One simple step when cooking has changed my tofu life. This method may not be new to everyone, and it certainly isn’t revolutionary, but I’ve been seeing it popping up on the food media scene lately, so I felt compelled to give it a try. What happened was mind-blowing. I became excited about cooking and eating tofu!
When I suggest tofu as a lean, plant-based protein option to clients, I am often met with groans and cringes. “Gross, that’s like flavorless mush,” people say. Although, I generally like tofu when it is cooked with flavors, I can understand how people may not enjoy the soft soy pillows. I believe this preparation method could change people’s minds about eating and liking tofu. But first, let’s go through the tofu basics.
What exactly is tofu?
The process used to make tofu is similar to that of making cheese. Soy milk is coagulated with nigari to make curds. When salt is removed from seawater, what remains is the mineral-packed substance called nigari, which is used as the coagulant. Once curds have formed, they are packed into a block to form tofu. For convenience, tofu is available for purchase in most grocery stores, but is easy to make at home.
Is it healthy?
With about 70 calories per serving of tofu, it is a low calorie, complete protein (about 8 grams per serving). It is a nutrient dense plant-based protein. Tofu is low in carbs, a source of healthy fats, calcium, iron, folate, and several other important minerals.
If you Google this question, you will likely find conflicting ideas and opinions about whether or not soy is healthy. However, the majority of recent studies have provided substantial evidence that soy is healthy and a nutritionally beneficial food.
Soybeans contain natural plant compounds called isoflavones that are believed to have many health benefits, including contributing to bone health, reduced risk of some cancers, weight loss, and relief from the symptoms associated with menopause. Women who consume soy products once a week may have a 48-56% lower risk of breast cancer, according to a recent study. Other studies have shown that men who regularly eat soy products had a 32-51% lower risk of prostate cancer. Consuming soy may also decrease the risk for heart disease and lower “bad” LDL cholesterol. To read more, click here for helpful, evidence-based resources.
This dietitian’s recommendation is to consume minimally processed soy products like tofu, tempeh, miso or edamame in moderation to reap the health benefits. Avoid highly processed soy products, such as soy-based meat alternatives. Since a large portion of the soybeans grown in the U.S. are genetically modified, if this is a concern, then opt for organic tofu and look for the Non-GMO label on the package.
What’s the new way of cooking tofu?
1. Squeeze most of the water out of the tofu. I place it on a plate between paper towels and lightly push downward. Then pick it up and squeeze it like a sponge until the majority of the water has drained. Dry off the edges. If the tofu has too much water, it won’t crisp up as well when baked.
2. Mix spices in a bowl with oil. Here’s the combination I used:
- 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp. ground coriander
- 2 tsp. smoked Spanish paprika
- 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
3. Using your hands, break the tofu into craggy, uneven chunks. Spices and marinades cling better to the craggy edges than the traditional smooth edges of the cubes. Add them to the bowl and toss to coat the tofu in the marinate.
4. Lay the tofu chunks out on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
5. Roast at 425° F, turning twice, for 20-25 minutes until crispy around the edges.
These little tofu nuggets can be used in a variety of dishes. Two of my favorites are Shawarma-Spiced Tofu Pita Wraps from Epicurious and Crispy Tofu with Coconut Quinoa and Broccolini from Basically.
Even kids learn to work with tofu at The Chopping Block! The kids in this summer's cooking camps will learn how to make a lovely Pad Thai with Tofu.
If you are looking ways to add more plant-based proteins to your diet, check out our Vegetarian Boot Camp coming up in August. Just search our new mobile-friendly calendar using the "vegetarian" category for all of our vegetarian offerings.