Whether you’re looking to add more protein to your plant-based dishes or trying to find a way to replace dairy, you’ll find that tofu is a highly versatile ingredient.
If you only just switched to a plant-based diet or still aren’t sure how to cook with tofu after years of cooking, you may think of tofu as something that only crops up as a subpar meat imitation in savory dishes, or believe it to be a bland, flavorless food. In this case, you haven’t cooked it correctly, when in fact you can bake, fry, roast, sauté, or prepare it in dozens of other ways. To explore the world of possibilities with tofu, check out 7 Tips to Make the Perfect Tofu Dish or 10 Saucy and Flavorful Ways to Cook Tofu.
One tasty use for tofu is a ricotta substitute. For those who don’t know, ricotta is a cheese product often used as a filling in lasagnas and pies alike. Fortunately, tofu can serve the same purpose, and the taste and texture are so similar to actual ricotta that nobody will know the difference. Tofu ricotta, in addition to being delicious, is healthy and adds a good dose of protein to any dish. Here are some tips on how to get started:
1. Use Extra Firm Tofu
Extra firm tofu is the best choice for emulating that perfect ricotta texture. Any other kind ends up too mushy.
Make sure you rinse and press it out thoroughly, or else your ricotta will turn out watery. A standard 14-ounce block will suffice for most recipes.
Next, this is where the fun begins. Put your tofu block in a medium-sized mixing bowl. You can use any utensil you find useful, such as a ricer, but it’s easiest to use your hands and squeeze the tofu, crumbling it between your fingers for a few seconds until it looks like fluffy ricotta chunks.
Some recipes will call for tofu ricotta to be blended in a food processor. You can certainly use one if you’d like a smoother ricotta, or if you’re incorporating ingredients like soaked cashews, but otherwise mixing your ricotta ingredients in a bowl is perfectly adequate.
2. Pick Your Flavor Profile and Match the Add-Ins
You’ve now made a base that can become either sweet or savory. Sweet ricottas are typically made with sugar and lemon juice, whereas savory tofu ricotta can be prepared with salt, pepper, basil, nutritional yeast, capers, and more. To get you started, we searched the Food Monster App for some delicious, creamy, ricotta-stuffed ideas for every meal of the day:
What better way to wake up in the morning than with pancakes? Add a tablespoon of lemon juice and your preferred sweetener (we recommend maple syrup) to your tofu, mix well, and then try these Lemon Banana Ricotta Pancakes With Blueberry Compote by Alison Marras. The recipe calls for a cashew-based ricotta, but you can substitute your tofu ricotta for the cashew cheese. This is a great alternative if you have nut allergies or are otherwise out of cashews. You can also treat yourself to a posh breakfast with Fig and Ricotta Challah French Toast. Make Sirke Reivo‘s homemade NYC-Style Bagels and add some sweet or savory tofu ricotta on top for an unbelievably delicious start to your day.
Hosting friends? Tofu Ricotta Crostini by Ayinde Howell are sure to impress at any gathering. This dish features the ricotta itself front and center, as a protein-filled, flavorful, and all-around delightful spread. Likewise, this Sun-Dried Tomato, Basil, and Kalamata Olive Ricotta Spread by Bryanna Clark Grogan is a welcome addition to any party. For further dip inspiration, check out Baked Spinach With Tofu Ricotta and Nutmeg Dip by Clemence Moulaert.
Ricotta is best known in Italian fare, so try out these filling and irresistible Tofu Ricotta-Stuffed Pasta Shells by Rana Yassine, or perhaps some Pesto and Tofu Ricotta Ravioli by Medha Swaminathan. Feeling cheesy? Butternut Squash and Tofu Ricotta Lasagna by Molly Patrick is sure to hit the spot. Alternately, go Mediterranean with these Spinach and Ricotta Puff Pastry Triangles by Talida Voinea.
Tofu ricotta can help put a satisfying endnote on a meal. Mix in some vegan cream cheese for a sweet treat in these Strawberry Cheese Blintzes by Rhea Parsons. If you’re feeling nostalgic for summer, substitute tofu for almonds in this Grilled Apricots with Almond Pistacho Ricotta dessert by Emma D’Alessandro. For something decadent, check out this Hazelnut Pumpkin Cheesecake by Annie Oliverio. You can also add it on top of any dessert as a creamy counterpoint or as a whipped cream alternative even when the recipe doesn’t call for ricotta, such as in this Double Chocolate Buckwheat Cake by Nele Liivlaid.
Sometimes, you’re just craving cheese. Whether you want to spread it on toast or store it for later incorporation into your pasta or cake recipes, whip up some tofu ricotta to spare. Try mixing your ricotta base with cashews in this Tangy Cashew Tofu Ricotta by Molly Patrick that you can use on nearly everything.
These are just a few of the routes you can take with your tofu ricotta. It only takes a minute or two to assemble, and instantly livens up any of your dishes! Need more inspiration? Check out our Food Monster app, which features over 8,000 plant-based recipes with new ones added daily. The app is available on iPhone and Android, as well as Facebook and Instagram. This app is perfect not only for vegan recipes, but also for allergen-free ideas, how-tos, cooking tips, product reviews, and articles. Happy cooking!
Lead image source: Tangy Tofu Ricotta