Spicy-Sweet Celery, Tofu, and Peanut Stir-Fry

Celery, Tofu, and Peanut Stir-FryI’ll admit it.  Despite my previous scorn for the tradition, I made a New Year’s Resolution this year.  I know, I know.  I’m still giving myself grief about it.  But changes have to be made, and now is as good a time as any to tackle them.  My resolution is to get my kitchen mojo back.  See, I’ve been in a major cooking slump.  An unmotivated, uninspired, boring old cooking slump.  I just can’t seem to get as excited about thinking up something for dinner or lunch as I normally am.  I’ve been blaming it on the holidays (all the leftovers), the weather (sooo cold), and even the poor children (so many needs, these kids!) It doesn’t help that the few times lately that I’ve tried a new recipe, it’s either been a huge flop or it’s been great, but I didn’t expect it to be great, so I didn’t take pictures.  Either scenario leads to major food frustration.  

Celery, Tofu, and Peanut Stir-FrySo, can you really blame me that instead of testing new recipes, I keep coming back to old standbys that I’ve come to love?  Yesterday, as I was cooking up a pan of this stir-fry, it occurred to me that while it’s one of my favorites to have for lunch, requiring little thought, there is probably a huge contingent of people that don’t eat this for lunch or dinner on a regular basis.  And that’s not ok.

Celery, Tofu, and Peanut Stir-FryFirst of all, I get it.  Celery. Tofu.  Peanuts. This is not glamorous, and frankly, barely even edible-sounding.  Had I not gotten the recipe from a very well-trusted source, there is no way I would have tried it.  Even if I had been flipping through a cookbook I liked, I would have flown right by this.  I don’t like celery much, as a rule.  Tofu only marginally more.  I do like peanuts, but in my stir-fry?  No.Celery, Tofu, and Peanut Stir-Fry

But there is some strange alchemy that happens in this dish that takes all these things that I don’t love and turns them into something I could eat all day long.  The result is a sticky pile of tender celery, chewy tofu, and fragrant peanuts, all caramelized on the edges and coated with a sweet hot chili sauce.  It’s so much more than the sum of its parts. I get this is a hard sell. I understand.  It’s a miracle I even tried it the first time.  But let this be proof of how good it is: When I was gathering the ingredients to make this the first time, I was dismayed that I could only find a large, liter-sized bottle of the sweet chili sauce.  That’s a lot of chili sauce to buy for this one recipe I wanted to try.  Boy, did I have a good chuckle remembering my worry when a month later, I ran out of sauce and had to go buy another bottle.  And no, I didn’t find other uses for it.  I just kept making this stir-fry over and over.  It’s that good.  Good enough that even though it’s not new-to-me, it inspired me to get the excitement back and resolve to be adventurous in the kitchen this year.  2015, here I come!

Celery, Tofu, and Peanut Stir-Fry

Celery, Tofu, and Peanut Stir-Fry

Celery, Tofu, and Peanut Stir-Fry

Adapted from remedial eating

If you have trouble finding smoked or baked tofu, you have two options. I've used plain old extra-firm tofu with decent results. Just make sure you let it drain well so your stir-fry isn't soggy. Your other option is to make baked tofu yourself. That's what I did this time and it was excellent. I used this recipe.

I've also subbed bok choy and other vegetables for the celery and it worked well. But, seriously, nothing was better than the celery. You're going to have to trust me on this one.

If you don't have the chilis, no worries there, either. I've found a small bit of sriracha or sambal oelek works well.

  • 2 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 2 dried chilis
  • 8 oz. smoked or baked tofu
  • 5-6 large-ish stalks celery
  • 1/2 cup peanuts
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce, plus more to taste

Cut tofu into 1/2" dice. Slice celery stalks into 1/2" pieces. Squeeze peanuts lightly in your hand, to separate into halves. Set aside.

Heat a the oil in a wok or large heavy skillet over high heat, until almost smoking (about 1 minute). Add dried chilis and celery, and stir-fry 1 minute. Add tofu, and stir-fry 2 more minutes. Add peanuts, salt, and sugar, and stir-fry another 3-5 minutes, until celery is transparent, tofu caramelized, and the peanuts are a shade darker. Add sweet chili sauce, and continue cooking another 1-2 minutes, until it has melted, glazed everything, and begun to caramelize. Check for seasonings, add salt, sugar, and/or more chili sauce to taste. Serve immediately with rice or on its own.


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  1. Soleah says

    Thanks for the recipe! It’s really good! I had a 6oz block of morrocan baked tofu, and forgot to bale the remaining 2oz, but of course it was still great! Will make it again :)!

  2. Soleah says

    I really agree with wanting to eat more of this. I made it last week and want to make it today. Something about the celery and mix of nuts and sweet chili sauce makes it craveable! Thanks for the recipe!!

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