Lemongrass tofu

Lemongrass tofu

Today’s recipe for lemongrass tofu is my take on a quintessentially Spring meal, which loves all things citrus. Only this time it’s not lemon, lime or even orange but a hardy yet beautiful herb with such an intense citrusy aroma that it has earned it a name of lemongrass.

My inspiration for this dish hails form Vietnam where minced lemongrass is often used to flavour chicken, for example. As I am not a fan myself, I used it to add flavour to pieces of tofu thus creating lemongrass tofu.

The trouble with lemongrass is that it’s a tough herb so it isn’t easy to extract its beautiful flavour, which is why some people tend of be wary of it. The first thing you need to accept is that there will be some wastage. Only the bulbous part at the bottom can be used in marinades and dressings even then – depending on how fresh your lemongrass is – you may encounter some though bits. The top part is so hard that it can only be used in stocks and soups or as a mosquito repellent. The best way to go about preparing lemongrass for a marinade or a dressing is to crush it by hitting it lightly with a rolling pin – or whatever else you have handy. This tenderises this hard herb and allow you to chop it finely, which is quite crucial in this lemongrass tofu.

Other than that this recipe is really straightforward. I have experimented with marinating tofu pieces in a soy-based marinade made with minced lemongrass but I found that the tofu didn’t really take on much flavour this way and bits of lemongrass stuck to it would burn during frying. A far better way to do it is to poach the tofu in lemongrass broth but this made the recipe, which I wanted to be a midweek meal option, far too time consuming. I therefore simplified the process by seasoning the tofu with some soy sauce before frying (or baking) and incorporating all of the minced lemongrass into the glaze that comes together, at the end, in a wok. I wanted this lemongrass tofu to be midweek friendly and this way, I think it delivers. This simple lemongrass tofu is perfect in a banh-mi, on top of a salad, as a simple side or on some plain rice. I’ve been enjoying it a lot after my gym sessions and I hope you will too.

lemongrass tofu ingredients


TOFU: Be sure to use firm or extra firm tofu for this dish, whether you choose to pan-fry it or bake it. It is essential to press the tofu well before seasoning unless you are used an already pressed type of tofu where the manufacturer does that for you. If you like your tofu to be more spongy and to soak flavours up better, you could place it in the freezer overnight first, allow it to defrost and then press the water out. This trick increases tofu’s absorbency although it does require more thinking ahead.

LEMONGRASS: Lemongrass is a key flavour in this dish. I used as many as four stalks as regular supermarket’s lemongrass is not the freshest I am guessing. If you have access to good quality lemongrass or if you grow your own, you may get away with using less. In order to get most out of your lemongrass, you need to tenderise it first by whacking the thickest part with a rolling pin until crushed a little, this will also help you chop it finely – fine chop is necessary as it can be a tough herb.

CHILLI: I used a mild chilli to add more flavour and a touch of heat to this dish. If you want it to be super mild, deseed it prior to chopping. If, on the other hand, you enjoy spicy food, use an entire chilli – seeds and all – or go for a hotter variety that you know you can handle.

GARLIC: A used a few garlic cloves to add more flavour to the sauce although admittedly I failed to include it in my photograph above – my apologies. It’s important to chop the garlice finely, use lower heat and move it around the wok with other aromatics so that they don’t burn.

SOY SAUCE/TAMARI: I used all purpose soy sauce to season the tofu and to season the sauce. If you have vegan fish sauce available, you could swap some of the soy sauce in the sauce for that as fish sauce is what is traditionally used in a dish like that. If you want to keep this dish gluten-free, use tamari instead of soy sauce.

SPRING ONIONS: Spring onions (scallions) add a lot of flavour to the sauce. You want to use only white and light green parts though and keep the green tops for garnish and other dishes. If you don’t have spring onions, a couple of small shallots would be a good replacement in my opinion.

CORNSTARCH: I used cornstarch (cornflour in the UK) to coat the tofu lightly ahead of frying – it produces nicer texture when fried. If you choose to bake your tofu, there is no need to sprinkle it with cornstarch. A small amount of cornstarch is also needed to thicken the sauce slightly to achieve the consistency you like.

MAPLE SYRUP: A bit of sweetness is needed to achieve the right sauce texture and to balance the flavours. You can use sugar – brown sugar is best – but I used maple syrup instead.

LIME JUICE: A like to add a dash of acidity to balance the sweetness of this dish so I give it a squeeze of lime, but you don’t need to if you like it sweeter.

lemongrass tofu lemongrass prep

Take the tough outer layers off your lemongrass stalks then tenderise them by whacking the fleshy, bulbous parts with a rolling pin. Not only is a great way to destress, it releases lemongrass’s beautiful essential oils, which enhance the flavour. Once you crush the bulbous part, chop it really finely with a sharp knife.

lemongrass tofu aromatics

As this dish is essentially a stir-fry, pre-chop all other ingredients – spring onions, chilli, garlic and lemongrass too, of course – finely before you are ready to crack on.

lemongrass tofu prep

There are two different ways you could prep your tofu for this dish. If you want a more indulgent version, dust pressed & seasoned tofu with a thin layer of cornstarch and fry it in hot oil until golden on all sides. Alternatively, you can also bake the tofu. The second method is healthier as there is no need to use any extra oil and it’s more hands-off but it does take a little longer.

lemongrass tofu fried

lemongrass tofu sauce

Once your tofu is fried or baked all you need to do is to make a quick glaze by stir-frying aromatics briefly and then adding in a bit of liquid thicken with cornstarch. In a matter of seconds, these simple ingredients will transform into a simple sticky glaze to which you add your tofu and voila, your lemongrass tofu is done.

lemongrass tofu wok

lemongrass tofu wok side

15 min
15 min
15 min
15 min
  • 400 g / 14 oz firm tofu, pressed
  • 50 ml / 3½ tbsp soy sauce/tamari, divided
  • 1 mild red chilli (or hot chilli if you like heat)
  • 4 spring onions / scallions
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 4 lemongrass stalks*
  • 15 ml / 1 tbsp maple syrup (or brown sugar)
  • squeeze of lime, optional
  • 2-5 tsp cornstarch / cornflour
  • 15-40 ml / 1-2½ tbsp oil with high smoke point



  1. Cut pressed tofu into even sized pieces – I cut mine into 1.2 cm / 0.5″ thick and 5 cm / 2″ (more or less) equilateral triangles, but any shape will do.
  2. Pour 1½ tbsp of soy sauce (or tamari) and 1½ tbsp of water into a shallow baking dish, stir them together and then arrange tofu pieces on top then flip them gently so that both sides gets seasoned, allow it to marinate for 10 minutes before frying or baking.


  1. Dust each piece of tofu with a thin layer of cornstarch (you’ll need 2-3 tsp) on both sides. I find that using a small sieve helps to get an even coverage.
  2. Heat up a wok on a medium high heat, once it starts to smoke add a couple of teaspoons of oil, swivel it around the work, then arrange tofu pieces on top in a single layer – you will need to fry the tofu in two batches most likely.
  3. Fry the tofu until golden on all sides. Remove from the pan and arrange on a paper towel lined plate to absorb excess grease.


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200° C / 390° F (or 180° C / 355° F with fan) and grab a large baking tray.
  2. Arrange the tofu on the baking tray and bake for about 30 minutes, flipping the pieces at half way point.


  1. Whack each lemongrass stalk with a rolling pin until the fleshy, light green part is crushed – this tenderises lemongrass and makes it easier to chop finely.
  2. Cut wooden ends off, take off tough outer leaves and mince the fleshy bottom part really finely using a sharp knife or you could pound it in a pestle & mortar to release even more flavour.
  3. Cut white and light green part of spring onions into thick slices. Dice both chilli and garlic cloves finely. Deseed the chilli prior to chopping if you want no heat at all.
  4. Measure out 120 ml / ½ cup of water. Place 2 tsp of cornstarch in a jug add just a splash of water. Whisk until lump-free, then add the rest of the water, 2 tbsp of soy sauce and maple syrup. Whisk everything together.
  5. Preheat the wok again – if you fried your tofu in it, give it a good wipe first. Add a tablespoon of oil and turn the heat down to medium-low. Add sliced spring onions and stir-fry for 45 seconds, then add lemongrass, chilli and garlic to the wok and stir fry until softened and fragrant.
  6. Add in liquid and allow it to simmer for a few seconds to caramelise and thicken. Then add tofu just to warm up. Season with a squeeze of lime if liked (I add about 2 tsp).
  7. Serve it in a banh mi, on top of steamed rice or as a side.

*LEMONGRASS: if you have access to a high quality, fresh lemongrass, you may not need as many stalks. I used lemongrass available in most UK supermarkets and found that I need to use 4 to get the level of flavour I was after.

4 g
8 g
1 g
13 g
11 g
*per 1 out of 4 servings (baked version)
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4 reviews, 4 comments
"very tasty" - meat eating husband!
we had it with a big plate of stir fried veggies
    Thanks Holly, I am really happy to hear that this tofu got a devoted meat eater's approval too. Thanks for taking the time to review! Ania
great flavours, easy to make for a midweek meal
    Thank you, I'm delighted to hear that you enjoyed it so much! Ania
Thank you
    My pleasure :)
This is a recipe and dish for me.
    Thanks Christine, I am delighted to hear that :)
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