Cold Tofu Recipe, A Non-Spicy & Easy Side Dish

cut pieces of cold tofu, topped with soy sauce, sesame and scallion dressing, served in a white bowl

This non-spicy cold tofu is an easy no-cook recipe to add an extra side dish that’s healthy, delicious, and nut-free. Season the tofu with soy sauce and sesame oil. It’s also possible to adapt this tofu salad to be free of top allergens as needed.

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Liangban dofu aka “Cold Salad Tofu”

My non-spicy cold tofu recipe is a variation of a Chinese dish called liangban dofu, which translates to cold salad tofu. I make this dish whenever I need a quick and easy side dish or when I need a no-cook dish because it’s too hot or I’m too tired.

I have a low tolerance for spicy foods because I end up feeling physically hot and/or uncomfortable. A typical liangban dofu dish will include some spicy chili bean paste or chili oil which spices up the mild tasting tofu.

My preferred way to season a cold tofu dish is to combine a dressing of soy sauce, sesame oil, and chopped scallions. Spoon it all over and then top with more fresh chopped scallions. People can add chili oil on the side as desired.

cut pieces of cold tofu, topped with soy sauce, sesame and scallion dressing, served in a white bowl with a serving spoon and fork on the side
This is a relatively straight-forward recipe to make. I usually serve this recipe with a serving spoon but added a fork in the image to add more complexity and authenticity to my image.

Which Type of Fresh Tofu to Use?

Buy tofu that is packaged fresh in a plastic container with water instead of tofu that’s marinated, smoked, etc.. This recipe is best with silken fresh tofu but I also use soft or medium tofu. Whatever you typically like and/or can buy is good is what will taste best to you.

I like Trader Joe’s Organic Tofu. The package no longer specifies the texture but I belive it is medium firmness. It is definitely soft enough to eat as-is and firm enough to pan fry. I love that it’s big (19 ounces!) and inexpensive.

Caveat: I avoid aseptically packaged tofu that is shelf-stable in a paper box. That type of packaging is usually manufactured on shared equipment with nuts. On the other hand, since it’s aseptic packaging, maybe there’s a low risk of cross-contact of nuts due to thorough cleaning. It’s hard to know the risk unless the manufacturer does allergen testing.

Drain the Tofu

When prepping the tofu, your ultimate goal is to drain the tofu so that the excess liquid doesn’t water down your sauce. Secondly, we want to serve the tofu salad cold or at room temperature, so allow some time for the tofu to cool down if you drain it faster by using a microwave or stovetop method. There are three different ways to drain the tofu depending on your preference.

  • The easiest way to drain the tofu is to cut slits on 2 sides of the tofu box and tip it over in a large bowl to drain for 10 minutes or so while you prepare the rest of your dinner. That’s how I drain tofu to make Pan Fried Tofu with Teriyaki Sauce.
  • Use your microwave for a slightly faster method. Drain the tofu and transfer it to a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 2 minutes. Then let the tofu cool to room temperature and the excess liquid will drain out in 10 minutes or so.
  • Stovetop method: If you don’t mind washing an extra pot, you can carefully parboil in water for 1-2 minutes and then drain or you can steam the tofu for a few minutes. The excess liquid will drain while the tofu cools to room temperature.
  • Some people use a tofu press. If you have one, you definitely can use it.

Allergy Aware Cold Tofu Salad

This recipe is free of peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, milk, fish, and shellfish as written. It’s also possible to adapt this recipe to be top 9 allergen free as needed.

People with a wheat allergy or gluten intolerance can substitute soy sauce with a gluten-free tamari sauce. I have a list of soy sauce alternatives.

The main allergen in tofu is soy but there are soy-free variations of tofu. Big Mountain Foods sent me some samples of their fava bean tofu previously and I was impressed. And if needed, you can also make some of my soy-free soy sauce to season whatever soy-free tofu you find.

The closest substitute for sesame that I like is sunflower seed butter. You might need to thin it out with a little bit of hot water. Otherwise, when my son was allergic to sesame oil, I simply omitted it from recipes.

Readers often ask which brand of sesame oil is nut-free. I like Kadoya, which is made in a sesame only facility and tastes great. You can also check out what’s in my cupboard for other ideas.

cold tofu topped with sesame oil, soy, and scallions are served in a white bowl
5 from 9 votes

Cold Tofu Recipe, A Non-Spicy and Easy Side Dish

This non-spicy cold tofu is a quick and easy way to add an extra side dish that's healthy and flavorful. This nut-free, no cook recipe is seasoned with soy sauce and sesame oil, but it is also easy to adapt to be top 8 or 9 allergen free recipe as needed (see blog post for details).

Course Appetizer, Side Dish
Cuisine Chinese
Keyword cold tofu, liangban dofu, tofu salad
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Author Sharon Wong


  • 1 19-ounce package tofu, medium texture or silken or soft
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce *
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions


  1. Drain the tofu for 10-20 minutes. Then cut in a 4×5 grid into 20 pieces.
  2. Combine the remaining ingredients and spoon over the cut tofu.

  3. When ready to eat, gently toss the tofu and dressing and serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

*This is the lower sodium option. If the rest of your meal is plain, then you can add up to an additional 1/2 teaspoon of soy sauce. 

Boxes of tofu can range in size between 12 to 19 ounces. Plan on 3 ounces per person as a side dish. 

cut pieces of cold tofu, topped with soy sauce, sesame and scallion dressing, served in a white bowl
I add the minimal amount of soy sauce to the dish but after you give it a little gentle toss right before eating, the tofu will be thoroughly coated with soy sauce, sesame oil, and chopped scallions.

Related Recipes You Might Like:

Besides this cold tofu recipe, we also like eating pan-fried tofu which is a nice tofu side dish. I like making Minced Beef with Tofu, Peas, and Oyster Sauce Recipe as a hearty main dish.

If you like super fast side dish recipes like this cold tofu salad, you might also like my recipe for Cucumber Salad with Soy & Sesame Dressing. It’s just as easy.

I dread cooking during the summer because my kitchen faces west and heats up. I like to make cold noodle salads like Hiyashi Chuka: Japanese Style Cold Noodle Salad because most of it can be prepped earlier in the day.

My other favorite fast and easy one-pot meal that everyone in the family enjoys is Pasta with Chicken Sausages, Tomato & Brie Recipe. It involves a little bit of cooking but it’s relatively fast and hands-free.

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About Sharon Wong 282 Articles
Welcome to Nut Free Wok, a blog about Allergy Aware Asian Fare. I hope that you will find my food allergy mom experiences helpful and enjoyable to read as I write about recipes, cooking techniques, Asian ingredients, and food allergy related awareness and advocacy issues. My professional experiences include education, teaching, and a little bit of science and computers. Thank you for visiting! ~Sharon Wong, M.Ed.


  1. 5 stars
    This was a great side dish for our dinner tonight!! It was easy to make and super satisfying. Even my picky kids enjoyed it and took seconds!

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