnivores. The tofu kabob method works as a main or side, and because the marinade is a bit generous, you could either scale up the tofu a bit or save the excess marinade for a second meal.
Low-salt soy worked really well (use coconut aminos if your taste veers to the sweet). I was probably most generous with the ginger. Using shorter skewers (maybe 7-8 inches) would be the easiest. I used longer ones, but since I was cooking on a flat griddle pan they didn’t awkwardly interfere with the edge of the pan.
This was a very satisfying meal (we actually eat tofu nearly as often as beef in our kitchen). With rice, cucumbers, etc, it was a complete light dinner.
Originally published September 23, 2021