Recipes

black pepper tofu and eggplant

I spotted black pepper tofu on Ottolenghi’s* Instagram last week, a fine place to gush over food. The recipe is from Plenty, an excellent cookbook that I happen to have, which means I could make it right away. However, rather than making it and then still feeling a loose obligation to make a vegetable side dish or salad, I decided to add eggplant. From there, everything went south. I don’t have three types of soy sauce. I can get them, theoretically, but I was feeling lazy about it. I was pretty sure five tablespoons of crushed peppercorns and eight thinly sliced red chiles would make my children run screaming from the room; 11 tablespoons of butter was a bit rich for my tastes. But here’s the thing with this and, I think, all recipes. Much ado is made about “internet recipe commenters” and their “I changed eight ingredients and it didn’t work, zero stars”-type presence on websites. I’m often asked how I don’t “lose patience” with these types of comments and here comes an opinion, you just know I had one brewing:


For the love of absolutely nothing holy, because this an internet recipe blog and not the 11th commandment, you are allowed to make every single recipe you come across any way you wish. Modify for the ingredients you have. Modify for the schedule you have or the free time you want. Modify for the nutrients you need. Recipes aren’t bibles; I am no goddess. I don’t find it annoying. I mean, we’re going to have to manage our expectations about the outcomes. Some changes work, some don’t, and we can talk about it, I’ll answer whatever I can as best as I can. But honestly the best thing you can do is to report back in the comments, that is, tell us what you changed and how it went, and help the next person with the question out.

what you'll needsheet pan-edshallots, garlic, and gingermake the sauceready to finishadd to the sauce

Which is all to say [“Ugh, why are recipe headnotes so long?” lol] that I used one kind of soy sauce, a third of the butter, a tablespoon of black pepper, no chiles, I halved the tofu, added eggplant, and then I ultimately sheet pan-ed it. I didn’t only roast it because I’m nursing a hot pink two-inch burn on my forearm from dropping tofu in hot oil on the stove — if only 13 years of cooking experience here could have warned me about the ol’ water-oil issue — but because to make this entirely on the stove, you’ll need to fry tofu, and then the eggplant, and then make the sauce for 15 minutes and that adds up to a lot of time. By roasting the vegetables while you make the sauce, it comes together faster. Eggplant and tofu are fantastic together; the tofu holds its shape, the eggplant collapses and partly joins the sauce and the result was too dark and pretty to even bother garnishing with chiles or scallions, but you could. You’re in charge.

black pepper tofu and eggplant

P.S. Remember when I got to interview him? That was fun.

Previously

Six Months Ago: Perfect Meatballs and Spaghetti
One year ago: Foccacia Sandwiches for a Crowd
Two years ago: Blackberry-Blueberry Crumb Pie
Three years ago: Summer Squash Pizza, Peach Melba Popsicles, and Chile-Lime Melon Salad
Four years ago: Raspberry Crushed Ice
Five years ago: Cold Noodles with Miso, Lime, and Ginger and Apricot Pistachio Squares
Six years ago: Charred Corn Crepes, Burst Tomato Galette with Corn and Zucchini and Strawberry, Lime, and Black Pepper Popsicles
Seven years ago: Pink Lemonade Bars and Charred Pepper Steak Sauce
Eight years ago: Sugar Plum Crepes with Ricotta and Honey
Nine years ago: Everyday Chocolate Cake and Zucchini and Almond Pasta Salad
Ten years ago: Asparagus with Chorizo and Croutons and Sour Cherry Slab Pie
Eleven years ago: Cantaloupe Salsa and Plum Kuchen and Roasted Carrot and Avocado Salad
Twelve years ago: Summer Pea and Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad
Thirteen years ago: Huevos Racheros, Blueberry Crumb Bars, Napa Cabbage Salad with Buttermilk Dressing, and Quick Zucchini Sauté

Black Pepper Tofu and Eggplant

  • Servings: 2 to 3, with rice
  • Source: Smitten Kitchen
  • Print

For high-heat cooking and roasting, I usuaully use safflower (currently this one) or sunflower oil. Shallots vary a lot in size but I used 4 to 5 medium/big ones for 1 1/4 cups shallots. This will be too salty with regular soy sauce. If it’s all you’ve got, use 6 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons water. Cornstarch-coated tofu likes to sticky to roasting pans but I find by preheating the pan, using a thin spatula (this is my go-to), and not moving the tofu until it’s crisp and browned underneath, it’s not a problem.

  • 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu
  • Neutral oil for roasting (I use safflower)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 3/4 to 1 pound eggplant
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (the higher amount is slightly more rich)
  • 1 heaped cup thinly sliced shallots or 1 medium white or red onion, thinly sliced
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon granulated or brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon crushed or very coarsely ground black pepper, and more to taste
  • Rice, for serving
  • Chile-garlic sauce, crispy chili oil, or sriracha for serving

Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Drain tofu and place on a few layers of paper towel with more over it; set aside for 5 minutes, or until needed. Drizzle 3 tablespoons oil over your largest baking sheet and place it on the oven to get very hot while you get everything else ready. Trim eggplant and cut eggplant into 1-inch pieces. In a large bowl toss with 1 tablespoon oil and a few pinches of salt. Remove hot pan from oven and spread eggplant over half to 2/3 the pan. Cut tofu into 1-inch cubes. Toss gently in empty bowl with cornstarch and a couple pinches of salt until coated. Spread on empty part of baking sheet.

Roast tofu and eggplant in oven for 20 minutes to start. After 20 minutes, use your thinnest spatula to gently separate the tofu from the pan and flip to crisp and brown on the other side, about another 10 minutes. Do the same with the eggplant. At 30 minutes, the tofu should be crisp and browned and the eggplant should be roasted and tender. If needed, cook it for 5 more minutes.

While tofu and eggplant roasts, prepare the sauce. Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium heat and add butter. Once butter melts, add shallots, garlic, and ginger. Reduce heat slightly and cook, stirring here and there, until everything is tender, about 11 to 14 minutes. Add the soy sauce, sugar, and black pepper and cook, simmering, for 3 minutes more. Add roasted tofu and eggplant to pan and stir to coat with sauce; cook for one to two minutes minute together. Serve over or with rice; add extra heat as needed.

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242 comments on black pepper tofu and eggplant

  1. sabrina

    Wow this looks good! Except I don’t like tofu, and my husband doesn’t like eggplant, and we’re both allergic to soy. Any suggestions for substitutions?

    just kidding! I adore you and your infinite patience. I literally gasped when I saw this post because I’ve been meaning to make the Ottolenghi black pepper tofu for so long and adding eggplant makes it sound even better.

    1. Two things. First, a bit off topic, but I have a rule that I only make baked goods for the first time where there are comments on the site – that way you get the benefit of all those real life test kitchens! Secondly, I’ve never made an Ottolenghi recipe without subbing at least two or three ingredients – it must be something to do with the chef-ishly long lists of highly specific items. Anyway, the good news is that his recipes stand up well to all those modifications. In fact, my favourite ever carrot salad is a highly modified version of your modified version of one of his. Everyone’s shopping lists and pantry staples will be different – make recipe suit what you buy and eat and you’ll make it for years to come!

  2. MK Hastings

    I substituted dark chocolate for the tofu, chicken livers for the eggplant and moldy hot dog relish for the onions. But that’s all – everything else was exactly the same. I’m sorry Deb, it was terrible. Zero stars.

    1. OMG THANK YOU MK HASTINGS! I did exactly what you did EXCEPT I used beef liver instead of chicken and vegan hot dogs. The chocolate was 90% dark, and I recommend using 72% dark chocolate with stevia sweetener next time. TWO STARS!

      1. Marianne F. Murray

        And I tried it with raw tuna and boiled eggplant, an egg and grapes with a caramel glaze. It was meh. I would say 1 star…..seriously Deb, this head note alone is why we love you so much.

      2. Not sure if I am double posting, but I made this tonight. Followed the recipe except I added two tomatoes that needed to be used or tossed. Turned out excellent! I will definitely make again. The tofu was a little tough, but I think I left it in there too long.

  3. 8th Street SE

    My girlfriend, who I usually try to accommodate, doesn’t eat eggplant, tofu, soy sauce, cornstarch, or butter. That said, I intend to make this recipe exactly as written and she can just have a salad. I’m getting eggplant with my rescued produce box this week, and I’ve been craving tofu, so the timing couldn’t be more perfect. I’ve made Ottelenghi’s recipe a few times but had completely forgotten about it.

    1. Thank you for asking this, because me too! I regularly use halloumi in place of tofu. It remains firmer than paneer, and is easier for me to find. I wouldn’t give it a full roast though, just a quick broil. Maybe add it for the last 5 or 10 minutes? I’ve also used something called bread cheese, which is slightly sweeter than halloumi.

      1. Erin

        Thanks for all of the wonderful recipes Deb! Made this for my Cantonese husband who loves spice and my 3 and 5 year old who are not fans of spice. I used about 2/3 of a tablespoon of the black pepper, and that was enough for the hubs and just at the point of tolerance for the kiddos! Next time I might use a bit less pepper for the kiddos, but this is definitely a keeper recipe. Pretty quick and easy, too, and the tofu was the perfect crispness. Yum!

  4. sallyt

    Can I make this vegan, without tofu, and substitute tomatoes for the eggplant? OH, and it won’t work!?!

    Seriously – change a recipe all you want people – I do – but *don’t blame* the creator when it doesn’t work! Deb, you’re the best, and have infinite patience.

    BUT – this looks fantastic, and may convert me to love eggplant. Since I have an abundance of kale in my garden – anyone’s welcome to some – I’m making this favorite baked tofu with coconut kale sheet pan recipe from Ali Stafford (with some modifications!)

    https://food52.com/recipes/56204-baked-tofu-with-coconut-kale

  5. Hannah

    I don’t cook with tofu very often and when I do it’s usually pan fried. Might roasting it in a cast iron skillet mitigate some of the sticking issue? My sheet pans are rather “sheety.”

    1. deb

      You totally can, but for me, sticking/tearing wasn’t really an issue, so long as it’s brown and crisp underneath (so basically the same as anything you roast, chicken, potatoes).

    1. deb

      You can and in previous roasted tofu recipe (tofu-broccoli with crunchy sesame-peanut dressing in Smitten Kitchen Every Day), I suggest this. But I wanted the extra crisp and brown here. Both ways work.

  6. Jess

    Absolutely thrilled to see your adaptation of this recipe, which I’ve always dismissed out of hand as too-fussy in its original form. Looking forward to giving this a go!

    1. Made this tonight as written, except I added two tomatoes after the shallot mixture cooked down. The tofu did get crispy but I think I left it in there too long. My fault. I ate it over cauliflower rice. Great recipe, will definitely make again.

    1. sylviastarlight

      My very picky 9 year old asked me to make this again! I put it over henan noodles instead of rice, delicious. She loved it as did the rest of the family.

  7. Kathryn

    Please can we have metric measurements too? I can cope with ounces but converting F to C just blows my brain right now and cups are just not a reliable unit IMHO 😉 Thx

    1. SR

      Google hack for any measurement, currency exchange, temperature, etc:

      In Google search, type:

      Cups grams

      grams cups

      Farenheit centigrade

      Inches meters

      Dollars euros

      Obviously cups to grams depends upon whatever you are measuring. Milk will be different than flour. But there are websites that can give you Imperial to metric (or the reverse) for common cooking ingredients.

  8. Abbey

    This looks incredibly delicious, and I can’t wait to start prepping this on Sunday nights before the workweek begins. Any clue as to whether this holds up the next day?

      1. Ann

        My favourite tool in the kitchen is actually a metal paint scraper with a wooden handle. Gets off pretty much everything stuck into a baking sheet.

  9. Denise

    Love everything I have ever made from your site and if I dont make the gooey pecan cinnamon rolls; it isnt Christmas!
    But really, I have a question about this recipe cause it needs to be in my belly! Is the sugar needed or could I substitute grated carrot?

    1. deb

      Salt was definitely an issue in testing so I really felt like it needed the tablespoon of sugar. (The original recipe had 2x that plus a sweet soy sauce, just for comparison.)

  10. JOANNEBCPA

    Although I generally think tofu is weird to cook with I’m drooling over your photo of the finished product. When it’s cool enough to fire up the oven I’ll give it a try. Husband can’t eat eggplant, thinking I’ll substitute zucchini, and heck, why not throw in some roasted green beans, red/yellow bell peppers, mushrooms. Variety is the spice of life, no/yes?

    1. Stacey

      My husband also resists eggplant. I tried one of Deb’s tomato and eggplant recipes a few weeks ago and failed to persuade him (yet again..sigh). So I too am thinking of seasonal substitutes so I can make this right away…

  11. Chris

    This recipe looks delicious! In case anyone is in need of a great way to cook tofu in the oven, here’s my go-to, easy (and foolproof) method of making crispy oven roasted tofu. I’m going to prep my tofu this way when I make this recipe. It’s very similar in texture to fried tofu but doesn’t involve the standard oily mess from the stove top. And you also use very little oil. Here’s how it happens:

    1) Drain extra-firm tofu and slice lengthwise into three or four slabs.

    2) Grab two baking sheets and two thick stacks of paper towels. Lay one stack of paper towels on the first baking sheet, lay down your tofu slabs, and cover with the other stack of paper towels. Put the other baking sheet on top, and then grab your heaviest glass bowls (or perhaps cans of beans) and put those on top of the baking sheet. We want to press out as much water as possible.

    3) After letting the tofu press for 20 minutes, remove the top sheet tray and grab your tofu. The paper towels should be soaked, and the tofu much more firm. You could also press the tofu w/o first slicing into slabs, but you will need to press for at least an hour. Pressing the tofu first helps it get really crispy in the oven. At this point, I usually like to cube the tofu, but you could also slice into triangles.

    4) Put the pressed tofu into a large bowl, top with 1 tbsp oil (peanut works well), 1 tbsp soy sauce, and 1 tbsp cornstarch. Toss the tofu with a spoon until well incorporated and the cornstarch is absorbed.

    5) Bake in 425 oven for 20-30 minutes, until the tofu is very brown and crisp. I find that no flipping is needed.

    1. deb

      This is a great technique and I’ve done it before — I recommend the long pressing time in the recipe in my second cookbook. However, I was delighted to find when testing this that even 5 minutes wrapped in paper towels with nothing on top resulted in very crispy tofu (with more tender centers) without the extra steps. I didn’t do a side-by-side, but I was happy to save the time.

      1. Dee

        If you’re lucky enough to live near a Trader Joe’s, it sells a tofu in a vacum-sealed package with no water – it’s extra firm and require NO DRAINING. My go to.

    2. Bree

      OH MY GOD. I always press my tofu in a giant block and hate that it takes so long. How have I never thought to slice it up first??? Chris, you have just completely changed my tofu game!

  12. Susan

    I’ve perused AllRecipes for years and the scolding that people give for changing a recipe and reporting outcomes has me wanting to reply..You’re not the boss of this recipe or it’s readers! However I have worked around the scolding by replying that I used the recipe as my inspiration for the very reason you said; It’s my choice andin the event someone else has thought to try it the way I did, they have some feedback available before they commit. I appreciate it when I find someone has made the changes I’d like to make so I don’t waste time, or that I can go ahead if I hear that it was successful. Sorry for hijacking the recipe for this rant, but I was ‘Inspired’ to comment on the changing of recipes!

  13. I’ve made the Ottolenghi recipe as written and it’s amazing, but with a spice-averse kindergartener who always needs both dinner and undivided parental attention in the hectic half hour after my spouse and I get home from work, it’s not where my life is at right now. I plan to try this version as soon as possible, and may experiment with bok choy or broccoli for a fall/winter alternative!

      1. Laura

        So…we make one of your recipes at least once a week. We have loved all of them! Unfortunately, this was a big miss. Soy sauce was overwhelming. We are salt fans. But found that the soy sauce eclipsed the ginger, garlic, eggplant, etc. Any suggestions on how to tame this recipe down a bit?

  14. Lisa

    Ooh, can’t wait to try this! The recipe in the book looks amazing and my mouth waters every time I look at the picture but I’ve never brought myself to actually make it for the reasons you note. Thank you so much for this family friendly version!

  15. Anita

    I made a modified version of the recipe from Plenty last week. I used Deb’s instructions for oven roasting the tofu, cut the black pepper to 2 Tbs., used a mix of regular soy, dark soy and water, and added chopped up bok choy. It turned out really good!

  16. skye

    I have made Ottolenghi’s BPT recipe many many times and it never fails to disappoint. I never thought to use eggplant – I typically will toss in broccoli and cashews – so I’ll have to try that next time. I think the sauce would also be excellent on chicken or even scallops. I think your recipes and amendments to recipes are fab by the way, never change Deb!

  17. Neha Gattani

    This looks delicious. Love all the recipes that come out from your kitchen. I had a weird request. Can you please do a post on top 10 -15 cookbooks that every homecook should have? I am slowly building a collection. For now I have a few Ottolenghi, all of yours :), Ken Forkish, Ina Garten and Meera Sodha, but would love to see your recommendations. Also, when are you releasing your 3rd book?

    1. deb

      Thank you. I have tried to make this list many times and failed. I could never choose 10 favorites. The second I do, someone will remind me of another one I use so often that I forgot and I’ll need to add it too.

  18. Francoise

    Here here 🙌! Recipes are truly ideas/templates not written in stone; however those who change absolutely every ingredient should not blame the author. (BTW I love the “punch” of salt in your IG stories – the first one I thought may
    have been typo or autocorrect, the second one I thought must be on purpose!)

  19. curiouscathy

    Have you or your editor ever thought that you might do a book of recipes you have changed/modified after reader input? I think it would be hilarious and instructive and maybe pivotal. :)

  20. Maclean Nash

    Hoooollyyy! This recipe looks incredible and is on my next weeks meal plan!
    Looks like it would pair great with bok choy!

  21. Donnamp14

    Hi Deb! I suffer from a long-term affliction, called Fear of Cooking Tofu! Well, you have just about cured me with this recipe! Looks fantastic, and I will head out tomorrow morning for (another) eggplant and extra firm tofu. I am so excited! Thanks for this, and everything else. (After chemo I got back into the kitchen with the farro and tomato recipe, which is still in my rotation!)

  22. Melissa

    I wanted to start out by making a snarky joke about the changing of every ingredient but water in the recipe and then complaining but the two links you provided were perfect.

    Deb, when your arm recovers from the burn (owww!!!!), I have a recommendation. a few years ago, a friend bought me an apron as a christmas gift, knowing how much time I spend cooking and baking. This apron is long-sleeved [it’s honestly more-or-less a cute printed smock with two pockets]. she told me that long-sleeved aprons are typical in Chinese cooking where you are often sauteing or frying over hot oil. it does work great for arm protection; I use it for any serious frying. (in the winter, it also helps to keep you warm)

  23. patti with an i

    I always love how real-world you are, Deb. But I disagree with you on the comments issue. I don’t think anybody who criticizes the commenters you described is taking aim at their having changed a recipe; they’re taking aim at those who start with a recipe, change almost every single thing about it, usually including The Main Thing, and then *blame the recipe* when that doesn’t get them a good result. I’m always happy to benefit from the adventuresome nature of those who feel comfortable flying on instruments, since I’m not one of them, but credit and blame should only go where they are due.

  24. haricat

    The Ottolenghi black pepper tofu has a mythical status in my household as my partner’s Worst Meal Ever. I wasn’t present at the infamous dinner but he is the farthest thing from a fussy eater I’ve ever met and a tofu lover but nearly a decade later he still shudders when it is mentioned. It might be time for me to give your version a crack (plus the original chilli) and not discuss its origins at the dinner table.

    1. Cait

      My household too! Made it exactly as written years ago and my partner found it inedibly spicy and to this day makes fun of me for making it, and is hesitant to try other recipes from that book as a result (I of course, adored it). Now that we have a toddler, will definitely be trying this version and am hoping the whole family will enjoy!

      1. cale

        you guys are both crazy. i’ve made it several times with my meat-eater partner scarfing every single bite. served with rice and traditional stir fried morning glory, it’s soo good!!

    2. jen808

      I thought the black pepper sounded like a bit much. I heavily cut down on the pepper and added a dab of sambal – it doesn’t result in a spicy dish. It gives it a mild vinegary note.

  25. alison

    Made this tonight exactly as written and it was excellent! Next time I might try it with skinny eggplant instead of aubergines because I don’t really care for the eggplant skin.

    Deb, I so appreciate it when you rework an Ottolenghi recipe, (I call it Deb-olenghi-ing) you always make it so much easier to make without sacrificing flavor or quality.

  26. susanfried5419

    Deb, your recipes are terrific, as are Ottolenghi’s; you both know the exact right combinations of foods, cooking times, and alternatives to preparing. I love eggplant, but not tofu, and would like to make the eggplant with…well, anything. Any suggestions on a good substitute?

    1. Steph

      I have made this successfully with paneer in place of tofu. It was my only sub to the original Ottolenghi recipe and was a big hit, although I agree with Deb on the pepper overload. Next time I will reduce the pepper. Paneer!

  27. Angela Soutar

    and my goodness – there are the times when I was in a hurry and needed to microwave the eggplant first in some water and then added it to the frying/mixing. And really that wouldn’t be the right taste exactly but if you had the chilli and the 3 soy sauces how would you even know the difference?
    Angela S

  28. Sheyda

    Hi Deb, I am not an American and I’m wondering what “regular soy sauce” means, or means to you. I understand from the “low sodium” comment that you mean very salty soy sauce is regular.

    Is that Japanese soy sauce, the kind you’d use for sushi? Or perhaps Chinese? Over here in Holland, I have access to Japanese, Chinese (light and dark) and Indonesian (ketjap manis) and they’re all very different in flavor, viscosity, saltiness, etc.

    1. deb

      Here, “regular” (it just says “soy sauce” on the bottle) is fairly salty. Low-sodium is much better here. Japanese soy sauces are, I understand, lower in sodium. If you have many types of soy sauce at home, you might enjoy using the mix Ottolenghi originally recommended, which 3 tablespoons sweet soy sauce (kecap manis), 3 tablespoons light soy sauce, and 4 teaspoons dark soy sauce.

  29. Esther Lasky

    This sounds delicious, especially with the butter. However, the butter excludes the dairy-free classification.
    Thank you.

  30. Caroline

    Haha! 👏 I teach cooking classes for a living and inevitably someone asks a question (well, usually it’s a statement) saying she/he/husband/kid doesn’t like garlic/mustard/whatever ingredient so they won’t be able to make the recipe at all. My response is always, the recipe police are not coming to get you! Leave it out! Substitute something she/he/husband/kid likes! You’re the boss! That’s what’s so great about cooking for yourself and your family!

  31. Carla

    This is a delicious recipe…I’ve made it even though my husband hates tofu and eggplant. He liked this though!!! Trick was to get him to taste it before I told him what it was!!!

  32. Catherine

    We love you Deb.
    The comments alone were a good read. Hilarious.
    I think most of us agree those who rate zero after going off script are not playing fair. So if this looks like you – stop it. 😀

  33. The comments are so funny I won’t even TRY to add to them, but I laughed especially loud at the commenter who said she was “craving tofu.” That was a joke, right?

  34. Sara

    One of the (many) things I love about the Smitten Kitchen site is using my browser “search on page” function to check the comments for substitutions I have in mind. Sometimes I just don’t have the ingredient, have a glut of a different veg, or just imagined it another way, and thanks to the excellent readership here somebody usually has tried it already and reported back! Readers seem super helpful with diet/allergy subs too. I think the complaints come back from old school sites with rating functions, when someone panned a recipe without following it at all. I will admit some annoyance when people take an obviously meaty/carby recipe and ask how to make it vegan and/or gluten free. There is a point when you need to search for recipes somewhat close to your eating habits!

    1. MER

      Also, you’d think that people who regularly cook vegan or gf would already be familiar with substitutions that meet their dietary needs…

  35. Kristina

    sorry if i’m missing, but are the shallots/garlic/ginger blended? I see a pic, but not seeing if they’re chopped or blended in the instructions

  36. Kathryn

    I was drooling over this recipe all the way to the bottom when my eyes got wide reading that you posted Huevos Rancheros THIRTEEN YEARS AGO! Holy moly, I’ve been following you for a long long time! I can’t believe that was 13 years ago. 13 delicious years though, I make it at least once a month <3

  37. Megan

    So much quality content here in the omg loooong headnotes, but I will point to one bit that wasn’t even a focus. Shallots range wildly in size. Can I repeat that 100 times over for effect. Why aren’t more people saying this, like, all the time?! Can you please always tell me the resulting amount once chopped,sliced, diced, or whatever? We use precise quantities for absolutely everything but shallots. K, thanks Deb. Keep it up.

    1. AGS

      Agreed.

      I bake bread now(measuring in grams regularly) and med. onion, large tomato, bell pepper measures drive me batty.

      Just give me the grams and make it easier for folks.

      PS I love the original Ottolenghi recipe.

  38. Michael Olsa

    The rule in our kitchen with any new recipe is to make it as written as the author had his/her reasons for doing it that way. We then add our notes on any modifications we would like to make and file it to our recipes file in our computer. This has kept this pair of avid foodies quite happy for many years. Going out to our garden to harvest the eggplant now.

  39. narya

    This comment thread made my day. I’m an inveterate recipe-changer–not least because I cooked from the Moosewood cookbooks a lot, but cannot eat any color of bell peppers, and vegetable recipes are FULL of bell peppers. I tend to think of recipes as a starting point; the less familiar I am with a cuisine, the closer to the recipe I am likely to stay, but not always.

    That said, I must tell you that your recipes really are go-to guides for me, particularly when I’m looking for a fairly specific thing to make.

  40. Amy

    Since you asked, I made this last night with broccoli instead of eggplant. The broccoli didn’t need quite as long as the tofu to roast, so I took it out of the oven a bit earlier than the tofu. It was delicious!

  41. Nancy

    I confess that I do modify a lot of recipes to my liking. But I PROMISE I do not go back and comment knowing that this is modified. I like the “I made this” selection on the bottom but if I modified it, would I have still “made this”?

    However, THANK YOU for the recipe and the dinner idea. I did make this last night and modified it with what I had. I happened to have a slowly rotting eggplant from my last rescued produce box (that I have not come up with a good way to cook) and the most recent one had shallots. So I did a one-pan thing and made it with just shallots, garlic and eggplant instead of roasting and threw the sauces right in the pan and my husband really liked it!

  42. Amy

    Not related to this post, but Deb, I just made the yogurt flatbreads from SK Everyday and they were awesome! I feel like such a hero! I flavored mine with chopped fresh rosemary and topped them with smoked goat cheese and accompanied them with a few sliced cherry tomatoes. I feel like I’m baking bread but it’s not hard or messy or slow. Yay, yay, yay. Can’t wait to try it again, maybe with some fresh fennel next time. Thank you!!

  43. Bea

    Deb, for kitchen burns: Keep the turmeric close to the sink. Into a little bowl or custard cup, put enough turmeric to cover the burn generously. Mix the turmeric with enough water to make a paste. Scoop the paste onto the burn. Cover the paste with some kind of bandage–the idea is to keep the paste in contact with the burn. (Extra points for not letting it leak, since turmeric stains so nicely.) Turmeric will help stop the pain quickly. It will also help to prevent blistering.

  44. Elizabeth Deanna Morris Lakes

    Deb.
    This is just to say

    that you should freeze your tofu
    like I’ve emailed you before

    and that you seem to have forgotten.

    I’ll forgive you,
    because frozen tofu is delicious
    so hot
    so crispy.

    1. deb

      I thought of you and awaited your comment. :) I wondered why it feels like such an arduous extra time sink to freeze tofu vs. just blotting it for 5 minutes, when it doesn’t bother me at all to freeze cake layers, because I find them so much easier to work with when cold and somewhat firm. Next time, I’ll compare and contrast. Promise.

      1. Elizabeth Deanna Morris Lakes

        You know how you have all of those notes about using a specific spatula and not moving the tofu until it’s definitely totally crispy and hoping for the best? That’s so precious to me. Get home. Put it in the freezer. Let thaw whenever you need it. And then the water will POUR out and you won’t need to coddle your tofu like it’s a caramel or souffle. It’s a different texture but a BETTER texture–chewy, crispy, and never sodden. I promise it will convert you. I promise. And then, also, you can buy 6 lbs of tofu for 5 bucks at the asian market, freeze in baggies, and always have tofu at hand!!!

        1. Kat

          Costco members/friends and relatives thereof: Get the 4-pack of organic sprouted tofu (it’s either firm or extra firm, can’t recall which). Freeze 2-3 of ’em for this reason. Works like a charm and may have better nutritional & digestive results than the non-sprouted varieties. Enjoy!

        2. jen808

          Please clarify – freeze the tofu in the original container (with the water)? I will need to try this with the Costco tofu.

    2. kristeninlondon

      Elizabeth Deanna Morris Lakes – William Carlos Williams! This made me so happy, in addition to the fantastic recipe and all the great comments. One of my favourite cultural moments was finding a video of Matthew Macfadyen, my favourite English actor, reading the original poem about the plum. “So sweet, so cold.”

      1. Katy

        Kristen in London – I wanted you to know that your wonderful Matthew Macfadyen video recommendation has enlivened my sunny California kitchen this afternoon. I never would have stumbled across it myself, and it’s pure gold. Thanks from across the pond. Now to dice some eggplant!

  45. Becky

    I hate long, rambling introductions to recipes, but I love you for your recipe modification rant. I’m one of *those* people who uses recipes as a guide, not as a holy scripture, but I do it with the understanding that my results may not accurately represent the original of I veganize a meat recipe or if [horrors] I knead a dough for 4:47 instead of 5 minutes precisely.

    While I’m venting about internet blog recipes, I *do* appreciate how you often include photos and/or measurements of the ingredients you use. Is this tablespoon of sesame oil used in your recipe toasted or untoasted? It makes a huge difference, but many recipes don’t specify. What size are your five potatoes? Should I be aiming for a half kilo or a full kilo? This is where specificity in a recipe is important because it’s the only way to know whether I’m altering a recipe intentionally or unintentionally.

    As far as your forearm burn is concerned, pressing your tofu helps tremendously. A decent kitchen towel between a couple of cutting boards with a couple of unused cookbooks on top works wonders. Here’s a guide on how to press tofu: https://olivesfordinner.com/2011/01/how-to-press-tofu-primer.html You don’t have to cut it that shape, but cutting it into slabs is *far* more effective than attempting to press a whole block of tofu.

    This recipe? I haven’t made it yet, but I will. I’ll use vegan butter [Earth Balance is the go-to brand in the US], but otherwise might make it rather close to the way the recipe is written.

  46. Katy

    Deb, your acknowledgment of the need for hacks/shortcuts/sanity savers and value of reader input is just the combination of common sense and grace that makes your site priceless. This working mom appreciates your realist’s view of how the world goes ’round.

  47. Denise Brandon

    I substituted beef and pork for eggplant and tofu. Also used two buck chuck instead of the various soys. And ancient ground pepper, ginger snaps, and Durkee’s. Much better than your recipe, which just doesn’t work. Sorry for the sarcasm: I feel your pain. (His recipe for black pepper tofu was a revelation. Thanks for the eggplant addition!)

  48. Pip

    Deb – I love your recipes and I rarely need to modify as you make them so simple! I hope the recipe history ‘for the other side of the world’ is coming back. Speaking from the other side of the world, I love being reminded of all the more seasonally appropriate recipes.

    1. deb

      I was wondering if anyone noticed! (I added 6 months ago to the list.) It’s gotten so long and it takes so long to build (there’s no way to automate; believe me, I’ve begged), I don’t mind if everyone loves the section but I have to check once in a while and see if anyone is paying attention. :)

  49. Katy

    My family’s Taiwanese and this sauce is basically the basis for so much. Cook ground pork in it and throw over noodles. Cook short ribs in it. Cook assorted vegetables in it. Throw sesame oil in it as needed. Soy sauce, brown sugar, and pepper quantities can be adjusted to taste. It’s the best thing ever!

  50. Jessie Scanlon

    My husband grew up in the South eating BBQ and fiery chicken wings and for many years, he didn’t think a meatless dish could qualify as “dinner.” But he loves this black pepper tofu. It’s not just that he’ll eat it — he requests it. Deb is right that it’s quite time-consuming, so maybe I’ll try the oven next time. I add parboiled kale and serve with rice. Oh and after slicing the brick of tofu in half and wrapping them in paper towels, I top them with a cookie sheet and weigh it down with Ottolenghi cookbooks (or the nearest heavy objects) to squeeze out more of the water.

    1. deb

      I don’t think so. I think that the eggplant might collapse more but to me, that’s not a dealbreaker especially if you don’t like the skins.

  51. I’ll start off by saying that I just moved into a new place, and the knob to set my oven temperature had all the numbers rubbed off – what’s life without whimsy, eh?

    Otherwise, I made this recipe as noted, but using a little bit more onion (maybe 1.5 cups) because I was on autopilot and very hungry while slicing.

    The sauce was delicious, the extra onion was completely fine too, but the tofu stuck to the sheet pan and the eggplant skins were roughly the texture of dried oak leaves. I did still eat and enjoy the dish, but I’m not sure I would present it proudly to others with the leathery eggplant skin.

    Are my textural issues explainable by my perhaps-25-to-35-degrees-off situation? It’s an embarrasing question to ask, but I don’t know when the new knob is coming. I used avocado oil, and I did preheat it in the sheet pan, with only minor sputtering and swearing upon adding the eggplant and tofu.

    Anyways thanks for all the great recipes and flexibility – way before I followed your site regularly, I first cooked your ratatouille for friends in college and it was an instant hit – I still make it very regularly for groups and enjoy the opportunity to use whatever veggies look good (read as, are going bad soon). Nowadays, whenever I unveil a new concoction to my partner, his first question is, is this a Deb recipe? We’re both fans.

    1. TriciaPDX

      I suspect it was either too hot an oven or an old eggplant. Firm, fresh eggplants should collapse obligingly into soft mush with tasty skin. Still, slathered with this sauce even oak leaves go down fine.

    2. markelll

      So delicious!
      I used low-sodium soy sauce and it was still a little salty, but we gobbled it up. (I might try with 2 oz next time, and 2 oz broth ). I added a little cilantro and scallions, and some sambal.
      Will make again!!

  52. Cait Lovelace

    I’ve been making this recipe for years, with almost all of these exact adjustments, down to the amount of butter you suggest! I haven’t ever considered baking the tofu for fear of losing that extra crispiness that happens when it’s fried. That being said, you’ve convinced me to try it. My husband and I love this recipe so much, it’d be nice if it came together a bit quicker! I usually have the oven on to make roasted broccoli anyway (sooo good as a side w/ the tofu piled on top of some rice – but I’ll have to try with eggplant!).

  53. G

    We made this for dinner tonight, it was delicious. I went easy on the soy sauce, and will use even less next time. It was too hot to turn the oven on so we did the the tofu and eggplant on the grill using a veggie basket. It needed to be watched closely but it worked well. Thanks!

  54. Lizzy

    I loooooove this recipe in Plenty. And here’s the truth: I also don’t have 3 kinds of soy sauce so I did exactly what Deb did and used 1 kind and some brown sugar. I’m not a huge fan of eggplant but I’d give this variation a try because I think some veg is always a good addition.

  55. jen808

    This was delicious! Also loved the preface about commenters. Here’s the thing – I like to know WHY someone made changes or substitutions: convenience, allergy, preference, dietary needs, etc.
    I live in a hot and humid climate so I refuse to turn on the oven. I used the toaster oven for the tofu and lined the pan with nonstick foil. Did not use cornstarch because I planned on using it later anyway.
    For the eggplant, I lined a plate with paper towel and sprayed with oil the. Placed eggplant on top. Zapped it for 1.5 minutes until tender then browned in oil quickly.
    I thickened the sauce slightly with cornstarch and water. I added a touch of sambal instead of the full tablespoon of black pepper. I wanted a vinegary kick and it was perfect!
    Next time I will make double so I can have leftovers! Might even add a splash of fish sauce too!

  56. Lori

    I made this last night and added in some zucchini with the eggplant, which added some sweeter bites to the dish that I really enjoyed. The tofu is the crispiest that I’ve ever made and I’ll keep using this technique in the future! I was vegetarian for 12 years, so I made a lot of not-so-crispy tofu using various techniques. This technique is a winner!

    That said, it was a little bit bitter and saltier than I’d like, even though I reduced the amount of soy sauce that I used to 5TB + 3TB of water. I’ll use even less soy sauce in the future and probably throw in some chili peppers into the sauce for a little more heat.

  57. Jennifer

    It was probably too hot today to put the oven up to 425F, but I made this anyway. I like it a lot, and another big thumbs up from the vegetarian husband. Nice crispiness on the tofu. Did it with short grain brown rice. Really nice.

  58. Kate

    When I saw tofu, I scrolled on by. Then I thought I could make it with just eggplant (thanks, CSA) so I circled back, and am so glad I did. First for the laughs. And because this post is really about substitutions, I decided to go ahead and try it with the tofu as written. Delicious, and something I can’t wait to make again.
    I roasted everything on a silpat to avoid potential sticking – is this a no-no for high temps? And, I cooked the shallots in 2tbs butter plus 1 tbs oil because at some point I read you can cook at a higher temp without burning the butter if you sub a bit of oil so I always do that.

  59. Katy

    Despite the fact that I am no friend of eggplant and am picky about tofu, I decided to tackle this as part of a plant-based diet effort. It is amazing – rich and spicy and wonderful. Don’t make my mistake and line your sheet pan with tin foil – the tofu stuck to it something awful. I plopped the eggplant right on the (hot, oiled) sheet pan and had no sticking issues whatsoever. Great adaptation, Deb!

  60. Louella

    Yum, I made this by the recipe (to the very best of my ability). I def had more eggplant and therefore my tray was full up. No prob, the tofu fit perfectly on the toaster oven tray. I will probably continue to make it that way. I did add green onions at the end. Next time, perhaps sesame seeds as well. My thanks are usually unspoken, so I will vehemently say thank you Deb!

    1. Louella

      PS I used parchment on both pans (only oiled the eggplant pan) and was very very happy with the results (and subsequent cleanup).

  61. Mélanie Thomas

    Loved it! I baked the eggplant and tofu on parchment paper because I didn’t feel like washing a pan and it still turned out crispy and great. I thought it was a bit too salty even if I used low sodium soy sauce so I’d recommend skipping the salt when roasting the eggplant and tofu.

  62. tjolish

    I made this today for our family dinner today and it was delicious. I only had half as much soy as called for, so subbed veggie broth, and I wimped out on the black pepper — I only put in a teaspoon and a half. In any event, the eggplant and tofu were super easy to prepare and had a great texture, and the sauce was so good. Thank you!

  63. kpks

    Thank you for the wonderful recipe! I made it today to break my Monday fast and it was delish… I did make a few changes – I worry what goes into Soy sauce and eat it sparingly. I reduced the soy sauce to 2 tb spoons and added a couple of table spoons of peanut butter and tahini dissolved in water. Hubby vegan, so I sub peanut oil for butter.

  64. Evelien

    I made the original recipe (to the letter!) a couple of times and I was blown away by the intensity of the flavours. I think it’s very useful to prepare a recipe as it was intended at least once before you make alterations. For me that’s always a true learning moment. If you always ‘wing’ it, you’ll never do something that seems silly at first, but turns out to be genius.

  65. Elissa

    WOW – this was so delicious and easy to prepare. We got home last night from a long, exhausting weekend and I was able to whip this up without much effort. It was outstanding. I think next time I want to figure out how to add more veggies, like maybe dicing some mushrooms and adding them to the sauce. There is a little leftover and I can’t wait to have it for lunch!

  66. Morgan

    Made this over the weekend as written (using the 2 tbsp of butter option) really enjoyed, will probably purchase low sodium soy sauce for the next go-round, it was a little on the salty side. I used two regular sized eggplants and two containers of tofu (16 oz as opposed to 14) and needed two sheet pans. Not sure how eggplant AND tofu could fit on the same one, but I find this a lot with written recipes, I’m not sure if I’m too afraid to overcrowd the pan but I find that I need two where usually only one is recommended.

  67. Jais

    1 tablespoon of Crushed black pepper is just too much!!!!!!!! I used less than half a tablespoon. You will end coughing and spluttering with too much pepper.

  68. I made a double batch over the weekend and this recipe really delivered. I subbed celery for the shallots (I’m not allergic; I just have a deep and abiding dislike of everything in the onion family), and I served it over quinoa with sliced sugar snap peas. It was absolutely delicious!

  69. CF

    Well, I’ve never done roasted tofu and knew it was a risk to change the recipe the first time out, but in the spirit of the post I forged ahead and made changes to accommodate my keto diet, and figured I’d just complain about it here.

    So I pressed the tofu, and then just roasted it with a fair amount of oil (no toss in cornstarch first). It came out pretty well, but it was a little more “hard” than “crispy,” and it didn’t brown much at all — I suspect the starch helps a lot with the browning, and since it didn’t brown I didn’t think it was done yet, so I think I just plain overcooked it. But the eggplant was fantastic!

    For the sauce, I:
    – used onion instead of shallot (because it’s what I had on hand)
    – omitted the sugar entirely (because keto)
    – added a little xanthan gum (maybe 3/8 tsp or so?) near the end of cooking (to thicken and gloss up the sauce, since the sugar would’ve done that)
    – added a dash of rice vinegar at the end (because I thought it needed a little acid)

    Finally, I ate it with zucchini noodles (instead of rice, because keto). My Chinese partner had it with coconut rice (and lime wedges), and said it reminded him of Singaporean street food — which is pretty much the highest praise I’ve ever heard from him about anything I’ve ever cooked.

    Even with the texture of the tofu not-quite-perfect, this was an A++ will definitely make again!

  70. RJ in Brooklyn

    Somehow I find I can put a little more effort in if I am making one of your recipes than i would on a normal evening. I guess it’s knowing that I trust that you made the recipe as simple as possible but still as delicious as possible!

    This was worth the extra effort, and SOOOO TASTY (with minor subs, of course, due to… never mind.)

  71. Shelly

    Made this last night, halved the recipe, subbed leeks for the shallot, added a few mushrooms (sautéed separately & stirred in with the tofu & eggplant. So so good! Will be making this a million times. Already recommended it to 3 people,

  72. Susan

    I have actually made the original and found it too rich and spicy… also wishing for something else to be added in the dish. I think this is a great adaptation. Can’t wait to try it and also hear other people’s thoughts. Thank you!

  73. Mae

    This is delicious! I used parchment paper which was great in the cleanup phase. Put the tofu on one half sheet and eggplant on the other.
    Next time, I’m going to add some mushrooms!!

  74. Maki Shewfelt

    This was very easy and delicious! I added some baby book choy on the side for some greens.

    I have one question on tossing the tofu and cornstarch. Is There a trick to tossing it evenly??

  75. Oh, I feel so free to write about all my tiny modifications! One of the many reasons I love this blog- the food’s divine, of course, but the company’s swell too.

    Made this tonight, heavy-handed with the black pepper. Since I had a lonely portion of fried noodles in my cabinet, I cooked those and folded them into the sauce alongside the tofu & eggplant instead of serving over rice. Saucy, soft, crunchy, a little rich, and absolutely delicious. If you’ve got a spice tolerance, the little acidic zing of sriracha is a nice condiment for the table with this!

    I’m considering making it again this week with the zucchini I’m floating in, and suspect that’ll be delightful as well with this easy and fabulous roasting technique.

  76. Lara

    I adore Ottolenghi, but I also regularly reduce the amount of oil/butter by half or 2/3 and leave out a few of the ridiculously extravagant ingredients that I a) can’t find in a few kilometres radius and b) will not use often enough in order to not let them go bad. And you know what? Not one of those modified recipes has turned out bad – that’s how awesome the originals are. From Plenty, I absolutely love the soba noodles with mango and aubergine as well and we eat the quinoa salad with sweet potato and Iranian lime (without the Iranian lime by the way) at least twice per month every summer. Yummy.

  77. Lisa Holtzman

    I’ve wanted to make this recipe from Plenty for a while, but always balk at the amount of butter. When I saw your recipe I decided to finally go for it and combine some of your adaptations and techniques with Ottolenghi’s. It’s also throwback month in the Food52 Cookbook Club, so this was the perfect opportunity.

    I loved the addition of the eggplant. What a great way to get more vegetables into the dish. I had a small eggplant that needed to be used, so I tossed it in. In terms of other ingredients, I too have a toddler that would not eat this if there was chili peppers. I omitted those along with the scallions because I didn’t have that many and didn’t feel like cutting them. I used an onion instead of shallots, but I do wish I had used the full 12 oz (as in Plenty) instead of 1 heaping cup. I used 5 cloves of garlic as you suggested because that’s all I had, but I would have been happy using more.

    The technique of roasting instead of frying was great. So much more hands off and both reduces the fat content and waste of oil.

    For the sauce, I followed Ottolenghi’s ingredient list using the combo dark, light, and sweet soy sauce, but only 1 tbsp sugar. I had all the soy sauces on hand so I figured I would use them. I should have omitted or reduced the sugar further. The dish was pretty sweet. Finally, I took your permission to reduce the butter from 11 tbsp to 4. Definitely a smart move.

    Thanks for a great recipe and giving me the motivation to give it a try with a few adaptations.

  78. Tamara

    Excellent recipe! I made it yesterday pretty much as written and it was quick, easy, and really good served with brown rice. Have leftovers for lunch today, yum.

  79. Eeka

    A Bristish friend introduction me to Ottolenghi’s cooking with his fabulous Barley Rissotto w/garlic & tomatoes -if you haven’t tried it, you are in for a treat!
    (https://amp.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/jul/10/barley-tomato-garlic-risotto-ottolenghi)

    This was good, especially the eggplant. I love black pepper, so I’ll make it again. Notes: A. it was still quite salty, despite my using only 4 tablespoons soy sauce (2 ‘regular’, 2 dark), but I usually don’t use much salt in my cooking. B. Next time I will use regular firm tofu, not the pre-pressed rectangles from my local Asian store – they got a little too hard while I was waiting for them to brown. C. I will serve it with lots of broccoli next time, too.

  80. Beth

    Wow!!! I folllowed the recipe exactly and it was delicious! The heat was spot on – so much flavor with a nice lingering warmth – that we didn’t add anything extra. Per every other review … my husband was skeptical when he saw tofu on the cutting board, but was completely won over with the first bite. I love that the sauce thickens on it’s own, with no need for added cornstarch. I did have trouble with some of the tofu sticking to the pan, but I blame my baking sheet not the recipe. We will definitely be making this again and again.

  81. Be very careful with the salt in this recipe! I accidentally used salted butter (facepalm, I know), and I used reduced sodium soy sauce, which I guess might be different than low sodium? Anyway, the sauce was almost inedibly salty. I was able to salvage the dish by leaving all the salt off the eggplant and tofu, and I ended up with something intensely tasty and complex.

    I would make this again, but next time I’ll definitely use unsalted butter, and I’ll start with half the soy sauce and go from there. Deb, how many mg of sodium per tablespoon does yours have?

  82. Suzanne

    I just made this with no substitutions of ingredients;-) Tofu took a little longer by about 5 minutes on convection bake to get crispy (because I can). Did not use parchment paper to get the crispiest tofu I could (as per instructions). Will likely eat it with rice and maybe make some Farro. (Made it for my lunch and my family’s dinner). Overall very tasty, but found it way too salty for my liking (even using low sodium soy sauce). Maybe ½ water ½ soy sauce next time?

  83. Nati

    Wowww. I made this for dinner and it was phenomenal. I did have problems with the tofu sticking :( but the flavour will make me attempt again. I think next time I would use even more eggplant, because it really shrinks down when cooked at high heat for a half hour.

  84. I love what you wrote about following recipes. My sentiments exactly. The perfectionist world is overtaking one of life’s simple pleasures. The kitchen is a great place to play and experiment and see what works for you, or doesn’t? This is how food has evolved over time and place. Recipes are a great starting point for food exploration, development and individuality – unless of course you are running a restaurant and need to have complete consistent control for customer experience, and keeping on top of your costings??

  85. Johanna

    I made this with 2 huge eggplants and only 1 garlic clove- it worked out nicely with very intense flavour. Usually I am to impatient for Ottolengi recipes, but after you streamlining them, I am all for it!
    Thank you for another awesome meal!

  86. Liane

    A surprise second night hit!

    Made it by loosely following recipe. Due to an abundance of eggplant, I cooked tofu and eggplant on separate sheet pans. Used a combination of light tamari, dark soy sauce and thin soy sauce (because I live close to the amazing worldly Buford Highway Farmer’s Market and cook a good deal of Asian style dishes). Proportions vaguely followed Ottolenghi’s version. Tofu was crunchy and delicious.

    Eggplant tasted good on first night and then fabulous on second night. It became a silky, rich, peppery gooey delight. Will make eggplant only version again. Pondering something crunchy to add besides tofu. We had fresh edamame on the side, but that’s a limited seasonal treat and I avoid the frozen ones that are mostly imported.

  87. I made this last night for my husband and I, it came together pretty quickly and was delicious! It didn’t make a TON of food — I like to have a few meals worth of leftovers — we got about 3 portions worth. I’m enjoying it for lunch currently, it reheated easily in a skillet. Next time I might add a bell pepper to the onion mixture before making the sauce for a sweeter note throughout. I think a handful of fresh or frozen spinach at the end for some greens would be a nice addition too. Definitely a versatile recipe.

    Thanks, Deb! I love Ottolenghi but his books are definitely not where I typically turn for an *easy* weeknight meal.

  88. Karen Wong

    The black pepper tofu and eggplant introduced me to a new technique to get that “fried” consistency for tofu without demolishing the kitchen. I added a small amount of pork to the sauce and it worked well.

    The baked tofu technique is one I will use over and over. Thank you!

  89. Yolanda

    Made this tonight and it was awesome! Hubby who is not a huge fan of tofu or eggplant really liked it, said it’s his favorite tofu recipe so far! My only complaint was that the sauce was a bit too salty (I did use low sodium soy sauce) so next time I might add some water so tone down the salt a bit. Otherwise, a really great recipe that I will definitely make again!

  90. Jen

    I made this tonight aaaaaand I changed two pretty important ingredients by accident. We recently moved and I didn’t realize until half way through that I didn’t have fresh ginger OR garlic. I used powders instead and it was still incredibly delicious. I’m thinking about going to pick at the left overs now. Even my meat loving husband loved this. The kids ate it (only the tofu and rice, can’t win them all). I can’t wait to make it again properly.

  91. patti with an i

    Made this last night. OMG so delicious!! Only alteration I made was to scatter a little cilantro and shredded scallion on top. But. Um. How do I say this delicately? I need a gas mask. Just me? Anyone else?

  92. Mary

    This recipe sounded so good when it popped up on your Facebook feed. Made it last night for my husband and a visiting friend. Kind of a funny, “I’m an idiot” story of making it though…

    I got everything prepped, turned on the oven, oiled the pan. Things were on track. After I put the eggplant on the pan, I realized I hadn’t put the pan in the oven first. No problem…I put it in while I got the tofu ready. A few minutes later, pulled it out, placed the tofu on the pan and returned the pan to the oven. I did notice some smoke in the oven, but didn’t think much of it. (I am ashamed to admit we’re not the most diligent cleaners of said oven.) Several minutes go by and the smoke is getting worse. I pull the pan out and realize just how much of an idiot I am. My largest baking sheet is rimless. My thinking was that the light layer of oil would be absorbed by the eggplant and tofu, not run off the sides onto the oven floor. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

    So I went to Cooking Plan B and pan roasted the eggplant and tofu while the sauce cooked up in another pan. The smoke cleared out and we enjoyed the dish over some jasmine rice, topped with scallions. I did use much less pepper than written, more by accident than intention. I’ll make this again, maybe even with a rimmed baking sheet. ;-)

    1. mollynotestine

      Oh dear. This sounds terrible! I’ve been scanning the comments bc I made this last night and LOVED IT – instant keeper of a recipe, except for one thing – – The hot oiled pans made the house and everything in it smell terrible! The only suitable oil I had onhand was some regular old store brand vegetable oil, so I used that. I’m thinking/hoping either the oil was a bit old/off, or maybe I let it get a little tooooo hot. I had no sticking issues though! Just wondered if anyone else felt like they lived in a greasy cafeteria after cooking this. I’ll be buying some good quality oil in the coming days :)

  93. Carrie

    Wow, made as written and this is the best tofu dish I’ve ever made. It’s so good, I would even say it’s worth a trip to a different grocery store besides my beloved Aldi to get shallots. Thanks, Deb, for another great one!

  94. Alice K.

    Oh my goodness! This was TERRIFIC! Just ate it for dinner with some tomatoes and string beans on the side. I took the soy sauce down to 1/3 cup, based on some of the comments about it being too salty. Perfecto! Another Deb winner!

  95. Jody

    I’m growing Asian eggplant in my garden this year and saw this recipe…it’s so yummy! Eggplant and tofu are both vehicles for whatever spices/sauces they end up in. I also made coconut rice to go with this. A keeper for sure! Thanks.

  96. JulieFox

    Incredible!!! Had to wait for my homegrown eggplant to get big enough but so worth it. Fell back in love with tofu. The black pepper perfect amount. Best thing I’ve made in long time. Thanks

  97. Damaris Giha

    this is delicious! a little bit of work to chop up all the shallots and garlic and ginger; it took me more like 90 mins, but it was so worth it!!! who knew cornstarch was the trick to crispy tofu??

  98. Mary

    Absolutely delicious! My husband loves it & I have just finished making this for the 2nd time in a week (his request). We have a small garden with an abundant crop of Japanese eggplant & this is just perfect. I’m going to buy some tofu for when I make it a 3rd time. It’s just a great taste of Chinese takeout that I feel good about making myself. We love it with basmati rice. Thank you!!

  99. David Skibbie

    This was marvelous. The best umami flavor I’ve ever tasted at home-thank you so much! We were low on soy so made up the difference with maggi. Oh and we only had salted butter. But oh was it good!

  100. Hillary

    We very much enjoyed this! I added sliced shiitake mushrooms roasted on a small cookie sheet as some of the comments suggested. I had to buy more tofu after realizing there is a difference between extra firm “silken” tofu and regular tofu. Don’t buy the silken tofu! We will make this again!

  101. Kristen

    I read here a lot, make and love many of the recipes, and have given your books as gifts, but have never felt the need to comment until now.

    THANK YOU for making a simpler version of this recipe. I have Plenty and have never been able to bring myself to make this because it’s such a faff. Ottolenghi’s books are beautiful but even he knows his recipes have this reputation (see the intro to Simple).

    I am going to try this as soon as the weather cools down here in London and I can use my oven again!

  102. Isadora

    Long time reader here with a bit of a PSA…
    I was worried my rimmed half sheet pan would be too small for the eggplant+tofu, so I used an un-rimmed cookie sheet. I’m a little embarrassed to report that 3 T. of oil on a flat cookie sheet is bound to run off the sheet and, in my case, start a grease fire inside the oven. Billows of black smoke and many quietings of the smoke detector later, I finished the dish and it was delicious! I served it with beautiful jade rice and a heaping scoop of spicy chili crisp–a new condiment to me that is disturbingly tasty. Happy cooking!

  103. Russ

    Great recipe, our tummies said yum. Took a bit of time but that was kind of expected. Per the spirit of the headnote I did make a few small changes. I had some mushrooms that needed to be used so I quartered them and added to the eggplant. The roasted mushrooms added an earthy accent, which we liked. Also, I added a diced serrano pepper to the eggplant. In the sauce I used a couple teaspoons of ground szechuan peppercorns, which added a nice buzz to the dish. And I topped everything with a bit of chopped cilantro. Thanks for great inspiration – will make this one again.

  104. Max

    lovely treatment of tofu and eggplant. Too peppery for our taste, though: I would reduce the pepper a bit and use a finer grind. The red onion for the shallots was a nice option.

  105. Caitlin

    we enjoyed this, BUT take the low sodium soy sauce seriously. I used regular (what I had) without eliminating other salt and it the result was way too salty.

  106. Jamie

    Deb, my husband and I made this with some eggplant from our garden and it was incredible! I had some ground pork so I sauteed that with a little chili oil and mixed it in with everything else. It was SO GOOD, my husband said it was the best thing he ever had with eggplant, tofu, OR pork!! High praise, I felt like a wizard.
    You’re the best!

  107. Andrea

    I DO remember when you interviewed him. That was so fun–and you joked about people changing his recipes and sort of mentioned his babka as an aside, and we all laughed because we all knew you adapted his babka–but he doesn’t know that.

    I love him and he is inspiring and all that, but let’s be real, even his “SIMPLE” recipes need to be adapted to real life sometimes. Thanks for doing this important work.

  108. Thank you for inspiring me to finally attempt cooking tofu! Your method worked; it was the crispiest, yummiest tofu I’ve ever eaten if I do say so myself. Amazing recipe and flavor, I roasted up some broccoli along with the eggplant. I didn’t put it into the sauce but mixed with tofu, rice and sriracha and it was great.

  109. DM

    Just made it and it’s absolutely brilliant. My tofu took ages to bake up crisp but that just might be the tofu i bought. I only had dark soy sauce so used less than 1/4 cup and added a bit of water.

  110. Rebekah

    I appreciate your comments in regard to recipe changers. I have always wondered about that myself, and you’re right–some of us are purists, some are free wheelers and lots are in between. All of that aside, though, I would urge you to make the dish to the letter also because it’s unbelievably good. We make it all the time and it’s an all time favorite.

  111. My husband made this last night and it was delicious! The leftovers held up great for lunch today too. It was a bit salty for us, even though we used low-sodium soy sauce and a minimal amount of salt elsewhere; so next time we’ll try less soy sauce- maybe swap in some rice vinegar?

  112. Sheila

    Deb – I am just awful at gently separating things like cornstarch coated tofu from baking sheets. It may be due to lack of a sufficiently thin spatula or (more likely) lack of patience and a deft touch. Could I roast the tofu on an oiled silpat or oiled sheet of parchment, or will that impede browning? Thanks for the delicious food inspiration!

  113. Jen

    OMG I am such a convert on crisping up tofu using this method. Hellooo hands off, no oil splatters, and crispier texture than pan frying. I also tried this with firm tofu, hoping for a more silken interior and crispy exterior, but it’s a bit too delicate for this technique. The recipe is also great – I’ve made variants several times already!

  114. I used 1/4 cup soy sauce and 1/4 water. I found it to be way too salty. I did add more water to the sauce near the end as I thought it was too thick. My eggplant browned nicely, and although the tofu did crisp nicely, it never browned. I will make this again but I will buy some low sodium soy sauce for it. I also used 1/2 tsp ground pepper instead of the cracked pepper as I don’t like to get a bite of peppercorn, This seemed to be the right amount. I’ve done very little tofu cooking as I am usually disappointed in it. This is the best tofu dish I have made so far.

  115. I really want to try this, but eggplant historically makes me gag. Does anyone have creative suggestions for something instead? I had kinda considered broccoli, but feel like there must be some wonderful idea I hadn’t considered.

  116. Nan Kelley

    Delicious! My neighbor grows eggplants and I (try to) turn them into yummy dishes! I embraced your words about feeling free to add/delete/change and added a bit of ground beef that needed to be used up and made more sauce to cover all the yumminess. Dinner is served! Thank you 😊

  117. Aileen

    I actually had a terrible failure with this recipe, although it’s totally my own fault. I somehow missed (even though it’s mentioned in at least two places) that you have to use low sodium soy sauce. However, what really killed this recipe was how flustered I was when I cooked it.

    I’d planned to make it for a normal family dinner at home but then we had unexpected guests and I decided to double the recipe. Then the husband of our guest, who I’d never met before, INSISTED on helping me, which I did not want. He told me he’d been to culinary school, had worked as a chef, and then he made disparaging comments about my kitchen. All of which made me feel very incompetent. And then, far too late, I realized I had the wrong type of soy sauce, and I think at that point I somehow just gave up. I was so flustered I could hardly read the recipe and the sauce turned out to be very thin and liquid, rather than rich and thick like in the photograph.

    In the end it was edible. At least the rice, which I didn’t salt, helped to soak up the extra saltiness in the sauce. And we had plenty of wine and the dessert (the Smitten Kitchen salted caramel pretzel blondies!) was delicious. If I’d been with guests I felt comfortable with, we could have laughed about it, but this guy was such a jerk, it was not a pleasant meal.

    tldr: Don’t be mean to someone who’s cooking you a meal. Don’t brag about your experience as a chef in front of someone who’s just about to cook you a meal. Don’t make mean comments about the kitchen of the person who’s about to cook you a meal.

    I will try this recipe again when I’m in a better frame of mind and I’m sure it will be delicious.

    1. deb

      Can I say this? What a terrible guest! Bad banners! Ugh. I hope you get to make it again and delight in how delicious it can be when nobody is killing your vibe.

    2. Aileen Bartels

      I made a second attempt at this recipe and it was delicious! So I guess having a rude bully in the kitchen with you will make your cooking suffer.

  118. guiltypanacea

    I only had half of the soy sauce called for, but it was incredible. I’ll be using this method for other tofu dishes in the future (especially when I don’t feelike pan frying).

  119. Meryl Schneider

    This looks great, will try it tomorrow. A little embarassed now to ask this simple question, but in the first para, what’s the “1 tablespoon oil and a few pinches of salt” for? Do you toss the eggplant with it before roasting?

    Also would consider swapping potato for the tofu.

  120. Marie-Christine

    I made this with (1lb) ground pork instead of tofu, and WOW! The best szechuan egglant I’ve ever managed to produce. OK, I did cheat a bit with my Chinese coworker’s authentic szechuan pepper, but it’d have been stupendous without it already.

  121. Liz W

    This is unbelievably delicious! I was a little skeptical of it appearing rather heavy in the photo, but the flavors and textures were vibrant, silky, and seductive. I made it a few weeks ago with skinny Japanese eggplants and the skin texture turned out really nicely. I ended up using 1/4 cup + 1 Tbs reduced sodium soy sauce and was glad I didn’t make it saltier, even though I love salty things. My other adaptations were 2 tsp black pepper plus one thinly sliced red chile, and tossing in two handfuls of steamed green beans at the end. I’m making it again tonight…

  122. LuvEggplant

    I followed this recipe but found the sauce much to pungent. I would use less onion & garlic next time. Also, I did not love the crunch of the tofu & would omit the cornstarch on the next go. The dish benefited from a handful of cilantro and I would add some grape tomatoes to the mix.

  123. oh. my. god. this is amazing! this recipe is like ordering the best take-out only it is home made and even better. it also converted my husband to tofu.

    we’ve made this per the recipe, modified with bok choy and/or shitake mushrooms, eaten it over soba noodles. no matter what, YUM.

  124. joy

    This was amazing. I second all the comments that ask you to please, please keep modifying Ottolenghi recipes! I love his food, but dear lord, even before I had kids the level of complication could drive me batty and now it’s impossible.

  125. annie M

    This was great! Appreciate the mods from ottolenghi’s recipe. I made it as written with a few minor tweaks– added some red chillis and sugar snap peas (to supplement the one, tiny lowly eggplant I grew in my garden this year)– and it was delicious! thanks Deb :)

  126. Th

    This was so tasty!

    My only comment was it was a little too greasy. I think next time (and there will be next time!) I will let the tofu/eggplant sit on some paper towels to remove excess oil before I add to the sauce.

  127. Kara

    I’ve made this recipe a couple times now and it was great both times. I roasted the eggplant and tofu on parchment paper to cut down on the amount of oil. I also cut the butter down to 1 tbs. Delicious!

  128. Karen

    This was absolutely delicious. My kids even liked it! I had two big helpings. But later that evening I suffered some GI distress…LOL. Not sure why. I’m used to eating everything in this recipe except eggplant which I usually only eat in baba ganoush. Could that have been the culprit? Or maybe all the pepper? Anyway, I’m eyeing the leftovers today but will have a smaller portion this time :)

  129. Libby

    I just made this and am blown away — it’s restaurant-level good. Made it exactly as written except that I pressed the tofu while prepping the rest of the ingredients. Served over short-grain rice with a little sesame oil shaken into it. I’ve had my eye on the Ottolenghi recipe (reproduced in the Food52 Genius Recipes cookbook) for years but have never taken the plunge in part because it seemed so fiddly. Maybe someday I’ll make the original but hard to imagine it will top this.

    Next time I might add some green scallion ends on top for color and crunch. I also meant to serve it with the Bon Appétit recipe for chile crisp but got impatient while it crisped up and used sambal oelek instead, so that’s something to look forward to.

    I’ve never had a recipe from you fail but this one is an all-timer.

  130. Mary-Helen from Chicago

    I just made this, and it was phenomenal!! Definitely on the make-again list. Like many others, I would make the sauce and use it on everything. I doubled the recipe because everyone said how good it was and I wanted leftovers. By mistake I bought pre-cubed tofu, so I just cooked it less. It was still crispy but slightly tough. It may have been the brand…. And I added some ground pork that I cooked separately and tossed in at the end (1/2 lb for a doubled recipe—could have added the whole pound); it was delish! Next time I may just use eggplant and pork and maybe some mushrooms or other veggies in the sauce. It’s not vegan, but neither am I! I didn’t use much salt on the eggplant or tofu and my soy sauce was low-sodium, so I didn’t have a problem with the saltiness. That much pepper may be what gave it a salty-like bite, but I didn’t salt my rice either, so it wasn’t a problem. Definite thumbs up!!

  131. Greta

    Hi,
    I am making this recipe right now and I cannot find what the oil with the salt in a bowl is for? IT is mentioned in the recipe but then there is nothing about what to do with it?

  132. SR

    This sounds delicious, even to a non-gravid person. And you are, as always, very gracious. But, I would expect people who change half the ingredients and the cooking method to, perhaps, leave comments and suggestions, but not RATE the recipe. How are you rating the frickin’ recipe? You did not make it!

    How can we use the star ratings as a guide if they don’t relate to the recipe as written?

    It reminds me of the one star Amazon review I read. Points were deducted because the dress didn’t look good with the woman’s shoes! Thanks for sharing. But this is not likely to be a problem for anyone else.