Plant-Based in Real Life

Tofu Crumble: An Unbelievably Easy How-To

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A tofu crumble is a good whole food, plant-based (WFPB) choice for my family since we like to keep it simple.  Both my husband and I work full time so food prep has to be easy. Like ridiculously easy.  We eat a lot of easy fare like brown rice and beans.  We’ll make a pot of whole grains, like farro or quinoa, that will last us the week. Also, sometimes we’ll make a big pot of full-meal soup packed with veggies, beans, potatoes or pasta.     

tofu crumble
One More Unbelievably Easy Way to Make Tofu

To be completely honest though, sometimes you want to eat a vegan food that resembles animal protein, and tofu is really amazing for that purpose. It’s an entirely plant-based curd made from soy beans that is high in protein. Additionally, it has no cholesterol to worry about. 

Selecting tofu at the supermarket

Tofu comes in a variety of textures so sometimes it can be hard to know where to start. 

The technique for tofu crumble that I’m describing is for regular tofu, which you’ll find in the refrigerated section of your supermarket’s produce department.  Sometimes you’ll also find organic varieties in a separate “natural foods” cooler of your store. If you can afford organic, that is fine, but if not, know that substituting plant foods for meat or eggs is much, much more important to your health than worrying about if you’re eating organic or non-organic plant foods.   There’s no comparison, so just put it out of your mind. Whenever you can, choose plant-based foods and you’ll be on the right track.

What about silken tofu?

Note that in this post I’m not referring to silken tofu, a shelf stable form of tofu sold in a small, aseptic packages that look a little like juice boxes; silken tofu is often used for making creamy plant-based sauces or desserts. 

Regular firm tofu for this recipe

What you should know is that regular tofu is marketed depending on its consistency, which can range from soft, to firm to extra firm, to super firm (pre-pressed).  As you would imagine, the firmer the curd, the more water that has been pressed out in the manufacturing process.   

Right now, let’s focus on firm tofu, which is great for crumbles. It is good to toss in so many different dishes so we always try to keep tofu crumble on hand.  It’s a natural for WFPB breakfast burritos, but you can throw it on a salad, stir it into cooked rice or other whole grain, or use it as a pasta topping. 

Firm tofu is not quite as firm as ground meat, but it simulates the texture of scrambled egg well. 

Ingredients for tofu crumble

The two main ingredients you’ll need are two to three cups of vegetable broth and one package of regular tofu. A package usually weighs about one pound before cooking. 

You need to understand about tofu is that by itself it has very little flavor, and it really doesn’t taste like anything by itself. Remember that it is nothing more than unseasoned, unsalted bean curd. So, this method will give your tofu great flavor with very little investment of time or effort on your part. 

Simple cooking method

Start with a large non-stick skillet, at least ten inches in diameter. Next, you are going to take your skillet and package of firm tofu over to the sink.  You’re going to peel back the plastic cover or slice it open with a knife and the water inside the package will spill out into the sink. Once you’ve drained all the water from the package, take the block of tofu and place it in your skillet. Then, place the skillet on the burner of your stove.

After you do that, with a non-metal spoon or spatula, break the block up into crumbles as you would ground meat or scrambled egg. Then pour about a cup and a half of vegetable broth into the skillet to cover the tofu crumbles. It’s fine if the tofu starts to break down and dissolve a little in the broth because it won’t affect the final product. 

Reduce broth and add seasonings

Now that you’ve got your tofu and broth in the skillet, what you’re going to do is make a reduction. You do this by turning on your heat to medium high and start reducing (boiling down, or condensing) your broth. Here is when you can get a little creative with seasonings.  I usually put in a pinch of the super-spice turmeric (not more than 1/8 teaspoon because otherwise the flavor is overwhelming), which will give your tofu a pleasant yellow color so it resembles scrambled eggs.  Make sure to add a little black pepper to activate the antioxidant powers of the turmeric.  After adding the turmeric, put in the spices you would usually add to ground meat. 

Flavor possibilities

One of my favorites is Italian herb seasoning for when I’m topping a pasta dish with tofu. To do this, just shake about a teaspoon from the spice jar into the broth and tofu as it’s cooking.  Alternately, sometimes I make a Mexican spice mix in the skillet.  You can make your own by shaking in some ground cumin, a little oregano and paprika to taste.  Next add a little garlic and onion powder and that’s it.  Easy peasy.

Let it get brown and toasty

After a while the moisture in the broth will start to evaporate and the skillet will boil dry.  This is ok.  Let it sizzle for a while as the bottom of the skillet gets brown, but don’t let it burn.  When it looks nice and toasty, add another cup or so of the vegetable broth.  Let the broth go to work loosening the fond (browned bits) and the tofu from the bottom of the skillet.  Eventually it should release on its own and you’ll be able to flip over the crumbled tofu with your plastic spatula.  You can repeat this process of reducing, adding liquid and flipping the tofu, just know that it will become saltier with each addition of broth (unless you are using unsalted broth). 

By now, your tofu crumble should be nicely browned and very flavorful. 

Like I mentioned, you can mix it into almost any savory dish you’d like.

Make a veggie tofu scramble

Tofu crumble is especially good in a scramble, so it’s a great substitute for eggs.  If you’re going to make a scramble, I would recommend you first cook your tofu, then set it aside.  Then cook the rest of your chopped veggies as you usually would in your large non-stick skillet: first soften your onions and bell pepper over medium heat. 

Remember to keep it oil free!

Remember that you don’t need oil to keep your veggies from sticking to the skillet, because you can add water or vegetable broth a tablespoon at a time and they’ll soften nicely without adding any oil.  Really! You’ll still have great flavor without the extra calories or artery-clogging effect of the oil. (Remember: oils irritate the endothelium, the delicate inner layer of the arteries, which advances heart disease and promotes clogging and clotting.  This includes all oils, including olive oil. (That’s right: olive oil is not a health food.) Use water or vegetable broth to loosen your veggies and you’ll be golden!

But why stop there?

After that you can toss in some quartered or sliced mushrooms. If you’ve also got some cooked potatoes or other pre-cooked veggies on hand, toss them in to warm them up at the end. Finally, serve your scramble on toasted whole grain bread or in a whole grain tortilla. Go a little crazy and add chopped tomatoes, avocado or guacamole, and salsa.  Experiment with some chopped fresh cilantro and a tiny spritz of lime juice if you’ve got some and you’ve got a satisfying, whole food, plant-based breakfast burrito.

The possibilities for your tofu crumble are endless.  Enjoy!

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This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.
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Hi! I’m Katherine from Plant-Based in Real Life. I blog about the whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet for the prevention and reversal of chronic disease. I love writing about how eating plant-based foods can help you live a long and healthy life. I first learned of the “plant slant”, eating mostly plants for optimal health, from The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner, and my family decided to go entirely plant-based after watching the Forks Over Knives documentary. Originally from the American West, I lived in Mexico for sixteen years, first as a student, then as a wife and mom. I hold an undergraduate degree in International Trade from the Universidad de Guanajuato in central Mexico and a Master in Management from Southern Oregon University. In 2017 I completed the Center for Nutrition Studies’ Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition.


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