I will admit, I’m no expert when it comes to African cuisine, but this recipe for Congo Tofu has been a family favorite for so long, I absolutely had to share! It’s got crispy chunks of tofu swimming in a creamy, peanut-y, tomato-y sauce that is amazingly delicious and pretty darn easy to make!
It’s also packed with nutrition and is 100% vegan and gluten-free!
What is Congo Tofu?
Congo Tofu is the veganized version of Congo Chicken, also known as Moambe Chicken. This is the national dish of both the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo (they are actually two separate countries divided by the Congo river). These countries are very poor and rely on certain staples such as yams, taro, maize, manioc, tomatoes, peas, peanuts, and a variety of wild vegetables and herbs to round out their diet. They actually eat very little meat because it is to expensive.
The people of Congo use these staple ingredients in many types of delicious stews. They are served with a starch, such as fufu, or ugail, which is made from mashed cassava or corn flour. The consistency is like a soft dough that is firm enough to use as a dipping vehicle for the stew.
How did I come up with Congo Tofu?
I will be honest and tell you that I am not the first person to come up with Congo Tofu. And in fact, I want to acknowledge that I do not claim that this is an authentic recipe. I have never been to Congo, and I am no expert in African cuisine. But I do love to find inspiration from all kinds of sources, which I usually tweek a bit to mine and my family’s taste. I have made this recipe countless times over the years because my family loves it! But over time, I have changed the recipe here and there to truly make it my own.
I first discovered a recipe for Congo Tofu when my son’s elementary school class learned all about Africa. At the end of the year, they had a classroom potluck where everyone had to bring an African dish to eat. We were vegetarian at the time, so I had to find a recipe without meat. I did some searching online and found Congo Tofu. We made it and it was a hit!
*This was before schools started banning anything with peanuts in it.
Not only was it a hit in the classroom, but it was a hit at home! Even my non-vegan partner who used to tell me “I don’t like tofu” requests it pretty regularly! It’s been a family favorite now for close to 20 years!
Can you replace any of the ingredients in Congo Tofu?
I use tofu to replace the chicken in this recipe, but you could also use a chicken-style meat replacement found in most grocery stores. Go for one that is not breaded but is simply a shredded or chunk style. Or, you may opt for simply adding more chickpeas. There are already chickpeas in the recipe, but you could add more if you don’t have tofu or faux chicken on hand.
The type of tomato sauce you use can also vary. I like to use a combination of plain tomato sauce with some herbs added along with some jarred marinara. I usually have a half jar of marinara in my fridge, so it is very convenient. You could also just use a whole jar of marinara, or a large can of tomato sauce with some Italian herbs (basil, oregano, thyme, marjoram, etc…) and maybe some crushed garlic or garlic powder. I also suggest adding a little tomato paste if you are going this route to round out the flavor.
I like to add some sriracha for some kick, but if you don’t like spicy food, just leave it out, or replace it with some mild paprika. You could also use some other type of hot sauce if you don’t have sriracha. I also like to add turmeric for its health benefits, but it really doesn’t add much flavor-wise, so feel free to leave it out if you don’t have any. This is a very versatile recipe, so don’t worry about exact measurements or switching out some of the spices! Just taste as you go along to be sure that you are getting some good flavors in there!
You can also add various vegetables to the stew. I really love to add mushrooms, but if you don’t care for them, leave them out. You could add diced carrots, bell peppers, or some greens like spinach, chard or kale. You could even add broccoli or cauliflower. The possibilities are endless!
You can also make this without the chickpeas by replacing with an additional 1/2 cup peanut butter. It will have more calories and a stronger peanut flavor, but it is still super yummy!
Can I replace the peanut butter in this recipe?
It definitely won’t taste the same, but you can achieve a similar flavor and texture by using cashew butter or sunflower butter. I haven’t tried it with almond butter, but I imagine it wouldn’t be too bad!
Convert a tofu-hater into a tofu-LOVER!
When I first started dating my partner, Jack, he told me “I don’t like tofu”. What a way to start a relationship! 🙂 Well, I soon converted him from a tofu-hater to a tofu-lover, and now Congo Tofu is a recipe that he request quite frequently!
So if you have a tofu-hater in the house, or know someone who is on the fence about it, or if you or your loved ones have never tried tofu – this is a great recipe to try! It tastes like a restaurant-style meal but it’s easy to make and uses really simple ingredients. It will probably become a favorite in your household too!
Watch the video to see how it’s made!
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Congo Tofu – West African-Inspired Peanut Stew
This recipe is inspired by the national dish of the Congos. Crispy tofu bites float in a creamy and delicious stew that is 100% vegan and gluten-free. Even the biggest tofu skeptic will love it!
- 1 package extra firm or firm tofu
- 1-3 Tbsp vegetable oil*
- 1 medium-large yellow or white onion
- 3-5 cloves minced or pressed garlic
- 2 Tbsp fresh minced ginger 1-2 inch piece, peeled
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms or other veggies*
- 1/2-1 jar marinara sauce*
- 1-2 can crushed or diced tomatoes* + 1/4 cup tomato paste *
- 1/2 cup peanut butter
- 1 can chickpeas divide the can in half
- 1 Tbsp Italian seasonings* optional
- 2 Tbsp sriracha sauce
- 1-2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1-2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- chopped cilantro or parsley optional topping
- crushed peanuts optional topping
- salt to taste
You will first need to press the tofu to remove any excess moisture. I do this by wrapping the block of tofu in a clean dish towel and placing on a plate. Place something heavy, such as a cast iron pan, on top in order to press the moisture out of the tofu. Leave it pressing for at least 5 minutes, but ideally 10-15 minutes.
While the tofu is pressing, you can chop the onions, garlic and other veggies.
Once the tofu is pressed, you can either fry it or air-fry it. Cut the tofu into cubes.
If you are frying it, add 1-2 Tbsp of oil to a hot skillet on medium-high. Add the cubes to the oil and spread them out, but don't stir them until they are browned on the bottom. Give them a stir, trying to get the un-browned sides down so they crisp up. Once they are browned on at least three sides, remove them from the pan and place on a plate or bowl lined with a paper towel. Set aside.
If you want to air-fry the tofu, just lightly spray the cubes or coat them with some oil (optional but recommended). Place in the air fryer and cook at 400F degrees for 10 minutes. Give them a shake and cook for about 5 more minutes or until crispy.
Heat about 1 Tbsp. of oil in a large saucepan. ( I usually use a 2" deep cast-iron skillet). Sautee the onions, garlic, ginger, and a pinch of salt until translucent. If you are adding mushrooms or other veggies, add them now and cook for 3-5 minutes.
Add the marinara, tomato sauce, sriracha, and the additional spices. Please see the notes below on options for this.
While the tomato sauce is simmering, you will be making a paste with the peanut butter and 1/2 your chickpeas.
To make the paste, it will be easiest if you have a food processor. If you don't have a processor or high-power blender, mash your chickpeas as finely as you can and mix with the peanut butter. The end texture will be a little more chunky, but that's okay!
If you do have a processor, simply add the chickpeas and peanut butter and blend. You may need to add up to a 1/2 cup of water to get a somewhat creamy texture. (watch the video to see the desired texture)
Add the paste to the tomato sauce and stir until it melts in and is fully incorporated.
Add the rest of your chickpeas and simmer another 5-10 minutes.
Add salt to taste.
If you would like to add some greens, such as spinach or kale, add them in the last 5 minutes.
Sprinkle with chopped cilantro or parsley and some crushed peanuts. Add more sriracha if you want some more heat! Serve with rice or flatbread, or try your hand at some Fufu! (I haven't tried that one yet!) Enjoy!
*Notes on tomato sauce/marinara/tomato paste –
I like to use a combination of marinara and tomato sauce. I just find that it tastes really good and I don’t have to add much additional salt. If you only have a jar of marinara, use that. If you only have canned tomatoes, use those, but you will need two cans and you may want to add some tomato paste and Italian seasonings such as basil, oregano, and thyme to round out the flavor. You will probably also need a little extra sauce. Taste it toward the end and add as needed.
*Note on vegetable oil – If you don’t want to use oil, you can sautee your veggies in a little water or vegetable broth. You can also air-fry the tofu without oil. I like to lightly spray the tofu with oil to make it a bit crispier.
Please see the blog post for other ingredient swaps.