Spicy Lemon and Black Pepper Tofu

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Crispy tofu marinated in a spicy, tangy lemon and black pepper sauce – so much flavour!

Lemon tofu with rice in a bowl, topped with cilantro

Lemon is one of those ingredients that I don’t use often enough. I generally think of it as a sweet ingredient (and I rarely make sweets), but it’s actually awesome in savoury dishes too. This spicy lemon and black pepper tofu is a simple dish with a tangy lemon marinade and plenty of kick!

Lemon tofu with rice in a bowl, topped with cilantro

Lemon and black pepper marinade

The basis of the tofu marinade is lemon juice and plenty of black pepper, along with garlic and chopped chillies. The black pepper and chilli combine to give a gorgeous warm heat that makes your tongue tingle just the right amount.

Just pop your pressed tofu into the marinade for a little while – however long you can be bothered to wait (I only left mine for about 10 minutes). You could actually skip the marinating step altogether if you’re feeling especially lazy, and just use the lemon mixture as a sauce instead – marinating it does help the flavours to get right inside the tofu, but it’s tasty enough that it works even just as sauce.

Once you’re done marinating (I mean, the tofu, not actually you), it’s time to get cooking!

Tofu marinating in a dish with wedges of lemon

Crispy tofu

Back in May I showed you my method for how to cook tofu that doesn’t suck. The post went through my method for cooking crispy tofu for saucy dishes. I said you don’t really need to bother marinating your tofu, and you should cook the tofu until it’s ultra crispy before adding any sauce.

…well, you can kind of ignore that post for now, because this lemon and black pepper tofu isn’t a super saucy dish – it’s light, and the lemony marinade packs such a flavour punch that you don’t need much of it. You don’t want the tofu to be too crispy, otherwise the dish can start to feel dry – you want it to be soft enough that it stays moist and a little bit squidgy (not the most attractive descriptors in the English language… but trust me, it works really well).

Collage showing crispy fried tofu and lemon sauce

Using cornflour in a sauce

Just fry up the marinated tofu until it’s fairly crispy on both sides, then add the rest of that gorgeous lemony sauce. I thickened up the original marinade with some cornflour – just add it to a small bowl, and mix well to get rid of any lumps. It helps to create a gooey coating that sticks to the tofu and creates a more luxurious feeling dish.

You end up with crispy tofu in a thick and sticky sauce, chock-full of that tangy lemon flavour and warm black pepper.

Sticky lemon tofu in a frying pan

Adding honey

Don’t forget to add a drizzle of honey (or agave nectar, if you’re vegan) just before serving. It tones down the acidity of the lemon, so it’s not too overpowering. The touch of sweetness balances out the lemon juice just enough that it’s still nice and tangy, but it won’t make you look like you’ve eaten a wasp when it touches your tongue. It also makes your tofu extra sticky!

It’s the perfect sweet-savoury dish.

Lemon tofu with rice in a bowl, topped with cilantro

Extra veg

I kept my dish super simple, as the incredible lemon and black pepper tofu deserves to be the star. But I’m all for eating extra veggies at any opportunity! So feel free to add extra vegetables to the dish if you feel like it – maybe some onion, peppers, aubergine… whatever you have in the fridge. You might want to double up on the lemon sauce to coat the extra vegetables.

Then just serve some spring rolls on the side, and your tofu feast is good to go!

Lemon tofu with rice in a bowl, topped with cilantro, shot from above

Spicy lemon and black pepper tofu

A simple tofu dish that packs a real flavour punch – a tangy lemon sauce with a warm heat from the black pepper. Such a lovely combination!

If you’ve cooked this recipe, don’t forget to leave a star rating!

5 from 2 votes
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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Pressing time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 1 portion
Calories: 316kcal
Author: Becca Heyes


  • 200 g (~ 7 oz) firm tofu
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp chopped red chilli (fresh or jarred)
  • Black pepper
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp cornflour
  • 75 ml (~ 1/4 cup) vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp runny honey or agave nectar
  • Fresh coriander (cilantro), to garnish (optional)


  • Cut the tofu into 1cm slices, and press to remove any excess liquid – you can either use a tofu press if you have one, or just lay the tofu in a single layer between two tea towels, and top with a heavy object for 5-10 minutes.
  • Add the lemon juice, garlic, red chilli, and a very generous pinch of black pepper to a dish, and mix to combine. Add the slices of pressed tofu, and spoon some of the marinade over the top. Leave for at least 5-10 minutes.
  • When you’re ready to cook, heat a dash of oil in a frying pan, and add the marinated tofu. If possible, try to make sure there are no pieces of garlic left on the tofu, as it may burn in the pan. Cook over a medium heat for a few minutes each side, until crispy.
  • Pour the excess tofu marinade into a small bowl, and add the cornflour. Mix thoroughly until smooth (obviously lumps of garlic and chilli will remain!).
  • Pour the lemon sauce over the tofu, along with the vegetable stock. Cook for a few more minutes, stirring carefully (tofu can be a little delicate), until the sauce is thick and sticky. Add the honey or agave, and cook for 1 more minute. Serve warm, topped with fresh coriander (cilantro) if desired.


Nutrition Facts
Spicy lemon and black pepper tofu
Amount Per Serving (1 portion)
Calories 316 Calories from Fat 207
% Daily Value*
Fat 23g35%
Saturated Fat 4.5g23%
Cholesterol 0mg0%
Sodium 217mg9%
Potassium 392mg11%
Carbohydrates 14.3g5%
Fiber 2.5g10%
Sugar 8.8g10%
Protein 17.6g35%
Calcium 320mg32%
Iron 3.4mg19%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Nutritional information is approximate, and will depend on your exact ingredients. Please calculate your own nutritional values if you require accuracy for health reasons.

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Need some extra help with cooking tofu? This post contains everything you need to know – how to cook tofu that doesn’t suck!

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  1. I picked the one and only lemon we had on our little tree and went looking for a recipe to use it in. Loved this dish! 5 stars

  2. Tried this tonight and loved it.Even my husband liked it!

    Next time I will double the sauce as it was so lovely :-)

    Have you thought about putting your recipes into a book, I for one would definitely buy it?

  3. To tell you the truth I’ve never really cooked tofu either, other than putting it in my oatmeal… but that doesn’t really count :P You have just given me the inspiration to try it out though :)