Tofu Is The Unexpected Ingredient You Should Feature In Stroganoff

If you don't follow a plant-based meal plan, meat alternatives like tofu may not be a regular part of your diet. Yet, the soy-based product isn't solely for vegans and vegetarians. Given its neutral palate, it's the perfect blank canvas to add to classic dishes like stroganoff. When you place "tofu" and "stroganoff" together in a sentence, it sounds like the meat alternative is meant to replace the real thing in beef stroganoff. 

However, it actually makes a great swap for mushrooms. Beef stroganoff doesn't always call for mushrooms, but the fungi give the recipe an earthy, umami quality that stroganoff isn't the same without. If you don't have them on hand, tofu's similar texture and mouthfeel make it an easy swap. The ingredients both have a spongy, absorbent consistency that will soak up the stroganoff's creamy sauce. 

It's hard to mirror mushrooms' distinct, savory taste, but flavoring the tofu with some nutritional yeast will infuse them with an earthy, umami flavor. One thing that sets tofu apart from mushrooms is how soggy it can get when cooked in sauce. While traditional stroganoff calls for leaving mushrooms in the pan, bake medium-firm tofu separately and add it in when making the stroganoff sauce to avoid this.

Tips for replacing beef with tofu in stroganoff

If you're going for stroganoff that's fully plant-based, then swapping beef for tofu could be a slightly different process. While mushrooms provide an earthy taste, the tofu will need to be seasoned in a way that makes its flavor mirror beef. Start with nutritional yeast, and use robust spices like onion and garlic powder, paprika, and mustard. Soy sauce is also a quick way to heighten tofu's otherwise bland flavor.

For tofu that has a tough, meat-like texture, opt for the extra firm type. Then, squeeze out as much water as you can to stave off soggy tofu. A great tip for preparing tofu is to use something of substantial weight to press on it, helping you end up with drier tofu that's ready to absorb the flavors in the stroganoff sauce. However, you don't want it to absorb too much.

To ensure that it stays firm, quickly sear the tofu pieces and bake them before tossing them into the sauce. If you're not keen on baking them, you can also coat the chopped pieces in flour or cornstarch prior to pan frying to prevent them from absorbing too much liquid. With this method, the tofu can stay in the pan as you add in the mushrooms, onions, and umami vegetable stock.