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Basil Tofu Recipe: A Spicy Vegetarian Spin on Pad Krapow


We created this vegetarian stir-fry tofu dish by adapting one of our Thai takeout favorites, Pad Krapow. You can whip up this stir-fry in less than fifteen minutes for a simple weeknight dinner that delivers big with brightly fresh flavor from the Thai holy basil. 

If you're looking for vegetarian Thai recipes with tofu, you've come to the right place!

Pad Krapow is almost as famous as Thailand's reigning dish supreme, Pad Thai. And while we used to love eating a bowl of this delicious stir fry, it's not suitable for a vegetarian or vegan diet. 

Typically, the Thai sauce contains fish or oyster sauce, and the dish's protein is pork, chicken, beef, or seafood. Not so, with this basil tofu stir fry that honestly tastes just as good, if not better than the classic version. 

Breaking down the tofu into "ground tofu" gives the dish a more meat-like mouthfeel, and Thai basil adds a ton of flavor so that you won't miss any of the animal-based ingredients at all. 

We topped our Thai-style tofu with a chili-garlic sauce - the fresh ginger and Thai chilies add some zing and heat to this savory, addictive dish. This meal is vegetarian, but you can easily make it a high-protein vegan dinner by omitting the cooked egg.

Better yet? It is ready in a literal blink of the eye. Follow our simple, 15-minute recipe for our Thai basil tofu stir fry below.

    Thai Fried Tofu Recipe - Nutrition Information

    Calories: 270 kcal; Carbohydrates: 15 g; Protein: 9 g; Fat: 20 g; Sodium: 89 mg; Fiber: 3 g; Sugar: 9 g.

    Thai Tofu Stir Fry - FAQ

    Do I need to press the tofu?

    Yes! Much of the reason that tofu has a mushy reputation is that many people skip the necessary pressing step. 

    Tofu contains a load of water, and though the firm and extra-firm blocks have the lowest water concentration, it's still too much - by pressing your tofu, you'll achieve a perfectly crispy texture once the stir-frying is over, without the sogginess. 

    We like to use our tofu press simply because it saves us some time. If you're using a tofu press, press your tofu block for 15 mins. If you don't own one, you can also wrap your tofu block in some dry paper towel and press between two heavy plates or cutting boards for 2-3 hrs, minimum. If you'd like, you can place a weight on top of the cutting board or plate to speed the process up a little more. 

    Can I use a different type of tofu?

    For this spicy basil tofu stir fry, the only two types of tofu that work are firm or extra-firm. Soft, silken, and regular tofu all contain far too much water, leading to a soggy, watery stir fry instead - not ideal. 

    Can I substitute for Thai basil?

    If you can't find Thai basil at your local grocery store or Asian market, you can substitute for regular basil or try a different herb altogether. The meal definitely won't taste the same, but you can have some fun varying the dish's flavors. 

    Is this tofu stir fry healthy?

    This Thai stir fry is nutrient-dense, as it's full of veggies and tofu, which provide a load of fiber, lean protein, vitamins, and minerals. 

    The sauce contains some brown sugar to sweeten, though it's a pretty small amount - just 2 ½ tsp in the entire recipe, though you can substitute as below if desired.

    Soy sauce and tamari can be a little on the high end of sodium - substitute for low-sodium soy sauce if you prefer!

    Can I make the Thai basil sauce sugar-free?

    You sure can! We don't think it tastes quite as good, but for a sugar-free option, replace the brown sugar in the basil tofu sauce with a few drops of liquid stevia instead. Be careful, add it slowly, and taste along the way, as liquid stevia is very strong. 

    Is this basil tofu stir fry gluten-free?

    This recipe is entirely gluten-free, but closely check your soy sauce label, as some brands contain gluten in their ingredients list. 

    Can I serve this tofu with something other than steamed rice?

    Absolutely! If jasmine rice isn't your thing, try brown rice, wild rice, or rice noodles. You can try udon or regular wheat-based noodles, too. 

    If you'd like to keep this basil tofu stir fry low-carb, serve it over cauliflower rice or in lettuce cups. It'd be delicious stuffed into a fresh or roasted sweet bell pepper or portobello mushrooms, too. 

    Veggie Substitutions

    If you're looking for an even bigger hit of nutrients, you can add some extra veggies into the stir-fry. 

    Add in some broccoli, carrots, celery, mushrooms, peas, snap pea, or water chestnuts for some vitamins, minerals, and a little more crunch. 

    This tofu recipe is pretty flexible, so you can also substitute veggies as you please - replace red peppers with green or another veggie altogether!

    Can I bake the tofu instead?

    You can bake the tofu if you'd like, but keep in mind it won't get as crispy in the oven, and you'll still want to stir-fry the veggies. If you choose to bake, cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes instead of crumbling it, and bake at 400°F for around 15 mins, or until golden brown and crispy-looking. 

    For even crispier tofu, broil it for a minute until golden brown before tossing it into the stir-fry pan.

    This recipe is an excellent opportunity for you to use your air fryer, too - they get perfectly crisped baking at 350°F in the air fryer for 15-20 min, though times will vary for various air fryers. 

    Final Notes & Storage: Thai Basil Recipe

    Vegetarian dishes like this make us feel that we're not depriving ourselves of rich, delicious food on our plant-based diet. 

    And another fantastic thing is that they tend to last in the fridge a little longer than meat and dairy-based meals, which tend to grow more harmful bacteria the longer they're left. 

    These leftovers will last in the fridge for up to three days, so you can keep enjoying your Thai stir fry long after dinner is over!

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