This sweet and tangy Eggplant Tofu from Panda Express is so easy to make at home. You won’t have to seek out which establishment has it on their menu anymore. You can make this right at home whenever you want and customize to your own tastes!
I didn’t realize that only certain Panda Express locations carry this eggplant tofu. You would think with the growing vegan population and the popularity for tofu, most to all Panda Express locations would have this eggplant tofu! Fret not – this copycat recipe is here for you and you won’t have to crave this no more.
The first time I had eggplant tofu was at a Panda Express out in California. I know, there are so many other better restaurants than to eat at a Panda Express but I was short on time and I needed something quick and I wanted something Asian. Anyway, I was surprised at how good the dish was. It was a bit sweet and tangy but I liked the sweet spice that came from it.
I was shocked to find out that they don’t have eggplant tofu here at home. I can’t find it at any of the locations! Of course your girl immediately knew what she had to do. She had to make a copycat version of this dish to help out all those poor souls out there that fell in love with eggplant tofu elsewhere to come home to discover your local Panda Express doesn’t even have it.
What is eggplant tofu?
Eggplant tofu is a dish from Panda Express that features eggplant, tofu, and red bell peppers tossed in a sweet and tangy brown sauce. It typically has some spice to it but because you’ll be making this at home, you can choose how spicy you want it!
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Eggplant – if you’re able to find this, I used a Chinese eggplant instead of an American eggplant. The Chinese eggplant has less seeds so it’s less bitter.
- Tofu – you’re going to want to use firm or extra firm so it holds up in the dish.
- Red bell pepper
- Soy sauce
- Rice vinegar – this is what gives the sauce the tangy flavor.
- Brown sugar – this helps with the sweet and tangy!
- Cornstarch – this ingredient serves a dual purpose in this recipe! Not only does it thicken the sauce, it also helps the tofu get that crunchy exterior.
How to make eggplant tofu
Make the sauce. Combine all the ingredients for the sauce and whisk together. Set aside.
Heat the skillet. Place a large skillet over medium high heat and add two tablespoons of oil.
Coat the tofu. Toss the tofu in the cornstarch and ensure it has an even coat on all the tofu.
Crisp the tofu. Pan fry the tofu until the exterior gets crispy. I have a tofu guide that explains how to cook it if you’re interested!
Cook the vegetables. Once the tofu is done cooking, transfer to a wire rack to cool while you cook the vegetables.
Return tofu to skillet. Add the tofu back into the skillet after the vegetables are cooked.
Add the sauce. Pour the sauce into the skillet and it should thicken up quickly. Toss to coat everything in the thick sauce and remove from heat. Serve with white rice!
Does Panda Express still have eggplant tofu? In select markets they do. If you go to their store locator and search for their menu, that’s the only way to tell which ones have it. Mostly a lot of west coast (California) have it.
Can you use silken tofu? No, it will fall apart in this dish.
Can you use another protein? Yes! You can add shrimp or chicken to this or if you don’t want to add, you can just make it with shrimp or chicken as the sole protein.
How can I make eggplant tofu spicier? You can add more sambal oelek if you prefer it to be spicier.
What to serve with eggplant tofu? I like serving this with a side of white rice.
Storage and reheating instructions
If you have leftovers, keep in mind that the crispy tofu will get soft from sitting in the sauce but otherwise, store in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. To reheat, pop it in the microwave or stovetop!
More Panda Express inspired copycat recipes
Eggplant Tofu (Panda Express Copycat)
- 14 ounces (397 g) extra firm tofu
- ¼ cup (32 g) cornstarch
- 150 grams (150 g) sliced Chinese eggplant
- 1 red bell pepper
- 3 stalks of scallions, cut into 1" pieces
For the sauce:
- ¼ cup (59 ml) soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- ¼ cup (59 g) water
- 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients for the sauce.
- Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add oil to the skillet.
- Toss tofu in cornstarch and when the skillet is hot, add the tofu and don't move it until you need to flip it to ensure a crispy crust. You can do all sides or just two sides – depends on how much time you have.
- Once the tofu is crisped to your desired crispiness, put tofu on a wire metal rack on a baking sheet (so it stays crisp).
- In the same skillet, add the eggplant, red bell peppers, and scallions. Cook until crisp tender then add the tofu back in.
- Pour the sauce all over the top and it should start to thicken immediately. Reduce heat to medium low and continue to let simmer for about 5 minutes then remove from heat and serve!
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