Sweet Chili Lime Tofu with Wok Steamed Collards and Quinoa

Sweet Chili Lime Tofu with Wok Steamed Collards and Quinoa

I’ve been thinking recently about the five flavors that many thai dishes revolve around: hot, sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. I wasn’t necessarily looking to create a thai dish, but a dish that balances those five flavors without being overly complicated. I’m really pleased with the result; tofu so easy to prepare you won’t mind whipping it up after work. And this recipe also has no added fat! It certainly has a good deal of sugar and salt, but hey, old habits die hard.

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you’ll probably realize that this recipe falls within the basic equation for my favorite meals: flavorful tofu + dark leafy green + grain/rice/pasta base. I love this combination because it’s easy and super customizable depending on what you have on hand. I use collards greens and quinoa in this recipe, but feel free to use spinach, kale, mustard greens, chard, arugula, chinese broccoli, cabbage… whatever for the greens, and wheat pasta, rice, millet, rice noodles, barley, orzo etc. for the base.

Sweet Chili Lime Tofu with Wok Steamed Collards and QuinoaA sauce can make or break a dish. This sauce is easily whisked together from a few simple ingredients. It’s super duper flavorful, and added to a smoking hot pan full of tofu, it turns into a delicious glaze. I think you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to create a restaurant quality glaze at home. The glaze, combined with the greens, creates the five flavors I was blabbering about:

Hot: Red Chili Flakes
Sweet: Sugar
Salty: Tamari
Sour: Lime Juice
Bitter: Collard Greens

Sweet Chili Lime Tofu with Wok Steamed Collards and Quinoa
Serves 2-3

1 Block Tofu, extra firm, 14 oz

Sweet Chili Lime Sauce
3 Tbs Sugar
3 Tbs Reduced Sodium Tamari (or soy sauce)
1 3/4 Tbs Fresh Lime Juice
1/2 Zest of the Lime
1/2 tsp Red Chili Flakes (or 1-2 fresh hot chilies, minced)
1 Clove Garlic, pressed, optional
1/4 tsp Salt
4 Mint Leaves, chiffonaded

3/4 Cup Quinoa, rubbed/rinsed in cool water, drained
1/2 Zest Lime
2 Bruised Cardamom Pods, optional
1 Tiny Stick of Cinnamon (a broken piece of a larger stick), optional
1/4 tsp Salt
1 1/3 Cup Water

*Other options: For brown rice, adjust water to 1 1/2 cups, for medium/long grain rice, water measurement is the same. Noodles can be boiled, drained, and given a light splash of soy sauce and lime juice for some background flavor. The tofu is very flavorful, so whatever base you choose, it needs only subtle additions, if any at all.

Wok Steamed Collards
1 Bunch Collard Greens, middle veins removed, washed
2-3 Tbs Water
1 Pinch Salt
1 tsp Lime Juice


Combine all the ingredients for the quinoa in a pot that has a tight fitting lid. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes, then turn off heat. Do not open lid. Let steam for 10 minutes before serving.

Prepare the sweet chili lime sauce by whisking all of the ingredients together until the sugar and salt is dissolved.

Sweet Chili Lime Sauce

Drain tofu and cut it into small triangles. I slice the block into 8 rectangles, then each rectangle in half to make two squares per rectangle. I cut each square diagonally to make four triangles per square. Tofu geometry is my favorite kind of math! You can cut the tofu however you please, but a thinner, smaller shape will work best for this method.

Preparing Sweet Chii Lime Tofu

Heat a well-seasoned cast iron or non-stick skillet over medium heat. A 10″ skillet will fit all the tofu, so if you’re using a smaller skillet, you’ll need to do this in batches. In order to properly “dry fry” the tofu, you’ll need a pan the tofu won’t stick to even without any oil.

Spread the tofu out in one layer in the pan. Using a spatula, press the tofu. The liquid will squeeze out and boil away, and the tofu will begin to turn golden. The more water that evaporates, the sturdier the tofu will be, so be gentle at first to prevent the tofu from breaking up. After several minutes, flip the tofu over and press the other side. After about 10 minutes of dry frying, you can turn off the heat and set the tofu aside for finishing later, or proceed to adding the sauce. (You might want to set the tofu aside before finishing in order to to prepare the collards, below.)

To finish the tofu, bring the pan back up to temperature if it’s not already very hot. You want to heat the pan and the tofu over high heat, making sure the tofu is hot all the way through. Add the sauce and stir to coat the tofu. Turn off the heat. The sauce will bubble up, reduce, and form a glaze. If it isn’t bubbling up and forming a glaze, turn the heat back on high and cook until the glaze is.. well.. glaze-y.

Prepping Collards

Stack the collard leaves on top of each other, 3-4 at a time, and roll. Slice the roll in 3/4 inch segments. Run your knife through the chopped collards to make smaller pieces, then add them to a wok with the water, lime juice and salt. Cover with any lid that will contain the collards and cook over high heat for 3-4 minutes until the collards are steamed and tender.

For plating, arrange the collards atop of a bed of quinoa. Add tofu over the top, drizzling any leftover sauce over the dish. Garnish with lime slices and mint leaves. Serve.

Sweet Chili Lime Tofu with Wok Steamed Collards and Quinoa


  1. lauren

    Another fantastic recipe. Thanks! My boyfriend and my friend (who both generally dislike tofu) completely loved this! I of course loved it too! I used kale (old kale at that!) instead of collards and used Agave (2 1/4 tbs) instead of sugar and it turned out great! Easy and delicious.

  2. eesh

    Wow! This is amazing. Your pictures are drool worthy and definitely an inspiration for cooking! I’ll definitely be making this very soon. Thanks for posting it!

  3. julia

    adding my voice to all the compliments. great blog, beautiful photos, failproof + delicious recipes (i’ve tried a few, always with much success and gratitude). a small nit – bitter isn’t one of the key flavors of thai food. the four basic flavors are sweet, sour, salty and pungent.

  4. in2insight

    Lovely. Making it tonight.

    Would be great if there was an easy way to print these amazing recipes…

  5. Sala

    Ever since I found your blog, Ive been haunting it! I love your pictures and recipes. The sweet chili lime tofu was particularly wonderful; I tried it today and it was so fabulous! Thanks for the great recipe!

  6. jedabel

    I made this last night, with Russian kale from the farmers’ market instead of collards. It was delicious! My only sadness was that I failed miserably at the dry-frying of the tofu. The tofu stuck to the pan (and it was a well-seasoned cast iron one…), and I had to do some serious scraping to save the crunchy bits, separated from the tofu. Any tips? Could we get a play-by-play on the dry-frying? The sauce is awesome, and I loved that it seemed *just* too sweet on its own, but in combination with the greens… perfect.

    Hmm, maybe try a non-stick skillet next time. My cast-iron worked, but usually for cast-iron to be non-stick it has to be 1) very well seasoned 2) very hot before adding the food and 3) allow food to brown and release before attempting to move it. If you want to try your cast-iron skillet again, make sure it’s hot and don’t move the tofu until it’s pretty well browned. A metal spatula will help remove the tofu cleanly from the pan as well. Good luck!

  7. Mandee

    Congrats on your VegBloggy award, you most definitely deserve it!

    The presentation look perfect, I look forward to trying out this dish v.v.soon!


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  9. jesser

    It will probably get lost in amongst the other comments and kudos, but I must extend my thanks for this recipe! I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed Tofu so much and my carnivorous hubby ASKED FOR SECONDS. Plus it used up a whole head of mystery greens from our CSA share. ;) Thanks again!!

  10. dana

    Well …. I forgot I was steaming the greens and burnt them to the point I had to throw them in the compost bin. And I lost my spatula mid cooking and got slightly charred tofu because of it.
    And this meal was still amazing.
    We’ll definitely be making it again … on a night my head isn’t in the clouds. thanks!

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  14. Lacey

    okay..so when you talk about dry frying the tofu, you mean if you’re using a nonstick skillet right? not cast iron? (it looks like yours has oil, what kind did you use)

    I used a well-seasoned cast-iron pan, but don’t add oil to it when dry frying the tofu. A seasoned cast-iron pan does have a fine layer of oil on the surface. While there is some oil on the pan since it’s seasoned, it’s a very small amount and I don’t add any more during the cooking process. A non-stick skillet will also work!

  15. Carol

    I made this tonight for the family and we all LOVED it. What great flavor…..even the die hard meat eaters loved it. I’ll definitely make it again. Thanks for sharing!

  16. anneliese

    as the other 66 commenters have already made clear: this dish is fantastic! I made it for my mum tonight (whose view on tofu can best be described as “skeptical”) and she loved it. I’ve never been able to cook tofu properly before but the “dry fry” method worked wonderfully – I’ll be using it again. :D

    Thanks so much for sharing your blog and cooking skills with us!

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  20. Sal

    YUM that sounds sooo good, I must give this a go at the weekend!

    I love the way the tofu is cut up in little triangles too – very cute!!

  21. LJ Haynes

    This is just lovely. I made it this evening for dinner and my onmivore husband and I enjoyed it. Thanks for the wonderful recipe.

  22. Kristi

    This maybe a silly questions but do you think I could substitute the chard for the collards? I have a ton of Chard growing in my backyard.

    Chard will work great! It’ll cook a little quicker than the kale, though.

  23. sue.agirlnamed

    I tried this again last night, making it for my third date with someone I’m really excited about. When I told my mom this is what I was making, she got really quiet and said, “do you think he’ll like bitter greens and quinoa?” I explained how delicious it was, and he did! Thanks, vegan yum yum, for making me shine on the cooking date.

    In more directly pertinent news, I made this for the second time, this time using a non-stick pan instead of cast iron, and the tofu browned beautifully. It’s amazing what a difference a good pan makes! Thanks for the tips about getting the pan quite hot first, too. I am going to try to make it work in my cast iron pan, now knowing that I’m capable of browning tofu without oil.

    Yay vegan dates! I’m so happy he liked it!

  24. Becky

    I made these tofu pieces and had them with roast vegetables, quinoa, humous and soya yoghurt- really delicious.

  25. me

    I JUST made this, and it was F-to-the-king brilliant!!

    I’m only recently starting to get the hang of flavours and sauces, and in that quest, this article is spot on! :D

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  28. Juliana

    This was wonderful!
    I got collards from my CSA and was lost until I found this. A beautiful and deceptively simple recipe. Fantastic.

  29. moi

    Hi! Just wanted to say I just made this last week and it was one of the best dishes I have EVER had. Thanks for sharing!!

  30. Diana

    ooh yum! I love that same combination of flavors. But I combine my spicy and sweet by using mae ploy sweet chili sauce, which I could practically drink! I’m trying to incorporate some vegetarian and vegan recipes into our diet. Thanks for the awesome ideas.

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  32. Siyi

    This recipe is such genius, I can’t even begin to thank you for sharing it. I’ve made it twice already, and each time people have piled me with compliments on the taste. I don’t even serve it with collard greens, the tofu stands as a dish all on its own and the colors and shapes are just so pleasing to the eye.

    Plus my roommate is amazed that it can taste so good without the addition of oil :D

    As everybody above as already said, this recipe is awesome! Thanks again!

  33. Christina

    I am eating this right now…well a version of it. It is delicious! I didnt have all the ingredients , so I tweaked it a bit. I didnt have collard greens, so I used spinach. I also added some mushrooms that I needed to use up. Ive have been afraid to cook tofu myself for sometime now, since it always came out mushy…but this method is fantastic. I could imagine making it with different flavors of glaze! I also didnt have quinoa, so I subbed brown rice. My tweaky version is amazing, so I can only imagine what the original tastes like! I skipped on the mint too, since I had none, but its very good anyhow. I think I may have already told you, but I LOVE your blog. I have already made 2 recipes from it and I am making lists for groceries to make more! Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Gotta go for seconds….

  34. Christina

    i try to avoid white sugar as much as possible, so I used Sugar In The Raw…and it was just fine. Its not as sweet as reg. white sugar, so next time I might put more or try the agave people have mentioned.

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  39. Chandani

    I love love love ALL your recipes. This was my first time eating quinoa. The only difference I had was adding corn and lima beans instead of the collards. It was delicious, especially since I’m extremely bored with pasta and rice. Thanks!!

  40. polishedtoes

    Thank you for your recipes. I am learning new things! I’ve never cooked with collard greens before. This recipe was not my favorite. As with other respondents, I had a difficult time dry frying the tofu even though I used a seasoned, hot, cast iron skillet. I didn’t love the collard greens. If I had a craving for these flavors I would make the tofu kale recipe again in lieu of this one. That said, I would try dry frying again because I’d like to learn how to do it right as it is obviously healthier than adding oil.

  41. BethanyA

    Also, I used spinach leaves instead of collard greens and they were still perfect. Favourite recipe including tofu, but can you use lemon?

  42. Dana Johnson

    I’m on the net looking for yummy tofu recipes. At another site I found the dry-fry method. Tried it today and it works great! No gross out slimey tofu. Anyway, looked up more dry-fry methods and this recipe is on the top of the list. You can also dry-fry with a non-non-stick pan. I don’t have a non-stick pan so tried a regular panI today. I had the flame on low-med heat to begin, then turned the flame up a bit. It worked without sticking :)

  43. Kayleen

    I just made this, and it was fantastic :)

    I added some ginger to the sauce, and instead of collards, I used up some broccoli and kale that I had in the fridge. It was great! I like that it uses quinoa as a base. I’ve been eating rice and couscous for so long that I’ve made it a goal for the summer to branch out ;)

  44. Melissa

    What a fantastic turnout!! I added a little bit of sesame oil to the glaze and it was super tasty. :D

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