Basic scrambled tofu (B+)

August 26, 2006 at 10:45 am (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Mom’s recipes, Quick weeknight recipe, Tofu)


There are a lot of recipes out there for scrambled tofu. Most have you add tons of herbs and spices and lots of turmeric, which ends up yielding a sort of day-glo yellow, heavily seasoned, soft and somewhat wet, bizarre mixture that I personally find offensive. Go into any standard vegetarian restaurant that serves brunch and you’ll be certain to see this tumeric-ified (a cross between tumour and terrified?) concoction on the menu. Tofu doesn’t taste like eggs, people, even if you turn it bright yellow. Just accept it and love tofu for itself.

This recipe is the antithesis of such concoctions. It’s about as simple as scrambled tofu can get–just add nutritional yeast and salt and pepper (or soy sauce), and maybe a little garlic or garlic powder.

2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 pound medium or firm tofu
1 Tbs. nutritional yeast
? salt
? soy sauce
freshly ground black pepper to taste (optional)

The Instructions

Oil your pan lightly and heat it up. (I use a well-seasoned cast iron skillet.) You want the oil to be hot, almost shimmering. Take a half pound (half a block) of firm tofu and crush it in your hands to sort of “mash” it, letting it fall into the hot oil. If you ended up with some large pieces you can break them up with a spatula, but other than that don’t mess with it. By leaving it in one place you will facilitate browning.

Sprinkle the top with nutritional yeast and salt, and when it starts getting browned and a bit crisp on the bottom, flip it. It’s not going to flip like a omelette where it all stays together, but you want to generally get the browned side up and the unbrowned side down. Sprinkle again with nutritional yeast and salt, then once the other side has browned, serve. I usually go relatively easy on the salt then add soy sauce at the table. In my mind the main purpose of scrambled tofu is to serve as a vehicle for soy sauce. The two soys together are heavenly. If you’re on a low-salt diet don’t bother with this recipe.

Exegesis:

You want the heat high enough so that the tofu browns, but not so high that it burns. On my stove that corresponds to between medium and medium-high.

Too much tofu in the pan will mean the whole pan stays too wet and never browns. On my electric stove where a large pan doesn’t heat evenly, that means that I typically only cook 1/2 or 2/3 of a pound of tofu at once. In general, if you can’t see the bottom of your pan in spots, you’re trying to cook too much tofu at once, and it won’t brown. Similarly, I find that a pan with high sides (rather than a skillet) will keep in too much of the moisture and prevent the tofu from browning.

The nutritional yeast adds flavor, and helps the tofu brown, which adds the most flavor. (I’m not positive the yeast is essential, I’ll have to try it without and report back.)

Rather than crumbling the tofu by hand, the tofu can also be cut into slices and fried, which makes eating it on toast less challenging. I don’t recommend, however, dicing the tofu. Something about the shape tends to cause it to get dried out tasting, I don’t know why.

Finally, the type of tofu will matter. It should be firm, but not too firm. Soft tofu will cook away to almost nothing because it’s mostly water, plus it will never brown. On the other hand, I find that extra firm tofu often has too coarse of a texture and the mouthfeel is not as good. The perfect tofu will have the tender but still substantial texture of scrambled eggs. I’ve had good luck with Nasoya firm tofu.

The flavor of this preparation is going to be pretty simple, but the texture is great. Some may say it’s bland, but even Derek–who despises “bland” food–really likes tofu cooked this way.

Boy, for a “basic” recipe this sure has a lot of notes! The price of perfection I suppose.

Serving suggestions:

When I was a kid my mom would make scrambled tofu with toast a couple mornings a week for breakfast. Now I eat it less frequently, but when I really want a comfort-food breakfast, out comes the tofu and the skillet. I often eat it plain in a bowl with a little soy sauce, or sometimes over brown rice. However, my favorite use for scrambled tofu is probably to put it in a warm whole wheat tortilla with tomatoes (in the summertime) and lettuce and onions and salsa for a breakfast (or lunch, or dinner) taco. Sometimes I even add kalamata olives.

Rating: B+

Update Feb 2012:

I made pan-fried tofu tonight in large cubes, and it came out great.  Here’s approximately what I did:

  • 400 grams medium-firm tofu, cut into large cubes (maybe 3/4 inch square)
  • 1 Tbs. coconut oil
  • 10 grams nutritional yeast
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • thyme
  • aleppo pepper

I heated my 12 inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Once the oil was hot I added the tofu to the pan in a single layer, and turned the heat to medium.  Before flipping it I sprinkled on half of the nutritional yeast and salt and pepper.  After flipping I sprinkled on the rest of the yeast, some thyme and aleppo pepper.  After the cubes browned on the second side I mixed them up a bit more, letting them brown, then turning randomly a few times, until the tofu was mostly browned on all sides.  It was delicious.  I liked the thyme and aleppo combination a lot.  And the tofu didn’t even need soy sauce, because all that yeast added plenty of umame flavor.

I still had some extra space in my pan so next time I might try a full pound of tofu (450g).

Makes four small, three medium, or two large servings.

5 Comments

  1. Derek Dreyer said,

    Made this recipe this morning. Quick, easy and delicious. It’s worth mentioning, though, that if you have a cast-iron pan that’s not well-seasoned, the recipe does not work. I first tried the recipe on my dinky cast-iron pan, and the tofu stuck to the pan and did not brown. I then tried it on a non-stick pan, and it came out perfect.

  2. Tara said,

    I was hungry, tired, headachy, needed to eat, and had some tofu I needed to use. I whipped this up in a non-stick pan. I sprinkled a tiny bit of flour on the tofu as it fried (not sure why), along with the seasoning. It was very easy and very tasty. Thanks! I’m sure I’ll do this again.

  3. Karl said,

    Well this is the first time I’ve made a tofu scramble. I was looking for something easy and that wouldn’t require a special $10 trip to the store! All in all, this was very good. I agree that it needs the soy sauce; while it isn’t BAD without it, it is a little bland (though tolerable)

    • captious said,

      Yep, tofu scramble without soy sauce is not worth eating in my opinion.

  4. Mexican Brunch « The captious vegetarian said,

    […] scrambled tofu with green peppers […]

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