Spicy Tofu Chili

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If you know people who won’t eat tofu because they say it lacks flavor, make them this recipe.

Tofu, when prepared right, soaks up the flavor of what it’s cooked with. By crumbling dry tofu in a sauce full of delicious spices, you’ll get spicy tofu, which goes really well in chili or spicy stir fry. Crumbled tofu is also an excellent substitute for ground beef, as it takes on a similar texture that will please even the pickiest taste buds.

This recipe will work perfectly with freshly-bought tofu, but if you want an extra-chewy texture that can replicate meat, freeze and thaw it before use (see FAQs below).

If you don’t have time to freeze and thaw your tofu beforehand, you can make a double batch of this chili and freeze half for another day.

This recipe serves 6 people.


  • 2 tablespoons canola or other vegetable oil (or olive oil)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 sweet pepper, any color, cored, deseeded, and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled, minced (or pressed)
  • One 14-ounce package of tofu – use firm or extra-firm
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder (mild or spicy, as you prefer)
  • 2 teaspoons cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (or standard paprika if you can’t find smoked)
  • 2 teaspoons chipotle sauce or powder
  • 2 cans (14 ounces each) of roasted tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Two cans (14 ounces each) of beans (black beans, red kidney beans, or a mixture of both), rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup ale or beer (check if it’s vegan if this is important to you)
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • Salt and pepper

Ingredients for serving (optional)

  • Dollops of (plant-based) sour cream, full cream, or yogurt
  • Tabasco, chipotle, or other hot sauce
  • Fresh avocado slices
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Chopped scallions
  • Cooked rice, quinoa, or other grain


Set your tofu to drain while you heat the oil on medium heat in a large Dutch oven or another type of pot. You can remove water from your tofu by putting it between two plates with a weight on top, or try a tofu press like the one here at https://tofubud.com/products/tofu-press.

It’s important to drain your tofu so that it soaks up more of the spicy sauce’s flavors, so don’t skip this step!

Once the oil is hot, sauté the onion and chopped sweet pepper for a few minutes. Next, add the garlic and stir for another minute.

With your hands, crumble the tofu into the pot. Quickly add the spices: the chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, and chipotle sauce or powder. Stir well for a few minutes. The tofu should be nice and dry, and evenly covered with spices.

Now stir in the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, beans, and beer or ale. Bring the heat up till the mixture starts to simmer, then lower the heat. Let your chili simmer on low for at least half an hour, and as long as 90 minutes if you can. Be sure to stir it once in a while so that the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. If the mixture becomes too thick, drizzle in some water.

Add in the corn kernels and stir till everything is evenly heated, about 2 minutes.

Taste test and add salt and pepper if desired.

Serve with the toppings of your choice!

Spicy Tofu Chili FAQs

How do I freeze tofu?

To freeze your tofu, place it unopened directly in the freezer in the packaging that it came in. Otherwise, if you have an open package, seal it in a freezer bag. Let it freeze till solid, and then thaw it in the refrigerator the day before you use it.

What can I serve with my spicy tofu chili?

Chili is delicious over rice or another type of grain, but if this sounds too filling for you, try one of these side dishes:

  • a green side salad
  • cornbread
  • onion rings
  • sweet potato fries
  • potato skins

How long will leftover chili keep?

Any leftover chili will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days (2 days longer than chili with meat), or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

What if I don’t have any tofu?

Sliced tempeh is excellent in chili, and you could try it in place of the tofu. Use a similar quantity of tempeh, but add in an extra cup of water when you add the beans to the recipe. Tempeh is drier than tofu, so you don’t want your chili to be too thick.