How To Cook Tofu
The many different types and styles of tofu make it an incredibly versatile food.
It can be enjoyed raw, baked, fried, simmered, crumbled into casseroles, in shakes, or stuffed into pasta.
The only limit is your imagination!
Tofu is a cooked food that is ready to eat out of the package. Indeed, many Japanese enjoy tofu sprinkled with just a bit of soy sauce. But that flavor and texture doesn't appeal to many Western tastes, so most cooks use various sauces and flavorings to create dishes that are more familiar.
A favorite is tofu salad. The basic recipe is pressed firm tofu, mayonnaise, and chopped vegetables served in a salad with lettuce or as a sandwich filling. You can make individual serving portions or for a crowd because this keeps in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
• Use firm or extra-firm water-packed tofu, slice, and drain. One 15-ounce block makes enough for 6-8 sandwiches.
• Dice half the tofu and crumble the rest.
• Place in a mixing bowl with 3-4 T. of mayo – or to taste.
• Add chopped green onions, shredded carrot, diced bell pepper, and/or diced celery. These add flavor, color, and crunch! You can add just a little or make it "very veggie" depending on your personal taste.
• Add even more flavor with curry, Mexican seasoning, spicy seasonings (such as Old Bay), or Greek seasoning. Since the tofu and mayo are rather bland flavors, they accept many different spices – and every one is delicious!
You can also add crumbled tofu to potato salad or egg salad for extra protein without extra fat.
Crumbled tofu looks a lot like cottage cheese and many cooks use it as a vegan substitute. Add it to lasagna, stuffed shells, or make it the centerpiece of stuffed mushrooms.
When you're using it as a cottage cheese supplement/substitute, there's no need to drain the tofu before using. Crumble firm tofu and mix into your stuffing mix.
Many cooks mix equal parts tofu and cottage cheese to make delicious, low-fat, high protein stuffed shells. Add garlic and Italian seasoning or pesto and you have a tasty mixture that works equally well for stuffed shells, baked ziti, or lasagna recipes. Your guests will never believe they're eating tofu!
But if you're comfortable with tofu and want to show it off, use it in stuffed mushrooms. It's a garlicky delight that can be served as an appetizer or over pasta for a main dish.
Stir Fried & Pan Fried Tofu
Generally, when most people think of tofu; it's stir-fried in Chinese or Asian-style dishes. Depending on the texture you want, either deep-fry or pan fry, but be sure to drain very well first. Hot oil and watery tofu do not go together!
Pan-fried tofu is good by itself as an appetizer. Just drain the tofu very well, cut into ½ inch slices, and pan fry in a lightly-oiled non-stick pan or well-seasoned iron skillet. Season to taste. Don't limit yourself to Asian flavors: Greek, Indian, Mexican, Italian flavors all lend themselves to fried tofu slices.
We like to use Mexican flavors for the tofu and serve it along with refried beans and fresh veggie garnishes.
• Heat the skillet and add 2-3T oil. For a lower fat recipe, you can spray non-stick cooking spray, but the tofu won't brown as well.
• When oil is hot (heat on high heat, then lower to medium), add tofu slices and sprinkle the top with whatever seasoning you like. Don't add soy sauce at this point; it burns and affects the taste of the tofu.
• Cook until they're brown on the bottom side, then turn.
• If you want an Asian flavor, splash soy sauce on the tofu about 10 seconds before you remove it from the pan. You'll get the flavor without the burned taste.
This is good eaten alone or on a sandwich.
For a more traditional tofu dish, try stir-frying it with your favorite vegetables.
Stir Fried Tofu & Vegetables
Cook the tofu first, set aside and drain while you cook the vegetables. The best thing about home-cooked stir-fry is that it's a great excuse to clean out the fridge. Thin-slice whatever vegetables strike your fancy and toss them in. Common ingredients include:
• Bell pepper
• Fresh hot pepper – jalapeno, serrano, green chile
Good stir-fry is all in the sauce, which can be spicy, sweet, hot, or any combination of those. This sauce is a special favorite of kids and adults can heat it up a bit with some hot sauce or red pepper.
• 1 ½ inch fresh ginger root, peeled and minced.
• ½ cup orange juice or 1½T orange juice concentrate + 4T water
• 1 tsp white sesame seeds
• 2T. soy sauce
• 1T. sugar (to taste – it depends on how sweet the orange juice is!)
• 2 tsp cornstarch
1. Mix first 5 ingredients together – everything but the cornstarch – and heat in microwave for approx. 30 seconds. This melds the flavors together a bit.
2. Taste and add additional soy sauce, juice, or sugar as you see fit.
3. Let mixture cool while you stir fry the tofu and vegetables.
4. Mix cornstarch into sauce and stir until dissolved.
5. Place tofu and vegetables in wok/skillet, stir to combine, and add sauce mixture.
6. Turn heat up to high until glaze starts to thicken.
Remove from heat and serve over rice or pasta.
Note: this recipe makes a sauce suitable for a stir-fry with about 4 servings. If you're cooking for a crowd or your family is really hungry, you'll need more sauce to adequately cover the vegetables.
Surprisingly, the best way to prepare tofu for grilling is to freeze it first! Thawed, frozen tofu has a much more spongy, firm texture that lends itself to absorbing marinades and stays on skewers on the grill. It's absolutely the best way to cook tofu on your grill!
Now, this method does require advance planning. Buy a box of firm or extra-firm water packed tofu and put it in your freezer overnight. Remove several hours before cooking.
You can defrost it on the counter without worrying about it spoiling. Remember: tofu is already cooked – not like chicken or pork that can make you quite sick if not defrosted properly.
Cut the tofu into skewer-sized chunks or ½ inch slices, marinate about 30 minutes, and place on the grill. Keep an eye on it: tofu will brown rather quickly on a hot grill.
If you're using it on skewers with other vegetables, consider pre-cooking those (especially onion, potatoes, and carrots) for a few minutes in your microwave. Then, the whole skewer is ready to eat at the same time.
Americans may be addicted to cereal, but in many parts of Asia, soup is the "breakfast of champions."
From a simple miso broth with tofu to a hearty bowl of pho, millions of people start the day with soup. A simple tofu soup can be eaten and enjoyed any time of day.
The easiest is a miso soup, which has a light but delicious and nutritious broth. This simple recipe is for a traditional, Japanese-style soup:
• 4 cups water
• 1/3 cup miso
• 3 green onions (scallions), chopped
• 1/2 block firm silken tofu, cut into 1 inch cubes
1. Add water, miso, & onions to a saucepan. Stir to dissolve the miso.
2. Bring to a low simmer then reduce heat to low and add the tofu. Do not let the miso boil, as this will ruin some of its healthy properties and affect the flavor.
For a heartier soup, add mushrooms and other vegetables and serve with cooked noodles.
Note: When frying tofu use either a very well seasoned iron skillet or nonstick frying pan or wok. It sticks dreadfully to stainless steel and enamel – no matter how much oil you use!