13 Unconventional Ways To Use Tofu

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Taifun Magazine notes that the use of tofu in Asian cooking can be dated back centuries. Tofu is produced similarly to cheesemaking — a coagulant (typically calcium sulfate) is added to soy milk. The tofu is what is left over after the soy milk curdles. Tofu can be found in most grocery stores in either the refrigerated section or the shelf-stable "natural food" section. 

Tofu has been widely recognized as a sustainable plant-based protein. BBC Good Food notes that tofu contains about 8 grams of protein for a 100-kilogram serving. It is also considered a "complete protein," meaning that it contains all the necessary amino acids needed for the body to function. Tofu's health benefits extend past protein; it has been recognized by major health organizations as a cholesterol-balancing and antioxidant-rich food. 

Tofu doesn't have to be a sad, squishy block that many folks have chalked it up to be. Tofu can be made exciting with innovative and flavorful additions, and you can cook it to alter its consistency and make it more palatable. Here are some exciting ways to use tofu! 

1. Make chocolate mousse for dessert

Dessert isn't usually people's first thought when they see a block of tofu. But silken tofu, the softest and most custard-like of the tofu types, can be used as a replacement in baking, sauces, and salad dressing. According to Taifun Magazine, silken tofu is produced by adding magnesium chloride ("nigari" in Japanese) instead of calcium sulfate. The result is soft and slightly sweet tofu. 

As Easy as Apple Pie recommends using warm-temperature silken tofu and 70% dark chocolate to make chocolate mousse. If the tofu is too cold, the melted chocolate will firm up and cause an inconsistent texture. Use a food processor to blend the silken tofu and sweetener (maple syrup, sugar, or honey) before adding melted chocolate. The Conscious Plant Kitchen suggests adding 2 teaspoons of cocoa powder for a more decadent taste. The finished product will keep in the fridge for several days and can be served with fresh berries, whipped cream, and mint. 

2. Prepare tofu cream cheese for a vegan bagel

Zardy Plants uses 8 ounces of firm tofu, nutritional yeast, tahini, apple cider vinegar, spices for flavor, non-dairy milk, and a neutral-tasting oil (like olive or avocado oil) in a food processor to make tofu cream cheese. Avoid adding excess liquid to the food processor so that the mixture contains firm and cream cheese-like. Afterward, chill the mixture for at least 2 hours to allow the cheese to harden. For thicker cream cheese similar to the blocks sold in a grocery store, stir in 1 teaspoon of agar powder, heat on the stove until thickened, and allow an 8-hour setting time. 

This recipe is easily adapted to fit almost any flavor. Stir in chopped scallions or chives for an organic, garlic flavor. For a sweet twist, add a splash of maple syrup and vanilla extract. Tofu cream cheese can be used as a dip for crackers or a bagel spread. 

3. Add a layer to plant-based lasagna

Pasta nights will never look the same with plant-based lasagna. The tofu in the lasagna acts as a replacement for a ricotta layer. It provides an extra boost of protein that is almost unnoticeable in texture. The Herbeevore uses silken tofu in their ricotta replacement for its smooth texture. Using a firm or extra firm tofu will make a more firm texture that resembles crumbly cheese. The tofu can be flavored with nutritional yeast for a cheesy undertone — along with Italian herbs, salt, and pepper. Add a boost of veggies by adding chopped, steamed spinach to the tofu mixture. 

No-bake lasagna noodles are the way to go for this lasagna iteration. Moreover, be sure to read the label on the noodles before using them if you're avoiding all animal products; some brands use eggs as a stabilizer for their no-bake pasta. Barilla Oven Ready Gluten-free, No-bake Lasagna Noodles is one brand that is safe for vegans or those with egg allergies. 

4. Scramble tofu with nutritional yeast for breakfast

Scrambled eggs are a tough thing to replace for vegans or those with egg allergies. But with tofu, scrambled "eggs" are possible! You can season your crumbled tofu with nutritional yeast, garlic powder, salt, and turmeric. Turmeric is the most pungent spice in this recipe, and if it's not for you, then omit it for a more neutral flavor. For a more sulfuric flavor and smell, add a pinch of Himalayan black salt to the tofu while it's cooking in a skillet. According to Fine Dining Lovers, Himalayan black salt (also known as kala namak) originates from, you guessed it, the Himalayan Mountains and is used for its medicinal properties as well as for its pungent, sulfuric aroma. 

The key to a good tofu scramble is to make sure as much water is pressed out of the tofu as possible. This can be done using kitchen towels and a weight (such as a cookbook). This will prevent a watery tofu scramble and create a better resemblance to scrambled eggs. 

5. Add it to a smoothie

Protein powder and nut butter are common protein additions in smoothies, but did you know tofu could also be used for a protein boost? Tofu Bud recommends using half a packet of silken tofu, pressed in a tofu press to remove the excess water. Tofu presses, like the Tofuture Limited model, are designed to collect water in the outside receptacle for a mess-free tofu pressing experience. If you don't feel the need to purchase a press, removing the excess water with a kitchen towel and decreasing the additional liquid in the smoothie works just fine. 

The key to this recipe is in using silken tofu rather than firm tofu. The silken tofu's texture pairs with the texture of other smoothie ingredients like strawberries, blueberries, bananas, and yogurt. Add all of the smoothie ingredients to a blender along with the silken tofu block and puree until smooth. 

6. Make pasta dough in a food processor

It can be difficult to find an egg substitute for fresh pasta dough. But did you know that tofu has a similar binding potential as eggs? A Plantiful Path mixes semolina flour, salt, and all-purpose flour with shelf-stable silken tofu to make the pasta dough. This recipe also uses an uncommon ingredient not usually seen in pasta dough: turmeric. Turmeric will add a distinct orange color to the dough, but it may alter the taste of the dough slightly. A food processor is a good tool to evenly disperse the flour, seasonings, and tofu in the dough. 

After a short rest period in the fridge, the dough can be pulled through a pasta roller and sliced into any shape you desire. Cut into thin fettuccini and prepare a ramp pesto pasta sauce. For a more classic pairing, try Ina Garten's secret vodka sauce hack with farfalle tofu pasta. 

7. Fry tofu bites for an easy appetizer

Watching the big game with friends can be hard for a plant-based eater. But frying up some tofu bites and serving a tasty dipping sauce will make even the biggest of carnivores happy! To make crispy fried tofu at home, press 14 ounces of tofu between a kitchen towel. For a firmer nugget texture, consider freezing the tofu the night before. That morning, thaw the tofu in the refrigerator. The ice crystals formed during the freezing process result in a more airy, spongy texture in the tofu. Then, dredge the tofu in flour, a seasoned milk batter, and panko breadcrumbs. These tofu nuggets will fry in less than 10 minutes and have a crispy crunch that will leave you coming back for more. 

The dipping sauce options for these nuggets are plentiful. For an easy bottled sauce, serve with Hidden Valley Dairy-Free Ranch dressing. Or, make your own spicy ketchup recipe with your favorite spices and canned tomatoes. 

8. Make Chipotle sofritas

It's taco night — don't forget the vegans! Chipotle sofritas are made from pressed, firm tofu, roasted poblano peppers, canned adobo sauce, cherry tomatoes, cumin, apple cider vinegar, and chili powder. After blending all ingredients but the tofu in a food processor, add the blended ingredients to the skillet with the crumbled tofu. Cook until fragrant and you'll have the perfect taco filling in just a few minutes! 

These sofritas can be served in hard or soft taco shells with homemade pico de gallo and guacamole. For a lighter twist, add a few spoonfuls to a bowl of fresh lettuce or spring mix. Top with your favorite taco toppings and serve. 

Sofritas will stay fresh in the fridge for several days. Alternatively, prepare the sofrita spices and pepper sauce ahead of time and store them in the fridge for a quick weeknight dinner idea. They are just too simple not to have on your dinner table! 

9. Add it to a cold noodle salad

Tofu pairs well with Asian ingredients like sesame oil, rice vinegar, and mirin. This makes firm tofu a great addition to a cold noodle salad, like Vegan Richa's cold soba noodle salad with marinated tofu. The secret to working with extra firm tofu in this recipe is to marinate it for at least 8 hours before preparing; this will allow the tofu to absorb the different flavors. Although you can use fresh tofu, it won't have the same umami flavor. After the tofu has marinated, place the cubes in a skillet and gently cook each side. Toss the tofu with fresh sliced peppers, green onion, carrots, and edamame. Then, add the cooked buckwheat soba noodles and chill for a few hours before serving. 

This recipe is perfect for weekday meal planning because it only becomes better with age. It can be served with whatever blend of vegetables you desire and stored in the fridge for up to a week. 

10. Use it as an egg substitute in baking

Eggs are used in baking for their role as a binder. You can use ¼ cup of silken tofu as a substitute for each egg in cakes or muffin recipes (or any baked goods, really). However, since silken tofu does not have any leavening properties (meaning it cannot help the dough rise), it should be supplemented with ⅛ teaspoon of baking soda per egg, as recommended by My Darling Vegan. Silken tofu's texture in a sweet batter is beneficial and its flavor is relatively nuanced compared to other leaving substitutes like vinegar or lemon juice. 

According to PETA, silken tofu can also be used in dishes that require a lot of eggs like quiche or custard with the same ¼ cup silken to 1 egg ratio. Firm tofu could be a substitute for a savory "egg salad," but not in a custard dish. Basically, use it for baked goods like cake and quiche, but probably not in cold ones like custard where the tofu flavor would be strong.

11. Add it as a filler to wontons or dumplings

Tofu is a simple, protein-rich filling for dumplings or wontons. Jessica Gavin makes her wontons by cooking chopped cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, green onions, carrots, sesame oil, and soy sauce in a wok before adding cubes of extra firm tofu. She uses pre-made wonton wrappers — found in the refrigerated section of her local grocery store — to encompass the filling. She recommends only adding about 2 teaspoons of filling to the wrapper to avoid splitting it during the cooking process. Moreover, moistening the edges and firmly pleating them prevents the mixture from escaping. Tofu dumplings can be either pan-fried or steamed and served with soy sauce, chopped scallions, and spicy kimchi.   

For an easy wonton soup, submerge the wontons in a broth made of vegetable stock, green onions, sesame oil, chopped garlic, and fresh ginger. This soup is guaranteed to fill you up on a cold day! 

12. Make tofu pesto in a food processor

Pesto is a delicious summery sauce for pasta — so why not add a protein kick? Press extra firm tofu between a weighted bowl and kitchen towels to remove excess water before adding it to a food processor. Process the tofu with fresh basil, olive oil, water, and lemon juice. Nutritional yeast is used in a vegan pesto to replicate the cheesy flavor of parmesan (or you could use parmesan if you're not avoiding dairy). Walnuts or pine nuts can be processed as well to add a fatty, nutty flair to this pesto, but aren't required. 

If you don't have a lot of basil for this recipe, consider substituting ½ of the basil with fresh spinach. You'll still get the taste of the basil but the bulk of the spinach. 

This recipe can pair well with almost any pasta shape or brand. For gluten-free (and high protein) pasta, try chickpea or lentil-based pasta brands. 

13. Make smoky tofu bacon

Tofu bacon is a savory, smoky taste on a classic breakfast accompaniment. Miriam Hahn recommends using pressed extra-firm tofu — it's the only type of tofu robust enough to hold its shape during the cooking process. The marinade for this recipe is made out of soy sauce, sesame oil, tomato paste, liquid aminos, vinegar, maple syrup, and smoked spices like garlic powder and paprika. This flavor combination makes it taste eerily similar to bacon. Soak the thinly sliced tofu in the mixture before it is baked in the oven.

This recipe recommends soaking the tofu for about 15 minutes. However, soaking for a longer amount of time would create deeper flavors within the tofu. Freezing and thawing the tofu in the fridge the night before would create a spongier texture in the finished product.

Tofu bacon can be added to a TLT (tofu, lettuce, and tomato) with a schmear of mayo (or can we recommend a chipotle aioli?) It can also be chopped and added as a topping to salads. The umami seasonings pair well with fats, so a gorgonzola salad with this tofu bacon would be a bit of heaven in a bowl.