Great news: Fulfilling your “eat more plant-based” resolution doesn’t have to be a flavorless downer. Enter tofu: The versatile Swiss army knife of ingredients that vegans, vegetarians, and meat-eaters can all agree to love.
Tofu, the do-it-all soy-based bean curd, has a CVS receipt-length list of benefits: It’s an excellent source of healthy protein, it’s inexpensive, it’s easy to cook with, it can be sliced into different shapes, it can be incorporated into any global cuisine, and it soaks up all the delicious flavors and spices of any dish like a sponge.
Also, sorry meat, but tofu is far more multifaceted than you are (a chicken-based dessert? …Exactly).
Whether you’re dedicated to being plant-based, or just looking to branch out from your usual protein sources, these 10 tofu recipes will leave you (and your meat-loving comrades) both salivating and completely satisfied.
Pan-Fried Sesame Garlic Tofu
With just a handful of ingredients, this Asian-inpired stir fry dish from Table For Two skips the chicken or pork and proves that tofu is anything but boring. To make tofu cubes that are crispy instead of soggy and can grip your sauce, you’ll need to draw out the water first (remember, tofu is a sponge). To do, remove the tofu from the water in the packaging and place it on a plate, covering it with a few sheets of paper towels; place a few heavier plates or books on top and let the liquid press out for about 30 minutes, switching out the paper towels half way through. Or, take the easier way out with a tofu press.
While cooking in the pan, fight the urge to keep touching your tofu and flipping it — let it sizzle and take the time to brown nicely. The end result is a little bit sweet, a little bit savory, and a whole lot of yum. Serve it up with white rice, cauliflower rice, or your favorite vegetables.
Kale Caesar Salad with Tofu Croutons
Yes, tofu can also play dress-up as a carb. This hearty and healthy take on the Caesar salad from Kitchen Treaty skips the chicken and croutons, leaning on delicious pan-seared tofu cubes as a protein-fueled crouton substitute. To give your tofu the desired texture, use the extra-firm variety, press out the water before searing it, and dredge it in a corn starch spice mixture, which will crisp it up a bit in the pan.
Tofu for breakfast! Firm or extra-firm tofu makes for an amazing vegan and dairy-free scrambled egg substitute. In this tofu scramble recipe by Nora Cooks, you just mash or crumble the tofu right in the cooking pan, then add nutritional yeast, salt, turmeric, garlic powder, and milk (non-dairy works). Towards the end of cooking, we encourage you to get creative and toss in diced veggies for added oomph: kale, zucchini, onion, broccoli, bell peppers, jalapenos, tomatoes, etc. Then, treat your scramble exactly how you’d treat scrambled eggs: plate it solo, make breakfast tacos, or craft avocado toast.
We get it: sometimes you just crave an edible instrument to dip in copious amounts of ketchup and BBQ sauce. Skip the oil-fried chicken nuggets and go the much healthier route of air-fried tofu nuggets — you won’t be sorry. This recipe from No Sweat Vegan can be done in the oven as well, but the airfryer gives you that nice, even, dehydrated crisp in no time.
Cooking for a group of meat-lovers? Try the freeze-and-thaw method (literally just pop your unopened extra-firm tofu container in the freezer, then defrost it the morning you want to make your nuggets) — this gives your tofu a cooked texture that is so much like chicken it’s uncanny.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better comfort dish than hearty, cozy Bolonese. This recipe from It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken swaps the ground beef for crumbled tofu but sacrifices zero of the flavor. The trick to getting the right tofu texture? Crumbling your tofu then drying it out in the oven first. Don’t bother pressing out the water: just break off small chunks of your soft tofu into a bowl, evenly coat it in seasoning, then let it brown in the oven on a baking sheet for about 35-45 minutes at 350ºF.
Serve it over pasta or zoodles and you have a dinner that even carnivores will devour.
Amp up your Taco Tuesday with tofu! You can go traditional and have yourself a plant-based Mexican fiesta (this recipe from Food Network calls for cubed tofu, salsa verde, pepper jack cheese, taco seasoning, and cilantro), or you can try this Asian-inspired version from Well Plated, which has you marinating the crumbled tofu in a soy mixture. The best part? You can put the leftover filling on top of nachos, or freeze it for up to three months.
Vegan Fried Rice
Is there anything better than putting a healthy spin on a dish that’s usually labeled “treat yo’self”? This Vegan Fried Rice from Minimalist Baker takes the “guilty” out of “guilty pleasure” for 3 reasons: it’s loaded with veggies, the rice is cooked twice for a fried-like texture, and the tofu cubes are marinated in a soy mixture then baked to crispy perfection instead of fried.
You can make the entire recipe (including the sauce) with 10 ingredients in under an hour — then, you can eat it as a side to your favorite Chinese dish, or enjoy it on its own as the main event since the tofu will help fill you up. Want to go-all out healthy? Swap the rice for cauliflower or broccoli rice.
Vegan BBQ Tofu Pizza
Who needs pepperoni? Get your meat-free protein fix on DIY pizza night and top your ’za with tofu. This recipe from Vegan Richa suggests marinating your tofu in a tangy BBQ sriracha mixture for extra flavor and zip. Topping wise, it calls for garlic, sliced onions, and sliced red bell peppers, but we invite you to make it a party and pile the fixin’s high with whatever your hungry heart desires.
Tofu and Mushroom Soup
This savory Japanese-inspired soup from Steamy Kitchen is hearty without being too heavy, which means it’s great as an appetizer or as your entire lunch. We love this recipe because it’s easy-make and packed with cubed tofu, mushrooms, egg, green onion, and any leafy green vegetable you have on hand: Kale, bok choy, spinach, leeks, swiss chard, you name it. Mix and match the veggies for a slightly different soup every time.
Bonus! Vegan Chocolate Tofu Cheesecake
And for dessert (you skipped the fried chicken so you earned it): Vegan dark chocolate tofu “cheesecake” with peanut butter pretzel crust! This almost no-bake pie-cake hybrid is from Ambitious Kitchen; it’s super creamy and surprisingly light, considering you still get to indulge in rich chocolate-y and peanut butter flavors. No cream cheese filling here — just silken tofu (and make sure you use silken for its extra-soft consistency).