Get Baked: Basil and Tofu Stir Fry

Since moving in with a (mostly) vegetarian friend I’ve had to learn how to cook meals that do not contain meat, yet still seem ‘meat-ish’ enough that the carnivore in the house won’t complain. It’s a challenge that’s resulted in many errors and more than a few polite comments like “it has a unique taste, doesn’t it?”

But it hasn’t all been failure. This tofu and basil stir fry recipe is one of the meals that I’ve gotten right, it’s a people pleaser that requires very few culinary appliances or skills. Most of the effort is in the grocery shopping and the chopping up of stuff, once you’ve done that it basically cooks itself.

Even though this is a fairly basic meal to make, it does require a couple of ingredients that you may not already have in your pantry. My advice is to not leave these things out. If you like this dish then you’ll want to cook it again and again, so forking out for that bottle of rice wine vinegar will seem totally worth it.

This recipe will serve 4 people, however I recommend adjusting the quantities to whatever you think can be safely accommodated by your wok or fry pan. As with all stir fries, overcrowding won’t have an awesome result.


1 cup of coconut milk
2 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp fish sauce (or more soy sauce, for vegetarians)
1 packet of firm tofu, cut into 1-2cm cubes
1 brown or white onion, sliced
1-2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 cups of sliced mushrooms, I like shiitake or oyster but any type will do
2 zucchinis, sliced
1 red capsicum, sliced
A bunch of fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
1 tsp dried or fresh chilli (optional)
Olive oil
Rice (to serve)

1. Combine the coconut milk, fish sauce, soy sauce and rice wine vinegar in a bowl and set aside.

2. Heat a wok or fry pan on medium heat and add the oil. Once it’s hot throw in the onion, garlic and ginger and then stir until soft. Add in a little more oil if things start to stick.

3. Add the tofu cubes and flip them around until they’re brown on all sides.

4. Throw in the coconut milk concoction and stir until about half the liquid has been reduced – or slightly less if you like things a little saucy. If you’ve decided to add chilli then do it now. My flatmates usually just sprinkle it on top once it’s been plated up, apparently that’s just as effective.

5. Add in the mushrooms until they’re cooked. You can also throw in the zucchini, capsicum and basil at the same time, although I tend to delay it for a few minutes because I like for them to have a little crunch.

6. Done! Now just serve with your preferred type of rice.

Thanks to Kate for the photos.

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Founding member. Former writer. Still loves Autostraddle with her whole heart.

Crystal has written 320 articles for us.


  1. Ooh, this sounds really good! But is there an alternative to the fish sauce for the non-fish eaters among us?

    • I have heard that there is this thing called “Thai Golden Mountain Sauce,” but you really just want whatever you replace it with to taste savory, salty, and fermented at the same time.

      (I have Italian and Thai fish sauces in my kitchen, though. After finding the Italian version, I think I may have majorly grossed out a vegetarian family member while jumping up and down and talking about the distilling process mid-squee.)

  2. I love it when white girls think they can do a good stir fry.

    /end sarcasm.

    A. No I’m not racist.

    B. I can tell the dish tastes like a typical diner’s “Asian Surprise dish of the week” just from reading the recipe.

    • there is a lot more racism and appropriation of asian culture in the world than someone using a certain cooking method to make dinner for her vegetarian housemate.

    • Maybe us whites should start calling our stirfrys “Things We Stir And Fry In A Pan But Isn’t Stir-Fry Because We Are White”

      • Oh no no no. You whites don’t have to do anything different. You just need to get the hipster lesbian vegetarians/vegans away from the “exotic” spice aisle in a preemtive strike against their horrible chopsuey pad thai lemon grass tamarind shrimp paste mess.

        Like I said, I[=’m not racist. i love girls of all colors but I just can’t stand idiots who think they can cook when their 3 dormmates gush over their waterfall beef salad.

        • “I’m not racist. i love girls of all colors”

          a little too similar to ‘I have gay friends’, don’t you think?

          although I don’t think you’re being particularly racist – just kind of silly.

        • as a white non-hipster vegan, I’d like to point out that cuisines from other parts of the world tend to have better vegan options for me. it’s far easier to replace the yogurt and ghee in an Indian curry dish or the fish sauce and eggs in a pad thai recipe than it is to replace a whole steak.

          and I’m sorry you find Americanized Asian dishes personally offensive, but most of us are just trying to eat food that tastes good and isn’t too hard to make. I’m really not trying to be appropriate someone else’s culture, but sometimes i just want to throw some peanut butter and hot sauce in my ramen and call it a day, you know?

          but if you have a better suggestion, please feel free to share a recipe with us.

        • I believe that you aren’t racist. But I think, as a rule of thumb, if you find yourself giving multiple assurances as to your lack of racism then maybe you should 1) Ask yourself what you original intention was and 2) Evaluate whether you communicated that intention effectively.

      • You know what Crystal. I apologize. Your recipe is actually one of the better one’s I’ve seen on Autostraddle. That being being said, while Autostraddle is a halfway interesting Lesbian blog, they should really evaluate who gets to write for their “food” column. The whole Lesbians and bad vegetarian/vegan food cliche really doesn’t need to be perpetuated anymore. I know for a fact there are many great lesbian chefs out there (professional and not) but Autostraddle insists on being lazy and allowing any ole dyke to post recipes. Have standards goddamnit. Everything else about Autostraddle is on par with NYC and LA and other large cities in the US, yet their recipes are so flyover state boring. I feel like I’m reading recipes from “Stuff White People Like”. Just because you throw in ginger, tofu, fish sauce, seitan, sesame oil, coconut milk, soy sauce- you get the picture- it doesn’t mean it’s going to equal good food. Forget this dish not being authentic anything. You’re telling people to cook this entire dish with medium heat. The vegetables are going in at random times and from your instructions, everything is soaking up oil, not frying. The recipe is sloppy period.

        And for everyone fawning over the recipes on Autostraddle, why don’t you click this link and sit back and enjoy your cucumber avocado “sushi”.

        • This is a recipe that is enjoyed by the people I cook it for. It’s not going to be to everyone’s taste and that’s cool, we all have different ideas about what good food is.

          Instead of linking to What White People Like, why don’t you share links to a few less boring and more authentic stir fry recipes that you think our readers should try instead? That would be a little more constructive.

        • You know, we queer ladies have a reputation for loving to get offended over everything and anything, but getting offended over TOFU? I’m not sure whether to hand you a Lesbian Award for Extreme Lesbianness, or just a chill pill. Maybe both.

          You know, I love cooking, I have a lot of cookbooks and I read a lot of food blogs and I actually agree with you on this… Autostraddle’s food writing generally wouldn’t pass muster as professional food writing. But it isn’t meant to! That is exactly why I like it. It’s a bunch of cool people talking about how they make stuff that tastes good, totally without pretension. It’s so nice to find ‘ordinary’ recipes that don’t tell you that you MUST buy Maldon sea salt / organic heirloom tomatoes from a farmers’ market in California / spend three hours making your own stock or else you are a terrible person. If I want to spend days making macarons I’ll read a pastry cookbook. If I want to make something that is quick, simple and tasty, then Autostraddle is perfect :)

        • Why couldn’t you just give her advice on how to do it properly? As a lesbian of colour, you are making us all look bad by being intolerant and frankly mean. Crystal didn’t make a personal attack against you because she attempted stir fry. If you think people aren’t up to par, give friendly advice. If you’re that good, help other people be.

          As other people have posted, being vegan on a North American or Western European diet is hard. Non-western food is much more accepting of vegan alternatives. Stop being hateful because people are trying to branch out. See it as people thinking your culture is great and wanting to pay homage to it, not appropriate it. People can’t be perfect, we’re all just trying here.

          It really upsets me that someone on Autostraddle could be this cruel to someone who really was just being friendly and contributing to this community. I never lecture white people on how terrible their version of Mexican food is, and I moved to Scotland. Scots have zero concept of how to do Mexican properly. Did I mock them? No, I cooked for them and they loved me for it.

          All humans can do it work to help refine each other. That’s our purpose here. We love and improve one another. You’re just being needlessly cruel, and I personally think you should be ashamed of your multiple comments.

    • You know, I don’t see Crystal writing “Hey I made this super-authentic Asian extra Asian awesome Asian food dish!” anywhere here. This is a STIR FRY. Like, a bunch of veggies you put in a pan on the stove with other ingredients. Cooking technique common to the masses in many parts of the world. I think everyone should cook the foods that taste good to them — and I think this looks delicious. No one is even trying to feed you this, weirdo!

    • That was going to be my question (I know there are people who eat fish and still persist in using the term ‘vegetarian’, so I’m hoping the roomate’s cool with it.) However, as a vegetarian-vegetarian (or whatever term you want to use to clarify that I don’t eat any meat) I’m always frustrated when I see seafood included in vegetarian recipes – that many more chances to go to a dinner party and not be able to eat something that the host prepared especially for us, thinking that it was ok!

      That said, Thai Golden Mountain Sauce sounds *amazing*.

      • YES. there is nothing more frustrating to a vegetarian than sneaky meat! gelatin, chicken broth, and fish sauce are all often classified as veg-friendly. but i think its great that you are trying to be so accommodating for your housemate.

    • Yep my flatmate is okay with fish sauce. I was meant to note that you should sub the fish sauce with more soy sauce to make it truly veg. Thank you for pointing out my mistake.

  3. I’ve used mushroom sauce, sometimes labeled “Vegetarian Stir-fry Sauce” or “Vegetarian Oyster Sauce” in place of fish sauce. Seems to work well.

  4. autostraddle is slowly teaching me how to feed myself. honestly i don’t know what to do with tofu besides stare at it or poke it. now i know something else!

  5. This sounds (and looks) delicious! Slowly but surely y’all are teaching me how to cook food that isn’t mac and cheese.

  6. Can someone please explain what “capsicum” is? I consider myself to be fairly kitchen-savvy, and I’ve never run across this in a recipe.

        • I had the reverse experience where I never made all these amazing looking recipes from the US because I thought cilantro was some exotic American thing that couldn’t be bought down under. Really, it was kind of a revelation to realise it was just coriander and could be bought from the local shops and now I could make aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaall the recipes.

          Anyhow, that’s my tangent for the day.

  7. I just cooked half a batch of this and it turned out great. Thanks.

    The power went out halfway through and I had to cook by the light of scented candles, and it is a weird, weird thing cooking onions and smelling poundcake and pineapple.

  8. crystal, i’ve eaten some version of this almost every day for lunch this week and it delicious. i make it the night before and then buy steamed rice for $1 at restaurant near my work and put it over my stir fry to heat it up.

  9. Definitely trying this one out the next time I get tofu.
    Protip: if you like the flavor of ginger, but don’t actually want to eat it, slice it instead.

  10. My partner & I made this tonight to celebrate our 73rd day of marriage (ie, lasting longer than Kim Kardashian’s marriage). It was tasty.

  11. i just cooked this and ate it and felt happy, also i had no idea what “capsicum” is so i just didn’t use it

Comments are closed.