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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Five Delicious Ways to Eat Tofu—No Joke

We've been waiting for a good time to write this post because, let's face it, there are few quicker ways to turn people off than to mention tofu. The soft soybean curd become so thoroughly entwined in the popular mind with the worst kind of vegetarian cooking that some people say they could never give up meat because of all the resulting tofu.

We realize there are few things less appealing than flavorless white mush. We don't like that either. But we love tofu's nutritional value—it's low in fat and high in protein and iron—so we've found a number of delicious ways to add it to our diet.

Yesterday our beloved Giant Asian Market was selling a six-pound box of "restaurant tofu" (whatever that is) for $3.99. Only when we got home with our heavy box did we stop to look at the expiration date: March 4. So we're thinking about ways to use it up, and we figure now's as good a time as any to write our long-deferred tofu post.

Tofu does not have to be boring, and you don't have to be a vegetarian to eat it. Maybe you simply want to cut back on your meat and egg consumption—tofu can help you do that. Here are five good ways to use it.

1. Sautéed tofu. Many people are turned off by tofu's mushy texture, but if you sauté it, you end up with something closer to meat. Be sure to use extra-firm tofu, available in any supermarket. Cut it into one-and-a-half-inch cubes or quarter-inch slices, and sauté in a little olive oil or peanut oil (the latter if you're making an Asian-flavored meal). One tablespoon of oil is plenty for a package of tofu. Once the pieces are sizzling in the pan, dribble a little soy sauce on all sides, and pepper liberally. Let them fry until they're golden brown. You can eat them plain, but the fried cubes are great in a stir-fry.

2. "Ground" tofu. If you freeze tofu, then thaw it and squeeze out the water, it takes on a ground-meat texture that works well as a substitute for hamburger, turkey, or chicken—think tacos, shepherd's pie, or the Thai salad larb. And because tofu soaks up spices and flavorings better than meat, you'll get more bang for your protein buck. Yesterday we immediately froze half of our giant box of tofu, knowing that we'd never be able to eat six pounds before the expiration date. 

3. Scrambled tofu. Want to cut back on your egg consumption? Mix tofu in with the egg mixture when you scramble it. Squeeze it in your hands before adding it to the pan for a more "scrambled" texture. Or you can eat scrambled tofu all by itself; we like it mixed with sautéed onions, garlic, and peppers.

4. Barbecued tofu. Again, extra-firm is key here. So's marinating. Slice the tofu into half-inch pieces—nothing too slim, or they'll slip through the grill!—and let them soak for a good hour (overnight would be even better) in a marinade of your choice. For an Asian marinade, you could mix soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, rice wine vinegar, and ginger; for a Mediterranean marinade, try olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper.

5. Smoothies. Add a chunk of tofu to the blender with your berries or banana to give your smoothie an easy protein boost and a creamy texture.

Try these recipes—you'll see that tofu doesn't have to be a joke. And if anybody else has good tofu ideas to share, please send them along!


  1. Oo - nice! I love pan-fried with some oyster sauce. Or spicy mapotofu!!

  2. Oyster sauce -- yum. But we've never heard of mapotofu and will look it up immediately! After all, we've got a lot of tofu to use up in the next few days ;)