dinner Featured gluten-free vegetarian

Thai Basil Tofu

August 18, 2020

An easy recipe for Thai Basil Tofu that is ready in under 30 minutes. Easy swaps are available to make this Thai Tofu vegetarian and whether or not you can find Thai Basil doesn’t matter much for a delicious dinner the whole family will love.

The other night I was eating dinner with C and we were chatting about confidence in the kitchen. I’m a firm believer that anyone can be a great cook so long as they are willing to practice. Surprisingly, C agreed even if I am the exclusive chef of this family. He claims I stunted his growth because I do all the cooking. On some level I have to agree. We’ve been together for almost a decade and it’s fair to say that I’ve cooked 99% of our meals. It doesn’t leave much room for him to develop his skills and confidence.

This is a situation that works for us, even if it’s unbalanced. C is a killer dishwasher and grocery shopper. I do all of the cooking. In our opinion it evens out in the end.

That being said, I try to keep him in the back of my min when I’m developing recipes. I ask myself “would C be able to follow this recipe”. If the answer is not then I generally don’t post it. If it’s yes then you’ll see it here on the blog. This Thai Basil Tofu totally fits the bill. Even though there’s zero chance of C making it, I know he’d be able to and those are the kinds of recipes that I like to share. Everyone from the beginner to the advanced cook are welcome here. No pre-requisites necessary!

What You Need

  • Rice – I like short-grain brown rice but use whatever you have or prefer
  • Extra Firm Tofu (14 oz) – make sure you buy extra firm so it holds its shape!
  • Tapioca starch – can also use cornstarch or flour which helps the tofu get crispy
  • Soy sauce – feel free to use tamari if you are gluten-free
  • Fish sauce – omit if vegan or vegetarian
  • Chili Paste – also known as Sambal Oelek. Adds a nice spicy kick to this dish
  • Rice Wine Vinegar – you can use a lime instead if you don’t have rice wine vinegar
  • Coconut sugar – to balance out the acids and salt
  • Sesame oil – can also use olive oil or a more neutral oil if you prefer
  • Veggies – garlic, ginger, bell pepper,s broccoli (or broccolini) and of course Thai basil or basil
  • Raw sesame seeds
  • optional toppings: cashews, scallions, additional basil, cilantro etc…

How to Cook Basil Tofu

This Thai tofu is coated in tapioca starch to help it crisp up when you cook it. If you don’t have tapioca starch you can use cornstarch (I recommend organic if you can find it) or even regular white flour. Just add a pinch of salt and pepper to bring out the flavor.

Besides the tapioca starch this Thai basil tofu recipe requires a light frying to achieve optimal crispiness.

You know your Thai tofu is ready for cooking when the oil simmers in the pan when you add a splash of water. At this point you can add your tofu and use tongs to flip the tofu occasionally until each piece is crispy and brown all over.

Make this Thai Basil Recipe Vegetarian

It’s super easy to make this Thai Basil vegetarian. The only ingredient which isn’t technically vegetarian is the fish sauce. If you’re pescatarian I recommend keeping it in as it adds a lot of flavor, however if you’re a strict vegan or vegetarian feel free to omit the fish sauce. The flavor is still delicious even without it.


Thai Basil Tofu

An easy recipe for Thai Basil Tofu that is ready in under 30 minutes. Easy swaps are available to make this Thai Tofu vegetarian and whether or not you can find Thai Basil doesn’t matter much for a delicious dinner the whole family will love.

  • Author: Davida Lederle
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Cook
  • Cuisine: Thai
  • Diet: Vegetarian


  • 1 1/2 cups dry brown rice
  • 14 oz package extra firm tofu
  • 1 tbsp tapioca starch or flour (can also use cornstarch)
  • pinch of salt + pepper
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 12 tbsp chili paste (sambal oelek)
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil (can also use olive oil or a more neutral oil)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 large red or orange bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 head of broccolini or broccoli, ends trimmed or cut into florets
  • 1 cup fresh Thai or regular basil, roughly torn
  • 1 tbsp raw sesame seeds
  • optional toppings: cashews, scallions, additional basil, cilantro etc…


  1. Make rice according to package instructions.
  2. Place tofu block in a dishtowel or paper towel and squeeze to remove moisture. Cut into 1-inch cubes.
  3. In a large bowl combine tofu, tapioca starch, salt and pepper to coat tofu.
  4. Make sauce by combining soy sauce (or tamari), fish sauce, chili paste, rice wine vinegar and coconut sugar. Set aside.
  5. Add sesame oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Drop a splash of water into the skillet and if the oil simmers it is ready.
  6. Add the tofu, flipping occasionally until brown all over and crispy, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from skillet and set aside.
  7. Add the garlic, ginger, and peppers, and broccolini or broccoli to skillet and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add a tablespoon of water and cover skillet with a top or tin foil. Allow veggies to steam for 2 minutes. Remove top and cook until veggies are slightly browned and cooked through.
  8. Add the tofu back to the skillet and pour in the pre-mixed sauce to bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let cook for about 3 minutes or until sauce has thickened to preference.
  9. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil and sesame seeds.
  10. Serve over rice with optional toppings.

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  • Reply
    Talya Bernstein Galaganov
    December 23, 2021 at 10:43 pm

    SOOOOOOOOOO good! I finally got hold of some Thai Basil and tried it. JUST like in restaurants! My husband pronounced it “incredible!”

  • Reply
    Megan Ruschhaupt
    September 15, 2021 at 7:44 pm

    Made it just as written and it was delicious. It is now one of my favorite stir fries (if not THE favorite). Thank you!

  • Reply
    August 2, 2021 at 10:08 pm

    Delish! I subbed eggplant for the broccolini and it was so good!

  • Reply
    Jodi H.
    May 23, 2021 at 6:45 pm

    Trying to recreate something similar from a restaurant in San Francisco that closed (Thep Phenom) and this is the best match yet! I added some oven-roasted crispy thai basil on top to really match my memory. Yum! 5 stars for sure!

  • Reply
    September 20, 2020 at 11:44 pm

    The Thai Basil Tofu is so delicious; it’s FULL of flavor and easy to make! I was so amazed on how easy it was to cook this dish. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Micaela @MindfulMomma
    August 19, 2020 at 12:02 pm

    Do you press the water out of your tofu before using – or can you get away without that step?

    • Reply
      Davida Lederle
      August 19, 2020 at 12:11 pm

      I do a little squeeze with a dishtowel but you don’t need a tofu press. Thanks for reminding me to add that to the instructions!

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