Meatless Monday: Crispy Baked Tofu
I love tofu. And I love using my oven to cook food (hello roasted root veggies!). Oddly enough though, I almost never put tofu in the oven. So, for this Meatless Monday recipe, I got the idea to create a baked tofu recipe. I wanted it to have flavour and depth. And I also wanted it to have a secret ingredient.
So, what is the secret ingredient? Miso! Never heard of this amazing Japanese flavour enhancer? Well, you are in luck because it is easier than ever to find it. Check out the health food section or Asian food section at your local grocery store, for example, and you will probably come across miso. It also has a reasonable price point considering how long it will last as you won’t use much at a time. Miso is a great way to incorporate some “umami” flavour into your dishes. Umami is considered to be the fifth basic taste (along with the other four: sweet, sour, salty, and bitter), which we often find in cheese, fish, mushrooms, ripe tomatoes, cured meats, soy sauce and nutritional yeast. It is an important flavour to keep in mind when eating a more plant-based diet, as it helps us to feel more satisfied with our meals. In this recipe the miso and nutritional yeast help to add a delicious cheesy/savoury kick.
Tofu and miso are made from soybeans. Many people have heard that soy foods are dangerous and can cause feminine characteristics in men. The reality is that these beliefs are not true. While soy does have phytoestrogens (plant estrogens), these components generally do not behave the same way as estrogen made in the human body. In fact, soy foods have several health benefits. They may lower the risk of some types of cancer (for example, prostate cancer and breast cancer), might help with the symptoms of menopause, and can improve blood pressure and cholesterol. Soy foods such as tofu and tempeh are also staples in some Asian cuisines and can be a source of iron, protein and calcium in a plant-based diet.
(Keep in mind that miso has a lot of sodium (salt) in it, so if you are concerned about your blood pressure you might want to either reduce the amount you use or try to have a smaller portion)
Crispy Baked Tofu
Makes around 4 generous servings
1 x 350g package of extra firm tofu
2 tbsp miso paste
3 tbsp water
½ cup your favourite plant-based milk (unsweetened)
1 tsp lemon juice
1 ⅓ cup of panko breadcrumbs
½ cup of nutritional yeast
2 tbsp Italian herb seasoning
Optional: cooking oil
1. Preheat oven to 350℉
2. Remove as much water from the tofu as possible by using a tofu press or use a method like this: https://www.thespruceeats.com/how-to-press-tofu-3376642 . Cut the tofu into squares, triangles or slices. If you are pressed for time you might want to cut into bigger pieces.
3. In a medium-size bowl, thin the miso paste by mixing in 1 tbsp of water at a time. Combine the tofu with the miso marinade, making sure to cover all sides of the tofu. Set aside for now.
4. In a cup, combine the plant-based milk with the lemon juice and stir. The mixture will separate/curdle and that is normal.
5. In a shallow bowl or plate, combine the bread crumbs, nutritional yeast, and Italian herb seasoning.
6. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
7. To coat the tofu, take a piece and press into the breadcrumb mixture, then dip it briefly into the plant milk mixture, then back into the breadcrumbs. Press the breadcrumbs into all sides of the tofu, then place on the baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the pieces of tofu. Remember bread crumbs, milk, bread crumbs, baking sheet. Once you get the hang of it you can do more than one piece at a time.
8. Once you have all the tofu on the baking sheet, you can drizzle lightly with some cooking oil if desired.
9. Place in the oven for 15 minutes, flip them gently and bake for another 15 minutes or until they are golden-brown and crispy.
*For a chewier texture, freeze and defrost the tofu before using. This helps to release more water from the tofu and adds more texture.
*If you have time, let the tofu rest in the miso marinade for at least a few hours to let the flavour sink in.
Blog and photo by Angela Tucker. Angela Tucker is a Registered Dietitian from rural Manitoba. Angela first became vegan for compassionate reasons but soon realized other ways a vegan lifestyle and plant-based diet positively impacts the planet and health. To learn more about her philosophy on food, visit her blog PrairieSprout. You can also find her on Facebook and Instagram.