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Tofu Dishes For Someone Who Is Not Really Into Tofu

To my knowledge, I've never had tofu. It's not anything my family ever cooked and I've always avoided it like the plague. Something about a bland block of bean curd is unappealing to me.

BUT, I'm trying to cut my fat & cholesterol intake by cutting down on fatty meats (which I love:). I have read with interest on these threads rave reviews for Mapo Tofu which led me to buy a block of silken tofu that has been sitting in my refrigerator now for a week. Still have not got up the nerve to cook this stuff.

Any recommendations on tofu recipes I can try as a beginner that might convince me this is something I might eventually look forward to eating? It has to be something where the main focus is not the tofu, if that makes any sense. Not really wanting a big slab on a plate or huge chunks with nothing else in the dish. I don't mind the recipe being vegetarian. Thanks in advance!

Edited: No desserts please, thanks!

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  1. Rather than make Mapo Tofu, which requires ground meat, consider having the tofu in simple broth with some type of green vegetable, e.g., Mustard Greens, Shanghai Cabbage, Pea Shoot Tips, Watercress or Spinach.

    Dice into small cube and you won't even taste it.

    3 Replies
    1. re: fourunder

      Every Grain of Rice has vegetarian Mapo Tofu recipe. I have not tried it but it sounds good.

        1. re: herby

          This is my go to mapo tofu recipe. I think it's better than Dunlop's version in Sichuan Cookery.

        1. Silken tofu is not good as meat replacement in a recipe its meant for more of something like this http://www.yummly.com/recipe/Tofu-Cho...

          Tofu should be eaten very fresh and a week half is usually about the max you can use it so keep a eye on the exp date.

          Im not sure what type of food you are used to eating but if you are a chill type person I might try it in something like that where your not going to notice the texture as much but will benefit from the protein and lower fat count as you can do say a half meat half tofu chili. You will see it but can't taste it or even really feel the texture. I like a med firm for cooking usually. There is a really good smoked tofu too thats much firmer and can be used as a taco filling, patty filler..

          1 Reply
          1. re: daislander

            I heartily second the suggestion of using medium or firm tofu in conjunction with meat, so you'll have the flavor of the latter but not as much fat. If asked to describe the taste and texture, I'd say the closest is hardcooked egg whites. Blah. But if you saute or grill the tofu with some soy sauce (or teriyaki, or similar marinade) it will taste meaty and the crisp surface will also contribute savoriness.

            Another idea is to boil low-or-no-sodium chicken stock or meat stock down to a glaze, then cook the tofu in that, just to get a nice savory brown exterior. Have you had the Indian cheese, paneer? It's like a dry, firm ricotta and very tasty. But it looks like tofu and you can mix cubes of the two together in Indian dishes that call for paneer. The tofu will be flavored by the Indian spices in whatever sauce the dish entails.

          2. I like to marinate it in soy, lemon, EVOO and garlic and grill or broil it til crispy. I buy extra firm and put the block on a towel for an hour to drain.

            5 Replies
            1. re: phelana

              I cook it the same way, but no soy. Lemon, evoo, salt, pepper, frozen garlic and bail cubes. Sometimes i bake it in the marinade. It's delish

              1. re: phelana

                Definitely grill or broiled is great for tofu. I also like to sauté large cubes of it in oil and tamari, finished with a little sesame oil and chili flakes. Love getting it really crispy.

                Here are a few tofu recipes I know even non-veggies like:
                Grilled tofu and eggplant slices with cilantro peanut sauce
                Marinated and grilled BBQ tofu slices (serve with a ton of grilled veggies-peppers, corn,etc)
                Tofu rancheros
                Tofu in ginger carrot scallion broth

                1. re: charlesbois

                  Do you have a recipe or a source where I can obtain the ginger carrot scallion broth? That sounds good!

                  1. re: Cherylptw

                    No sorry, I tend to make stuff up on the fly with no recipes, sometimes based on meals I've had. But I googled it and found some interesting iterations including a miso based soup. I was thinking of some nice chicken or veg broth with small dice of ginger, carrots coins and finely chopped scallions. You could even throw in some garlic or mushroom or float some pickled radish on it. Little cubes of tofu boiled in it makes a nice soup.

                  2. re: charlesbois

                    and roll the (ahem extra-firm tofu) cubes in cornstarch before grilling - really punches up the exterior crust.

                2. in my vegetarian days i tried liking it and cooked it all sorts of ways.

                  at this point, it's less than fresh. chuck it and start cooking more fish. :)

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    I already consume fish, I'm looking for ways to cook tofu. The expiration date is March 3rd; I'll hang on to it, thanks.

                    1. re: Cherylptw

                      While that might be the expiration date for when the product is still safe to eat, the flavor of tofu declines rapidly as soon as its made. I buy it the same day it's produced and eat it within a day or two. When I hear people talk about how bland and flavorless they find tofu, it just tells me that they're eating stale product.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        I think the OP probably has some vacuum packed tofu. They seem to last for ages. But they don't taste anywhere close to the real thing bought in the fridge section of Asian grocers.

                  2. I don't know if this will help to reduce your cholesterol, but I love thinly sliced tofu that is fried. The outside gets crisp like a potato chip, while the inside remains creamy. I use that as the protein in a cold noodle dish with nuoc mam, crunchy vegetables and plenty of herbs. The tofu chip start out crunchy, but as they sit, they absorb the dressing and are literally bursting with flavor by your last bite. Tofu salad, which is pretty much egg salad with tofu and turmeric in place of the egg whites and egg yolks, is also great on white bread with iceberg lettuce.

                    I don't know if you've tried it yet, but linguafood's recipe for tofu, which I recommended on another thread you initiated on tofu, is one of my favorites. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7273...

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: JungMann

                      Your suggestion sounds like something I might like, Harters. And Lingua's too. Two for two! Thanks!

                      1. re: Cherylptw

                        The company nasoya makes a seasoning packet for eggless salad that is great. Easy to find at health food stores and whole foods, best with firm or extra firm tofu.

                    2. Silken tofu is a great place to start - I've personally seen many tofu haters converted by a pot of soft tofu soup or mabo. If it's your first time making it I would suggest something like this: http://www.seriouseats.com/2011/02/ma...

                      It's super easy and quite delicious.

                      Another must try with silken is soondubu aka soft tofu soup. Hope you enjoy it!

                      Good quality soft tofu is also excellent chilled and had with a simple vinegarette type drizzle...try it with some soy sauce, citrus and thin sliced scallions. Something like this http://www.fifteenspatulas.com/chille...
                      http://www.beyondkimchee.com/steamed-...

                      A few people have commented with fried/grilled/broiled tofu suggestions - these will not work with silken tofu, it doesn't have the structure to hold up to frying.

                      And silken tofu is absolutely not "meant" for a mousse dessert...especially when you consider silken tofu is an Asian creation whereas mousse is a western one...

                      Also, a week in the fridge is fine.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: joonjoon

                        Thank you; the serious eats idea is right up my alley. I love spicy. Will try this if I can find the ingredients.

                      2. Two recipes that my tofu hating family likes: Mapo Tofu with ground pork from "Keepers" cookbook.
                        and
                        Baked tofu -- the recipe I use calls for marinade of soy, garlic powder etc. and you cook at 350 for 25 min -- served inside a wrap and filled with lettuce, tomato, cucumber and a swipe of spicy peanut sauce made by mixing crunchy peanut butter and siracha.
                        Recipe is here: http://www.vegweb.com/recipes/simple-...

                        1. I would try a Korean tofu stew...

                          http://www.maangchi.com/recipe/soondu...

                          You can make the recipe your own by altering the ingredients.

                          1. Do you have a Trader Joe's near you? I was there last week and bought some of their "Savory Baked Organic Tofu". They have two flavors: Teriyaki and Savory. Both were delicious.

                            It's a great way to introduce yourself to tofu. It has a really great flavor, and a nice firm meaty texture. You don't really need to do much with it except maybe slice it and heat it in a pan for a few minutes. You could serve it anywhere you'd use slices of chicken or pork. I use it in stir frys, and you could also toss it with some pasta and sauce instead of meatballs.

                            Here is a recipe I found online with some ideas as well.

                            http://theaprilblake.com/2012/12/trad...

                            When buying Tofu by the way, it's important to try and get Organic. Soy is a major GMO crop and I think it's best to avoid that.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: mwk

                              Unfortunately, I don't have access to a Trader Joe's (or whole foods) but I do have curry sauce at home so this is something I can get into. BTW, isn't tofu made with soy beans (soy?) Now, I'm somewhat confused what you mean by that last statement?

                              1. re: Cherylptw

                                Tofu is made with soy beans. Soy beans are a major GMO crop. Organic food cannot be made from GMO sources. Ergo, Organic Tofu is not GMO.

                                If you can't get the trader joe's tofu, you can do something similar yourself. Get a block of extra firm tofu. Put it on a plate in the sink and put another plate on top. Weigh down the top plate with something heavy and leave it for a couple of hours to press out the water. Then, slice it into thick chunks and put it into your favorite marinade. I like to use cumin and lime juice and garlic with a bit of olive oil and salt/pepper.

                                Let it marinate overnight in the fridge. Then, pan fry it in a non stick pan with a bit of oil, until it is golden brown on both sides. Or, you can put it on a rack over a pan in the oven and bake it at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes until it's nice and brown.

                                Here is one other idea. Take the same block of extra firm tofu, remove it from it's wrapper and put it into a freezer bag, seal tightly and freeze it solid. Let it defrost naturally in the refrigerator and then dry it between some paper towels. Doing this makes it crumbly and it can be used as a great substitute for ground meat in most any kind of sauce. I also use it to make stuffed peppers and tomatoes, instead of ground beef.

                                1. re: mwk

                                  A Japanese pickle press works GREAT to press tofu. Here is an example: http://www.amazon.com/Tsukemono-Japan...

                                  I bought one of these a few years ago at a Daiso store for just a couple of dollars. I have no idea why the same item is $30 on Amazon. Hopefully any major Asian supermarket would have a similar item at a reasonable price. Previously, I used to press tofu using a plate and heavy object. The pickle press works much better IMHO.

                            2. I really enjoy this soup: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                              I'm not a tofu hater or tofu avoider, but I've served it to folks who were and they had no idea there was tofu in it.

                              Good luck!

                              1. I've had this (vegan) ma po tofu recipe in my files to try sometime.....

                                http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/20...

                                This other recipe from Serious Eats includes a small amount of meat: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/20...

                                Personally, I have been enjoying chunk o' (firm) tofu lately- pressed, sliced into "steaks" and then marinated in a mixture of Worchestershire sauce, soy sauce, smoked paprika, Asian chili oil, toasted sesame oil , onion powder, garlic powder and a pinch of sugar (kind of one of those condiment-clearance deals)......seared in a nonstick pan till browned on each side. One avowed tofu hater tooks thirds of this and said it was one of the best things he'd eaten. (It probably also helps that he was hungry, but still.....)

                                1. Get a copy (your public library should have it) of Andrea Nguyen's cookbook Asian Tofu. There are some super recipes in it (I was a recipe tester for the book). One recipe you might like to start with , you will need firm tofu, is stuffed tofu, pan browned, and served up as a soup. It is on page 94.It is a Chinese hot pot.

                                  There are many good and tempting recipes in it. I am not a big tofu lover either but this book has expanded my appreciation for it.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Candy

                                    I will check my library; thank you for the suggestion.

                                  2. The tofu is fine as long as it is still sealed within its original packaging.

                                    Silken tofu does not hold its shape easily and is great for adding to smoothies, or using in dips or spreads like this:
                                    http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/cu...

                                    Firm tofu and extra firm tofu are great for stir fries, pressing and baking, grilling, etc. this recipe uses the tofu as a taco filling:
                                    http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/cr...

                                    Look for pressed smoked tofu as well, it has a very firm cheese-like consistancy and is really delicious! I buy this one often (see photo). Ugh. Sorry its sideways!

                                    Also consider experimenting with tempeh, a combination of whole grains and soy that is an excellent source of vegetarian protein. When crumbled it is a great swap for ground meat.

                                     
                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Ttrockwood

                                      I love smoked meats and cheeses so smoked tofu would be of interest IF I can find it online as it is not available in my area stores, I will look into it. Thanks for your suggestions.

                                    2. Korean tofu soup is one of the most satisfying dishes I can imagine - spicy, rich and complex it is a warming heath-giving dish. There are simple and complicated recipes on line for it. I like this dish because it is using tofu not as fake something else. It will not leave you missing meat.

                                      Pretty much everything else I do with tofu wont be saving you any fat as its pretty good fried ;)

                                      hint - change the water in your tofu regularly - like daily and it will keep fresh longer - also tofu is one of those foods that conveniently lets you know when it has gone bad - if it smells fresh its good to eat - if you have to think twice chuck it.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: JTPhilly

                                        I love spice so this is an option. Thanks!

                                        1. re: JTPhilly

                                          I believe my wife mentioned this morning as I left the house that sundubu jigae (Korean tofu soup/stew) is tonight's dinner. We LOVE it. It's about the only tofu dish I actually look forward to.

                                        2. Cherylptw, I grew up eating silken tofu and it is not my favorite thing either. I find that freezing, thawing and squeezing out the water really improves it. The texture becomes chewier and more sponge-like, almost like bread, making it better at absorbing flavor.

                                          Try a making tofu-heavy hot and sour soup. Soak some day lily stems and wood ear mushrooms until re-hydrated, then slice into thin ribbons. Add them to a simmering pot of homemade chicken stock with enoki mushrooms and a lot of matchstick-cut thawed tofu. Season to your taste with white pepper, chinkiang vinegar and salt. Thicken with a cornstarch slurry and serve with an optional garnish of red chile oil and chopped cilantro.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: RealMenJulienne

                                            I have read that freezing & thawing is the way to go for making tofu meatier textured. I will look into that. But day lily stems, wood ear mushrooms and chinkiang vinegar are things I have no access to. I live in the south, in an area where there are no upscale supermarkets or ethnic markets. I will, however, look into whether it is feasible to order these online. Thanks

                                            1. re: Cherylptw

                                              The freezing trick works best with firm or extra firm tofu IMO.

                                          2. Hi Cherlyptw,

                                            I think you've gotten many great suggestions (especially Andrea Nguyen's recipes/book).

                                            However, if you are looking to incorporate tofu into more "mainstream" or other-than-Asian-inspired food, may I suggest that you buy a copy of Louise Hagler's classic "Tofu Cookery" cookbook? http://www.amazon.com/Tofu-Cookery-An...

                                            For example, she makes things like stuffed shells, lasagna, barbecue tofu, tofu *meatballs*, eggless quiche, dips and spreads, soups, salad dressings and I know that you said no desserts but she's also got quite a few *healthy* quick bread/muffin recipes.

                                            This is not haute cuisine by any means, but if you are looking to incorporate tofu into your menus, following Louise's recipes will help you until you become comfortable and familiar enough that you'll be substituting tofu in your own recipes. Her other book, "Tofu Quick and Easy" is exactly what the title implies.

                                            Personally, I love, love, love tofu. All kinds of tofu, any kind of tofu . . . I love it all. It's extremely versatile. I think it's great that you are being open-minded to incorporating tofu into your diet. Bravo!

                                            Also may I suggest that you give the Moosewood Eggless Egg Salad recipe a try? It's really great on a toasted hearty wheat bread with lettuce, tomato, cucumber. Here's a link to the recipe: http://www.molliekatzen.com/recipes/r...

                                            Oh this has made me hungry. I've got some tofu-napa curry in the fridge, and it's calling me right now! :-)

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: MrsPatmore

                                              Also I just realized that you can "look inside" the Amazon book link that I posted and see the index to "Tofu Cookery" - hopefully that will give you an idea if the book would be of use for the types of foods that you like to eat.

                                              Personally, I incorporate tofu into many different dishes and types of cuisine (for example, burrito filling, lasagne, quiche, cabbage rolls) not only for Asian cooking. I've been stealth-stuffing tofu into my family's food for many years. LOL

                                            2. Hi Cheryl,

                                              I LOVE tofu and when I met mr bc, he might have posted something similar to what you did above. That said, what I've learned over time is that his objection to it was his perception of its texture and that it was flavourless.

                                              Years later, he still can't enjoy my favourite dish..Mapo Doufu/Ma Po Tofu...he really doesn't like the texture even if I use firm vs silken etc. but he can be fooled into eating tofu that's been cleverly disguised as ground beef (and you can purchase it prepared that way). For the million reasons I love it, he could come up with a million that he doesn't.

                                              That said, if theres something that appeals to you about Ma Po Tofu, I'd suggest that you ask for a recommendation on your regional board for a restaurant that prepares it perfectly...then give it a try. That's how I first tasted tofu and it was love at first bite! If you do enjoy it, then I'd venture into trying to replicate it at home.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                Man a good mapo tofu is one of the great pleasures of life! I need to go get me some.

                                              2. like the eggless egg salad suggestion, you could absolutely use the tofu to make a scramble… maybe with some roasted garlic, caramelized onions, sundried tomatoes, basil, a bit of shaved parm…

                                                if you're a fan of indian, you could do a palak tofu… you can always sub an almond milk in for cream and cut back on fats. tofu tikka masala would be good too.

                                                it's also good in ravioli or potsticker filling. i'll do a quick meal for OH using egg roll wrappers, and pureeing together some tofu, maybe some chopped spinach or mashed sweet potato, herbs, onion, etc.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Emme

                                                  I make tofu scrambles often. Delicious

                                                2. In my experience, many people who object to tofu do so because of the texture not the flavor. Some people find the texture more acceptable if the tofu is pressed or drained, as has been mentioned in several posts.

                                                    1. I haven't tried it, but I have read others claim that tofu-based chocolate mousse is actually very good.

                                                      http://www.rachaelrayshow.com/recipe/...

                                                      1. Miso soup with wakame and tofu. A bowl of rice. Some simple grilled fish, or eel, with a side of pickles. 120 million Japanese can't be wrong.

                                                        http://www.closetcooking.com/2007/07/...

                                                        1. These are our favourite tofu recipes for dinner mains. My husband even asks for them.

                                                          http://www.chatelaine.com/recipe/worl...

                                                          And

                                                          http://www.contracostatimes.com/ci_11...

                                                          The second recipe link is a tofu Parmesan (don't let the silly name put you off,the recipe is quite good). I usually do the breadcrumb coating step twice. Egg, crumb mix, egg, crumb mix if that makes sense. Also, I have found it is much better if I just bake the tofu as directed, then spoon the spaghetti sauce over the pieces just before I want to serve, put the mozzarella on top and then put it in the oven to have the cheese melt