Tofu Satay

Sweet and spicy tofu satay with peanut sauce will be your new go-to weeknight dinner! It's fun and fancy enough for a special occasion, but simple enough to pull off any day of the week.
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Tofu satay skewers on a serving platter with peanut dipping sauce and lime wedges.
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Sweet and spicy tofu satay will wake up your taste buds and pull you out of a dinnertime rut! Crispy and lightly charred on the outside but juicy, marinated right down to the center inside, the only thing that can top it is a rich peanut dipping sauce. Dunk, drizzle, and slather those skewers; the whole family will have so much fun, they won’t even realize they’re eating healthy!

Originally from the Indonesian island of Java, satay quickly spread to the surrounding Southeast Asian countries, developing into hundreds of thousands of unique variations in this basic concept. All it takes is marinated protein cooked on a stick and served with peanut sauce to qualify. We can make that one better: We can make it vegan, and even better than restaurant take out, too!

Hand holding one tofu satay skewer that's been drizzle with peanut dressing.

Why You’ll Love This Tofu Satay

  • Eat with your hands! No forks or knives necessary for this fun entre. Just reach right in, grab a skewer, and start dipping! That also means there are fewer dishes and utensils to wash afterwards.
  • Effortless, versatile cooking options. Depending on your preference, you can toss these skewers on the grill, in the oven, or into the air fryer, all with brilliantly crispy results.
  • High in protein. Forget chalky protein powders, shakes, and bars; you can easily get all the protein you need from delicious whole foods! Each serving has a whopping 13 grams of protein, and that’s assuming you can stop at just one helping.
  • Family-friendly. For more picky palates, you can adjust the spices to any heat level you want, be it mild or wild.

Key Ingredients

If you think satay demands obscure ingredients only found in specialty stores, think again! Everything you need is waiting for you at your nearest everyday grocery store.

A package of Hodo Extra-Firm Tofu.
  • Tofu: Extra-firm from Hodo Foods makes this recipe a snap. There’s no need to press before marinating since it’s already dense and meaty right out of the package. Other brands might be labeled this as “super-firm” and are sold in vacuum-sealed packages in the produce department.
  • Pineapple juice: Naturally sweet without added sugars, the bright, tangy acidity of pineapple juice helps caramelize the tofu, while also cutting through the richness of the peanut butter.
  • Soy sauce: Instant umami in a bottle, just a splash of soy sauce adds world of savory flavor to any dish. It can also add a considerable serving of sodium, so you might want to seek out “lite” or low-sodium options if salt intake is a concern.
  • Peanut butter: All peanut butter is not created equal. Creamy, natural, no-sugar-added peanut butter is your best bet here to avoid excess sugars and unnecessary additives.
  • Rice Vinegar: Clear and neutral in flavor, rice vinegar is very mild. In a pinch, you could substitute apple cider vinegar instead.
  • Seasonings: Garlic powder, ginger, and red pepper flakes are the spices that make this meal sing! No pantry is complete without these staples; you’ll never regret having extra on hand.

How To Make Tofu Satay

Here’s the easy process to make this tofu satay in the air fryer with step-by-step photos. For baking or grilling instructions, reference the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

Step One: Drain the tofu and pat dry with a lint-free towel. If using tofu packaged in water, press out the excess water first. Cut into satay strips approximately ¾-inch wide, ¾-inch thick, and 3-4 inches long. Use a toothpick or skewer to pierce each piece of tofu several times on each side to help it absorb more marinade.

Step Two: Prepare tofu marinade by mixing together the soy sauce, pineapple juice, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl.

Step Three: In a shallow container with a lid or in a large silicone or ziplock bag, lay the tofu flat (in at most two layers) and pour over the marinade. Cover (or seal) and place in the refrigerator for at least two hours to marinate. Flip the tofu pieces over and continue marinating in the fridge for several more hours (or ideally overnight). The marinated sides will become brown in color. If needed, flip tofu again to evenly marinate all sides.

Tofu slices marinating in a large shallow glass dish.

Step Four: When the tofu is ready, remove one slice at a time from the marinade and lay it on a flat surface. Gently push a bamboo skewer lengthwise through the center, stopping when the skewer reaches the end of the tofu. Repeat with the remaining tofu.

Step Five: Trim the skewers to about two inches beyond the tofu. Lay the tofu skewers flat in the air fryer and cook at 400 degrees for 3 minutes. Flip and continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes, until nicely browned. Longer air fryer time will create firmer chewier and dryer tofu satay. If you prefer softer tofu satay, cook for less time.

Step Six: While the tofu is air frying, prepare the peanut dipping sauce. Combine the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl and mix well until you have a smooth sauce.

Serve tofu satay drizzled with peanut dipping sauce and topped with fresh cilantro, along with a side of peanut dipping sauce (optionally topped with peanuts). Enjoy hot.

Tofu satay served on a plate with peanut dipping sauce and fresh lime slices.

Tips For Success

Ensure success from the very start with a few simple tips and tricks:

  1. Soak your skewers in warm water for 10 to 30 minutes before cooking to prevent them from burning or catching on fire.
  2. The longer you can marinate the tofu, the better. Overnight is ideal, but you can even let it sit for 24 hours to really lock in those flavors.
  3. Make sure none of the tofu pieces are overlapping while they cook. You may need to do this in batches depending on the size of your air fryer.
  4. If your peanut sauce is too thick, slowly drizzle in water until it reaches your preferred consistency.

How To Serve Up Your Tofu Satay Skewers

These handy, single-serving skewers are ideal party food, ready to mix and mingle with the best of them. If you’d like to turn them into a full meal, there are lots of complimentary side dishes that would make a perfect pairing, such as:

Ideas For Using Peanut Satay Sauce

This vegan peanut sauce recipe is as good as liquid gold. It’s worth doubling to make sure you have leftovers, since it’s endlessly useful in many other delicious meals. You can also use it as…

FAQs

Is traditional satay vegan?

Traditional Indonesian and Thai satay is typically made with chicken unless otherwise specified, which means that it’s not vegan or vegetarian. However, any protein is an acceptable variation, and most restaurants will offer a meatless version as well. There are no animal products included otherwise.

Can I make satay tofu nut-free?

Peanut butter does play a large role in the overall flavor, but there are options for making this a more allergy-friendly meal! If seeds are okay, sunflower seed butter is an excellent alternative. Soynut butter is another great choice, since it tastes very similar to the original nutty spread.

Don’t I need to press the tofu?

If you start with super-firm tofu, there’s no pressing needed. It’s already very dense, with most of the excess water squeezed out through the manufacturing process. If you start with merely firm or extra-firm tofu though, pressing for at least 30 minutes will yield the best results.

What can I use instead of tofu?

Any plant-based protein can be swapped in at will. A few of my favorites are tempeh, seitan, and vegan chicken strips. You could even give the same treatment to plant-based meatballs!

How long do leftovers keep?

Leftover tofu satay can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 5 days. Keep the peanut sauce in a separate container for up to 1 week. The sauce will thicken as it sits, so you may need to add a few tablespoons of water to thin it out again before serving.

Up close of tofu satay drizzled with peanut dipping sauce.

More Tempting Tofu Recipes To Try

Take a peek at our Soy Curls guide with lots of recipes on how to serve up these tasty little morsels. Soy curls are a fun and delicious cousin to tofu that is totally worth a try. Highly recommended!

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Easy Tofu Satay with Peanut Dipping Sauce

5 from 12 votes
This sweet and spicy tofu satay paired with an easy peanut dipping sauce will be your new favorite weeknight dinner! It's fun and fancy enough for a special occasion or serving a crowd, but simple enough to pull off any day of the week.
Tofu satay skewers on a serving platter with peanut dipping sauce and lime wedges.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 6 minutes
Marinating 8 hours
Total Time 8 hours 11 minutes
Servings 4

Equipment

Ingredients

Marinated Tofu Satay:

  • 1 block super-firm tofu, Hodo
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons pineapple juice
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Peanut Dipping Sauce:

  • ¼ cup creamy natural peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons pineapple juice
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • ½ lime, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • teaspoon ground ginger
  • teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon water

Garnishes:

  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro
  • Chopped peanuts
  • Lime wedge

Instructions

  • Drain tofu, pat dry with a paper towel, and cut into satay strips approximately ¾-inch wide, ¾-inch thick, and 3 – 4 inches long. Using a toothpick or skewer, pierce each piece of tofu several times on each side (this will help the tofu soak up more of the marinade and become more flavorful).
  • Prepare tofu marinade: In a small bowl, make the tofu marinade by mixing together the soy sauce, pineapple juice, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes.
  • In a container with a lid (like this) or in a large silicone or ziplock bag, lay the tofu flat (in at most two layers) and pour the marinade on top. Cover (or seal) and place in the refrigerator for at least two hours. Flip the tofu pieces over and allow to marinate in the fridge for several more hours (or ideally overnight). The longer you give the tofu to marinate, the more flavorful it will become. You will see the marinated sides become brown in color. If needed, flip tofu again to evenly marinate all sides.
  • Once marinated, lay a tofu piece on a flat surface and gently push a bamboo skewer lengthwise through the center, stopping when the skewer reaches the end of the tofu. Repeat for remaining tofu.
  • Use sharp scissors to trim the skewers to just two inches beyond the tofu. Lay tofu flat in the air fryer and air fry at 400 degrees for 3 minutes. Flip and air fry an additional 3-4 minutes, until nicely browned and cooked to your liking. Longer air fryer time will create firmer chewier and dryer tofu satay. If you prefer softer tofu satay, cook for less time.
  • Prepare peanut dipping sauce: In a small bowl, mix together the peanut butter, pineapple juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce, ground ginger, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and water, and mix well until you have a smooth sauce.
  • Serve tofu satay drizzled with peanut dipping sauce and topped with fresh cilantro, along with a side of peanut dipping sauce (optionally topped with peanuts). Enjoy hot.

Notes

To bake: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and lay tofu skewers on a lined baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes, flip, and bake another 10-15 minutes.
To grill: Cook tofu satay on the grill to your liking.

Nutrition

Calories: 176kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Sodium: 975mg | Potassium: 320mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 86IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 49mg | Iron: 2mg
Course — Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine — Thai
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5 from 12 votes

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Recipe Rating




12 comments
  1. 5 stars
    This is really interesting, haven’t seen tofu done like this. Looks delicious

  2. 5 stars
    What an amazing idea! I’m so happy to have a plant-based satay recipe for whenever I’m craving Asian food 😀

  3. Beatriz Buono-Core says:

    5 stars
    These look amazing! Love them 😀

  4. 5 stars
    this tofu satay is absolutely incredible! Easy to make and perfect for all kinds of meals.

  5. 5 stars
    By reading the ingredient combination I see great flavor in a short time. Thank you for working on the recipe details.I will buy Extra Firm tofu knowing it has the least amount of water, making it easier to manipulate without draining.

  6. 5 stars
    This tofu satay is so good! Love your tip about piercing the tofu with toothpicks to get more marinade in. A new favorite recipe!

  7. 5 stars
    Delicious and flavorful! Love the peanut dipping sauce!

  8. 5 stars
    The marinade for this tofu satay is soooo good! I love the combo of sweet and spicy.

  9. 5 stars
    Oh my goodness, this is so delicious. I love satay, but never thought about pairing it with tofu before. And a perfect recipe for my air fryer too.

  10. 5 stars
    love this sweet and sour goodness! such a great dinner recipe!

  11. 5 stars
    Wow, this tofu satay recipe looks absolutely delicious! I love the idea of using pineapple juice in the marinade, it adds a unique sweetness that I’ve never thought of before. I also appreciate the versatility of cooking methods, I’ll definitely be trying it in the air fryer first. I can’t wait to try this recipe out and serve it up with a side of rice. Thank you for sharing!

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