Brilliant Ways to Spice Up your Tofu Game
I remember my first experience with tofu, as if it was yesterday: I was about 14 years old, when Mom and I had been to the store, and bought the extra firm kind - practically clueless on how to prepare, but brave enough to try. We belonged to the kind of people that really wanted to like tofu, so we were excited about this premiere. I recall thinking that it looked like a spongy white block of curd, being all wet and mushy when I took it out of the package. We simply sliced it up and pan-fried it without much ado. You can imagine how the rest of the story went. Let´s just say I never had a single bite of tofu for the rest of my teen years…
That was 10 years ago. Much has changed since then. When I went on a fully plant-based diet I decided to give tofu one more chance. I went to a vegetarian restaurant and courageously ordered a tofu burger with a guacamole topping and a side dish of sweet potato fries. And what a surprise! This deliciously spicy and crunchy baked burger patty had really nothing to do with the spongy, tasteless cubes I remembered.
It took me some time to learn to cook it properly myself. But today I love tofu. Whether it is the type that's already marinated and herb infused, so I simply have to chop it up and add it to my salad, or the firm (or extra firm) kind, that requires a little more work. Tofu is for me today what cheese and chicken were before my non-vegan days. I can't imagine living without it!
The Right Techniques Make Tofu a Versatile Ingredient
It is worth taking a look at the health benefits of adding tofu to your diet. It is a wonderful source of easy digestible protein, and therefore the perfect alternative to red meat or chicken. Especially vegans, vegetarians and those looking to move towards a more plant-based diet, will benefit from the fact that tofu contains about 8 g of protein per 100 g! Tofu is easy on your stomach, low in calories, naturally gluten-free, dairy-free, and low in fat! Tofu is also an excellent source of iron and calcium. Studies have suggested that adding more plant-based foods like tofu to your diet decreases the risk of obesity, and promotes health inside and out.
Tofu is simply a way of turning the boring soybean into something that, with proper cooking, is savoury (or sweet) and nutritious, with a subtle flavor, and a range of appetizing textures. It is, as it turns out, really just a matter of the right technique, and more importantly, the right marinade. Since Tofu doesn't have a strong taste itself, it easily takes on the flavour of other ingredients, which makes it easy to be spiced, cooked, baked, fried or grilled. Nowadays, you can buy tofu marinated, smoked, and pressed into little sausages or patties; great choices for the lazy days, or if you don't have enough time to prepare a meal yourself. From time to time, I like to make myself a smoked tofu sandwich with veggies. It is an easy and quick way to eat healthy, even if you don't have much time. With five or ten minutes more to spare, I will show you how to prepare delicious tofu dishes yourself!
Preparing Tofu is Super Easy!
First Step: Get the right tofu! Tofu comes in different forms: silken, soft, firm and extra firm. Silken tofu works well in creamy and blended foods, like smoothies, desserts, puddings, salad dressings, sauces, and dips. It can also be used as an egg substitute in baking. Soft tofu is the Chinese-style equivalent of silken tofu. It is slightly less smooth, but can generally be used in the same way. Firm tofu is the way to go if you are looking to fry it. It absorbs flavors well and is also great crumbled, like in tofu scramble. Extra firm tofu holds its shape well, and is excellent for slicing, cubing, and all kinds of frying. It can be baked, grilled, crumbled, and used like ground meat. The more solid the tofu is, the more difficult it can be to add flavor to it. Step Two: Drain it. Tofu is packaged in water, which keeps it fresh, but for cooking you want to get rid of it! The liquid prevents the marinade and spices from being soaked up. When you open a package of tofu, empty the water out of the package. Now you need to drain the tofu. I wrap it in paper towels, and put it between two plates for about 20 min, or up to an hour. It turns out to be a really easy and effective way to drain tofu. Step Three: Cook it.
Why not get a little fancy in the kitchen, and whip up a handy marinade to soak your tofu in before preparing it in a recipe? The right marinade can definitely take your tofu game to the next level. For the beginning, try an easy soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar combination. Later you can go on to the fancier stuff, like sriracha and peanut butter, or tikka masala marinade. If you skip the oil in your marinade, it will create an oil slick on top of the tofu, and prevent the spices to soak in. Marinate the tofu for at least an hour before using it. Of course, the longer you let it soak, the more flavors it absorbs. If possible, keep your tofu in the fridge to marinate overnight.
Tofu is the perfect choice for the grill! Marinated and simply cooked until grill marks appear, it is a perfect and super healthy way to get through the BBQ season! It doesn't take more than 5 to 7 minutes each side for a deliciously crispy result.
Nothing is easier than deep-frying tofu - though it might not be the lightest version. Cut the tofu into cubes, dip it in non-dairy milk, then coat it with seasoned flour, bread crumbs, or cornflakes. Fry it until it’s brown and crispy. The tofu will taste super moist and tender on the inside, and have a delicious crunchy coating on the outside. This is the one that makes even tofu haters come around.
You can do this with plain or marinated tofu. Cut the tofu in slices, and fry them in a preferably heavy cast iron skillet over moderate heat, until it turns deep brown and crispy on both sides.
You have extra firm tofu in the fridge and don´t know what to do with it? Heat up the oven and throw some cubed tofu on a baking tray! Whether marinated or just tossed in cornstarch to get an extra crunchy result, baked tofu is super delicious and really magical! When hot out of the oven, it's crispy on the outside and creamy in the middle. Nothing better than adding baked tofu to your salad - or just enjoy it with a dip!
Yes, sweet tofu is a thing! It is so easy to turn it into a healthy dessert! Sounds weird? Not at all! I love to fry firm tofu with syrup and cinnamon, or create chocolate pudding with the soft kind!
If you are still skeptical whether tofu could be your thing or not, here's some recipes to inspire your creativity. Check them out and try it yourself! You will be amazed!
Recipe 1: Scrambled Tofu
The Healthy and Protein-Rich Alternative to Scrambled Eggs
By now you have noticed that I have a thing for tofu. Once you have cooked this recipe yourself, I think you will understand why! The taste is freakishly close to „the real thing“. People who don't like eggs or exclude them from their diet for ethical reasons, might be unsettled. The secret lies in a special spice: Kala Namak, a black salt with an egg-like scent. Add a little curcuma for a yellow colour, and anyone could confuse this for scrambled eggs.
- 200 g firm tofu
- a pinch of kala namak
- 1/2 tsp curcuma
- 3 tbsp soy cream
- 1/2 onion, cut into little cubes
- 1 middle-sized tomato, cut into cubes
- 2 mushrooms, cut into cubes
- some chive
- Drain your tofu as described above.
- Use a fork to crumble the tofu into bite-sized pieces.
- Warm a large pan over medium heat. When hot, add 1-2 tbsp of olive oil, the onion, tomato and mushrooms. Season with kala namak, pepper and stir. Cook until softened - not more than 3 minutes.
- Add the tofu crumbles and soy cream. Stir immediately, evenly distributing the cream. Cook for another 5 minutes, until the tofu is slightly brown.
- Add the curcuma and distribute it evenly until the whole dish has a nice yellow color.
- Serve immediately with toast, breakfast potatoes, or veggies.
Recipe 2: Vegan Chocolate Pudding
Sweet Pleasure Without Guilt
A chocolate pudding which is low in calories but high in protein? Without added industrial sugar and prepared in less than 5 minutes? It is not a dream it is your new reality! With this recipe you will create a healthy chocolaty dessert that will please any sweet tooth!
Ingredients : (2 servings)
- 200 g silken tofu
- 1 big, ripe banana
- 2 tbsp cocoa
- tbsp agave syrup
- a pinch of cinnamon
- a pinch of salt
- Toppings: coconut flakes, cocoa nibs, chia seeds or fruit
- Put all the ingredients into your blender and mix it up.
- Refrigerate for a couple of hours. It will be very liquid directly after preparation, but cooling it makes it firmer and more pudding-like.
- Pour the pudding in bowls, or nice jars, and serve it topped with coconut flakes or whatever you feel like. Enjoy!
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I hope I was able to make you want to try these recipes yourself! I am glad to have ignored the bad, first experience, and that I gave it another chance. Whether you are a tofu lover or still skeptical, leave me a comment below, and check out my blog (Link) for more delicious vegan recipes!
Best, Jennifer (: