Main Course/ Vegetarian

Zucchini Stir-Fry with Tofu

July 22, 2020 (Last Updated: July 24, 2020) by Chef Molly

This Zucchini Stir-Fry combines sautéed zucchini, red bell pepper, and tofu in a savory sauce enhanced by garlic and ginger. Vegetarian and gluten-free!

serving platter with zucchini stir-fry with chopsticks

Summer is here, and the onslaught of zucchini has started! Oh sure, you’re loving it now, but soon you’ll be looking at down the barrel of yet another CSA basket filled with zucchini and thinking you can’t possibly stomach another loaf of zucchini bread. Never fear though, I’m here to break you out of your comfort zone with some new ideas for zucchini. To start, how about this Zucchini Stir-Fry with Tofu? This recipe gives you my favorite method for stir-frying zucchini, and is vegan and gluten-free as well. 

The easy sauce comes together quickly, as does the stir-fry itself. Just do yourself a favor and get everything prepped in advance so that you’re ready to roll once your pan is hot. 15 minutes later, you’ll have a healthy dinner on the table, and your love of zucchini will still be intact. Even better, once you’ve got this method down, you’ll find this recipe infinitely customizable with whatever proteins and veggies you have on hand. 

zucchini, red pepper, red onion, ginger, garlic, tofu and sauce ingredients

How do you chop zucchini for stir-fry?

You can really chop your zucchini however you like—just keep in mind that different cuts will cook more or less quickly. In this recipe, I recommend preparing the zucchini by cutting them in quarters, lengthwise, then slicing. Not too thin on the slices, because you want them to cook in the same amount of time as the bell pepper. Slicing into half moons would also work for this recipe. You can chop the zucchini into smaller cubes, or even use zoodles, but if you do, let the rest of the vegetables start to cook before you add the zucchini. Small cubes or zoodles will take much less time to cook than slices. 

sliced zucchini and red pepper cut into cubes on cutting board with intact zucchini

How do you make zucchini stir-fry? 

Start by whisking together the following ingredients for the sauce, and set aside. 

  • 3 T. soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 t. sesame oil
  • 1 t. rice vinegar
  • 1 T. water
  • 1 t. cornstarch
  • 1 t. brown sugar
  • 1/4 t. crushed red pepper
stir-fry sauce in glass bowl

1. Prepare 2 zucchini as noted above.

2. De-seed 1 red bell pepper, then cut into bite-sized chunks (about 3/4 inch square).

3. Drain one package of tofu, pat dry, and cut into cubes.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet or wok over medium-high heat, then add tofu.

5. Sauté tofu until lightly browned, stirring occasionally, about 5-8 minutes. Remove from pan.

browned tofu in large skillet

6. Add 1/2 tablespoon oil, then add 1/2 of a red onion, sliced, along with 2 chopped cloves of garlic, and 1 tablespoon of minced fresh ginger to the pan.

7. Sauté for three minutes, then add another 1/2 tablespoon oil.

sautéed red onion, garlic, and ginger in large nonstick skillet

8. Stir in zucchini and red pepper. Cook 10-12 min over high heat until zucchini and red pepper are tender and beginning to brown, stirring frequently.

9. Depending on your stove and pan, you may need to turn the heat down to medium-high to make sure nothing burns. But keeping it at as high heat as possible will give you those nice browned edges that are so delicious. 

sautéed red onion, garlic, ginger, red bell pepper, and zucchini in large nonstick skillet

10. Add tofu back into the pan and stir. Give the sauce another quick whisk to make sure the cornstarch is well incorporated.

11. Make a well in the center of the pan, then pour in the sauce. Stir quickly while sauce thickens and turns into a glaze, about 30 seconds, then serve.  

zucchini stir-fry with tofu and red bell pepper in large nonstick skillet

Zucchini Stir-Fry Ingredient Notes

  • Soy Sauce: For a gluten-free recipe, make sure you use tamari rather than traditional soy sauce—just check the tamari sauce packaging to make sure it is entirely gluten-free.  
  • Brown Sugar: Either light or dark brown sugar can be used. If you don’t have either, try replacing with honey. 
  • Red Bell Pepper: Feel free to replace with green, yellow, or orange bell pepper. I chose red since I love its slightly sweet flavor and bold color, but other peppers would also work. You could also replace with a different vegetable entirely, such as mushrooms—just note that mushrooms have more water in them than bell peppers. Add the mushrooms early enough to release some moisture before you add the zucchini. 
  • Red Onion: You can replace this with a yellow or white onion or a shallot. You could also chop up some scallions and use those instead—if so, add the garlic and ginger with the zucchini and red pepper, along with half of the scallions. Use the other half of the chopped scallions for garnish. 
  • Tofu: You can replace this with lots of other kinds of proteins. Try replacing with shrimp or chicken, for example. Or leave it out entirely for an all-vegetable stir-fry. 
  • Crushed Red Pepper: I like my stir-fries with a little bit of spice but not a ton. If you like less, leave it out. If you like more, add more! (Or do what my husband does and pour sriracha over the final dish.) 

How long will this dish keep in the fridge?

Zucchini stir-fry will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days in an airtight container. It also freezes well—just wait until it is fully cooled before packaging in an airtight container or freezer bag. Freeze for up to 3 months, and defrost for 24 hours in the refrigerator before reheating.

Should zucchini be peeled?

Nope. The skin on a zucchini is thin and easy to bite through, so peeling it is unnecessary. In fact, peeling zucchini just removes some of its nutritional content (see below). Do make sure you scrub it well of any dirt, and choose organic zucchini whenever possible. 

Are zucchini good for you?

Zucchini are low in calories and fat, but contain several beneficial vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium. Zucchini also contains high levels of antioxidants, especially in the skin.

close up of zucchini stir-fry with tofu and red pepper in bowl with chopsticks

What else can I make with zucchini?

Need more ideas for your pile of zucchini? I’ve got you covered. These are some of my favorites:

  • Grate and bake into an Easy Zucchini Gratin
  • Make ratatouille, by combining with eggplant and tomatoes
  • Slice and stuff with rice and vegetables, top with breadcrumbs, and bake
  • Make zucchini soup
  • Try it with chicken in my Chicken Curry with Coconut Milk and Zucchini
  • Grill or roast zucchini planks painted with olive oil
  • Grate and make into zucchini cakes
  • Make into zoodles and either sauté or serve raw, tossed with a dressing
  • Bake zucchini bread or zucchini muffins
  • Grate and add into the mixture for turkey burgers or chicken meatballs 
  • Peel into thin strips and use in a foil packet meal, as with this Foil Packet Tilapia with Zucchini, Lemon, and Butter

Other Vegetarian and Vegan Main Courses

If you’re looking for other delicious vegetarian or vegan dishes, don’t miss these:

Zucchini Stir-Fry with Tofu

Zucchini Stir-Fry with Tofu

Yield: Serves 3-4
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

This Zucchini Stir-Fry combines sautéed zucchini, red bell pepper, and tofu in a savory sauce enhanced by garlic and ginger. Vegetarian and gluten-free!

Ingredients

For the Sauce

  • 3 T. soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 t. rice vinegar
  • 1 t. sesame oil
  • 1 T. water
  • 1 t. cornstarch
  • 1 t. brown sugar
  • 1/4 t. crushed red pepper

For the Stir-Fry

  • 2 medium-large zucchini
  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 1 package firm or extra-firm tofu (10-14 oz.)
  • 2 T. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 T. minced fresh ginger

Instructions

    1. Whisk together ingredients for sauce, and set aside.
    2. Prepare zucchini by cutting in quarters, lengthwise, then slicing.
    3. De-seed red bell pepper, then cut into bite-sized chunks.
    4. Drain tofu, pat dry, and cut into cubes.
    5. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet or wok over medium-high heat, then add tofu. Sauté tofu until lightly browned, stirring occasionally, about 5-8 minutes. Remove from pan.
    6. Add 1/2 tablespoon oil, then add sliced onions, garlic, and ginger to the pan. Sauté for three minutes, then add another 1/2 tablespoon oil.
    7. Stir in zucchini and red pepper. Cook 10-12 min over high heat until zucchini and red pepper are tender and beginning to brown, stirring frequently. Depending on your stove and pan, you may need to turn the heat down to medium-high to make sure nothing burns. But keeping it at as high heat as possible will give you those nice browned edges that are so delicious.
    8. Add tofu back into the pan and stir.
    9. Give the sauce another quick whisk to make sure the cornstarch is well incorporated.
    10. Make a well in the center of the pan, then pour in the sauce.
    11. Stir quickly while sauce thickens and turns into a glaze, about 30 seconds, then serve.

Notes

Leftover Zucchini Stir-Fry will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for 3-4 days. You can also freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Wait to package for the refrigerator or freezer until it has cooled completely.

Ingredient Substitutions:

  • Soy Sauce: For a gluten-free recipe, make sure you use tamari rather than traditional soy sauce—just check the tamari sauce packaging to make sure it is entirely gluten-free.
  • Brown Sugar: Either light or dark brown sugar can be used. If you don’t have either, try replacing with honey.
  • Red Bell Pepper: Feel free to replace with green, yellow, or orange bell pepper. I chose red since I love its slightly sweet flavor and bold color, but other peppers would also work. You could also replace with a different vegetable entirely, such as mushrooms—just note that mushrooms have more water in them than bell peppers. Add the mushrooms early enough to release some moisture before you add the zucchini.
  • Red Onion: You can replace this with a yellow or white onion or a shallot. You could also chop up some scallions and use those instead—if so, add the garlic and ginger with the zucchini and red pepper, along with half of the scallions. Use the other half of the chopped scallions for garnish.
  • Tofu: You can replace this with lots of other kinds of proteins. Try replacing with shrimp or chicken, for example. Or leave it out entirely for an all-vegetable stir-fry.
  • Crushed Red Pepper: I like my stir-fries with a little bit of spice but not a ton. If you like less, leave it out. If you like more, add more! (Or do what my husband does and pour sriracha over the final dish.)

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 3 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 269Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1226mgCarbohydrates: 14gFiber: 4gSugar: 7gProtein: 18g

Nutrition information is provided as a general reference for users courtesy of the online nutrition calculator Nutritionix.

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Heidi | The Frugal Girls
    July 27, 2020 at 11:58 pm

    Oh wow… this looks AMAZING! What a delicious way to use up fresh zucchini from the garden!

    • Reply
      Chef Molly
      July 28, 2020 at 6:49 pm

      Thanks! It’s a go-to recipe for me for all those summer zucchini!

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