These Spicy Basil Tofu Puffs are full of flavour. They’re garlicy, spicy, and salty with a hint of sweetness. Best served over jasmine rice.
Tofu is one of those things I always keep on hand. I usually have a tofu based lunch or dinner 3x a week and hence I usually keep a few different varieties.
From silken tofu, to medium-firm tofu, firm tofu, and tofu puffs. I keep them all. And I won’t lie, I do get a little panicky if I’m ever running low.
Tofu recipes have saved my behind on many busy weeks. You can put something together that’s quick, easy, and nutritious without much effort at all. This one in particular has been a firm favourite.
Spicy Basil Tofu Puffs
This dish is inspired by the Thai dishes known as ‘pad krapow‘. Pad means fried whilst krapow relates to the Holy basil that is used. These have always been a regular order for me whenever I visit or order from my favourite Thai restaurants.
It usually consists of a protein (tofu or seitan) tossed in a spicy, salty, umami rich sauce. All finished with holy basil.
These tofu puffs are tossed in garlic and chilli before the sauce gets poured in along with a good handful of Thai basil. The tofu puffs absorb most of the sauce and then release it with every bite, making it gloriously juicy.
It’s part of my ’30 Minute Recipes’ series!
This entire series will be full of recipes that can all be made in UNDER 30 MINUTES. They’re perfect for busy days, or for those evenings when you just want something quick.
In fact, they’re all recipes that I make for my own lunches and dinners. Though I’m always cooking for the blog, those recipes don’t make up my lunches and dinners.
You can find the rest of the recipes here.
A bit of Spicy Basil background
It’s a super popular street food in Thailand and from my understanding it’s a firm favourite with both locals and tourists alike.
It’s often made with pork or chicken stir fried in garlic and chilli, before the sauce gets poured in along with generous amounts of holy basil. And then finally served with rice and a deep fried cloud-like egg.
I imagine the richness of the egg balances out the heat and punchy flavours of the dish? But please correct me if I’m wrong!
Why I’m using Thai basil instead of holy basil
Simply because I’ve really struggled to find holy basil. I’ve been looking for it for a couple of years and have yet to find any in London.
Whereas Thai basil is easily accessible and I even grow my own. I’ve used my own Thai basil in this recipe – they grow really easily over here and are pretty low maintenance herbs.
What are these spongy golden tofu puffs? (Everyone always asks!)
They are essentially a deep fried medium-firm tofu that’s been fried low and slow for a longer period of time.
This process allows them to puff up and develop this chewy golden exterior and spongy interior. Without a doubt they are one of my absolute favourite types of tofu and I’ve always got a pack either in my fridge or freezer.
Can tofu puffs be made at home?
They can, but I’ve not tried making them myself as they’re always readily available in my local East Asian supermarket. They’re kept in the refrigerated section and often sold in small, medium, and large bags.
To make them you’d need to deep fry medium firm or firm tofu (it has to be fresh tofu) low and slow for around 10-15 minutes to help them puff up.
If you’d like to buy them, then an East Asian supermarket would be the first place I’d advise checking.
What you’ll need:
The full recipe can be found at the end of the blogpost
- Tofu puffs
- Mushroom sauce – or a vegetarian oyster sauce
- Dark soy sauce
- Light soy sauce
- Palm sugar – or any sugar/sweetener of preference
- Red bird’s eye chillies
- Larger, mild red chillies
- Thai basil – or holy basil
How to make these Spicy Basil Tofu Puffs
1) These are tofu puffs, see the blogpost for more information on these
2) Simply cut them in half and leave them aside
3) Mix together all the sauce ingredients. This is the mushroom sauce/vegetarian oyster sauce, dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, palm sugar, and water
4) Then take some garlic and red bird’s eye chillies (these are really hot!)
5) And place them into a pestle and mortar and pound into a rough paste. It doesn’t need to be perfect!
6) Sauté the garlic and chillies briefly until fragrant. I like to do this in my wok but any large pan will do
7) Then add in all the chopped tofu puffs
8) As well as all the sauce
9) Add in some sliced red chillies – these ones are quite mild. You could substitute this for some red pepper if you wanted to. Continue to cook for a further minute or two
10) Finish with a huge handful of Thai basil, or holy basil if you can find some near you
11) Cook for a further 30 seconds or so, just until the Thai basil begins to wilt. And then you’re done! It’s such an easy dish to make
12) Serve over some steamed jasmine rice like I have or perhaps over noodles
Spicy Basil Tofu Puffs serving suggestions
I always serve this with a good mountain of steamed jasmine rice. It is my favourite combination! Every bite of the tofu puffs releases all the sauce and juicy-ness which goes so incredibly well with rice.
You could also serve this over noodles if you wish.
Frequently asked questions
Can we use regular tofu instead of tofu puffs?
Yes, first pan fry or air fry any tofu in 1-2 tbsp of oil until golden and crispy. They’ll also firm up slightly once pan fried too. Then proceed with the recipe as normal.
What are tofu puffs? Where do we buy them? And can we make them ourselves?
There’s a section above in the blogpost for all this so definitely give that a read.
Can this be made more mild or child friendly?
It can indeed, omit the chilli if you don’t want to use it. Alternatively swap chillies for mild and sweet red peppers.
Can we use Italian basil rather than Thai basil?
As they have two totally different flavours, I wouldn’t recommend it as a substitute here. However if you don’t mind having a different flavour, then by all means use Italian basil if that’s what’s accessible for you.
Thai basil has a far more aniseed-like flavour in comparison to Italian basil. And this is a key flavour in this dish.
But my 30 minute recipes are open to interpretation and adaptation based on what you have on hand. These are aimed to be simple, quick, and easy recipes, so feel free to use whatever you can access or whatever you already have.
If you enjoyed this recipe
Please do let me know! Leave a review and a rating below, I’d love to know how you got on.
Until then, happy cooking!
- 230g tofu puffs - also known as deep fried tofu
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 3 red bird's eye chillies
- 2 mild large red chillies or 1 red pepper, sliced
- 2tbsp mushroom sauce or vegetarian oyster sauce
- 1tbsp light soy sauce
- 1tsp dark soy sauce
- 2cm piece of palm sugar, or 2tsp brown sugar
- 6tbsp water
- Large handful of Thai basil
- 2tbsp neutral flavoured oil, e.g. sunflower, rapeseed, peanut
- Start by cutting the tofu puffs in half and leave aside
- Then in a bowl or small jug, mix together the mushroom sauce, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and water. Also grate in the palm sugar and whisk to dissolve
- Place the garlic and red bird's eye chillies (but not the larger mild chillies) into a pestle and mortar and pound into a rough paste. It does not need to be perfect, don't worry!
- Heat up a wok or pan over a medium heat, then sauté the garlic and chilli paste in the oil for around a minute or until fragrant
- Add the tofu puffs along with the sauce and the mild sliced chillies. Cook for a further 1 to 2 minutes
- Finish with a large handful of Thai basil and cook for 30 seconds or so, or until just wilted
- Serve over steamed rice or noodles
If you'd like to use regular tofu, simply cut into cubes and air fry or pan fry until golden. Then proceed with the recipe as normal
Nutrition InformationYield 2 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 354Total Fat 25gSaturated Fat 3gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 20gCholesterol 4mgSodium 991mgCarbohydrates 21gFiber 3gSugar 12gProtein 17g
This is an automated calculation and hence may not always be accurate.