Tofu scrambles were one of the first vegan dishes I learned how to cook. That’s because something really unexpected happened to me. I thought I “couldn’t live” without chicken but in fact, it was eggs I was totally missing. After having my first tofu scramble at a restaurant and loving how much it reminded me of scrambled eggs, I knew I had to learn how to make it at home. It didn’t take long for me to figure out how to make tofu scrambles that were delicious and helped me forget about eggs. Then I realized that tofu scrambles are like blank canvases and there are unlimited variations.
With my love of spices, I have made more than a half-dozen different kinds of scrambles – basic scrambles, light scrambles, hearty dinner scrambles and international scrambles. Tofu scrambles have become my comfort food and my go-to dish when I’m not sure what I want or don’t really feel like cooking. Unfortunately, I’ve also had some pretty bad and blah scrambles which is sad because it’s so easy to make really great ones. Here are my tips for making killer tofu scrambles!
1. It All Starts with the Tofu
Which type of tofu you buy will determine the texture of your scramble. If you want it soft, you can use soft tofu but if you want it to have some firmness and chew, use firm or extra-firm. I use extra-firm for all my recipes. Unless you buy a brand of tofu that has minimal water in the package, you should press the block of tofu. The more water you get out, the more flavor you can put in. If I’m in a rush, I just squeeze the block of tofu between my hands to get out some water but pressing it will result in a firmer and more flavorful scramble. 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. For more tips, read 7 Tips to Make the Perfect Tofu Dish and 6 Tips that Will Make You Love Tofu.
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. See How to Make Your Own Spice Blends for tips.
To make my Basic Tofu Scramble Spice Blend: combine 2 Tbs. each onion powder, garlic powder, dried oregano, paprika and black salt, 1 Tbs. black pepper and 1 Tbs. turmeric. Mix well and keep in an airtight container. This would be enough for about 6-8 scrambles. Of course, add or subtract whatever herbs and spices you want and use more or less as you like to make your own personalized spice blend.
4. Ethnic Flavors
Related to spice blends is the idea of making different ethnic and regional 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.
Ginger, garlic, scallions, tomatoes and toasted sesame oil complete my special Xi Hong Shi Chao “Jidan” or Chinese Scramble with Tomatoes and Onions. To make it: Heat 1 Tbs. peanut oil in a deep skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. Add 1 medium onion, sliced, 2 minced garlic cloves and 1-inch fresh grated ginger and cook until the onion is softened and translucent, about 4 minutes. Break 1 block of extra-firm tofu (pressed and drained) into chunks and add to the pan. Mix the tofu into the onions and let the tofu cook until it browns a bit, about 5 minutes. Add 1 tsp. ground turmeric and 1 tsp. black salt to the pan. Toss the tofu so the spices cover it completely and turn all pieces of the tofu yellow. Pour 1/3 cup water into the pan and mix the tofu well. This helps the spices to distribute more evenly. Add the white parts of 4 chopped scallions and 1 large chopped tomato to the mixture. Stir and cook until the tomatoes are heated through, about 2 minutes. Turn the heat off. Add a drizzle of toasted sesame oil and garnish with the chopped scallion greens. Try this Tofu “Paneer” Bhurji or Indian Tofu Scramble and Curried Tofu Scramble for some international delights.
Tofu scrambles are delicious as is but when you add other ingredients, you make it into a whole other dish. I love adding veggies into my scrambles such as mushrooms, bell peppers, green beans, zucchini, beans, and greens. This Summertime Tofu Scramble has lots of yummy veggies in it. When I want a cheesy scramble, I melt in vegan cheddar or mozzarella though you can also use nutritional yeast like in this Tofu Scramble with Spinach and Nutritional Yeast. Usually, once my scramble is pretty much finished cooking, I add a bunch of chopped greens on top with a little water and a pinch of nutmeg, cover the pan and let the greens steam. Then I mix them into the scramble. Alternately, I sometimes line my plate with raw greens and let the hot scramble gently wilt them.
6. Cooking the Scramble
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. For more tips on cooking with tofu, read Tofu: How to Avoid 5 Common Cooking Mistakes.
7. Side Dishes
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. Another favorite combo of mine is to have pancakes with a scramble on the side, letting the maple syrup run over both. Yum!
Tofu scrambles are easy to make and once you know the basics, you can make them as simple or as fancy as you want. They are a great way to start the day but they also make a comforting and delicious dinner. With these tips, tofu scrambles will quickly become one of your favorite go-to dishes.
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Lead Image Source: Mexican-Spiced Tofu Scramble