Sweet Chili Tofu Bowls

After finally figuring out how to cook tofu and actually have it taste good (see my Sesame Tofu with Broccoli), I couldn’t wait to make more. I used the same easy pan fry method, but this time combined the crispy tofu cubes with tangy sweet chili sauce, sweet bell peppers, creamy avocado, green onion, and cilantro, and the result was amazing. These Sweet Chili Tofu Bowls are THE BOMB (the flavor bomb, that is).

If you’ve never had sweet chili sauce before, it’s usually not very spicy (at least none of the brands I’ve eaten have ever been). It’s sweet, savory, and just a little bit tangy. It’s one of those all-purpose sauces that is good on just about anything. It should be really easy to find at Asian markets, in most larger grocery stores (check the international foods aisle), and specialty stores like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. If you can’t find it at any of your local stores, you can also try making it from scratch, although homemade tends to be a tad bit more spicy than the commercial bottle versions. Here are a couple recipes: Thai Sweet Chili Sauce (She Simmers), Clean Eating Thai Sweet Chili Sauce (ifoodreal.com), Homemade Sweet Chili Sauce (Life Tastes Like Food).

I was lucky because avocados AND red bell peppers were on special this week. Red bell peppers are usually quite expensive, though, so green bell peppers can be used in their place. I was going to use up the last of my fresh pineapple in this dish as well, but completely forgot. LOL. So, if you have some pineapple handy (canned or fresh), consider adding it to these delicious Sweet Chili Tofu Bowls.

Sweet Chili Tofu Bowls

Sweet Chili Tofu Bowls - BudgetBytes.com

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Sweet Chili Tofu Bowls

Sweet Chili Tofu Bowls are a fast, fresh, and flavorful dinner packed with vibrant colors and nutrients. 

Total Cost $7.15 recipe / $1.79 serving
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 14 oz block extra firm tofu $1.99
  • Pinch of salt $0.02
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch $0.08
  • 2 Tbsp neutral cooking oil* $0.04
  • 1 avocado $0.97
  • 1 bell pepper (any color) $0.99
  • 2-3 green onions $0.17
  • Handful cilantro (optional) $0.25
  • 1/2 cup sweet chili sauce $1.66
  • 2 tsp sesame seeds (optional) $0.10
  • 4 cups cooked rice $0.88

Instructions

  1. Remove the tofu from the liquid in the package, wrap it in a clean, lint-free dishcloth or a few paper towels, and press it between two plates with a weight on top for 30 minutes (see detailed step by step photos and instructions here). Once the excess moisture has been pressed out, cut the tofu into 3/4 to 1-inch cubes.
  2. Season the tofu cubes with a pinch of salt. Sprinkle a tablespoon of cornstarch over top and then toss to coat. Repeat with the second tablespoon of cornstarch.
  3. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium flame. Once the skillet and oil are hot, add the tofu cubes and fry until golden brown and crispy on all sides. Place the fried tofu in a large bowl.
  4. Dice the red bell pepper and thinly slice the green onions. Pull the cilantro leaves from the stems and give them a rough chop. Slice the avocado.
  5. Add the diced bell pepper to the bowl with the fried tofu. Pour 1/3 to 1/2 cup sweet chili sauce over top, then stir until the bell pepper and tofu are coated in the sauce.
  6. To build the bowls, start with one cup cooked rice, then add 1/4 of the tofu and bell pepper mixture. Add a few slices of avocado to the side of the bowl, then sprinkle the sliced green onion, chopped cilantro, and sesame seeds over top. Enjoy!

Recipe Notes

*Use a light neutral oil like peanut, canola, vegetable, or untoasted sesame.

Sweet Chili Tofu Bowls are a fast, fresh, and flavorful dinner packed with vibrant colors and nutrients. BudgetBytes.com

Sweet Chili Tofu Bowls - BudgetBytes.com

Step by Step Photos

Packaged Tofu

Start with a 14oz. block of tofu. They’re usually packed in water, so you’ll want to remove the tofu from the water and press the tofu for about 30 minutes to remove the excess moisture. For detailed step by step photos on how to press the tofu, click over to this Sesame Tofu recipe. 

Squeezed Tofu

A few of you told me about freezing tofu and how it changes the texture slightly, making it almost sponge-like so you can just squeeze it with your hands instead of pressing it. I tried that method this time. I could indeed squeeze the block with my hands to express the liquid, although it did begin to crack a bit (not bad for my first try with this technique). Squeezing it by hand also made the block a little misshapen, so I had to press it back into shape with my hands. This is the block sliced in half after squeezing.

Cornstarch coated tofu

Cut the pressed tofu into 3/4 to 1-inch cubes, then season with a pinch of salt. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp cornstarch over the cubes, then toss to coat. Repeat that with a second tablespoon of cornstarch, or until all sides have a good coating on them.

Fried Tofu

Heat 1-2 Tbsp of a neutral cooking oil (canola, vegetable, peanut, light sesame) in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the tofu and fry until golden brown and crispy on all sides. I used my stainless steel skillet last time, so I decided to experiment with a non-stick skillet. The non-stick obviously didn’t stick as much, but I think my last batch was a tad crispier (that could also be due to the freezing and pressing methods used this time). 

Chopped Vegetables

While the tofu is frying (or after frying, if you don’t like to multi-task), dice a red bell pepper and slice 2-3 green onions. Pull a handful of cilantro leaves from the stems and give them a rough chop. Slice one avocado.

Fried Tofu and Peppers

Place the fried tofu and diced bell peppers in a large bowl.

Sweet Chili Sauce

This is the sweet chili sauce that I used. I just noticed that this brand is gluten-free, which I’m sure a lot of you will appreciate! :D

Add Sweet Chili Sauce to tofu

Add 1/3 to 1/2 cup sweet chili sauce to the tofu and bell peppers, or enough to fully coat everything in sauce. Stir well.

Sweet Chili Tofu Bowls - BudgetBytes.com

Once the tofu and bell peppers are coated in sauce, it’s time to assemble the bowls. Start with 1 cup cooked rice, then add 1/4 of the tofu/bell pepper mixture. Add a few slices of avocado, then sprinkle green onion, cilantro, and a few sesame seeds over top. All done!

Sweet Chili Tofu Bowls - BudgetBytes.com

These Sweet Chili Tofu Bowls really do come together quickly and have quite a bit of flavor. My boyfriend, who had been joking about not wanting to eat tofu all week, remarked, “Mmm, a lot of different flavors in here!” #win

Sweet Chili Tofu Bowls - BudgetBytes.com