Ahh, tofu. I can’t think of a more polarizing food. Except perhaps cilantro, but that’s a different post entirely!
In a culture where meat is the be-all-end-all of a meal, the idea of subbing in a jiggly beige rectangle made from soybeans for a piece of meat or poultry may seem a bit crazy. But tofu is an amazingly delicious, versatile protein source that tastes great when prepared properly – that is, with lots of flavour. And you definitely don’t have to be a vegetarian or vegan to enjoy it.
I have my mom to thank for liking tofu as much as I do now. Back in the early 90s when neither vegetarianism nor Meatless Mondays were mainstream concepts, my mom introduced us to tofu in the form of kid-friendly fajitas.
She would simmer strips of extra-firm tofu in a smoky barbecue sauce–“tofu just soaks up whatever flavours you put with it!” she would say–and serve them with tortillas, shredded lettuce, salsa and cheddar cheese. The part that made it extra exciting was getting to customize the toppings. More cheese? Yes, please!
The neat thing was that tofu wasn’t used as a means of replacing meat; we never had those fajitas with chicken or steak. It was its own thing entirely. Today I find that a really cool concept. Tofu is tofu; meat is meat. One can be used in the place of the other if that’s what floats your boat, but they are different foods that can be enjoyed in different ways.
These days I eat tofu so regularly that people ask if I’m vegetarian. My answer? Nope, I just really like tofu.
Recipe: Grilled chipotle tofu tacos with pico de gallo
A smoky, spicy vegetarian taco recipe with homemade fresh salsa. Serves 4
For the tacos
- 1 package extra-firm tofu, cut into triangles
- 2-3 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, finely chopped
- Salt, to taste
- 4 small whole wheat or corn tortillas
- 1 cup shredded romaine or iceberg lettuce
- 4 radishes, thinly sliced
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
- Lime wedges, for serving
For the salsa
- 8 small to medium-sized tomatoes, diced
- 2 Persian cucumbers, diced
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 2 jalapeños (or more, to taste), finely chopped
- 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped
- Juice of 1 lime
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Pat the tofu with paper towels, pressing down to squeeze out extra moisture. Transfer to a bowl, container or plastic zip-top bag and add the chipotles and adobo. Season with salt and toss to combine. Let sit for about 10 mins to allow flavours to absorb.
- Pre-heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Spray with oil spray to prevent sticking. Grill the tofu, turning once halfway through cooking, until grill marks form and the tofu is heated through, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer tofu to a plate.
- Combine the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, jalapenos and cilantro in a medium-sized bowl. Add the lime juice and toss; season with salt and pepper. Cover the pico de gallo and refrigerate for about 30 minutes to let the flavours meld.
- Divide the lettuce, tofu, radishes, scallions, feta, cilantro and the salsa among 4 tacos. Serve with lime wedges.
- I used canned chipotle chiles packed in adobo sauce. For this recipe I used roughly half of a 7-oz can and froze the rest in a zip-top bag.
Jennifer Andrews, B.Sc., M.Sc.
Nutritional scientist // Marketing professional // Food blogger
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