tofu soba noodle soup recipe with spicy miso, ginger and teriyaki

The best tofu recipes, from spicy noodle soup to fish and chips

Posted by for Food and Drink

Sceptical about tofu? These delicious recipes will turn you into a total convert. 

There’s some evidence that the coronavirus pandemic slowed down the UK’s plant-based movement: research by Mintel shows that the number of Brits actively reducing or cutting out meat in their diet dropped from half of all consumers in 2019 to four in ten between April and September last year.

Yet with research from The Vegan Society showing that one in five Brits have cut down on meat consumption during the pandemic, and a record-breaking amount of signups to Veganuary this year, it’s clear that plenty of people are still keen on a plant-based way of life. And with recipes ranging from aubergine stews to fragrant one-pot pilaf at our fingertips, incorporating vegan and vegetarian dishes into our weekly meal rotation is now a seriously enticing proposition for meat-eaters, too.

That being said, we do think tofu deserves a little more love. A versatile, soya-based bean curd, tofu is a great source of plant-based protein that can be used in all sorts of ways. And it shouldn’t just be thought of as a meat substitute. Whether blended, baked or fried, tofu is a delicious ingredient in its own right; not to mention, it be cooked in a jiffy when you’re tired and hungry.

If you’ve never cooked with tofu before, though, it can be a little daunting. Silken or firm? Pressed or unpressed? Should you marinate it before cooking? All those questions can be answered with a little expert know-how – so whether you’re experimenting with plant-based meals, or are in search of something slightly more inventive for meat-free Mondays, we’ve got five delicious recipes to help you prepare it like a pro.

If you’re new to tofu, Bonnie Chung’s sweet soy black pepper tofu is a no-fuss stir-fry that can go from pan to plate in half an hour.

For comfort food with a twist, Katy Beskow’s beer-battered ‘tofish’ and chips brings plenty of fresh-from-the-ocean flavour thanks to the nori seaweed sheets, while the tofu in Tyrone Brennand’s aubergine curry acts as a canvas for the rich flavour of the sauce.

Lastly, the rice noodle and smoked tofu salad from new cookbook Totally Tofu is a brilliant take-out lunch for picnic season – and the spicy miso soba noodle soup with ginger teriyaki tofu has just the right amount of kick for a chilly spring evening. Tofu really can do it all.

  • Sweet soy black pepper tofu

    sweet soy black pepper tofu recipe
    Bonnie Chung’s sweet soy black pepper tofu

    Serves 2

    Ingredients

    • 300g firm tofu, drained and cut into 1 ½ cm thick rectangular pieces
    • 100g cornflour
    • vegetable oil
    • 120g unsalted butter (if vegan, swap with coconut butter or olive oil spread)
    • 1 medium red onion, finely sliced
    • ½ red pepper, finely sliced into strips
    • 6 spring onions, finely sliced
    • 1 whole bulb of garlic, finely sliced
    • 3 tbsp minced fresh ginger
    • 3 tbsp light soy sauce
    • 4 tbsp dark soy sauce
    • 2 ½ tbsp brown sugar
    • 5 tbsp crushed black peppercorn

    Method

    First take the rectangular pieces of tofu and coat in the cornflour, until all the sides are covered.

    Heat up 3 tbsp vegetable oil in a frying pan until bubbling hot. Space the tofu out one by one in the oil and turn individually until all sides are crunchy and golden, then drain on a paper towel. Do this in separate batches using more oil if needed.

    In a clean frying pan, heat up 3 tbsp of vegetable oil for 2 minutes before adding the red onion and spring onions, and stir-fry until softened. Next add the red pepper, garlic and ginger to the pan then the butter.

    In a small bowl, mix the soy sauces and brown sugar, before adding to the pan. Stir frequently to ensure the butter doesn’t split from the sauce.

    Finally add the black pepper and stir for 1 minute, before adding the tofu. Stir through gently.

    Great served with steamed rice or egg/rice noodles. Enjoy!

    Bonnie Chung is the author of Miso Tasty The Cookbook: Everyday, Tasty Recipes With Miso - The Japanese Superfood (£14.99, Pavilion), out now, and Tofu Tasty: Everyday Tasty Recipes With Tofu (£12.99, Pavilion), out August 2021

  • Beer-battered tofish and chips

    beer-battered tofu and chips recipe - vegan fish and chips
    Katy Beskow’s beer-battered tofish and chips

    Katy says: “Cruelty-free doesn’t have to mean flavour-free, with a golden beer batter encasing tender tofu. It’s thanks to nori seaweed sheets that the tofish has a flavour of the ocean (you’ll find nori in the world food aisle of large supermarkets).”

    Serves 4

    Ingredients

    For the chips:

    • 4 large King Edward potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm thick chips
    • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
    • sprinkle of malt vinegar
    • pinch of sea salt

    For the beer-battered tofish:

    • 200g plain flour
    • 2 tbsp cornflour
    • pinch of ground turmeric
    • small handful of fresh dill, finely chopped
    • 1 tsp sea salt
    • generous pinch of black pepper
    • 300ml cold beer (ensure vegan)
    • 2 x 280g blocks of extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed
    • 4 sheets of sushi nori
    • 500ml sunflower oil
    • unwaxed lemon wedges, to serve

    Method

    To make the chips, preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6. Rinse the chipped potatoes under cold water, drain and pat dry. Lay the chips on a baking sheet in an even layer. Drizzle with the sunflower oil, then bake for 50 minutes until golden and crisp.

    Meanwhile, make the beer batter. Stir together the flour, cornflour, turmeric, dill, sea salt and black pepper in a large bowl.

    Slowly pour in the beer and whisk to get rid of any lumps. Rest the batter in the fridge while you prepare the tofu.

    Slice each block of pressed tofu horizontally, so you have 4 thin rectangles. Press a sheet of nori over one side of each tofu slice. 

    Heat the sunflower oil in a large, deep frying pan over a medium heat. Dip the tofu slices in the batter to coat fully then use a slotted spoon to place them in the pan for 3–4 minutes, before turning and cooking the other side until light golden in colour.

    Remove the chips from the oven and sprinkle with vinegar and salt. Serve the tofish and chips hot, with wedges of lemon. 

    Take-out tip 

    Blocks of extra-firm tofu require draining of moisture before use. To do this, press using a tofu press. Alternatively, wrap in kitchen paper or a clean kitchen towel and lay on a plate. Place another plate on top of the block, then add heavy-based pans or a few books as a weight to press and remove excess liquid. Press for 1 hour.

    From Vegan Fakeaway: Plant-Based Takeaway Classics For The Ultimate Night In by Katy Beskow (£15, Quadrille), out now

  • Aubergine and tofu curry with brown rice

    aubergine and tofu curry with brown rice
    Tyrone Brennand’s aubergine and tofu curry with brown rice

    Tyrone Brennand says: “Aubergines are rich in antioxidants – thanks to their purple skin – as well as dietary fibre and magnesium. Tofu is a great vegetarian protein, is versatile and takes on flavours really well. If you’re suspicious of aubergine and tofu, promise me you’ll try this dish; I guarantee you will be converted!”

    Serves 2

    Ingredients

    • 1 tbsp coconut oil
    • 1 aubergine, cut into 2.5cm cubes
    • 1 onion, finely diced
    • 150g silken tofu, cubed
    • 1 garlic clove, chopped
    • 2 ½ cm fresh ginger, chopped
    • 2 tbsp curry powder
    • 100ml vegetable stock
    • 100g brown rice
    • 1 x 400ml can coconut milk
    • 1 lime
    • fresh coriander
    • sea salt

    Method

    Heat the coconut oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and add the aubergine. Gently fry for 8–10 minutes.

    Add the onion, tofu, garlic and ginger and season with salt. Cook for a further 5 minutes, then add the curry powder. Stir to combine.

    Add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 10–15 minutes.

    Put the brown rice into a pan with half the coconut milk. Top up with 200ml water and cook for 20 minutes.

    Add the remaining coconut milk to the curry and cook for a further 5–10 minutes or until the sauce has slightly thickened. 

    Serve the curry with the cooked, drained rice and finish with a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Garnish with fresh coriander.

    From Be The Fittest: Your Ultimate 12-Week Guide To Training Smart, Eating Clever And Learning To Listen To Your Body by Tyrone Brennand (£15, Quadrille), out now

  • Rice noodle and smoked tofu salad

    Rice noodle and smoked tofu salad recipe
    Rice noodle and smoked tofu salad

    The ingredients for this Asian main-meal salad may look on the long side, but it’s very easy to prepare and can be made the night before if you are wanting to transport it as a packed lunch. If making in advance, assemble the salad just before serving.

    Serves 4

    Ingredients

    • 2 tbsp coconut oil or sunflower oil
    • 275g smoked tofu, patted dry, and cut into bite-sized cubes
    • 200g rice vermicelli noodles
    • 1 carrot, halved crossways and thinly sliced into thin strips
    • 10cm piece cucumber, quartered lengthways, deseeded, and thinly sliced into strips
    • 2 handfuls of shredded sweetheart cabbage
    • 3 spring onions, thinly sliced
    • ½ red onion, finely sliced
    • 2 handfuls of freshly chopped mint leaves
    • 2 handfuls of freshly torn basil leaves
    • 1 little gem lettuce, leaves separated
    • 75g salted peanuts, roughly chopped

    For the dressing:

    • 5 tbsp rice wine vinegar
    • 4 tsp caster sugar
    • 1 tbsp soy sauce
    • 1 red chilli, deseeded and diced

    Method

    Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and fry the tofu for 8–10 minutes, turning often, until golden and crisp. Drain on paper towels.

    Meanwhile, prepare the noodles according to the packet instructions, then drain and refresh under cold running water and drain again. Transfer the noodles to a large bowl. Mix together all the ingredients for the dressing and pour over the noodles.

    Add the carrot, cucumber, cabbage, spring onions, red onion and half the herbs to the noodles and toss until combined. Arrange the little gem leaves on a large, flat serving plate and top with the noodle salad, smoked tofu, remaining herbs and peanuts.

    From Totally Tofu: 75 Delicious Protein-Packed Vegetarian and Vegan Recipes (£9.99, Ryland, Peters & Small), out now

  • Spicy miso soba noodle soup with ginger teriyaki tofu

    tofu soba noodle soup recipe with spicy miso, ginger and teriyaki
    Spicy miso soba noodle soup with ginger teriyaki tofu

    This dish is healthy and quick to prepare, plus full of punchy flavours. The perfect no-fuss meal for hungry people! Japanese cuisine tends to be mild on the whole, but this dish has a real kick. The chilli will certainly lift your spirits and boost your energy on a cold day.

    Serves 2

    Ingredients

    For the ginger teriyaki tofu:

    • 200g firm tofu
    • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
    • 1 tsp peeled and very finely chopped fresh ginger
    • 2 tbsp soy sauce
    • 2 tbsp mirin

    For the noodle soup:

    • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
    • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
    • 2 spring onions, whites only, finely chopped
    • 800ml vegetarian or vegan dashi
    • 160g dried soba noodles
    • 3 tbsp red miso
    • 1 tbsp gochujang (Korean red chilli paste)

    To serve:

    • 2 tbsp dried wakame seaweed, soaked in water to reconstitute, then drained
    • 1 tbsp toasted mixed black and white sesame seeds
    • dried red chilli strips
    • 1 spring onion, thinly sliced

    Method

    For the ginger teriyaki tofu, wrap the tofu in paper towels and place under a heavy kitchen utensil for 30 minutes to remove excess water.

    Dice the tofu into cubes. In a medium frying pan, heat the vegetable oil over a medium heat and fry the tofu until browned on all sides. Add the ginger and stir in. Add the soy sauce and mirin and fry for 2 minutes until the tofu becomes caramelised. Set aside.

    For the noodle soup, put the vegetable oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the garlic and spring onions and fry for 1 minute to infuse some flavour into the oil. Add the dashi and bring to the boil. Once boiling, turn down the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

    Meanwhile, cook the dried soba noodles in a separate pan of boiling water following the packet instructions. Drain well and divide between serving bowls.

    Combine the red miso and gochujang in a cup and stir in a ladleful of the dashi until dissolved. Add the miso mixture back into the saucepan with the soup and stir well to combine. Heat through for another minute, if needed, before serving.

    Pour the hot miso soup over the cooked soba noodles in the serving bowls, then top with the ginger teriyaki tofu, wakame, sesame seeds, dried chilli strips and spring onion, if liked.

    From Totally Tofu: 75 Delicious Protein-Packed Vegetarian and Vegan Recipes (£9.99, Ryland, Peters & Small), out now

Photography: Uyen Luu; Luke Albert; Martin Poole; Ryland, Peters & Small

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Christobel Hastings

Christobel Hastings is a London-based journalist covering pop culture, feminism, LGBTQ and lore.