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This Vietnamese-inspired braised tofu & mushrooms features juicy tofu served in the most aromatic caramel sauce! This clay pot tofu is infused with shallots, black pepper, and vegan fish sauce. Plus, it has the perfect balance of sweet, salty, and spicy!

Vietnamese Braised Tofu & Mushrooms

Let me introduce you to my most favorite tofu recipe – Vietnamese braised tofu! Despite having tried hundreds of different tofu dishes from around the world, this one holds a secret place in my heart.

I encountered this dish during my first trip to Vietnam several years ago. It’s actually the first tofu dish I tried there. Not knowing a single word of Vietnamese, I ordered a random item on the menu and was served this amazing stew with JUICY pouches of fried tofu, mushrooms, and a wonderful sweet, salty, and peppery sauce. I fell in love.

Later on, I ordered the same dish again, tried to dissect it, and was even shown by my Vietnamese mother-in-law how to make it. And here I am, finally sharing this recipe with you all!

Get ready to experience the BEST tofu stew you have ever tried.

⭐️ Why You Will Love It

Aromatic and addictively delicious.

While my recipe relies on a few simple ingredients, that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in the flavor department! The sauce starts by caramelizing sugar to create sweet and nutty notes. It is then infused with shallots and green onions for freshness and finished with a splash of vegan fish sauce and sweet chili sauce for a kick of heat. Add a generous sprinkle of ground black pepper and you are in for a wonderful stew that is loaded with warmth and coziness.

Each juicy bite of tofu is filled with rich savory flavors!

Made in one pot.

With the exception of the tofu, which must be fried (I’m going to show you easy ways to brown your tofu without deep-frying it), this stew is made in one pot. It takes about 15 minutes of prep time and about the same for cooking, meaning you can have it on the table in just under 30 minutes!

📘 What Is Braised Tofu

Called “Đậu Hủ Kho Tiêu” in Vietnamese, this tofu dish consists of fried tofu cooked in a sweet, salty, and peppery fish sauce. It is a very popular vegetarian dish in Vietnam and is often served with white rice on the side.

Ingredients like fried tofu, mushrooms, fish sauce, sugar, green onions

🍄 Ingredient Notes

This clay pot tofu takes less than 30 minutes to prepare and requires just 9 ingredients. Here is what you will need:

Tofu

For the best texture, use firm tofu. I recommend staying away from extra firm tofu, as it would not yield a pleasant texture – it would be too firm and won’t absorb the flavors of the sauce well. You want the tofu to stay soft and tender.

Note: As I will explain later in this post, you can start with regular firm tofu and air-fry or bake it until golden brown, or simply use tofu puffs.

Mushrooms

I went with cremini mushrooms, but you can definitely use oysters, white buttons, or shiitake mushrooms. I like to quarter them to have more texture but you can slice them if you prefer.

Traditionally, straw mushrooms are used to make this stew. However, because they’re quite hard to find overseas, I switched to cremini mushrooms.

Vegan fish sauce

Since fish sauce is used in the original dish, I simply substituted it with vegan fish sauce here. This gives the sauce a rich umami taste and a deeper flavor.

Where to buy it: You can get vegan fish sauce in Asian stores or make your own vegan fish sauce using my recipe. If you can’t find vegan fish sauce, simply use soy sauce. I tried this dish with both, and while the flavor was slightly different, each version tasted great. Conclusion: don’t worry if you can’t find vegan fish sauce, just go with soy sauce.

Sugar

Since you will be turning the sugar into caramel, it’s preferable to use granulated white sugar. I tried this recipe with light brown sugar and coconut sugar but burned both!

Chili sauce

Optional, it adds extra sweetness and a spicy kick. You can use your favorite chili sauce, sriracha, or homemade sweet chili sauce.

Shallots and green onions

Both of these aromatics add a pungent and sharp aroma to the sauce. You want to use the green leaves of the green onions, do not use the stems or the bulbs. If you want a more citrusy flavor, add a teaspoon of freshly grated ginger.

A quick tip: Place the leftover green onion bulbs in a small glass filled with water. They will grow again, and you can harvest them one more time!

Soy sauce

A splash of soy sauce adds a depth of flavor to the sauce. For an authentic flavor, use Maggi seasoning. Otherwise, use regular soy sauce.

🥣 How to Make It

1. Make the tofu

Before starting to cook the stew, you need to fry the tofu. This step is essential as it helps the tofu absorb the sauce better and prevents it from crumbling during cooking.

  1. Dice the tofu. Start by dicing the tofu into 1-inch cubes or rectangles. Slightly pat the tofu dry using kitchen paper towels. Note: there is no need to press it for this recipe.

Once that is done, it’s time to fry it. I am sharing a few options, pick the one that you prefer:

  • Air-fry: Preheat your air fryer to 355°F (180°C). Next, place the diced tofu inside the basket and generously brush it with vegetable oil on all sides. Air fry for about 14 minutes, flipping it once halfway through cooking.
  • Oven: Preheat your oven to 355°F (180°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the diced tofu on it. Generously brush it with vegetables on all sides. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown on all sides. Flip it once halfway through baking.
  • Store-bought: Short on time? You can use tofu puffs! Whenever I am too lazy to air-fry the tofu, I simply use a package of tofu puffs I get from my local Asian store. These are the best at absorbing the sauce, as they have a very spongy texture. I generally use 10-12 cubes for one batch of this recipe.

I have tried all the methods I share above and have had great results every time. The air-fried and baked tofu yields slightly firmer tofu, but you will end up with more sauce. On the other hand, the tofu puffs tend to be juicier and softer, but you will have a bit less sauce as a result.

2. Make the caramel

Once your tofu is fried, it’s time to prepare the stew! We start by making a simple caramel. The caramel will add a deeper flavor and a golden brown color to the dish.

Tip: Use a light-colored clay pot. It will make it much easier to check the color of your caramel and prevent you from burning it, which would give the sauce a bitter flavor. I’m definitely not a good example here, as I only have one clay pot that is brown inside, which makes it very hard to check the color of the caramel.

  1. Heat the sugar. Heat the sugar and water in a clay pot or saucepan over medium heat. After 3-5 minutes, the sugar will start to bubble. This is normal, keep cooking.
  1. Make a caramel. After a few more minutes, the sugar will start to crystallize. It will harden and clump. Keep cooking for another 3-5 minutes, or until the crystallized sugar melts and turns golden brown.

3. Sauté the aromatics

  1. Add the shallot and green onions. As soon as the sugar has turned golden brown, add the minced shallots and chopped green onions. It will stop the caramel from getting darker.
  2. Cook. Sauté the shallots in the caramel for 20-30 seconds, stirring regularly.

4. Simmer the stew

  1. Deglaze the pan. Deglaze the pan with water and add the vegan fish sauce (or soy sauce), sweet chili sauce, soy sauce, and ground black pepper. At first, the caramel might harden but will later melt in the sauce.
  2. Add the tofu and mushrooms. Then, add the fried tofu and quartered mushrooms to the pot.
  3. Simmer. Finally, cover the clay pot with its lid and let simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring once halfway through cooking.
  4. Serve. Allow the stew to cool down for a few minutes before serving it with white rice, quinoa, or your favorite grain!

📔 Tips

  • Have everything prepared before starting. I highly recommend measuring the sauce ingredients and chopping the shallots and green onions before starting. Once the caramel has turned golden brown, you must absolutely stop it from browning more by adding the aromatics so make sure you have those ready (do not chop them at the last minute!).
  • Clay pot vs. saucepan. While I used a clay pot here, you can definitely prepare this recipe in a small cast iron pot or a saucepan. The advantage of the clay pot is that it is naturally non-stick and keeps the food warm for a longer time. I may be biased, but I tend to think that it also makes the food taste better.
  • Do not omit the frying step. Using regular tofu will not work in this recipe as it would not absorb the flavors of the sauce. If you want to save time and omit the frying step, use tofu puffs, which are often sold at Asian supermarkets.
  • Cook your grain when the stew is simmering. To have everything ready at the same time, start cooking the rice (or your favorite grain) while the stew is simmering.

❄️ Storing and Reheating

  • To store: This stew can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
  • To freeze: Allow the stew to cool completely before transferring to a freezer-safe container or bag. Freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
  • To reheat: Reheat covered over medium heat for 5-7 minutes before serving.
Vietnamese Braised Tofu & Mushrooms in a clay pot

💬 FAQ

Do I need vegan fish sauce for this recipe?

I highly recommend it if you want an authentic flavor. Soy sauce can be a substitute, but the flavor will be different. You can find vegan fish sauce in Asian stores or online. Personally, I asked my local Asian store, and they were able to order it for me, so if you don’t see it on the shelves, don’t hesitate to ask!

I don’t eat tofu. Can I use something else?

Yes, there are many variations of this dish. You can simply use more mushrooms or go with a meat substitute like vegan chicken or sausage.

Is this recipe authentic?

Yes, this recipe is based on authentic Vietnamese recipes.

I hope you will love this Vietnamese braised tofu as much as I do! The tofu is chewy and juicy, while the sauce has an amazing balance of saltiness and sweetness. Plus, it has a hint of spiciness from the chili sauce and the black pepper!

⭐️ Did you like this recipe? Let us know in the comments below, and tag us on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest!

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Recipe
Vietnamese Braised Tofu & Mushrooms

Vietnamese Braised Tofu & Mushrooms

4.82 from 11 votes
Author: Thomas Pagot
Caramelized tofu and mushrooms simmered in an umami-packed black pepper sauce. A classic Vietnamese dish that is delicious served over white rice!
Prep Time : 15 minutes
Cook Time : 12 minutes
Total Time : 27 minutes
Servings 2 servings
Calories 312 kcal

Ingredients
 

Tofu

  • 6 ounces firm tofu
  • 1 tbsp oil

Stew

  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 shallot minced
  • 2 tbsp chopped green onions
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tbsp vegan fish sauce or soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sweet chili sauce or 1/2 tbsp sriracha
  • 1 tsp soy sauce Use Maggi soy sauce for a more authentic flavor
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper more to taste
  • 1/2 cup quartered mushrooms I used cremini mushrooms

Instructions
 

Tofu

  • Dice the tofu. Start by dicing the tofu into 1-inch cubes or rectangles. Slightly pat the tofu dry using kitchen paper towels. Note: there is no need to press it for this recipe.
  • Once that is done, it’s time to fry it. I am sharing a few options, pick the one that you prefer:
    – Air-fry: Preheat your air fryer to 355°F (180°C). Next, place the diced tofu inside the basket and generously brush it with vegetable oil on all sides. Air fry for about 14 minutes, flipping it once halfway through cooking.
    – Oven: Preheat your oven to 355°F (180°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the diced tofu on it. Generously brush it with vegetables on all sides. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown on all sides. Flip it once halfway through baking.
    – Store-bought: Short on time? You can use tofu puffs! Whenever I am too lazy to air-fry the tofu, I simply use a package of tofu puffs I get from my local Asian store. These are the best at absorbing the sauce, as they have a very spongy texture. I generally use 10-12 cubes for one batch of this recipe.

Stew

  • Heat the sugar. Heat the sugar with one tablespoon of water in a clay pot or saucepan over medium heat. After 3-5 minutes, the sugar will start to bubble. This is normal, keep cooking.
  • Make a caramel. After a few more minutes, the sugar will start to crystallize. It will harden and clump. Keep cooking for another 3-5 minutes, or until the crystallized sugar melts and turns golden brown.
  • Add the shallot and green onions. As soon as the sugar has turned golden brown, add the minced shallots and chopped green onions. It will stop the caramel from getting darker. Sauté the shallots in the caramel for 20-30 seconds, stirring regularly.
  • Deglaze the pan. Deglaze the pan with the 1/3 cup of water and add the vegan fish sauce (or soy sauce), sweet chili sauce, soy sauce, and ground black pepper. At first, the caramel might harden but will later melt in the sauce.
  • Add the tofu and mushrooms. Then, add the fried tofu and quartered mushrooms to the pot.
  • Simmer. Finally, cover the clay pot with its lid and let simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring once halfway through cooking.
  • Serve. Allow the stew to cool down for a few minutes before serving it with white rice, quinoa, or your favorite grain!
  • This stew can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Video

YouTube video

Notes

  • Have everything prepared before starting. I highly recommend measuring the sauce ingredients and chopping the shallots and green onions before starting. Once the caramel has turned golden brown, you must absolutely stop it from browning more by adding the aromatics so make sure you have those ready (do not chop them at the last minute!).
  • Clay pot vs. saucepan. While I used a clay pot here, you can definitely prepare this recipe in a small cast iron pot or a saucepan. The advantage of the clay pot is that it is naturally non-stick and keeps the food warm for a longer time. I may be biased, but I tend to think that it also makes the food taste better.
  • Do not omit the frying step. Using regular tofu will not work in this recipe as it would not absorb the flavors of the sauce. If you want to save time and omit the frying step, use tofu puffs, which are often sold at Asian supermarkets.
  • Cook your grain when the stew is simmering. To have everything ready at the same time, start cooking the rice (or your favorite grain) while the stew is simmering.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 serving | Calories: 312 kcal | Carbohydrates: 25.6 g | Protein: 17.2 g | Fat: 18.2 g | Fiber: 3.8 g | Sugar: 12.6 g
Course : Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine : Vietnamese
Did you make this recipe? Tag @fullofplants on Instagram and hashtag it #fullofplants
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About the Author

Thomas Pagot is the founder, photographer, and recipe developer behind Full of Plants. He created the blog in 2016 as a personal cookbook for vegan recipes. Through years of recipe development, Thomas has successfully grown Full of Plants into a trusted resource for plant-based recipes.

Learn more ➜

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5 stars
Hello and thank you for this wonderful recipe. I can’t wait to make it but… What if I can’t get fried tofu? How can I make this?

Nice! This looks delicious & I love the mix of mushrooms. What are the green berry-like things, tho?

4 stars
Delicious – a bit sweet for me but easy to adjust.

4 stars
Maggi is a Nestlé brand. There are plenty of more ethical soy sauces that will give an authentic flavour.

5 stars
Hi Wild,

Why don’t you tell us which soy sauces are more ethical it still provide the authentic flavor? That would be more helpful than simply criticizing an entire country/culture for using an unethical brand. I’m Vietnamese and on behalf of poor, uneducated, peasant people (in Vietnam and in dozens of other poor countries where Maggi is sold), Maggi brand is commonly used and enjoyed, despite their unethical practices, often because it is cheap and available.

5 stars
I’ve been wanting to make this recipe since it posted. I finally made it and love it! So good. I also really love the idea of making a caramel first in a savory dish. It really adds a lot of flavor. Thank you Thomas for another amazing recipe!❤️❤️❤️

Bang on! Reminds me of my late grandma’s cooking. Thank you for bringing her memory back to me ❤️

What a joy to find so many vegan recipes inspired by one of my favorite cuisines! This was easy to make, including the fried tofu and over the top fabulous to eat.
The fresh ingredients are straightforward and readily available. All the other ingredients are ones I stock as they last very long and are used in many recipes I enjoy. Thank you for this delicious recipe!

5 stars
Fast, easy and enjoyed by all. I especially liked the mushrooms, my husband liked the tofu (air fried). So I’ll keep it the same 😉 Thanks for helping out with dinner again!

5 stars
I like tofu and I like mushrooms. So this recipe is an excellent combo for me. Thank you!

5 stars
Absolutely love this, Thomas! Thank you. Quick, simple and oh-so-tasty!

5 stars
Hello, my sister made this and it was delicious. She shared the recipe and I will attempt to make it myself. Do you need a clay pot to make this? Thanks.

5 stars
Really delicious ! Maybe I’ll use less sugar next time, for health reason, but the taste is perfect.

5 stars
Hi – thanks for the recipe! Just made it for lunch, and it was delicious. I think I may have not waiting long enough on the caramel, but it still tasted great. Two little notes – you said to add shallots and garlic in step three, but garlic isn’t an ingredient on the list. Should we be adding garlic, as well? The green onions were a lovely bit of green. I think next time I will add some steamed broccoli near the end for some extra veg. The recipe also so says to halve the mushrooms but later add quartered mushrooms. Mine were huge and I cut them to bite sized pieces, so I just noticed the discrepancy.