How To Make Crispy Baked Tofu And Enjoy It In A Balanced Bowl
I have always enjoyed eating animal products throughout my life. After all, I am Middle Eastern, and our dairy and meat delicacies are world-renowned. But things have certainly changed after I recently became more knowledgeable about the impacts of modern agriculture and fishing on the environment. The inhumane levels of farming, feeding and slaughtering has got my stomach in a real tight knot. They’ve also got my mind searching for ways to eat less meat and find acceptable meat-replacements, such as tofu.
Change starts with inspiration
Ever since watching Seaspiracy, I have had a hard time eating animal based anything… To be honest, it has been a challenge doing my regular day-to-day shopping at the market. Seeing all those packages of meat and seafood, milks and cheeses, and frozen this and raw that. It’s heart-wrenching. And that’s just in one store in my little neighborhood. But I’m not going to talk about that in this post. Instead, I’ll just say that I’ve been inspired to change my eating habits so they are more environmentally-friendly.
The changes in my diet have lead me to explore new and unique recipes, some with ingredients that I’m not used to cooking. But a key objective in these recipes is to keep my protein intake levels high in order to support my training and physique goals. On top of that, I want to make the now new vegetarian dishes taste as delicious as a marinated 8oz filet mignon! I’ve got a lot of work to do. But I’m happy to invest in this approach, as it brings me more internal peace and some level of comfort knowing I’m doing my part to protect the planet.
One of my other favorite sustainable and nutrient-packed plants is algae.
Check out the benefits of algae here!
Eating tofu once or twice a week contributes 12kg to your annual greenhouse gas emissions (equivalent to heating a medium-sized home for 2 days or driving 32 miles). The same amount of dairy equates to four times as much. And beef? A whopping 604kg! (That’s like driving 1,542 miles or heating your home for 95 days!)
Finding joy in soy
I’m not a pro at cooking tofu. At least, not yet. However, it has been in my face for several years now, so it’s about time we become acquainted. I’ll admit: the first time I tried tofu, I was not a big fan. It seemed bland and the texture was not very appealing. But after eating it a few more times here and there, I figured out some things.
First, find the right tofu for you. This mainly comes down to consistency. Some may like very soft, silken tofu. However, I prefer my food to be firmer rather than soft, since I know it will tend to be more nutrient dense. Once cooked, I want my tofu to be crispy and flavorful. These results are a bit harder to achieve with very soft tofu. In addition, it needs to have the right side components to really make the dish desirable and come together.
A balanced and delish tofu dish
A healthy dish should more-or-less include each macronutrient: fats, carbs and protein. And depending on what your health and fitness goals are, your ratios between those macros will change. I always like to make sure I have something green on my plate. I also make a point of asking myself if my plate has any micronutrient presence. Then I try to pick items that are packed with some essential minerals and vitamins. Basically, make every bite as enjoyable and nutritious as possible!
Click here to learn more about the importance of micronutrients and the foods you can eat to get your essential vitamins and minerals.
With all of this in mind, I got the idea to make a “roasted Brussels sprouts and crispy baked tofu” bowl. The protein in this dish comes from the tofu, with around 8g of protein per 3oz serving. The Brussels sprouts deliver a healthy dose of micronutrients and antioxidants, as well as a ton of fiber to fill me up, which is great since I have an enormous appetite. The sprouts also contain vitamin K and omega 3 as an added bonus, which I will gladly invite into my meal.
My carbs will come from quinoa and brown rice, and will vary in amount (in my bowl) depending on the time of day in which I am eating this meal. I’ll eat more carbs in the morning and prior to working out, and less of these if I’m eating later. And finally, the fats will be considered the olive oil -which I use in the marinade and cooking process- and maybe some cashews, if I have any lying around to sprinkle on top. Regardless, you never want too much fat in your meal. A portion the size of your thumb should do the trick.
Tips for irresistibly crispy tofu
- Choose the right kind of tofu.
For this recipe, you’ll need to use extra firm tofu. The one I like is from House Foods. It costs only $1.49, is gluten-free and non-GMO, and has a shelf life of about 2 months.
- Squeeze out as much moisture as possible.
If your tofu is wet then it will never get crispy. I used to try to squeezing the moisture out of the whole tofu block but it rarely ever worked and only created a mess. Now I slice the tofu into pieces before pressing it.
- Add flavors after baking.
If you want to infuse your tofu with more flavor, then add the sauce after it’s baked, rather than marinating it. Why? Water-logged tofu isn’t very good at absorbing flavor.
Baked Crispy Tofu and Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Extra Crispy Baked Tofu
Extra Firm Tofu – 1 block
Olive Oil – 1 tbsp
Soy Sauce – 1 tbsp
Cornstarch – 1 tbsp
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Brussels Sprouts – 1 1/2 pound
Olive Oil – 1 1/2 tbsp
Quinoa & Brown Rice
Organic Quinoa & Brown Rice with Garlic – 1 pouch (8.5 oz)
Spicy Honey-Sesame Glaze
Honey – 3 tbsp
Rice Vinegar – 2 tbsp
Sesame Oil – 2 tsp
Chili Garlic Sauce – 2 tsp
Sesame Seeds – 2 tbsp
Chopped Cilantro, Green Onion, or Other Greens
- Position your oven racks in the lower third and upper third of the oven. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two large, baking sheets with parchment paper to prevent the tofu from sticking.
Pre-Preparing the tofu:
- Drain the tofu and use your hands to squeeze out some of the water. Slice the tofu into thirds lengthwise so you have 3 even slabs. Stack the slabs on top of each other and slice through them lengthwise to make 3 even columns, then slice across to make 5 even rows. The end result is bite-sized pieces of tofu.
- Line a pan or board with an absorbent towel or paper towels, then arrange the tofu in an even layer on the towel(s). Fold the towel(s) over the cubed tofu, then place something heavy on top (like another cutting board, topped with a full kettle) to help the tofu drain. Let the tofu rest for at least 10 minutes while you prep the Brussels sprouts.
Let’s Get Cookin’!
- Trim the ends of the Brussels sprouts and remove any discolored leaves, then cut the sprouts in halves lengthwise. Toss the sprouts with a light, even coating of olive oil. On a large baking sheet, arrange the sprouts in an even layer, flat sides down, and sprinkle with salt.
- Transfer the pressed tofu to a bowl and drizzle with olive oil and soy sauce. Toss to combine. Sprinkle the cornstarch over the tofu, and toss the tofu until the starch is evenly coated, and there are no powdery spots remaining. Arrange the tofu in an even layer across the second baking sheet.
- To bake the sprouts and tofu: Transfer the pan of Brussels sprouts to the lower oven rack, and the pan of tofu to the top rack. Bake for 30 minutes. Toss the contents of each pan halfway through cooking at minute 15 so that the sprouts and tofu are golden on the edges.
- To make the glaze: In a small saucepan, whisk together the glaze ingredients. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring often and reducing heat as necessary. Simmer until the glaze is reduced by about half (about 5 to 10 minutes; it’s about done when it starts bubbling up substantially). Remove the glaze from the heat and set aside.
- For the rice: Squeeze the pouch to separate the rice. Tear 2 inches to vent. Microwave on high for 90 seconds.
- To assemble: Spoon one serving of rice into your bowl. Top with sprouts and tofu, and drizzle with glaze. Finish each plate with a very generous sprinkling of sesame seeds and a small handful of chopped greens or cilantro.
The Last Bite
I’ve been digging tofu – and digging into this bowl- ever since I found this recipe for baked tofu. Hopefully it inspires you to give this soy-powered recipe a try. As a bonus, now that you know how to make crispy tofu at home, you can use it in a wide range of recipes. Because of it’s texture, I find that it makes a great meat substitute in a bunch of different dishes. Whether it’s in a salad, stir fried or sautéed, this crispy baked tofu is also excellent at soaking up favorite flavorful sauces. Maybe I won’t miss that filet mignon so much after all.
Let me know your favorite tofu recipes so we can try them here on Kaldzar! Drop them in the comments below or send via email to email@example.com.
Check out all our topics and posts under Nutrition, including other healthy recipes such as:
- Super-Powered Spinach Pesto – Goes great on everything!
- Easy Baked Sweet Potatoes – Are perfect for meal prep and anytime
- Fatteh – A chick pea-based Levantine breakfast that will fuel you all day
- Vegetarian Garden Risotto – A deliciously decadent dinner
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