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Fermented Tofu / Chao

Here is a recipe from the “Asian specialties” department, which may not necessarily be loved by everyone.

Fermented tofu develops a strong aroma through maturation, similar (but not exactly) like cheese. Usually it is then seasoned with chili, which makes it very spicy and intense. We have taken over a recipe here almost unchanged from the full of plants page, and only slightly increased the salt content. It is very simple and only takes about 3 weeks of maturation + 3 days for the germination of the tofu pieces. After fermenting, the tofu may stay in the brine for quite a long time. You can simply eat it together with rice, but also process it in dips for vegetables, or actually use it as a cheese substitute for vegan diets.


for the tofu:

  • 500g solid tofu
  • 1 L water
  • 18g salt
  • Chili flakes or -powder or coarsely ground pepper to taste

for the brine:

  • 375ml water
  • 55g salt
  • 12g sugar
  • 45g vodka


  1. Bring the liter of water to simmer and dissolve 18g of salt. Carefully place tofu block on a foam spoon in the hot water and let it simmer quietly for about 4 minutes.
  2. Lift tofu out of the water and put it on a flat plate of kitchen paper. Wrap the tofu block with more kitchen paper and weigh it down with a flat board and other weights to squeeze add-on water (carefully!) out of the tofu.
  3. Cut the tofu block into cubes about 2 cm in size and place these cubes individually into a plastic bowl with kitchen paper at a distance of about 1 cm. The cubes should not touch each other! Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place (25 – 30°C) for 2 – 3 days. During this time, orange cultures develop on the surface of the tofu and it begins to smell cheesy.
  4. For the fermentation of the tofu, prepare the brine: boil 375 ml of water and dissolve salt and sugar in it. Let the brine cool completely, then add the vodka and stir.
  5. Sterilize jars with hot water, then pour out the water and let the jars cool.
  6. Spread chili flakes on a plate and carefully take the fermented tofu cubes with chopsticks and roll in the flakes (alternatively, use freshly ground black pepper if you do not like it so spicy). Then layer the cubes into the prepared glasses. The tofu has already become somewhat brittle and soft due to the onset of fermentation, and the chopsticks prevent the introduction of other “bad” bacteria, which could cause the pickled tofu to tip over and spoil. Tofu cubes that already carry black or blue mold cultures or smell very strange, already sort out and throw away!
  7. Pour the cooled brine over the tofu cubes so that the cubes are completely covered (!), and close the jars with the lids only loosely. In a large plastic bowl in a cool place (about 20 ° C) let it run for about 3 weeks. The longer you let the tofu ferment, the more intense the smell and taste will be!


You can eat fermented tofu directly mixed with some cooked rice or use it for dipping sauces in Asian cuisine. In vegan cuisine, it is also used for cheese substitutes. Then maybe rather without chili.


  • It can happen that small parts of the tofu float onto the surface after the 3 weeks of fermentation, and even may develop some blue mold. This is not much  different than what happens with cheese in air contact. As long as the mold only floats on the surface, you can simply lift it off and throw it away. In the salty lake, the mold normally cannot penetrate.

Have fun trying it out!

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