Tahu Goreng Kecap has all the freaking textures and flavors. It’s what I am looking for when I create dishes of my own - there are fried shallots, crispy tofu, sticky sauce, and the freshness of chives and sliced red chilies. There are prominent sweet, salty, spicy, and tangy flavors from the perfect balance of tamarind, kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce), palm sugar, garlic, and makrut lime leaves. The tofu, crispy on the outside and delicately soft on the inside, acts as a canvas for the intense Indonesian flavors of the sauce to dance upon.
You’re now armed with a recipe that will help you to master this Indonesian gem on your very first try. I’ve meticulously crafted this recipe to ensure that every step is clear, and fail-proof.
On its own Tahu goreng can be a fantastic side dish, but it really becomes the star of a great meal when you serve it on a hot bed of nasi uduk betawi or nasi minyak with a great Indonesian dessert like Kuih dadar or klepon to follow!
Let’s roll up our sleeves, gather our ingredients, and unlock the perfect flavors of what is gonna be your new favey tofu recipe!
🥰Why you are going to adore the ever-loving heck outta this recipe
✊Vegan AF: This recipe is 100% plant-based, and I promise there’s not going to be a second when you are eating where you are like “this is missing something.” It’s full of flavor without being full of cholesterol or avoidable harm to animals and the environment. No shrimp paste, or chicken stock to be found here!
🙅♀️🌾Gluten-Free: Whether you’re avoiding gluten or just looking to follow a less inflammatory diet, this recipe has you covered. Just make sure to use wheat-free kecap manis, or follow the method in my mie goreng recipe to whip up your own. Plus this tofu is pan-fried, not deep-fried.
✅Tested and Approved Worldwide: Like all the recipes on my blog, this Tahu Goreng Kecap has been meticulously fine-tuned not only by me but by a team of dedicated food enthusiasts around the world, including in Indonesia, where the dish is from. No matter where you are on the planet, rest assured it’s been tested to work everywhere!
🌶️Notable ingredients and substitutions
Indonesian Bay Leaf
Daun Salam is a special variety of bay leaf used in Indonesian and Malaysian recipes. If you don’t have access to Indonesian bay leaves, you can use regular bay leaves as a substitute.
Makrut Lime Leaves
Makrut are also known as Kaffir Lime Leaves (though don’t use that name because it is an offensive term) or Daun Jeruk Purut. They infuse the recipe with the essence of their oil-rich, fragrant leaves. Bursting with vitamin E and essential oils, they bring both flavor and health benefits. If makrut lime leaves are hard to find, a blend of lime zest and lemongrass can provide a similar bright touch.
Asam Jawa is the secret to the sauce’s fruity subtle tanginess. Used in everything from Indian pickled carrots to Vietnamese rice paper salad, tamarind concentrate is an easier ingredient to have on hand to get consistent results with than tamarind pulp. In a pinch, lime juice, or tart cherry juice mixed with brown sugar can mimic the tamarind’s sweet and sour magic.
Gula Aren is an unrefined sweetener that lends a distinct caramel-like sweetness to Tahu goreng. If palm sugar is unavailable, coconut sugar, sucanat, or brown sugar can step in without missing a beat.
Bird’s Eye Chilies
Cabe Rawit, or “Thai chilies” bring such nice heat along with a lovely flavor. If you prefer a milder heat, substitute with finely chopped jalapeños, serranos, or your favorite chili pepper variety.
*See the recipe card at the bottom of the page for exact quantities, nutritional info, and detailed cooking directions.
Tom Yum Tofu: Add a dollop of my signature tom yum paste to the sauce to add Thai notes of lemongrass and galangal.
Make this perfectly on your first shot by following these step-by-step instructions with important tips. Or you can follow along with the easy-to-print recipe card towards the bottom of this page.
Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. After 90 seconds, when the oil is hot, add the thinly sliced bird’s eye chilies, minced garlic, makrut lime leaves, and Indonesian bay leaves to the heated oil. Sauté this mixture for 2-3 minutes until intensely fragrant.
Add the lime juice (or calamansi juice), tamarind concentrate, tamari (or soy sauce), kecap manis, and sugar (palm, coconut, or brown) into the sautéed mixture. Dissolve the cornstarch in water and stir it into the pot. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the sauce is thick and bubbling. Set aside.
Cut a 14 oz. (396 g.) block of firm (not extra firm) tofu into 8 equal squares.
Coat each tofu square evenly with tapioca starch or cornstarch.
Heat frying oil in a skillet over medium-high heat for approximately 2 minutes. Carefully place the coated tofu squares into the heated oil, allowing them to fry for about 3-4 minutes on each side. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to flip the tofu squares, ensuring even frying. Once they achieve a golden brown exterior, carefully remove the crispy fried tofu pieces and place them on a wire rack to drain excess oil.
Fry the sliced shallots in the same oil used for the tofu. If you have pre-fried shallots, skip this step.
To serve, spoon sauce down on a plate under the tofu, and garnish the tofu with fried shallots, crushed peanuts, sesame seeds, minced chives, cilantro, and optionally some additional sliced bird’s eye chilies and additional kecap manis.
Time to plate up and enjoy the Tahu Goreng Kecap! But whatcha gonna serve it with? Relax, I gotcha covered.
For a satisfying meal, ladle the sweet and spicy soy sauce over a bed of your favorite noodles. Try it over quick 30-minute bami goreng, mee rebus, ketoprak with spicy peanut sauce, mi xau xi dau for Vietnamese vibes, or even have the tofu over Burmese curry noodles.
Looking to add some veggies to this meal? Ensaladang talong, a charred Filipino eggplant salad, or Aviyal from South India could be just the thing. Don’t miss the opportunity to serve it alongside tangy pickled amla, or miso-glazed eggplant, both offering a perfect balance of textures and tastes.
What about a dessert to wash this down with?
- Tofu Tenderness: Before diving into frying, ensure your tofu is as dry as possible. Give it a gentle pat-down with towels to remove excess moisture, or even let it hang out for 15 minutes in a tofu press to get rid of extra moisture. This will help the tofu crisp up beautifully and avoid any unnecessary splatters during frying.
- Fry with Confidence: When it’s time to fry those tofu cubes to golden perfection, remember to give them some space. Overcrowding the pan will lead to the pieces of tofu sticking together due to the tapioca starch or cornstarch.
- Garnish Galore: The garnishes are your flavor buddies, so don’t skimp on them. In addition to the ones I mentioned, you can also throw in fried curry leaves, or blanched beansprouts if you like.
Makrut lime leaves come from a gnarled-looking Asian citrus. The term kaffir is a racist slur that became commonly used for the ingredient outside of Asia. So, they are the same thing, but the term that should be used is Makrut, so as not to be offensive.
You bet! Opt for a gluten-free soy sauce mixed with a touch of molasses or brown sugar, or follow my method for making your own from scratch in my mie goreng recipe.
Of course! Adjust the heat to your liking by reducing the number of bird’s eye chilies or opting for a milder chili variety.
After letting the tofu and sauce cool to room temperature, pack them separately so the tofu doesn’t get soggy. Place the containers into the refrigerator, where it’ll happily hang out for up to 3 days. Now, about freezing – it’s a no-go. Freezing the sauce will cause it to get clumpy, and the tofu will get spongey and lose its crispiness permanently.
🔥 Stovetop Reheating:
Grab a trusty saucepan and pour in the sauce to warm over medium heat. Separately reheat the tofu pieces in a frying pan over medium heat with a small splash of cooking oil. Heat for 3-4 minutes until the tofu is crisp and the sauce is hot. Add fresh garnishes before serving.
✌️You might really wanna make these too.
These are some of my favey dishes to serve with this crispy tofu dreamboat:
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Tahu Goreng Kecap (Indonesian Fried Tofu)
Tahu Goreng Sauce:
- 1 ½ teaspoons cooking oil
- 4 bird's eye chilies thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 4 makrut lime leaves
- 2 Indonesian bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon lime juice or calamansi juice
- ⅓ cup tamarind concentrate
- 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce of your choice
- 1 tablespoon kecap manis
- 2 ½ teaspoons palm sugar coconut sugar, or brown sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons corn starch
- ⅓ cup water
- 14 oz. 396 g. firm tofu
- 2 tablespoons tapioca starch or cornstarch
- ⅔ cup neutral tasting frying oil canola oil, sunflower oil, peanut oil
- Warm the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. After 90 seconds when the oil is hot, add thinly sliced bird's eye chilies, minced garlic, makrut lime leaves, and Indonesian bay leaves. Sauté until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.
- Mix in lime juice (or calamansi juice), tamarind concentrate, tamari (or soy sauce), kecap manis, sugar (palm sugar, coconut sugar, or brown sugar), and corn starch dissolved in water. Stir continuously until the sauce thickens to a glossy consistency. This should take about 2-3 minutes. Set aside.
- Cut 14 oz. (396 g.) firm tofu into 8 equal squares.
- Coat tofu cubes with tapioca starch (or cornstarch) until evenly covered.
- Place a pan over medium-high heat and add neutral-tasting frying oil. Heat the oil for about 2 minutes until it shimmers slightly, indicating it's hot enough for frying. Carefully add the coated tofu cubes to the hot oil. Fry them until they turn golden brown and crispy, around 3-4 minutes on each side. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to turn the tofu cubes for even frying. Remove the tofu from the oil and let it drain on a wire rack.
- If using fresh shallots, you can fry them in the same oil you used to fry the tofu until they're crispy. If using prefried shallots, skip this step.
- Place sauce down on a plate under the tofu, and garnish the tofu with fried shallots, crushed peanuts, sesame seeds, minced chives, cilantro, and optionally some additional sliced bird’s eye chilies and additional kecap manis.