Crispy Tofu Broccoli Bowl

By Ann Fulton

If you've never tried tofu, this recipe is a great place to start! Brimming with a variety of textures and flavor, this easy and filling tofu bowl is anything but bland
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If you’ve never tried tofu, this recipe is a great place to start. Brimming with a variety of textures and flavor, this easy and filling tofu bowl is anything but bland. As a bonus, all the components of the bowl can be enjoyed on their own as well. 

 

When Emily was preparing her latest nutrition article on soy, it occurred to me that after 10-plus years, I still don’t have a tofu recipe on the blog. 

And I do eat tofu–it can truly be prepared in delicious ways. For an easy, prep-ahead breakfast, I frequently make veggie-loaded scrambles with tofu. When cooked and seasoned well, the tofu is quite satisfying and tastes much like scrambled eggs. 

That said, there’s a lot of drama surrounding tofu, and if I think a recipe may not have broad appeal, I tend to put it on the back burner. (Pardon the pun.) 

When I first made the following meal many years ago, I was, in fact, worried my family would audibly groan, or possibly revolt–to the point that I grilled two chicken breasts to slice as a backup.

But they liked it. They actually raved about the broccoli, but they really enjoyed the crisp, seasoned tofu. 

I took photos of the meal several years ago, but because tofu is such a polarizing food, I sat on the recipe. When Emily was writing her soy post, I offered this up.

Since I hadn’t made the recipe in a few years, the caveat was that she had to make it–and like it! My only critique at the time was that the quinoa (rice is a worthy substitute) could have more flavor. Cooking it in broth, seasoning it well, and/or adding a simple sauce (my family’s vote is for sriracha mayo) will address that minor flaw.

Don’t hesitate to make the broccoli or the tofu portion of this recipe on their own. The components are worthy of mixing and matching.

Of course, you could substitute chicken or shrimp for the tofu (even though that defeats the purpose of trying it!), or add heft by using tofu plus a second protein. When serving, I like to chop everything and stir together.

If you've never tried tofu, this recipe is a great place to start! Brimming with a variety of textures and flavor, this easy and filling tofu bowl is anything but bland

Did you know…

  • You can freeze tofu! There’s some interesting science behind what happens. More on this below.
  • There are several types of tofu based on how much water it contains. FIRM tofu stays solid and in tact. It can be stir-fried but may fall apart, whereas the EXTRA FIRM (used in recipes like the following) is sturdier and holds up well to baking, grilling, or frying. MEDIUM  tofu is used in miso soup, where the tofu remains in tact but is very soft. SILKEN tofu (or Chinese soft tofu) holds the most water and so is the softest. It is used to create a creamy texture in recipes such as sauces, smoothies, or custards. 
  • Tofu was first made about two thousand years ago in China, but tofu is a Japanese word.
  • Benjamin Franklin was said to have tried tofu in London in the 1700’s!

Should I freeze tofu?

Freezing tofu may sound strange, but there are several benefits. When frozen, the water inside (tofu is 86% water) expands as it turns to ice crystals, and these crystals push apart the protein network. When thawed, the water drains away, and sponge-like holes remain. The resulting texture is firmer and chewier, and because more moisture is expelled, the tofu will more readily absorb the flavor of sauces and marinades.

Additionally, freezing will extend the package use-by date (which is usually about two months after its production date) by around three months. Note that the bean protein will turn a yellowish color when frozen. The first time I froze tofu, I was concerned this meant it had gone bad, but this is totally fine and to be expected.

How do I freeze tofu?

I prefer to freeze it right in the package. For faster thawing, you can remove it from the package, discarding the water, and then slice into slabs or cubes. However, I find that more water is helpful in achieving the desired textural change, and this is better accomplished right in the original, water-filled package

How do I use frozen tofu?

Thaw at room temperature or in the refrigerator and then gently press to remove some of the excess water. Helpful hint: Because the tofu will be firmer at this point, you can really squeeze it without breaking it–no need to press between paper towels as is usually recommended with firm and extra firm tofu. But a caution…I once did this and found that the final texture, once cooked, was too dry and spongy. It helps to remember that tofu is 86% water and we do want some of that moisture—just not all. Stick with a gentle squeeze and know that the act of freezing will do most of the work.

If you've never tried tofu, this recipe is a great place to start! Brimming with a variety of textures and flavor, this easy and filling tofu bowl is anything but bland

Crispy Spiced Tofu Broccoli Bowl
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
Crispy tofu pairs pairs with whole grains, vibrant veggies, and a few flavor-packed extras for a filling meal that is anything but bland.
Ingredients for the tofu:
  • 14 ounces extra-firm tofu, sliced ¼-inch thick
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
For the broccoli:
  • 2 small to medium broccoli heads, cut into small florets
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons mayonnaise
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
For the pickled onions:
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Pinch (1/16 teaspoon) sugar
  • Pinch (1/16 teaspoon) kosher salt
  • ½ cup thinly sliced red onion
Ingredients for serving the bowls:
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa, cooked rice, or other grain of choice*
  • ¼ cup chopped cashews, almonds, walnuts, pistachios, or nuts/seeds of choice
  • A drizzle of sriracha or spicy mayo**
Instructions for cooking the tofu:

1. Drain the tofu: Place the sliced tofu on 2-3 paper towels and top with a few more paper towels, then place a heavy skillet on top for about 10 minutes to press out the excess moisture. Toss with cornstarch, paprika, and cayenne.
2. Cook the tofu: Heat the oil in medium or large skillet over medium-high. Add the tofu and cook until golden brown (trying not to disturb for best sear), about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper.

For the broccoli:
  1. Combine the mustard, honey, mayo, olive oil, and salt and toss with the broccoli.
  2. Transfer to a lightly greased or lined baking sheet and roast at 425℉ until tender and charred in spots, about 20 minutes, give or take a few minutes depending on oven.
Make the pickled onions:
  1. Whisk together the vinegar, sugar, and salt and toss with the red onion.
  2. Let sit at least 20 minutes or refrigerate up to 3 days, tossing occasionally to thoroughly mix.
To serve:
  1. Equally divide the quinoa (or grain of choice), tofu, broccoli, and onions among four bowls.
  2. Top with chopped nuts/seeds and a drizzle of sriracha or sriracha mayo for extra flavor and crunch. I like to chop it up and mix it all together!
Notes

*To enhance the flavor of the grain, you may wish to cook it in broth or add salt and pepper to taste.

**To make your own sriracha mayo: In a small bowl, mix ¼ cup (52g) mayo and 2 teaspoons (10g) sriracha. If that seems too spicy, add another spoonful of mayo–or add another drizzle of sriracha if it’s not spicy enough.

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A fun nutrition fact from our dietitian Emily:
If you are wondering whether or not soy products – such as the tofu used in this recipe – can be a healthy addition to your regular diet, check out this short post on Soy & Breast Cancer!

For those who are curious…
The reason we don’t list nutritional breakdowns next to each recipe is because the numbers can change significantly depending on brands people buy and how exact the measuring is. In saying that, if you email me separately, I can provide you with my best estimations on the nutrients you would like to know more about in this recipe. I’m happy to help!

 

 

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