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. Beth

    This looks AWESOME. How do you get your cast iron skillet seasoned well enough to dry fry tofu? And how do you clean your skillet between dishes?

  2. Chris

    I made a variation on this dish and it turned out terrible! so sad! I used soy sauce instead of tamari and basil instead of mint, but I think the problem was perhaps the pan was TOO hot when i poured the sauce over tofu – I think it burned. It was “glazey” but much darker than in the photo above and tasted real bad. bummer.

  3. Melanie

    This is my new favorite meal right now. I use a non-stick pan since I still dont have a cast iron one (must get one soon!). And the tofu is the best consistency. I love not using oil. I used a mix of Kale and Asparagus the second time and I liked it much better than the collards.

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  5. Gayathri

    Hi! The recipe looks amazing. This is my first time on your blog. I had a question about the dry frying technique. Once the tofu is dry fried, can I save it or does it have to be mixed with the sauce and served immediately?

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  8. susan g

    My lime turned out to be a lemon, I forgot to put in the chilis, and everything was wonderful. Next time I’ll use to quinoa — I had leftover Indian restaurant biryani… and chard which I prefer to collards. Obviously, this is flexible, so the tastes make it all come together.

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  15. Allie

    I made this for dinner tonight, and it was DELICIOUS! A perfect blend of all those thai flavours. I really liked the lime flavour throughout.

  16. joe

    This dish is really awesome :) I made it for dinner tonight for my parents and I from the book.

    The only change I make is to use agave nectar in place of the sugar and a bit more garlic (because I love garlic) in the sauce. I also used less chili peppers because my father can’t stand hot food (I love hot food)

  17. Brenna

    I made this for dinner, and was so thrilled with the complex, awesome balance of flavors. I’ve already recommended it to two of my friends, and will definitely make this over and over. Thank you so much for making my night a success!

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  20. Sweetie-Pie-Bakery

    My boyfriend, Frank has been Vegan for 40 years (since he was ten). After I made this for last night’s dinner, he said: “That was the best Vegan meal I have EVER eaten”. Wow. He still reminisced about it at breakfast. Thank You : )

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  23. Hannah Wachs

    It is so rare that I try a new recipe and it comes out exactly as promised. This was delicious and a hit with the whole family, including my increasingly picky one-year-old. The photos of the tofu-in-progress really helped me gauge whether I was doing it right.

  24. HoneyB

    Made this tonight – my first recipe from your cookbook – and I LOVE it! I even got Grumpy to eat a piece. If I could just convince him this is way better than his animal protien!

  25. Cate

    I made this a couple nights ago and it was DELICIOUS! I altered it a bit–left out the collards, used couscous instead of quinoa, added green onions and some cilantro–but yum! Will definitely be making again.

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  27. Natalie

    This dish was delicious! It was fresh and full of all the tasty flavors you spoke of, yet wasn’t overpowering in any way.

    I will definitely make this again and will tweak it to try different veggies or pasta/rice (I used penne the first time).


  28. Jill

    OMG! My 9 yr old said this was the best thing I’ve EVER made! I doubled recipe and cooked 4 chicken tenderloins for non-vegans in house and they liked the tofu better!!! Sauce carmelized perfectly! FIrst time I’ve ever had tofu come out so well with your tips!!! THANK YOU!

  29. Carol

    Delicious tofu! I thought the collards could use a little somethin’, so I added a bit of sesame oil–thought it went well!

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  31. carol (different than above)

    my roommate/friend marie told me about this recipe and it is SO good. i am going to make it again and again until i am sick of it, hopefully never. having formerly worked at a thai restaurant i am so happy to have excuses to cook and eat pseudo-thai food, especially vegan food!

    i made it with swiss chard and brown rice, it was great. although i prefer quinoa.

    anyway thanks for posting!

    yours from montreal, QC

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