Get tips for cooking with tofu and tofu recipe ideas for your vegan and vegetarian cooking.
Tofu is one of those ingredients everybody loves on salads, in stir-frys, or plain on a burger, you name it. Actually, for most people, tofu ranks right below canned spinach and right before overdone Brussels sprouts on their list of favorite foods. The problem is that on its own, tofu doesn’t have much taste and it’s soft and mushy.
Tofu is good and good for you
If tofu was bad for you, that would be the end of it. However, the opposite is true. Tofu is packed with protein while having far fewer calories and far less fat than animal-based protein sources. It also has been shown to lower bad levels of cholesterol and it may decrease the side effects of menopause.
Of course, keep in mind some studies warn against over consumption of soy, but you can try cooking tofu at least once or twice a week.
How to cook with tofu
Still, tofu is soft and mushy. This is a problem, but with a little know how and a very little amount of effort, you can make terrific tofu.
How you may ask? Making great tofu requires three things: the right tofu, the right preparation, and the right dish.
Selecting the right tofu
The first and most important step is selecting the right tofu. At the store, you can find silken tofu, medium tofu, firm tofu, extra firm tofu, and sometimes soft tofu.
Ignore everything except the extra firm tofu. If you have no other choice, you may buy firm tofu, but buy one of those two.
Pressing the tofu
Next, good tofu dishes require good preparation, which can be broken down into two steps: pressing the tofu and cutting it. First, pressing. Tofu has a lot of water in it and that water doesn’t taste good so it has to go. If you have an hour or so before dinner, the best way to press it is to wrap the tofu in a towel, put a cookie sheet on top of it and place several cans on top of that. Over the next hour, the water will slowly be pushed out.
Of course, you may not have an hour. In this case, pick the tofu up and press it gently between your hands until some of the water comes out.
Cutting the tofu
Next comes the cutting. Slice tofu into rectangles about two inches long by one inch wide and one-quarter inch thick (you should be able to make about 36 rectangles with the standard size of most tofu brands). These dimensions are important because one-quarter inch is about how thick the tofu needs to be to cook all the way through and not be soft and mushy.
Too much thicker than that and the middle will not firm up and the tofu will have an soft texture.
Cooking the tofu
Lastly, it is time to cook the dish. If you are cooking a recipe specifically written for tofu, follow it. If not, precook the tofu by heating some oil over medium-high heat and sautéing it for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or deep frying it. Deep fried tofu or pan fried tofu has a very non-tofu texture, which is a good thing if you think you don’t like tofu.
Also, pay attention to the type of dish in which the tofu will be eaten. If you are not sure about tofu, find a recipe where it can play a supporting role like a vegetable stir-fry or an Indian curry. The other flavors will take attention from the tofu and let people accept it more gradually.
Armed with these tofu cooking tips, let’s look at a tofu recipe. This is an Indian dish, which may sound strange at first, but tofu is often used to replace paneer cheese in vegan versions of Indian dishes.
Yellow Curry Tofu and Vegetables Recipe
- 6 tablespoons vegetable or coconut oil (divided)
- One block tofu, pressed and cut as above
- 1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 2 tablespoons mild yellow curry powder
- 1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
- 8-ounces frozen peas
- Heat the oil over a medium-high flame and add the tofu. Sauté 3 to 4 minutes until golden brown and firm. Set aside.
- While the tofu is sautéing, start the cauliflower boiling in well-salted water. Let it boil for 10 minutes, then pour out the water. Set aside.
- Put the rest of the oil in a skillet and let it get hot over high heat. Sauté the onion with a pinch of salt for 8 minutes, or until it starts to turn clear. Lower the heat and add the curry powder, tofu, and cauliflower. Mix well, then add the broth. Cook for 4 minutes and then add the peas. Cook until the broth has mostly evaporated and is thick.
- Serve with rice and naan or pita bread.