Pan Fried Tofu, Kale, and Stir-Fried Noodles

Pan Fried Tofu, Kale, and Stir-Fried Noodles

I’m forever combining kale and tofu. I always seem to have both on hand, probably because I love both ingredients. Today, Christmas day, we wanted lunch but certainly couldn’t make a trip to our little (very closed) grocery store. Time to play with kale and tofu again.

I’ve been trying to perfect pan-fried tofu. It doesn’t sound like something that would be all that hard, and really, it’s not. It’s a simple concept. But like all simple things, small changes can make a huge difference in the final result. I like my tofu a little crispy on the outside, and chewy and flavorful on the inside. There are three things I’ve discovered to help me achieve this: a cast-iron pan, a decently long cooking period, and a rest period afterwards.

Have you ever noticed that your baked tofu firms up a bit when it cools? Just out of the pan or the oven, it can still be a little floppy, a little mushy, a little… bleh. Let it sit out on your cutting board for a few minutes and it’ll firm right up, giving a chewier texture. I’ll give more details in the actual recipe on how to get your pan-fried tofu to turn out like the picture shows.

These noodles are stir fried and only lightly flavored – I made a dipping sauce to go with this dish inspired by the one P.F. Changs makes when you sit down. I’s a mixture of soy sauce, vinegar, mustard, and chili sauce–well, at least that’s what my mixture is. I have no idea what P.F. Changs actually uses.

The marinade for the tofu is similar for the dipping sauce, but the resulting baked tofu is complimented by the sauce, instead of tasting like more of the same. I love pouring a bit of the dipping sauce over the noodles and tofu while I’m eating for a little extra zing.

Pan Fried Tofu, Kale, and Stir-Fried Noodles
Serves Two

1 Package Extra/Super Firm Tofu
1 Head Kale, deveined and torn
5 oz. Dried, Wide Rice Noodles (Mine come in 10 oz packages)
Soy Sauce

Tofu Marinade
1/4 Cup Water
1/4 Cup Soy Sauce or Tamari
1 Tbs Thinly Sliced Ginger (or minced)
1 Tbs Maple Syrup
1 Tbs Oil
1 Tbs Seasoned Rice Vinegar
1 Garlic Clove, minced
1/2 tsp Mustard
1/4 tsp Sriracha or Hot Chili Sauce
Black Pepper, to taste

Dipping Sauce
1/4 Cup Soy Sauce or Tamari
1/4 Cup Water
1 Tbs Seasoned Rice Vinegar
1 tsp Mustard
1 tsp Sriracha

Begin by pressing the tofu. I wrap my tofu in a single paper towel, then in a bar towel, and place a cast iron pan on top for 15 or so minutes. The paper towel prevents bar towel fuzz from getting on the tofu, while the terry cloth bar towel sucks out a ton of water.

While the tofu is pressing, whisk together the marinade. I used a mandoline to cut the ginger into paper-thin slices: that way some cooks with the tofu and you get mild bits of ginger on the finished tofu. You can mince the ginger if you don’t have a mandoline available.

Cut the tofu into 8 equal sized rectangles and let it sit in the marinade for about 30 minutes, turning halfway through. Meanwhile, boil the rice noodles and cook for 6 minutes, until just tender. Rinse in cold water and drain as well as you can, set aside. I also cut my noodles with scissors to prevent them from being too long.

Whisk together the dipping sauce, and set aside.

Heat a large cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. Lightly oil the pan, just enough so the it’s shiny. Once the pan is very hot, add the tofu. If your pan is seasoned, you shouldn’t have any issues with the tofu sticking. Brown the tofu on one side, flip, and brown on the other side. I then spoon extra marinade over the tofu and flip every few minutes. In all, I cook the tofu for around 10 minutes, until it looks like the tofu will be burnt if I leave it on any longer. Remove tofu from the pan and let it rest while finishing the dish.

Heat a little more oil in your pan, add the kale. Once softened, add the noodles and toss. If they stick, that’s okay. Use a metal spatula to remove them; the crispy bits are tasty. Add more oil, enough to coat the noodles, if needed.

Flavor the noodles lightly with a sprinkle of soy sauce and a pinch of sugar. Plate the noodles and kale. Slice the now firmed (but still warm) tofu and place on top. Serve with dipping sauce.

Leftover tofu is wonderful in sandwiches. Happy holidays!

Pan Fried Tofu, Kale, and Stir-Fried Noodles


  1. Angela

    That looks good. I might try and make it tomorrow – shop day (yay).

    My sister and I made your Cherry Lime Pie for our Christmas dessert. It was lovely (even though I stupidly added the lime juice to the cherries without combining it with the corn flour and water beforehand ;p).

    I probably ate half of the pie, haha.

  2. vegetalion

    I’m super persnickety about my pan-fried (and baked) tofu, too, and I HAVE noticed that sometimes it comes out great and sometimes only okay,e ven when the preparation was the same. I’ve never thought about whether I’d given it the same “rest period” each time! thanks!

  3. the village vegan

    Yum….that looks delicious! Right now I am visiting my parents in a land without tofu, but when I’m back home I’ll try that for sure!

    Have I ever mentioned that I love the way your recipes are usually just for 2? Because I do.

  4. Easter Cat

    IMO, the best cast iron pans come from Lodge. They make both pre-seasoned and ones you can season yourself. The pre-seasoned is more expensive (around $20-something). But if you want to save yourself the trouble, it’s worth the money.
    You can find them at various stores. If you can’t, they’re also available at camping-type stores. And if all else fails, Amazon and their ilk have them online.
    The best part is that they’re made in the USA.

  5. Tal

    I’ve visited your blog for a while and wanted to say that i just love it. the recipes are great (and i’ve tried a few :) and the photography is beautiful.
    so, thanks for all the effort and i’ll be visiting soon.
    happy holidays

  6. aiyana

    OMG.. I tried this last night, and it was so good… so gingery.
    Even my picky eater son loved it… he gobbled up all the kale, so needless to say we will be making this again.

    thanks for the great recipe.

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  8. Yaz

    Wow, your website, recipes and pictures are amazing. Keep up the amazing work and I LOVE this recipe. Thank you for the inspiration!!

  9. brainbug

    Wow, I made this last night and it was a complete success. My wife and I really enjoyed it and the marinade was so tasty that the dipping sauce was mostly ignored. Thank you for the terrific repice. I also appreciate that it was a recipe was for 2 people.

  10. Janine

    My boyfriend emailed me a link to this recipe and requested it for dinner tonight! It looks fantastic, as does your whole blog. Your photos are really inspiring. I’ll be visiting often!

  11. ethan

    I don’t know what this should taste like because I altered the recipe. exchanging honey for the syrup and rice wine for the rice vinegar. Also using egg noodles rather than the rice noodles. I got compliments from around the table. Thanks for the tips.

  12. Cattie-Bree

    Yum, that looks amazing! I’m kind of a semi-vegetarian right now, meaning I eat meat, but not much. And I’m not a big fan of tofu, to be honest! I’ve had cubes of it from a salad bar, and I’ve had it marinated and grilled…not very yummy, I must admit…but this looks fantastic. I might try this and give tofu another go-around.

  13. barbara

    I made this last week and it got 4 out of 4 stars—everyone in my family loved it. Not too spicy for the kids, super flavorful for the hubby. I did soften my hearty kale by sautéing in a little water. Thanks for the recipe.

  14. Sarah

    Thanks so much for the recipe!

    I made this for dinner last night, even though neither my husband nor I are vegetarians. It was pretty tasty (even the hubby agreed, and he generally dislikes vegetarian food), but I am not that good in the kitchen and I have a few questions.

    (1) I used this tofu.

    Are all tofu packages 14 oz? Should I have searched for a smaller package?

    (2) Until yesterday, I was unfamiliar with kale. My grocery store sold it in bunches, which was not as head-like as I expected. I used the whole bunch, but had to cook it in batches in my 10-inch pan.

    Is the entire bunch of kale considered a head? Do I need a bigger pan? Or should I have just squashed all the kale in?

    (3) Barbara said she softened the kale by sauteeing it in a little water. This sounds pretty intriguing- can anyone tell me how I would go about doing this?

    Thanks in advance.

  15. Kimi

    I made this last night, how delicious! Ok, I am still fairly new to the world of tofu and I don’t think I dried it out enough. I had a hard time with it breaking up. What it lacked in presentation it made up for in taste. Also, I was a kale virgin and loved it! Who knew? In a world of non-stick pans, thanks for giving me a reason to dust off the cast iron. Look forward to trying more of your recipes.

  16. Larie

    I’m new to the vegan thing and have been searching out good recipes and I’m so glad that I found your site! My husband and I made this dish for dinner last night and it was excellent! The marinade and dipping sauce were delicious. We used a combination of red chard and mustard greens so the noodles turned a bit pink but both greens were great in the dish. Thanks for sharing! I’m excited to make it again. Next time I might add some green beans or broccoli just for more veggies.

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  18. Hallie

    I made this last night, and it got big praises all around! Thank you so much for this recipe! Everything was wonderful, but people kept joking about wanting to drink the dipping sauce it was so good. = )

  19. Kayla Ruben

    So good!!! I’ve recently wanted to try more ways to make tofu so I made this last night with a few substitutions to the marinade and the overall dish as well. For the marinade, I substituted sugar for maple syrup and chili flakes for the sriracha, and completely forgot the black pepper…oops. Regardless, it was delicious! I had it cold the next day in a salad with the same ginger dressing they use at Benihana. It was delicious–even my sister, who HATES tofu, loved it! Will definitely make again, this time with the dipping sauce! Thanks!

  20. tanya

    Ur recipes and pictures are so amazing… I almost feel like saying ‘who needs sex when you have got such good food?!!’ :D
    Madly in love with ur recipes and pictures.. at my very first visit and I stumbled it too!! Cheers Lolo!

  21. Jayme

    I tried cooked Kale, I prefer it raw. I use it on sandwiches with vegan lunch ‘meat’ and soy cheese. I just use it as an alternative, or in addition to lettuce. Not much for cooked greens of any kind though personally.

  22. Zach

    So I decided to make this today. I’m not a cook, mind you. I love how detailed your recipes are. Incredibly easy to follow.

    So the verdict is…

    Delicious. It’s a great mix of flavors. I prefer it without the dipping sauce, however; I’m not a huge fan of yellow mustard. I’ll have to try another kind. I can’t wait to try other recipes though! So tasty and so easy to make!

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  24. Rachel

    Is the mustard supposed to be powdered, or mustard from a jar? I’ve been using jar mustard, and this is one of my favorite dishes, but I’m not sure if that’s what the recipe calls for.

    I use jarred, wet mustard, too!

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  26. Carrie

    OMG, this was just soooooo good! I’m quite surprised actually! I’ve never cooked kale with noodles or Asian-style before, and it is so complimentary! I think I will be making this forever. Tofu was killer- I froze and thawed mine first, so they sucked up that marinade completely and the texture was perfect. THANK YOU SO MUCH. All your recipes are awesome, and your cookbook will be on my shelf.

  27. Carrie

    P.S. Absolutely NO dipping sauce needed for me! My tofu ended up VERY flavorful, but of course, I froze mine first. I added some extra rice vinegar to the noodles.

  28. sharon

    Sister yeah!

    I’m new to cooking with Tofu and let me tell you not only was this the best Tofu I’ve ever had, but the most delicious dinner I’ve ever made. My boyfriend doesn’t like to make “best ever” statements but I think secretly he agrees.

    Instead of noodles I sauteed carrots, kabocha squash, yellow onion with olive oil then added the kale and then mushrooms, garlic and leftover tofu marinade.

    I had my first ever foodgasm last night :) After eating I rested in silence just reveling in the glorious spicy sensations that danced throughout my mouth and I smiled.

  29. Jason McLaughlin

    This was so good, it rocked the socks off of my socks. I made it with my friends on our weekly Skype chat/vegan cook-off, and I was so glad that I didn’t have to share the leftovers with anybody else.

    @Shannon – We all used yellow mustard and it turned out great. I think that’s the intended mustard here.

  30. Sean

    Great recipe, the tofu marinade is so simple, but so flavorful. I might suggest taking the heat down on the kale saute … nothing is worse than burn kale.

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