Take Me to Your Tofu
Tofu gets a bad rap. In the world of food fights, tofu is the lily-white, slightly trembling kid with thick glasses on the playground who grows up to do great things, like start a billionaire-backed company that will change the way people think about food. It’s such a staple of many vegetarian meals, that some folks think that vegans and vegetarians subsist on tofu alone, which is not true at all, but wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Why? Because tofu is the tasty chameleon of the veg world. It’s your little helper whether you’re whipping up a cream pie or a BBQ. Let’s talk tofu, shall we?
How Do I Pronounce That?: Toe-Foo
Types: There are two types of tofu: Silken or soft tofu, and regular or firm tofu. Both types boast a variety of textures (firm, extra firm, etc) and can come in raw, sprouted, and/or organic formulations. Opt for organic and sprouted versions if you wish to avoid genetically modified (GMO) nasties and want to up the nutrient content.
Why It Rocks: Nutritionally, tofu is high in protein, low in fat, and naturally cholesterol-free. It also contains healthful phytochemicals, such as isoflavones and soy saponins. For cooking, tofu absorbs whatever flavors and marinades it is exposed to. Silken tofu lends a cream-like quality to foods and adds a soft, spongey deliciousness to soups (think those little white pearls in miso soup), while firm tofu can be used to sub for egg-like consistencies, and create rockin’ meat analogues and other dishes requiring a soft, but toothsome texture. Moreover, tofu is inexpensive and can be found practically anywhere. From health food stores, to Asian markets, to your corner store – tofu is quite possibly the easiest to procure meat substitute.
Why It Gets a Bad Rap: Tofu is a processed soy product, and the verdict is still out on unfermented, photo-estrogen rich soy products. You can read some of the research on soy, and namely tofu, here. Also, at first blush, tofu doesn’t look particularly appetizing. But with a little patience and technique, it can quickly and easily be cooked up in to some of the tastiest morsels around. Don’t judge a book by its cover.
How To: Cooking with Tofu
With the right tools and know-how, tofu will truly rock your culinary world. I like the Savvy Vegetarian’s tips for cooking with tofu, which emphasize how to drain firm tofu, how to make raw tofu safe, and how to store unused tofu. I’ve included some of my favorite tofu recipes below, but let me just say this – if you know what’s right and good in the world, you will scramble tofu with lots of yummy spices asap. Because that’s the way the Universe, IMHO, intended tofu to be consumed. No pressure or anything.
Silken Tofu Recipes:
- Spinach and Artichoke Dip
- Berry Tofu Smoothie
- Asian Flavored Chowder
- Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan Crunch Topping
- Jamocha Silk Pie
Firm/Regular Tofu Recipes:
Tempeh is sort of like the sexy, more-exotic-with-less-baggage hippie cousin of tofu who shows up at a family party and totally rocks your world. It’s crunchy texture is unique and while it’s not as prevalent as tofu, it’s very versatile and, due to its fermentation, is considered to be less health-controversial.
How Do I Pronounce That?: Tem-Pay
Types: Tempeh is available in many commercially-prepared varieties, including organic, sprouted, smoked, and with different grain and spice preparations, like flax and barley. Experiment to lend different flavors and textures to your recipes.
How To: Cooking with Tempeh
Tempeh may seem a little odd to work with at first, but the texture makes for delicious sammies, taco filling, and grilled goodies. Here are some of my favorite tempeh recipes that will bring all the meat-eaters to your yard.
- Tempeh Helper (like Hamburger Helper, minus the cruelty, nastiness, and this)
- Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes (like crab cakes, but no pinchy pinchy)
- Tempeh Burgers
- Black Bean, Sweet Potato Tempeh Burgers
- Phyllo Tempeh Reubens
- Orange and Ancho Tempeh Tacos with Grapefruit Slaw
- Tempeh “Fish n’ Chips” (YES. Fish and freakin’ chips. So good.)
Seitan makes me wild with desire. It’s my very favorite meat substitute, because it boasts so many different textures. Seitan can be soft for slicing like gyro or lunchmeat, or it can be made firmer for a consistency that works with skewers and steaks. It’s also a cinch to make. Read on and see why seitan has so many dedicated followers.
How Do I Pronounce That?: Say-Tan
Types: Seitan comes in so many varieties, your head will spin. You can buy already prepared seitan in a variety of flavors and firmness. There are also commercially-available seitan mixes that require only some liquid, stirring, and cooking to create a masterful loaf, and many are geared toward replicating a certain kind of meat. And, among the meat subs, seitan is the easiest to customize and make at home. Seitan blends often feature tofu or tempeh to create different textures and levels of chewiness.
How To: Cooking with Seitan
Seitan is so versatile that you will see recipes mixing it with beans, grains, tofu, and tempeh to achieve different textures. I’ve included recipes for dynamite make-at-home seitan, as well as tasty dishes featuring seitan as a key ingredient. This list barely scratches the surface, so be sure to explore the internet and many cookbooks out there for your favorite recipes.
Other Meaty Mimickers
Nowadays, you can make meaty meals out of almost anything. Here are just a few of our favorite staple and up-and-coming meat substitutes with corresponding recipes that we think are the cat’s pajamas. If you end up making something meaty from seaweed, I want you to call me pronto.
- Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP): Vegan White Bean and TVP Meatballs
- Cauliflower: Vegan Cauliflower “Steak” with Basil Oil
- Portobello Mushrooms: Miso-Marinated Portobello Mushroom Carpaccio
- Jackfruit: Jackfruit Carnitas
- Coconut: Coconut Bacon
- Lentils: Gluten-free Vegan Lentil “Meatloaf”
- Eggplant: Eggplant Bacon and Scalloped Potatoes and Eggplant Bacon
Have a favorite meaty vegan recipe you’d like to share? Spill in the comments, or better yet, join the Vegucated Schoolhouse Community!
This was the most recent Vegucated Guide and I wanted to repost because many found it helpful, especially to send along to newbie vegans who are still experimenting with these awesome ingredients. If you like these Guides, please subscribe to the Vegucated Challenge and you’ll receive one every two weeks. Caveat: In these Vegucated Guides, I feature recipes from all sorts of vegan blogs and sources, so they’re not all mine. If you click the links or pictures, they will take you to the corresponding recipes.