Vegan tofu satay is filled with the flavors of coconut milk, garlic, lime juice, and curry. Serve this mouthwatering appetizer with peanut dipping sauce.
These delicious kebabs can be cooked in the air fryer, baked in the oven, or grilled.
Before I went vegan, I loved getting chicken satay at Thai restaurants.
Skewers take the fun quotient up on any food.
And then when you get to dip it in peanut sauce? Forget about it. The best.
Satay (or sate) is a Southeast Asian dish that’s typically made with skewered meat cooked over a hot grill.
Unfortunately, outside of some vegan Thai places in Los Angeles and Seattle, I never see a plant-based alternative in restaurants. Especially where I live.
So I had to take my peanut sauce cravings into my own hands and make homemade tofu satay skewers.
It’s super easy to make. It just requires a bit of waiting while the tofu marinates.
It can be prepared 3 different ways:
- Baked in the oven.
- Grilled in an indoor grill pan or outdoor grill.
- Cooked in the air fryer.
Each of the ways has their advantages.
The tofu becomes extra firm & toothsome in the oven or air fryer.
And the grill offers extra smoky flavor & beautiful grill marks. So each method has its perks!
Whichever way you choose, this tofu satay recipe is vegan, gluten free, easy to make, and great for parties.
In addition to being a terrific appetizer, this protein-packed dish can also serve as a main course with rice and a vegetable. (See more serving ideas below!)
Here’s what you’ll need for this tofu satay recipe.
Super firm tofu: I recommend buying the kind in the vacuum packaging, because it doesn’t have to be pressed first. It also holds up well when being dipped into peanut sauce without breaking apart.
If you don’t have access to vacuum packed tofu, the water packed variety also works. You’ll just need to press it first, so that it can really absorb the flavors of the marinade.
Coconut milk: Buy canned coconut milk from the center aisles of the grocery store. Either light or full fat coconut milk will work.
Tamari: Tamari adds salt and umami to this dish. To keep it gluten free, use gluten free tamari soy sauce.
However, feel free to use whatever curry powder you have on hand.
Garlic: I recommend using a Microplane zester on the garlic, so that it’s very fine. That makes it easier to really get mixed well into the marinade. If you don’t have one, mincing works fine.
Lime juice: Fresh lime juice is best, but bottled works in a pinch. If you don’t have lime juice, use lemon instead.
Maple syrup: Maple syrup adds sweetness & balances the saltiness of the marinade. As an alternative, any liquid sweetener will work like agave syrup or date syrup.
Here’s what you’ll need for the peanut sauce.
Peanut butter: Unsweetened, natural peanut butter is best here. Either crunchy or creamy works.
Tamari: Again, use gluten free tamari soy sauce to keep this dish gluten free.
Rice vinegar: Look for rice vinegar next to the other vinegars in the center aisles of the grocery store or next to the soy sauces. Rice vinegar adds tang & plays well against the salty tamari.
Sriracha: Hot sauce gives a kick of heat.
Garlic: I recommend fresh cloves of garlic that are grated or finely minced.
Ginger powder: If you’d prefer, ginger powder can be replaced with freshly grated ginger.
Step by step instructions
1. Cut vacuum-packed tofu into 6 equal slabs across the longest part of the tofu.
2. Then cut each of those slabs in half, so that you have 12 total sticks of tofu.
3. Prepare the marinade. In a baking dish or container with a lid, combine the following:
- Coconut milk
- Curry powder
- Grated or minced garlic
- Lime juice
- Maple syrup
Put the tofu into the marinade, fully coating each side. Cover & refrigerate.
Marinate for at least 30 minutes or up to a full day. Occasionally flip the tofu, so that it is evenly coated.
When you’re ready to cook the tofu, it can be prepared by air frying, baking, or grilling.
To air fry: Put tofu pieces into the air fryer basket. Air fry at 400 degrees for 8 to 9 minutes. Stop halfway through to flip.
To grill: Spray the grill pan or a grill basket with oil. Grill at a medium high heat for 3 or 4 minutes on each side, until you have nice grill marks on both sides.
If using an outdoor grill, I recommend putting the tofu in a grill basket, so that it doesn’t fall through the grates since it’s on the small/skinny side.
To bake: Put tofu pieces on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Stop halfway through to flip.
For all methods: Allow the tofu to cool enough to handle it. Then thread the cooked tofu pieces onto satay skewers.
To make the peanut sauce, combine the following in a bowl with a fork or whisk:
- Peanut butter
- Rice vinegar
- Grated garlic
- Ginger powder
If you’d prefer, you can combine the peanut sauce in a food processor or blender instead.
Serve the tofu skewers with peanut sauce. If you like, garnish with cilantro and crushed peanuts.
Great for meal prep
Tofu satay is ideal for meal prep. Because you can pop the tofu into the marinade & make the peanut sauce ahead of time.
Then when dinnertime comes, it’s just a matter of cooking the tofu. Depending on your cooking method, it will be ready in 8 to 20 minutes.
What to serve with it
Tofu satay is a delicious appetizer or starter all on its own.
It’s great for parties, because it can be eaten with one hand, while the other holds a drink. No fork required!
It can also be served with other complementary side dishes for a full meal.
- Pineapple fried rice
- Brussels sprouts fried rice
- Mixed vegetable fried rice
- Sugar snap peas stir fry
- Sesame kale
- Potsticker soup
- Green salad with peanut dressing
Storing & reheating
Keep leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator. The tofu will keep 3 or 4 days.
To reheat, air fry tofu at 400 degrees for about 5 minutes. Or pop it in the microwave until warm.
The peanut sauce will last about a week.
Tofu satay with peanut sauce
- 16 ounces vacuum packed super firm tofu
- ½ cup coconut milk light or full fat
- 2 Tablespoons tamari
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- ½ teaspoon maple syrup or your preferred liquid sweetener
- 1 clove garlic finely grated or minced
- Oil spray for grilling only
- Cilantro optional garnish
- Chopped peanuts optional garnish
For the tofu satay
- Remove tofu from packaging & blot dry with a clean kitchen towel. Cut tofu into 6 even sized slabs across the longest part of the tofu. Then cut each of those slabs in half, so that you have 12 tofu pieces in total.
- In a shallow baking dish, combine coconut milk, tamari, curry powder, lime juice, maple syrup, and minced garlic.
- Lay the tofu slices in the marinade, coating each side. Cover the dish and refrigerate.Marinate for 30 minutes or up to 24 hours. Flip the tofu occasionally for even marinating. When you're ready to cook, choose one cooking method below - air fry, bake, or grill.
- TO AIR FRY: Remove the tofu pieces from the marinade, and put into the air fryer basket. (Don't overcrowd. If necessary, cook in batches.)Air fry at 400 degrees for 8 to 9 minutes, stopping about halfway through to flip (once it has browned on one side). If you like, you can add a drizzle of marinade to each tofu slice after flipping. Remove from air fryer. When the tofu is cool enough to handle, thread each piece of tofu onto a bamboo skewer. Serve with peanut sauce for dipping. Garnish with optional cilantro & chopped peanuts.
- TO BAKE: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet (or two if needed) with parchment paper. Put the tofu pieces onto the baking sheet, evenly spaced. Bake for 20 minutes, stopping once halfway through to flip. If you like, you can add a drizzle more of marinade onto each piece of tofu after flipping.Remove from oven. When the tofu is cool enough to handle, thread each piece of tofu with a bamboo skewer. Serve with peanut sauce for dipping. Garnish with optional cilantro & chopped peanuts.
- TO GRILL: Bring an outdoor grill or indoor grill pan to a medium high heat. Spray with oil. (For an outdoor grill, I recommend using a grill basket, so that the tofu doesn't fall through the grates.)Put the tofu across the grill basket or grill pan, being careful not to overcrowd. (You may need to cook in batches.) Grill each side for 3 to 4 minutes, until the tofu easily moves from the grill and has dark grill marks. (If you move the tofu and it sticks, it’s not done yet.) If you like, you can drizzle a little marinade onto each tofu slice after flipping.Once the tofu pieces are done, move them to a separate plate. When the tofu is cool enough to handle, thread each piece of tofu with a bamboo skewer. Serve with peanut sauce for dipping. Garnish with optional cilantro & chopped peanuts.(If you'd prefer, you can grill the tofu on the skewers instead of threading them afterwards. But remember to soak bamboo skewers in water before outdoor grilling, so that they don't burn.)
For the creamy peanut sauce:
- In a small bowl, use a fork or whisk to combine peanut butter, tamari, brown rice vinegar, hot sauce, and water until it is fully combined and has the texture of a creamy sauce. For the optimum texture & creaminess, be sure to get out any lumps.Thickness of peanut butter varies. So if your sauce is too thick and pasty, add another teaspoon of water. If it's too thin, add another 1 to 2 teaspoons of peanut butter.
- Add the garlic and ginger powder and fully combine.
- Serve right away, or put in a covered container in the refrigerator. If you like, garnish with cilantro and chopped peanuts.
Content, recipe, and photos updated March 12, 2022. Originally posted June 18, 2014 as grilled tofu satay with bok choy.