Instant pot hot and sour soup with tofu and vegetables swimming in a spicy, sour, salty broth is an amazingly rejuvenating, low-calorie, plant-based soup. It's Instant pot super-quick (stovetop directions provided). And you can modify this soup by adding different veggies, beans, or even noodles.
There is nothing more satisfying than spoonful after spoonful of a slurpy broth-based soup, so flavorful, you are tempted to tilt the bowl into your mouth. And if that soup is uncomplicated, and you can whip it up in your Instant pot, then I think we should all jump on board.
Simple, nourishing broth-based soups are classics. The varieties of cuisines, ingredients, flavors, even traditions are far too numerous to count. This soup recipe is no exception. It's based on my love of traditional hot and sour soup from long ago. This version is plant-based, made without additional oil, and in my opinion, better than what I used to get at restaurants.
Vegetable stock – stock is the foundation for a soup like this. Whether you use a premade stock, homemade veggie broth, or veggie cubes, be sure you use the best quality with the most flavor.
Vegetable stock is a composition of onions, carrots, and celery (mirepoix) with added aromatics (spices, herbs, garlic). Other ingredients such as mushrooms or tomatoes are sometimes added depending on the aim of the stock flavor.
When buying stock, just like a recipe, start with the ingredients. You should be able to pronounce and recognize each one.
Stock is traditionally made without salt. Because many of us use vegetable broth in place of stock (it’s slightly different), you may be adding salt. Be mindful and use a low-sodium soy sauce if necessary.
Purchase organic stock if possible and avoid unnecessary pesticides and GMOs. Avoid MSG, so-called natural flavorings, or dehydrated vegetables.
Ensure that there is no oil added. Oil is sometimes slipped in to make broths thicker and appear richer. It's also used to help form cubes.
Soy sauce – Soy sauce is more than just salty. It has a classic umami flavor that is even a bit sweet. I used a standard soy sauce, but if you use dark or Tamari (gluten-free alternative), you may want to add ⅓ of a cup to begin and then add more after you’ve tasted the soup base.
Rice vinegar – Rice vinegar is on the sweet side of vinegar, and adding a pop of bright sour flavor without adding the high acid of other vinegar.
Chili paste – I used Sriracha because, admittedly, if I can, I’m using it. Sriracha has a uniquely hot, sweet, and garlicky flavor. It is a convenient addition to dressings (check out sriracha-tahini salad dressing), as a spice-up for ketchup, or anywhere you want a little flavorful spice.
Despite my love of Sriracha, I admit that there are other chili pastes out there. Sambal oelek, for example, is plant-based compliant and will deliciously spice up your soup. Even a favorite hot sauce will work.
Steer clear of any chili sauce or paste that contains chipotle or smoky flavors, fruits, or other distinguishing tastes that could impact the flavor of the soup. In a pinch, you can add red chili flakes or a sliced red chili.
Fresh ginger – Along with the chili paste, ginger brings spicy heat. It just does it with an entirely different plant. You only need a little ginger to add zingy warmth and peppery flavor.
Go for fresh ginger. You will not get the same bold flavor using dried, ground ginger. Alternatively, you can find jars of prepared minced ginger. This will save you a few steps, or when the only fresh ginger root you can locate is too large or too old.
Ground pepper – The last of the hot is ground pepper, but it’s not least. Pepper is too often an ingredient we save for a throw-away comment "salt and pepper to taste." We need pepper here to add another dimension of heat.
Tofu – The tofu adds protein and texture, but for that last past, not being a superfan of softer tofu, I made the cubes small. Once you cook them in the broth, they embrace that flavor.
Be sure that you press the tofu or buy the super-firm kind that is ready to be cubed and dropped into the soup.
Hints for pressing tofu
20 minutes to press tofu is a guideline. It really depends on whether you use a super-firm (no pressing), a firm, or a 'regular.' The texture varies by brand and designation. Your experience counts here.
Use a tofu press – there are tons available. Alternatively, wrap the tofu in a paper towel and place it between 2 flat surfaces. Place something heavy on top to help get the moisture out quicker.
I usually cut tofu in half or into quarters to help get a more even press. Don’t cut it too small, or it could flatten under the pressure of being pressed.
Mushrooms - Chestnut mushrooms, which are brown button mushrooms, are my go-to toadstools. They tend to be a bit firmer with less moisture than the white mushrooms.
You can use any kind of mushrooms or a mix. Toss in a few shiitake if you’re so inclined.
Scallions – Don’t toss the green tops. Use them! Slice the scallions (green onions) on the bias (at an angle). You don’t want them too big, so aim for ½ an inch, more or less.
Scallions are really mellow, so if you need a substitute, shallots are probably your best bet. Yellow onions are stronger than scallions, so you may want to add less if you use them.
Carrots – Because we are only lightly cooking the vegetables, the carrots will remain crisp. You can cut the carrot into 1-inch (or so) matchsticks or dice them. I like the visual of the matchsticks, but the flavor of the soup won't be impacted by the cut.
Bamboo shoots – It’s a bit niggly, but it’s easier to get the bamboo shoots in your spoon and hence, your mouth if you cut them into thinner strips.
Make the cutting process quicker by stacking them and then slicing them into strips. It’s a quick method, and now, you'll get more bamboo shoot bites per bowl. Always a good thing.
Mung bean sprouts – I never promised tradition. Bean sprouts are not usually used in hot and sour soup. But seriously, the crisp, delicate flavor is too yummy to pass up. Just ask my Thai Brussels sprouts with noodles or Asian rice noodle salad.
To keep your slurping mess to a minimum, I advise doing a quick chop of the bean sprouts, aiming to cut them in half. Don’t get precious. The pieces don't need to be perfect. It’s just about making them easier to eat with a spoon.
Cornstarch – A slurry of cornstarch and water is added at the end of cooking to thicken the soup. You can also use arrowroot powder in the same amount.
This is still a broth-based soup, so when I suggest thickening, it adds body to the soup and helps the broth cling to the tofu and veggies.
There are three easy steps for making this soup.
- Start by making the hot and sour broth. Add the broth, soy sauce, rice vinegar, chili paste, ginger, and pepper. Give them a quick stir after adding them to the Instant Pot, seal the lid, set the valve to the sealing position, and then cook it on PRESSURE for 2 minutes. Release the pressure and remove the IP lid. This is enough time to allow the flavors to build a flavorful soup base.
- Add the vegetables and tofu, give them a stir, then replace the lid, set the valve to sealing, and cook on PRESSURE mode for 3 minutes. Release the pressure valve, and remove the IP lid.
- Once you give the soup a stir, mix in the slurry, add the lid and cook on Sauté for 1 minute. Be sure that you stir the slurry before adding it to ensure that there are no cornstarch lumps.
As an entirely plant-based soup prepared without oil, this hot and sour soup recipe provides substantial nutritional value with minimal calories, low fat, and no saturated fat.
Adzuki beans (azuki/aduki) are firm, dark brown beans often used in Asian cooking. They can be substituted for tofu in this hot and sour soup recipe. Add a can of rinsed adzuki beans to the Instant Pot along with the vegetables.
Stock is intended to be a foundational ingredient in a recipe for which other ingredients and flavors may be added. Broths are more highly seasoned with a more definitive flavor. Broth and stock are often used interchangeably. However, when you use broth, you may need to adjust the salt or other seasonings.
Yes – branding. Whether it's labeled with 'wine' or not, both products are identical. Rice vinegar is made by fermenting rice into sugar that turns into alcohol and continuing the fermentation process to create acid (vinegar).
Other super soups
Instant Pot hot and sour soup
Instant pot hot and sour soup with spicy, sour, savory broth, tofu, and veggies is an amazingly rejuvenating, low-calorie, plant-based soup.
- Prep Time: 15 min
- Cook Time: 10 min
- Total Time: 25 minutes
- Yield: 6 1x
- Category: soups
- Cuisine: Asian
- Diet: Vegan
- 6 cups vegetable broth
- ½ cup soy sauce or Tamari
- ½ cup rice vinegar
- 2 - 3 tsp. chili paste (Sriracha or another you prefer)
- 1 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
- 1 tsp. ground black pepper
- 10 oz. (280 gm.) firm tofu
- 1 lb. button mushrooms (brown preferred)
- 7 scallions (green onions)
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
- 1 – 8 oz. (225 gm.) can bamboo shoots, sliced into matchsticks
- 10 oz. (300 gm.) bean sprouts, rinsed and chopped in half
- 3 Tbsp. of cornstarch (or arrowroot powder)
- ¼ cup of water
- Start by pressing the tofu. Remove it from the package, rinse it, and press it. Use a tofu press or wrap it in a paper towel and place it between 2 flat surfaces and weigh the top. Allow the tofu to press for 20 minutes.
- While the tofu is pressing, gather and prep all the ingredients. Since they go into the pot simultaneously, you can place the mushrooms, scallions, bamboos shoots, and carrots in one bowl. Set them aside until you are ready.
- In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch with ¼ cup of water. Set aside.
- When the tofu has pressed, cut into small cubes (about ½ inch).
- Insert the inner pot inside your Instant Pot and plug it in.
- Add the vegetable broth, soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, chili paste, and pepper.
- Close the lid and set the valve to the Sealing position.
- Cook on HIGH-PRESSURE Cook Mode for 2 minutes.
- Once the timer goes off, follow QPR (quick pressure release). Open the lid.
- Add the vegetables and tofu. Mix all the ingredients.
- Cover with the lid. Cook on PRESSURE Mode for 3 minutes.
- When the timer goes off, follow QPE (quick pressure release). Open the lid. Stir the soup.
- Give the cornstarch slurry a quick stir before adding it to the pot.
- Place the lid back on the pot and cook on SAUTE for 1 minute. Remove the IP lid and stir the soup.
- Adjust the flavors (soy sauce or rice vinegar).
- Serve hot.
- To make hot and sour soup on the stove, add all the ingredients for the broth to a soup pot. Bring them to a boil, then reduce the heat to a slow simmer, cover the pot and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the vegetables and tofu, cover the soup, and simmer for 15 minutes. Mix in the slurry and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Rice vinegar and rice wine vinegar are the same product with different labeling. Use either for this recipe.
Keywords: Instant Pot hot and sour soup