Cashews, maple syrup, and coconut milk are the heroes of the sticky sauce in these gluten-free tofu lettuce cups.
I made these twice this week because they’re that addicting. The tofu is crisp, the sticky sauce is buttery sweet, and the salty tamari (gluten free soy sauce) brings it all together.
Plus, they’re so cute!
After slicing your drained and pressed tofu into small cubes, gently fold in 3 tbsp of arrowroot powder to evenly coat. Extra firm tofu is pretty sturdy, but I still like to use a rubber scraper to stir to prevent any little pieces from breaking off.
You can use cornstarch instead of arrowroot powder for similar effects. However, cornstarch is not gluten free and it is more processed than arrowroot powder. I also think arrowroot powder coats the tofu and stays put better.
Arrowroot powder can usually be found in the baking or spice aisle, or you can buy it on Amazon here.
Now it’s frying time! To begin, heat an empty pan on medium-high heat. If you add a drop of water to the pan and it sizzles and evaporates immediately, the pan isn’t hot enough yet. You’ll know it’s hot enough when a water drop acts like a bead rolling around the pan. Pretty cool trick!
Once the pan is hot, add enough oil so that about 1/4 of a piece of tofu will be submerged. Let it heat up for a minute or so. When the oil is hot enough it will start to shimmer.
Carefully add the tofu to the hot oil, but don’t crowd the pan! The pieces will stick together instantly if they touch. Fry in batches if your pan isn’t large enough.
Fry the tofu for 4-5 minutes on each side until golden brown. I use tongs to individually flip each piece so that they don’t get stuck together. If they stick, the crispy coating can easily tear off.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool. This cooling step will help the tofu stay nice and crispy even after you add the sauce!
While your tofu is cooling, prepare the rice for the lettuce cups. Heat a little oil on low in a medium pan and cook the diced onion for about 8 minutes. Add minced garlic and ginger and cook for another 30 seconds.
Increase to medium heat, toss in your cooked rice, and cook for another 5 minutes or so. Day old rice is best for frying because it doesn’t have as much moisture as fresh rice. After 5 minutes, add vinegar and tamari and stir.
The saltiness adds flavor and the acidity will helps loosen any rice pieces that have stuck to the bottom of the pan.
FYI – tamari is a gluten free soy sauce. I prefer the taste of tamari, and almost always choose it over soy sauce these days!
Preparing the sauce for the lettuce cups is the easiest part of this recipe – just combine the ingredients and blend!
The sauce is buttery and sweet from the cashews, maple syrup, and coconut milk. Feel free to use less chili paste if you don’t like spice, but a little contrast is welcomed in this sweet sauce.
The saltiness and sharpness from the tamari, vinegar, and ginger in the rice is going to tone down that sweetness and bring all the flavors together!
The sauce will thicken up a bit when added to the pan with the tofu, so don’t worry if it looks watery.
If you have a high speed blender like a Vitamix, it’s not necessary to soak the cashews first. But if you are using a food processor or other blender, soak the cashews in water overnight at room temp. If you’re in a hurry, you can instead pour boiling water over the cashews and soak for two hours.
Pro tip: to remove the cabbage leaves without tearing them, cut the base off the cabbage first, then pull away the leaves starting at the base.
Use whatever veggie toppings you like. I chose shredded carrots, bean sprouts, green onion, and sesame seeds.
The number of servings will depend on the size of your cabbage, but this recipe will generally create 4-6 lettuce cups for 2-3 people.Print
Cashews, maple syrup, and coconut milk are the heroes of the sticky sauce – and it’s all gluten free!
- 1 block extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
- 3 tbsp arrowroot powder*
- 1/4 cup grapeseed oil**
- 1 tbsp grapeseed oil
- 1/2 yellow onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1” piece of ginger, minced
- 1 cup cooked white rice
- 1 tsp rice vinegar
- 1 tsp + 3 tbsp tamari
- 1 cup cashews***
- ⅓ cup coconut milk
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tsp chili paste
- 6 cabbage leaves
- Suggested toppings: shredded carrot, bean sprouts, green onion, & sesame seeds
*You can substitute cornstarch if you’re not gluten free but I prefer arrowroot powder anyway because the coating stays on the tofu better, and it’s less processed than cornstarch.
**Grapeseed oil is good for frying because of its high heat tolerance, unlike olive oil. Vegetable or canola oil can also work for frying.
***You do not need to soak the cashews first if you have a high speed blender like a Vitamix. But if you are using a food processor or other blender, soak the cashews overnight at room temp.
- Cut the tofu block into small cubes about ½” thick and place in a medium sized bowl.
- Use a rubber scraper to gently fold the arrowroot powder into the tofu, coating each piece evenly.
- Pour oil into a large frying pan until the bottom is completely coated to ensure you have enough for frying. I’ve suggested ¼ cup but it depends on the size of your pan. Heat on medium-high. Don’t add the tofu until the oil is very hot. The oil will start to shimmer when ready.
- Carefully add your tofu to the frying pan a few pieces at a time. It should sizzle. If it doesn’t, wait another 30 seconds or so for the oil to heat up before adding the rest of the tofu. Do not crowd the pan, or the tofu will stick together. Ideally the tofu pieces shouldn’t touch each other. Fry in batches if your pan isn’t large enough.
- Fry the tofu for 5 minutes, flip, and fry for another 5 minutes. The outside should be golden brown.
- Transfer to a wire rack and let cool while you prepare the rice. Cooling before adding sauce helps the tofu stay crispy!
- In a medium frying pan, heat 1 tbsp oil over low heat and add the diced onion. Sprinkle with salt and cook on low for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and translucent but not browned.
- Add the garlic and ginger, and stir for 30 seconds. Then add the cooked rice and increase heat to medium-low. Cook for another 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.
- Add the vinegar and 1 tbsp tamari to the pan and stir. This will add flavor and help loosen any stuck on rice from the bottom of the pan. Cover with a lid to keep warm, and set aside.
- Combine all sticky cashew sauce ingredients in a high speed blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
- To reheat the tofu and sauce, take your large frying pan that you used to fry the tofu and remove any excess oil so that there is just a thin coating on the bottom. Heat on medium-low, and add the tofu back to the pan. Pour in the sauce and gently stir to coat all pieces evenly.
- Cook for 1 minute on each side.
- Combine rice and tofu in individual cabbage leaves and add toppings.
To remove individual cabbage leaves without breaking them, cut the base of the cabbage off first. Pull the leaves off starting at the base.