It is time for tofu to have its moment. We’ve said it countless times, and we’ll say it again: when it comes to tofu, it’s all in the preparation. Whether you’re a tofu beginner or just looking to mix up your typical tofu, here are nine vegan ways to make tofu fabulous. But first, what is it exactly? And why should you eat it?
What is tofu?
First eaten in China roughly 2,000 years ago, tofu has remained an ingredient staple for many people over the centuries. But as the vegan market booms, with more people going plant-based than ever before, it is rising in popularity. Right now, the global tofu market is worth around $2.9 billion, and by 2028, it could hit more than $3.6 billion.
But what is it, exactly? Well, tofu is very simple, as it’s made with just one ingredient: condensed soy milk. This is then pressed into blocks, and often, nigari (a salty seawater solution) is used as a coagulant to form the texture. There are a few different types of tofu. Silken, for example, is softer, while firm tofu is more compact. The type you need depends on the recipe you are following and the kind of texture you prefer.
What are the benefits of tofu?
Eating tofu comes with a few different benefits. Firstly, it’s packed with protein, and it contains vitamins and minerals, like copper, selenium, iron, and vitamin A. It’s also versatile, which means it can easily slot into many different recipes (as we will expand on below). Finally, it’s a more ethical and environmentally friendly alternative to meat, as it doesn’t require the farming or slaughter of any animals. According to the BBC’s climate change food calculator, which was based on University of Oxford research, eating tofu once or twice a week contributes around 12kg to a person’s annual emissions, while eating the same amount of beef adds 604kg.
How to cook with tofu, plus 9 vegan tofu recipes
Tofu is an incredibly versatile ingredient. It can be used to replace meat or eggs in a variety of recipes, depending on how you cook with it. Here are 9 tasty ways to prepare tofu next time you’re feeling hungry.
1 Fry it
Sweet or savory, most foods can be exponentially improved when fried. A quick pan-fry is all you need to create golden nuggets that are crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. Coat a cast iron or frying pan with high-heat oil (try safflower or grapeseed), turn the heat on high, and fry bite-sized bits of extra-firm tofu on each side until golden brown. During the last few minutes of cooking, drizzle on sesame oil, soy sauce, and salt and pepper to taste.
Try it in a recipe: Perfect Pan-Fried Tofu by A Couple Cooks
2 Scramble it
Tofu has the ability to miraculously mimic scrambled eggs when prepared correctly. You can keep it simple with just a bit of seasoning and diced onion or create a dinner-worthy tofu scramble packed with veggies and spices. There are a thousand ways to scramble tofu, and the beauty is it’s hard to go wrong.
Try it in a recipe: Tofu Scramble by The Vegan Rhino
3 Sautée it
A quick vegetable stir-fry or sautée is an easy way to get dinner on the table and use up any leftover produce. Amp up the satiety level by adding diced firm or extra-firm tofu. It will crisp up on the edges and take on whatever seasonings or sauces you add. Who doesn’t love a good one-pan wonder?
Try it in a recipe: Cashew Tofu Stir Fry by Vegan Richa
4 Marinate it
Allowing tofu to sit in a homemade or store-bought marinade is one of the best ways to impart flavor all the way through this soy-based sponge. Once it takes on your marinade of choice, it’s up to you to decide how to cook it—sautéeing, baking or grilling are all fabulous options. Another option is to not cook it at all. The recipe below makes for an outstanding tofu-based feta cheese, and all it takes is a two-hour soak and three ingredients.
Try it in a recipe: Vegan Tomato Cucumber Feta Salad by Veggies Save the Day
5 Grill it
When the weather is right, we fire up the grill. Extra-firm tofu takes on the smokey flavors of a grill beautifully, and those char marks serve as both a tasty visual and a true flavor enhancer. Try smothering your grilled tofu with barbecue sauce or coating it with your favorite vegan dry rub. Pro tip: you can replicate the texture of an outdoor grill indoors by searing tofu in a cast-iron skillet.
Try it in a recipe: Grilled BBQ Tofu by the Buddist Chef
6 Bread it
Nuggets are trending, and breaded tofu bites are an easy way to replicate vegan chicken nuggets at home. You can also slice extra-firm tofu thin and make a tofu piccata, served in a pool of marinara sauce. Bonus: breading is an easy way to disguise tofu, making it an ideal preparation technique when serving tofu to the skeptics.
Try it in a recipe: Breaded Buffalo Tofu by Sarah’s Vegan Kitchen
7 Crumble it
With a jar of vegan mayonnaise or a pinch of select spices, a bland block of firm tofu can transform into cheesy ricotta or a spoil-free egg salad. For the latter, mix crumbled tofu with a few dollops of mayo, nutritional yeast, and your favorite egg salad add-ins (mustard, celery, salt and pepper, etc). To make a versatile ricotta, crumble tofu with fresh or dried herbs, nutritional yeast, garlic, vinegar, and lemon juice. See the recipes below for the step-by-step instructions.
Try it in a recipe: Vegan Egg Salad by It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken and Easy Vegan Tofu Ricotta by Running on Real Food
8 Soup it
Tofu is a sponge—it takes on the flavors that surround it. What better way to impart flavor than to submerge it in a flavorful broth? Bulk up simple miso soup with a few cubes of soft tofu or make a one-pot wonder with a hearty Korean tofu soup packed with spices and vegetables. The basic rule of thumb: if you have a clear broth, you can add tofu and expect it to be delicious.
Try it in a recipe: One Box of Soon Tofu Soup by the Korean Vegan
9 Bake it
Tofu. Croutons. Need we say more? Seasoned, baked cubes of tofu magically transform boring salads and simple creamy soups into satisfying meals. Store any leftovers in the fridge to instantly add texture and protein to any dish.
Try it in a recipe: Tofu Croutons by Happy Healthy Life