Three Cup Tofu (San Bei Doufu)

Tim and I have been eating lots of tofu lately. How much? Enough to buy the 6 lb packages of tofu! At about $5/pkg, it’s a pretty good deal, and there’s only one container to open.

Anyway, I have been substituting tofu for meat in several dishes and realized that it can be pretty darn good and fast, and requires less cutting board paranoia than when using meat.

We(I) had cooked Thai food for friends, and there leftover Thai basil but no more curry. Hmmmm…I saw my 3 lone blocks of tofu leftover, plus the basil. Three cup tofu? Could it be done? Read below to find out! If you are rolling your eyes at three cup tofu and are looking for three cup chicken, click here, if you please. Take notes that it’s almost exactly the same recipe..


three cup tofu

The drier your tofu is to start with, the faster it will brown up.

san bei dou fu


Three Cup Tofu


1 1/2 lb firm or extra firm tofu

2-3 tsp oil

6 cloves garlic, peeled

1″ slice of ginger

2 tsp sugar

3 Tbsp sesame oil

3 Tbsp wine

2 T light soy sauce

2 tsp dark soy sauce (optional, for color)

1 cup Thai basil leaves, packed


1) Cut the tofu into ~1 1/2″ squares that are about 1/2 inch tall. Tip: The distance between your thumb crease/joint to the top of your thumb is roughly 1 inch.

2) Soak up excess water from tofu by using a clean kitchen towel to lightly press down on the surfaces of the tofu.

3) Heat a cast iron skillet (preferable; if you use nonstick, add oil right away ) until it’s hot, then add oil (just enough to barely coat the pan), and a portion of the tofu, however many will fit without crowding the pan too much. Don’t disturb to tofu, and let it pan fry until golden brown; a few minutes. Flip the tofu to brown the other side. Some of the tofu might break; it’s okay! Just be as gentle as you can. Finish searing all the tofu in batches, adding oil as needed between batches.

4) In a saucepan, add oil just to coat the pan, then the ginger and garlic. Heat the oil and aromatics, until you can smell the ginger and garlic. Then, add the seared tofu and all remaining ingredients, except the basil. Add 1 cup of water.

5) Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Open the lid and cook 5 minutes to reduce the sauce.

6) Remove from heat, stir in the basil, and serve with rice. san bei dou fu 3 cup tofu


-TL;DR instructions – 1) Sear tofu 2) Heat aromatics 3) Add sauce ingredients and simmer 4) Basil last

-You can always add more oil for searing the tofu to get a thicker crust on the tofu, but I prefer them with less oil so they are less fattening.

-You can use Italian/Genovese basil if that’s all you have, but it just won’t be as strong.


  1. Kathy

    So happy to find this recipe! Our favorite Taiwanese restaurant recently closed and we are missing their 3 Cup Tofu. Theirs had small bits of Thai peppers too. I might try to add these at the same time as the garlic and ginger . . .

    • Megan

      Hi Kathy, I’m happy to help! Did you end up making it?

      • Kathy

        Hi Megan,
        I finally made the recipe with a bit of minced fresh jalapeño (no seeds) and a little less water. Big hit!!!! My daughter wanted to save a couple of pieces of tofu to take to school in her lunch tomorrow. Thanks so much for posting the recipe!

        • Megan

          Kathy, I am very glad to hear it was a hit! 🙂 You are so welcome!

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