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Apr 4, 2011 12:06 AM

Rolled Oats to substitute bread crumbs?

So if I want to make meatballs (okay I'm substituting the meat with tofu, for cheapskate-ish reasons) and use old fashioned oats instead of breadcrumbs, how do I do the substitutions? Like 1/4 cup bread crumbs --> 2/3 cup oats? (I read somewhere). And do I keep the oats the way they are, or do I blend them in a food processor or crush them with mortar and pestle?
Okay so I mainly don't want to have to buy bread crumbs/bread (don't like bread too much) and I'm a college student on a budget and don't need to have a box of crackers/cornflakes around either, but old fashioned oats I do have! (Massive boxes of them in fact...) hence other alternatives wouldn't be very helpful (I mean if I have to buy something, I might as well buy those bread crumbs). I DO happen to have garbanzo bean flour lying around though, so I could use that.
Oh and I have rice around (and a rice cooker) so i could try that if it works
Also, this is my first time making meatballs so I really have no idea.

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  1. I've never dealt with tofu but I do put oats in meatballs and meat loaf. I use an egg or so, ketchup and Worchestershire( you can have hot sauce,mustard,herbs, whatever) in making them. I combine those items, put the oats in and let them soak up some moisture, then add the other ingredients and go for it. My husband told me years ago that his Grandma put oats in her meatloaf( maybe so,she left out flavor however) and that he wondered if I might want to try that. At that time I had to tell him that I had been putting oats in the meat loaf for our entire marriage(about 20 years or so then) and he hadn't noticed.

    1. The tofu/oats combo might be a tough one, especially the old fashioned oats. With ground beef (in particular), the oats get a certain malleability from soaking up the juices/fat. Haven't tried it with tofu but anticipate that chewiness might be an issue. Let us know how it goes.

      1. I made meatloaf a few days ago with oats - sent them through my mini-chopper until they were pretty much pulverized, then added the same amount as I would breadcrumbs. I've used them whole before but wasn't crazy about the final texture; this time, it turned out fine.

        1 Reply
        1. re: darklyglimmer

          yes--they are much better after being ground in a food processor. they add a little more heft to foods in my opinion, but this wouldn't be unwelcome in tofu meatballs! i use ground oats a lot in vegan cooking and baking to eliminate thickeners or add whole grains. they're delicious added to baked goods, like chocolate chip cookies (a la Mrs. Fields' secret recipe).

          anyway, i'd grind them if i were you and add 1:1 for crumbs. good luck!

        2. In the tofu balls I make I use Pepperidge Farm herb stuffing mix made according to package directions before mixing with the crumbled tofu. If you can visualize what a prepared batch of stovetop-type stuffing mix looks like, you might want to make a stiff batch of the oatmeal (as MellieMag suggests) before adding to the tofu. And definitely you'll need flavoring -- finely chopped onion, garlic, S&P, and whatever herbs you like. Oregano, basil and fennel perhaps.

          I brown mine in a little oil and finish by baking in a 350 oven for about 25-30 minute, turning once, till set. They're very soft and wind up looking slightly more like pyramids than balls, but they taste good.

          5 Replies
          1. re: nemo

            In which case, nemo, you can call them "croquettes" instead, which are traditionally shaped as you describe.
            Tofu and raw oatmeal are not going to mix without a binder, is the thing. You'll need at least an egg, probably the best choice; perhaps a little milk or veg. broth too. Everything should be quite finely minced; you'll basically have to make a paste to make this happen. I wouldn't reduce the oats to a full grind, though; I think it would totally alter the texture of your finished product.
            So the upshot is, other than that I don't know what to tell you - except that I use rolled oats ALL the time as a binder with meats, and it works perfectly; totally neutral foil that doesn't compromise the results of the taste in any way.

            1. re: mamachef

              Ha! Now that's a fusion name -- tofu croquettes! Agree about the egg. My recipe also includes 2 eggs per 1# of tofu.

              For the OP, extra firm, wrapped in a clean kitchen towel, weighted, and pressed for 20-30 minutes.

              1. re: nemo

                nemo, I had a friend whose mother invented (?) tofu/American bacon croquettes; deep-fried, delicious, and a completely bipolar dish. I could eat several dozen right now, dipped in sweet/hot chili sauce.

                1. re: nemo

                  So I was going to use eggs as a binder, and of course spices. If I have to go out and buy something, I might as well get breadcrumbs unless you recommend the stuffing mix over the breadcrumbs. Thanks for all the replies though :)
                  In any case, how important are the breadcrumbs in tofu "meatballs"? Could I leave them out and still have them turn out okay? Have you ever tried that?

                  1. re: TalRalCot

                    I have to admit, if I were going for non-meat meatballs, I might use for one of the varieties of soy crumbles out there instead of tofu. I suppose that tofu on its own would be okay breaded and deep-fried, but you still wouldn't get that chewy meatball texture. If you really want to avoid a trip to the store (a position I fully respect, btw), you might try baking the tofu; you haven't mentioned what you were planning to do with the meatballs when they're done, but for a soup or a pasta sauce I can imagine this more easily than tofu meatballs. Maybe I'm just not being creative enough, though.

                    Anyway, baked tofu: preheat oven to no more than 300 degrees F. Slice the tofu and arrange on some sort of baking dish with a lip; cover in whatever flavoring ingredients you like. I generally go asian with this, and use a mixture of soy sauce and mirin or whatever else is going around, but I suppose you could just as easily use some tomato sauce with seasonings, or something else that fits with the flavor profile you're looking for. The point is to coat the tofu in the liquid but not bury it. I aim for a liquid level that comes about 1/2 to 3/4 of the way up the tofu slices. Flip the slices once to make sure they're well coated, and then put the dish in the oven and bake it for around 2.5 hours, turning it when you think of it - once every half hour is ideal, and then maybe twice the last 1/2 hour. Essentially, you're drying the tofu. You want the edges dark, but not burned, and the middle should be well-colored but slightly lighter than the edges. When it's done it will be solid enough to pick up and turn over with one fork or your fingers; if it still seems floppy and easily breakable, give it more time.

                    Like I said, I've only ever done this with asian-ish ingredients, but was planning to experiment at some point with other options. I worry a little that tomato sauce on its own might be too thick, and not soak into the tofu the way you want - maybe tomato sauce cut red wine, or a red wine or balsamic vinegar? Whatever you use, make sure it tastes good, because the end product will be a very concentrated version of whatever you bake the tofu in.

            2. i personally love to use almond meal and egg as binders for meat/fish balls/cakes... enough egg to make it gooey, and enough almond meal just so it holds together.