Tofu can be a very confusing ingredient for people who are new to eating without meat. Most people are curious about how to use tofu, but they also usually have a horror story of some awful dish they ate in the past with tofu that still haunts them. The key with tofu is to understand the different types of tofu and use them in the correct dish. I’ll break down the different tofu options and their best uses. I also have a new recipe using tofu to make a vegan fried rice. My tofu fried rice is a complete meal, full of veggies and protein. When you use leftover rice it is a quick and easy Meatless Monday meal to add to your rotation.
One of the confusing things about tofu is all of the texture and packaging options. There are many great guides that focus on the different textures (Super Firm, Firm, Soft, Silken) of tofu. While the labeled texture is important, I think the biggest differentiator is how the tofu is packaged.
ASEPTIC SILKEN TOFU
Tofu that is stored on the shelf in the grocery store, normally in the Asian food aisle, is packaged in an aseptic box. This tofu has a silken texture and is very soft. I use this type of tofu when I make dessert. It blends into dishes really well, but won’t hold up to stirfrying etc. Many people also use tofu stored in aseptic containers if they are using tofu as an egg replacer in baking.
WATER PACKED TOFU
This is the tofu you see in the refrigerated case at most grocery stores. The tofu sits in a small tub of water. Regardless of the labeled texture, this type of tofu is going to be full of moisture. Many people like water packed tofu for scrambles, since the additional moisture keeps it from drying out. I rarely use this type of tofu because I find the texture way too mushy for my liking. If this is all you can find in your area be sure to press the tofu to remove the excess water before adding it to your dishes. Here is a quick overview on how to press tofu.
VACUUM PACKED TOFU
Vacuum packed tofu is my favorite variety for making stir fries, scrambles, curries etc. This tofu is vacuum sealed with a very small amount of water. I find this tofu to have the best, most firm texture. I never need to press this kind. The brand I normally see is Wildwood Organics. It is sold at both Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.
To make my Tofu Fried Rice I advise using the Vacuum Packed Tofu if you can. In my dish I quickly pan fry crumbled tofu before cooking any of the veggies. By adding a little turmeric the tofu looks like the egg it is replacing in traditional fried rice.
Once the tofu is cooked and removed from the pan you can work with any veggies you like. Make sure they are cut small so they cook quickly. This Tofu Fried Rice is a great way to use up vegetable odds and ends in your refrigerator.
I like to top my rice bowl with Sriracha for a hit of spice. Skip the Sriracha and consider a sweet chili sauce if you are looking for a milder dish. The leftovers are fantastic for lunch the next day.
- 2 teaspoons Sesame Oil, divided
- 8 oz Tofu
- ¼ teaspoon Turmeric
- 1 Tablespoon Ginger, peeled and minced
- 2-3 cloves Garlic, minced
- ½ cups Broccoli Florets, finely chopped
- ½ cup Carrots, peeled and shredded
- ½ cup Zuchinni, shredded
- ½ cup Scallions, sliced thin
- 4 cups Rice, cooked
- 3 Tablespoons Tamari
- ¼ cup Cilantro, minced
- Sririacha, optional
- Add 1 teaspoon sesame oil to a large non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium heat. Crumble in tofu. Add in turmeric and salt. Mix until turmeric is completely combined in tofu. Saute for 10 minutes over medium low heat. Add splashes of water if needed to prevent sticking. Once tofu has cooked for 10 minutes take tofu out of the skillet and set aside in a separate bowl.
- Add remaining teaspoon of sesame oil to same skillet over medium heat. Add in ginger and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes, until fragrant. Add in broccoli and 2 Tablespoons of water. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add in carrots, zucchini and scallions. Cook for 2 minutes, mixing frequently.
- Add rice and Tamari to the vegetable mixture. Stir until well combined. Add in tofu. Cook over Medium hit, stirring frequently for 5 minutes. Serve warm, topped with cilantro and Sriracha.