How to make Tofu and Tempeh *Actually* Taste Good
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So I get a lot of questions from (carnivorous) people wondering how much tofu and tempeh I consume each week, and how to make either taste appealing.
I guess most people assume that as a vegan, I must be resigned to eating soy like my life depends on it. And in all fairness, I thought the same thing in my meat-eating days. I worried about protein, obsessed over the types of meat substitutes on the market, and wanted to try it but was generally terrified of the squishy white blocks swimming in liquid.
But gradually, I stopped being so afraid and learned to LOVE cooking with the "blank canvas" that is tofu, discovered the "meatiness" of tempeh, and educated myself on the limits of soy in our GMO/processed world.
And just to clear the air...
Because of the internet controversy surrounding soy and hormonal disruption, I've consulted the expertise of nutritionfacts.org, which is written and curated by Dr. Michael Greger (a graduate of Cornell University) and author of the recent New York Times Bestseller How Not to Die. You can grab the book on Amazon by following the affiliate link below:
His topical overview of soy indicates that one should limit servings to 3-5 per day in order to curtail circulating levels of IGF-1. Personally, due to the amount of GMO soy in production in the United States, I limit my consumption of tofu and tempeh to organic, non-GMO products (which can sometimes be difficult to find, since a majority of the soy produced in the US is GMO). I also don't come anywhere NEAR consuming 3-5 servings of soy per day.
Whatever your choice, I find that for me, incorporating fermented tempeh and organic silken tofu into my monthly recipe rotation has been extremely gratifying and tasty! Now on the the best part... how I like to cook it :)
How to Deal with Tofu:
The brand we use is Mori-Nu's Silken Tofu (see the picture to the right). It's non-GMO and organic, and comes in a nifty box so that you don't have to refrigerate it for up to a year before opening. We buy ours at our local Kroger, and occasionally buy it in bulk on Amazon for a better deal. (The photo is an affiliate link to Amazon).
Both "regular" and silken tofu come in varying degrees of firmness, which you can play with depending on the recipe in question.
For example, a tofu stir-fry might call for a more "firm" tofu, rather than something that's more soft like silken tofu. In that case, here's the approach that we usually take:
1) Take the block of tofu out of the package, and drain out the water.
2) Take two clean dish towels and wrap up the block, then place on a ceramic plate
3) Put another plate on top of the square (upside down, to prevent the rim from cramming into the block)
4) Place something heavy on top of it, like several cookbooks or a heavy cast-iron skillet for about 30 minutes
5) Take the pressed tofu out of the towels, and slice it up into desired size of blocks or squares
6) In order for your tofu to taste good, you'll need a killer marinade. Choose your favorite marinade sauce ingredients (always a good beginner's bet: homemade or organic barbecue sauce! I like the Stubb's brand); find a shallow dish or bowl, and place the chopped tofu at the bottom; pour a good amount of barbecue sauce or marinade over the tofu, making sure that all of it is covered; leave in place while you're prepping your other ingredients (usually 30 min-1 hour).
Boom! Now your tofu is marinaded and pressed.
Then: Heat to desired effect: something thick like barbecue sauce makes a delicious crust when baked in the oven (for this approach, make sure to use a non-stick pan, and turn the tofu half-way through baking to ensure full crunchiness on all sides is achieved).
After you've roasted the tofu, place it on a giant salad like this: Delish Knowledge Copycat BBQ Tofu Salad
If you're doing something a little different like a stir-fry, a marinade that's slightly thinner usually does the trick. For something simple, start with a little bit of Tamari (or you can use organic soy sauce) with some Sriracha, maple syrup, and sesame oil. You might even play around with different marinades and see what suits your flavor preferences.
Here's a link to an amazing list of basic tofu marinades collected by One Green Planet.
For these, you'll more than likely want to either add the marinaded tofu into your noodle dish towards the end, or pan-fry it at the beginning in order to make sure it stays crispy for serving over the top of a noodle dish.
For pan-frying: heat a NON-STICK skillet or basic Wok over medium-high heat with a little bit of oil; rotate the tofu squares occasionally for about 3-5 minutes on each side until fully browned to your liking. Transfer to a plate and serve warm.
Did you know that with tofu you can also make...
1) Smoothies: Try this 5-Ingredient Detox Smoothie by Minimalist Baker
2) Salad dressings: Try this amazing Vegan Tofu Herb Salad Dressing by Joy the Baker
3) Ricotta "cheese" for lasagnas: Like this Vegan White Lasagna with Roasted Butternut Squash and Spinach from Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen
4) Creamy "Cheesecakes": Try this Vegan Dark Chocolate Tofu Cheesecake from Ambitious Kitchen
5) Tofu "egg" scrambles: Try this Vegan Breakfast of Champions Tofu Scramble by It Doesn't Taste Like Chicken
All you need is an open mind, and you'll soon find that the bland, flavorless profile of tofu is in fact an amazing jumping-off point for spicy creativity!
Tempeh: fermented soy deliciousness
One of my favorite things to do with tempeh is make something called tempeh "bacon":
If you haven't seen or heard of it, tempeh bacon is basically the vegan equivalent of bacon: tasty, crunchy, delicious, and slightly burned.
For this type of dish, you'll need to find Liquid Smoke to add to your marinade. For us down in Texas, it can easily be found in the condiment section of an HEB or Kroger. But you get the idea.
When opening the package of fermented soy beans (less processed, and more fibrous than tofu), you simply cut the blocks into your desired thickness, marinade, and then fry on a skillet for 3-5 minutes per side.
Here's a great tempeh bacon recipe from The Simple Vegan Blog
Try Tempeh bacon on anything you would put regular bacon on at home!
Other awesome tempeh ideas:
1) Tomato, lettuce, tempeh, avocado sandwiches from I Love Vegan.com
2) Tempeh chili like this one from The Simple Veganista
3) Teriyaki stir-fry from Delish Knowledge (I replaced the tofu with tempeh)
How do you like to cook your tofu? Any secrets?