HOW TO: Cook Tofu Three Ways
Some of the most common refrains I hear from non-vegans and the veg-curious that keeps them from trying to be more plant-based, is that they don’t like tofu, or have never eaten it, or don’t know how to cook it. While it’s true that this food is somewhat mysterious to most Americans, and hasn’t had much place in our traditional cuisine, but if you have basic cooking skills, you can easily add this healthy food to your diet.
What is Tofu?
Tofu is a food made from condensed soy milk (soybeans and water) that is versatile for cooking due to its light flavor. It is high in plant-based protein at about 10-13 grams per serving and is also high in calcium, magnesium and iron, and other minerals, while low in fat and has zero cholesterol. It has been a popular ingredient in Asia for centuries.
Health Benefits of Soy
One serving of soy per day, or even per week, has been shown to have numerous health benefits, from reducing the risks of digestive, breast and prostate cancers, to having a regulating effect on blood sugar. Regular consumption of soy shows a protective effect against diabetes and heart disease as well and helps some women going through menopause. (healthline.com)
Fermented soy products, such as tempeh, are even better because fermentation lowers the amount of certain antinutrients in soy, and makes the protein more bioavailable.
I’ve heard Soy is bad for you. Is that true?
Much of the soy grown in the US is genetically modified, and if that is an issue for you, then seek out organic non-GMO soy.
Some people are concerned about the presence of phytoestrogens, or plant chemicals that mimic the hormone estrogen; however phytoestrogens are very weak compared to the hormones found in animal foods and there is not much evidence showing them to be a strong hormone disruptor, except in infants who are fed exclusively with soy formula. Ironically, many of the health benefits associated with soy are actually because of these phytoestrogens, also known as isoflavons.
NOTE*The only people who may need to avoid soy are people with kidney/gallbladder stones, thyroid issues, a soy allergy, infants and people with estrogen-sensitive breast tumors. (healthline.com)
Consider including more tofu in your diet. Your body, and the animals, will thank you!
My three favorite (and quickest) ways of cooking tofu
Scrambled, pan fried slices, and stir fried!
Chances are, if you’ve been to any hipster brunch joint, you’ve seen tofu scramble on the menu. It’s an incredibly easy and versatile dish that you can customize and whip up in just ten minutes instead of eggs.
Using firm or extra firm tofu and some olive oil, hand crumble the tofu and sauté until the water is evaporated and the tofu begins to brown, about five to ten minutes. I like to load mine with turmeric for that yellow color, garlic powder, taco seasoning, salt and pepper, black salt if I have on hand for a more egg-y flavor, and whatever salsa and greens I have in the fridge for a healthy southwestern style breakfast. Try whatever spices you fancy.
Don’t forget to melt some vegan cheese on top for a truly delectable vegan comfort food experience. You can even add in chia seeds for extra omega fatty acids, or black beans for a more Mexican flair.
I came up with this because I wanted the flavor of scramble that I could eat on a breakfast sandwich, which I craved while pregnant. It has become my go-to breakfast and takes about ten minutes to cook.
Simply slice some extra-firm tofu and fry on medium-high heat. As it cooks, sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder, turmeric and black salt. Make sure to coat both sided with the turmeric and flip it until all the edges are crispy. Keep the pan oiled to avoid sticking. (This is probably not the healthiest option, but if you use olive oil it’s better.) Again, melt some vegan cheese on top (put a lid over the pan to do this) and stack the slices on your favorite bagel or toast with vegan bacon, sausage, cream cheese, or other toppings.
Here is the most popular and familiar way most of us know to eat tofu: in a veggie stir-fry! You can marinate it ahead of time or as I do, fry it and then coat it with desired sauce. For this method you’ll want to dry out your firm or extra-firm tofu a bit by patting it and pressing it. Wrap the tofu block in a clean dry cloth, such as a tea towel, and set on a plate. Then stack another plate on top or use some books to lightly compress the tofu for half an hour. If you are marinating, now you can put the tofu in a container and add a marinade, such as soy sauce and garlic.
Now cube the tofu. It’s optional, but I like to toss the unmarinated cubes in cornstarch before I fry them for a crispy coating. Using a wok and neutral oil like canola, olive or coconut on high heat, fry the cubes, tossing often to brown evenly, about ten minutes. Then, put tofu aside in a bowl while you stir-fry veggies, and add it back in with sauce, tossing to coat.
*If you are oil-free, you can bake marinated tofu at 375F for 15-20 minutes, on parchment paper, for a healthier alternative to stir-frying. It’s important that you press excess moisture out before baking.
There you go! Three simple, delicious ways to add more tofu to your diet!
I encourage you to find locally made tofu if possible. I am lucky that where I live in Michigan there is a local tofu factory and theirs is the freshest and best value at 3.49 for 4 big blocks, and also the firmest tofu I have ever had. I don’t even bother to press it.
Check natural food stores in your area or ask around at the farmers’ market. Soy is one of the most common crops grown in the United States but not many farmers have taken up making tofu. It would be nice to see more local soy-products and if we show there’s a demand for it, it could happen! If you are so inclined, you could even try making tofu yourself, though I haven’t been brave enough yet.