Ottolenghi’s Black Pepper Tofu

May 30, 2010


Black Pepper Tofu

This is, quite simply, one of the most stunning tofu recipes I’ve ever eaten. No, forget that, it’s one of the most delicious dishes I’ve eaten in recent times, and that’s coming from a woman who’s been to possibly her two favourite London restaurants in the past month. It’s up there with ma po tofu and that’s got pork in it where this doesn’t. People, this is serious.

It’s intense, really intense. The foundation of the sauce is 12 sliced shallots; that’s a lot – a whole lot of shallot. There are 12 cloves of garlic, plus five whole tablespoons of crushed black pepper. It’s hot – really hot; I thought my face was going to fall off, and that’s even without the eight recommended chillies. I’d overlooked this part of the recipe and had just one lonely, shrivelled specimen lurking in the fridge. Feeling lazy I thought, sod it, I’ll just add some chilli flakes at the end if its not hot enough. I seriously cannot even imagine the raging inferno had I used even three or four. That pepper alone is something special.


It’s amazing though, and hugely addictive. The first key to its success is getting that sleek, healthy tofu, and giving it a damn good frying in hot oil until a golden crust forms all over. It’s then added back to the shallots, garlic and chilli, simmered with three kinds of soy sauce (light, dark and sweet) and garnished with spring onions. Bob’s your uncle.

This dish needs to be eaten fresh and hot; it’s the kind of thing you think will taste awesome cold for lunch the next day – it doesn’t. It’s a shadow of its former self; just a warning.


Recipe here. Go! Make it!

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  • Avatar
    Reply Helen (Fuss Free Flavours) May 30, 2010 at 11:31 am

    That does look amazing and has just been moved to the tip of my to cook list.

    I adore tofu in all forms and make and eat it a few times every week.

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    Reply Chris May 30, 2010 at 11:33 am

    Oh. My. God. The colours! The textures! I am in love.

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    Reply Lizzie May 30, 2010 at 11:57 am

    It looks AMAZING. What were they thinking though I wonder, with all that chilli? Lucky you did miss it out; I’d have thought it would render it inedible. God, I love tofu.

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    Reply Patricia Libertini May 30, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    This looks like a great tofu recipe that we’ll give a go. I have found some great organic tofu that is made Nigari style, at the Organic on Clifton Road in Maida Vale. Its £2.69 but really worth it. Very nutty and full-bodied instead of slimy. We love steaming tofu with a load of scallions and ginger on top, using lemon in the steaming water and tamari soy sauce.
    La Libertini

  • Reply Tweets that mention Ottolenghi’s Black Pepper Tofu — Food Stories -- May 30, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by FoodStories and Christine Antaya, Patricia Libertini. Patricia Libertini said: RT @FoodStories: New blog post: Ottolenghi's Black pepper Tofu […]

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    Reply Krista May 30, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    Helen, when I read your blog, I seriously want to take up cooking. This looks amazing. Is it in the new book, do you think? I think I may have to buy it…if only to look at the photos…

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    Reply gourmet traveller May 30, 2010 at 4:37 pm

    I’ve been eyeing the black pepper tofu in ‘plenty’ for ages and after reading your post have decided it’s the next thing I’ll be making! thanks for the tip about the chillies… I do love spice so am tempted to chuck in a couple but I shall definitely approach with caution!

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    Reply paul May 30, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    Helen that looks fantastic – thank you – can’t wait to try it!

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    Reply Jonathan May 30, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    Gosh. That looks good enough to convert me to tofu. I love how with pork or beef we’d be saying to let the flavour of the meat speak for itself but with this puppy we’re throwing some seriously intense tastes at it. Very impressed that your photos are a million times more appetising than the equivalent versions on the Guardian’s site.

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    Reply Tv Food and Drink May 31, 2010 at 2:53 am

    Well, I am not a big fan of tofu, but your praise, the photos and the heat factor have won me over. I can’t wait to make this!

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    Reply Helen May 31, 2010 at 11:41 am

    Krista – Yes I’m pretty sure those recipes were a preview of the new book which I now know you’ve bought! Thanks so much for the compliment about the blog making you want to take up cooking – I’m really chuffed with that.

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    Reply KSalty May 31, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    That looks incredible. Ottolenghi should be knighted for services to vegetables (and tofu). Will definitely make this – the office copy of Plenty went suspiciously awol about 10 mins after it arrived.

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    Reply gastrogeek May 31, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    This looks so very worth it. I’ve actually got all the ingredients beckoning to me from a bulging New Loon Moon carrier bag…I’m making it IMMEDIATELY!

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    Reply Kerri May 31, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    It’s finally happened. I’m craving tofu. I didn’t think I ever would.

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    Reply Everyday Vegetarian May 31, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    Ok, I’m definitely trying this. It sounds amazing. Did you press the tofu? That will improve the texture a lot. Instructions here

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    Reply nursing schools June 2, 2010 at 4:48 am

    Valuable info. Lucky me I found your site by accident, I bookmarked it.

  • Avatar
    Reply Anh June 2, 2010 at 7:38 am

    I have bookmarked that very recipe to try! Amazing!

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    Reply Meatloaf Recipes June 4, 2010 at 7:16 am

    good posting.
    it’s really helpful for me.
    thanks for share this.

  • Avatar
    Reply Mike Gorman June 8, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    Now this would persuade me to eat tofu instead of chicken. Being quite weak though, I may be tempted to substitute the tofu for chunks of chicken thigh meat……would that be terrible unforgivable sacrilege?
    Great blog by the way…would you like to swap blogroll links? (If I promise to use tofu… 🙂 )

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    Reply my little expat kitchen June 12, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    Hello there. Just discovered your blog. I really like it here! This is a great recipe. I like tofu and this is definitely a new way to try it. Gotta love Ottolenghi.

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    Reply Sophie March 27, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    We’ve just had this for dinner. Don’t be scared about adding the full amount of chilli – they seem to mellow quite a bit in the frying. It’s the peppercorns that cause the pain. I need a drink…

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    Reply Susie Kelly December 1, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    Even as a vegetarian I am not keen on tofu. However, I made this recipe tonight and it is absolutely stunning. Like you I cut down on the chillis – used two and nearly blew my head off, but in a nice way. I loved the sticky crispy crust on the tofu. This is one I shall definitely be cooking frequently. Yum Yum, I love Yotam. 🙂

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    Reply wearesavoury February 15, 2016 at 11:35 am

    Oooh this looks delicious 🙂 I will definitely have to try this!


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    Reply Natalie | CooksAndCookers September 27, 2016 at 8:37 pm

    This recipe looks amazing. Do you think it will work well with tempeh instead of tofu? I have been researching probiotic foods including tempeh for a while and have recently written about kefir I would love to try this recipe with tempeh but I am worried the flavour will be too strong.

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