Ah, I can still remember the day I had my first tofu scramble. I had recently become vegan and I was still missing eggs. I had read that tofu was a good substitute for scrambled eggs, but I wasn’t a fan of tofu yet (boy, did that ever change!). Unsure of how to make a good tofu scramble, I went to a vegan restaurant to see how it was supposed to be done. I can still remember hesitantly lifting that first forkful of yellow tofu to my lips, not sure what it was going to taste like and…it was delicious. Wide-eyed and mouth full, I said to my husband, “This tastes a lot like scrambled eggs!”
From that day on, I became a tofu scramble fan. I made them again and again to perfect my craft, experimenting with different cooking techniques, herbs, spices, and ingredients. Finally, I figured out how to make tofu scrambles that were perfect for me and that helped me forget all about scrambled eggs. Now, I have over a half dozen tofu scramble recipes – basic scrambles, hearty scrambles, light scrambles, and international scrambles. Tofu scrambles have become my new comfort food – the dish I think of when I just want love in a bowl and a quick, easy way to get it there. Here are my tips for making the best tofu scrambles:
1. Use the Right Tofu and Use the Tofu Right
Choosing the right tofu is pretty subjective. If you used to like your scrambled eggs soft and runny, use a soft tofu, but if you like your scramble to have some firmness and chew, buy extra-firm. Honestly, extra-firm tofu is the only one I buy for all my tofu dishes (unless I need silken tofu to make a sauce). Normally, I don’t press my tofu for scrambles if I have my favorite brand which doesn’t have too much water; I usually just give the block a light squeeze between my hands before I break it up. However, if the one you have is super-watery, do press it because more water out means more flavor in. How you break up the tofu also depends on how you like your curds. Some people really crumble the tofu so that it looks like pebbles; I prefer to break the tofu into large chunks I can sink my teeth into. It’s up to you, I’ll never know.
2. Black Salt and Turmeric
If you want your tofu to really look and taste like scrambled eggs, there are two ingredients that will help make that happen. Turmeric is a spice that comes from the ginger family. It is ground into a deep orange-yellow powder that is commonly used in Indian cuisine. It doesn’t add a ton of flavor (unless you add too much; then it can be bitter) and it’s usually used to add color to dishes. It’s also mega-healthy and is used to prevent and treat multiple ailments and chronic illnesses. Adding up to a teaspoon of turmeric will give your tofu scramble the pretty yellow color that makes it look like scrambled eggs.
Kala Namak or Black Lava Salt is a sea salt blended with activated charcoal. It is used in South Asian cuisines, usually in savory dishes. Due to its sulfur content, it has a pungent aroma when added to food. When you first add it into your scramble, it will strongly smell like eggs but that odor will lessen as it further cooks. It will also add a flavor that mimics the taste of eggs. Neither turmeric nor black salt is necessary for tofu scrambles, but for people missing eggs, these two ingredients are invaluable.
3. Spice Blends
The spices that go into a tofu scramble are also dependent on what flavors you like. For a basic scramble, I like to add onion, garlic, oregano, black pepper, and paprika along with turmeric and black salt. When I want to change it up, I might add other herbs and spices. My Southwestern Tofu Scramble has cumin, coriander, oregano, garlic powder, black salt and turmeric while my Herbed Tofu Scramble is filled with dill, oregano, parsley, thyme and basil. If you love making tofu scrambles often, making your own basic spice blend would be a great time-saver.
4. Go International
Related to spice blends is the idea of making international versions of tofu scrambles. By using the ingredients, herbs and spices that make up different ethnic flavor profiles, you can make scrambles with an Asian, Thai, Creole or Indian flair. My Italian Tofu Scramble has red onions, roasted red peppers, garlic, oregano, basil and a pinch of red pepper flakes. The ingredients for my Greek Tofu Scramble include cucumbers, Kalamata olives, oregano, lemon and vegan feta cheese. Black beans, green chiles, cumin, coriander and Mexican chile powder make my Mexican Tofu Scramble a spicy experience while ginger, garlic, scallions, tomatoes and toasted sesame oil complete my special Xi Hong Shi Chao “Jidan” or Chinese Scramble with Tomatoes and Onions.
5. Special Additions
Sure, you can have your tofu scramble with just the flavored tofu, but why not add other ingredients to make it a hearty, satisfying meal? I love to add veggies into my scrambles such as mushrooms, beans, zucchini, spinach and bell peppers. Sometimes I mix some vegan mozzarella or cheddar into the scramble. Because I love to add greens to every meal, when the scramble has pretty much finished cooking, I fill the pot with chopped kale or collards, add ¼ cup of water and a pinch of nutmeg, cover the pot and let the greens just steam on top. When they are wilted, I mix them into the scramble or use them to line the serving bowls. Chopped fresh plum tomatoes and avocados make delicious and colorful toppings for any scramble.
6. Order Up
How one actually cooks the scramble is as important as all the ingredients, herbs, and spices that can go into it. Everyone probably has their own recipes for preparing scrambles but here’s how I make my Basic Tofu Scramble: I heat up a large saucepan that has a cover and add some oil to it. When the oil is hot, I add any aromatics I’m using such as onions, peppers and garlic and let them cook about 5 minutes until softened. Next I add any vegetables I might be using such as mushrooms or zucchini and let them cook until they are browned and softened, about 8 minutes. Once the vegetables are cooked, I crumble the tofu into the pan in large chunks (it will break up more while it cooks). I toss the tofu with the veggies and let it cook for a minute or two before adding the spices. When I add the spices, I toss the tofu to make sure they get incorporated and that the tofu is yellow from the turmeric. Here’s my secret tip: Add ¼ cup of water to the pan and continue to toss the tofu. The water helps the spices blend so you don’t get any dried spice taste in your mouth and any extra water will cook away. Since I like my tofu firm and a bit browned and crispy, I then let the tofu cook for a good ten minutes, making sure the tofu gets to touch the bottom of the pan to get it browned. Once I’m happy with the tofu, I add any vegan cheese or greens as I described above.
7. Don’t Forget the Sides
Sometimes, I’m not sure what I love more: the actual scramble or the amazing side dishes. Serve your scramble up with some crispy home fries or hash browns. How about some veggie bacon or homemade vegan breakfast sausage? If you’re really hungry or having breakfast for dinner, round out the meal with perfectly-toasted bread topped with vegan butter and perhaps, a bowl of fresh fruit salad.
Tofu scrambles are really magical dishes. They can be as simple as just tossing some tofu with a few herbs and spices or they can be as exotic and flavorful as your imagination can make them. Whether you want a simple scramble with herbs or an impressive ethnic feast, these tips will help you make your best tofu scramble.
Image source: Southwestern Tofu Scramble with Greens