3 Toddler-Tested Tofu Recipes

Today we are talking about tofu.

Tofu gets a bad rap in the non-vegetarian world. Maybe you’ve had a bad tofu experience — think the grayish, rubbery stuff in the nondescript “vegetarian entree” at a wedding. Perhaps you tried to cook tofu yourself, but it ended in disaster — too watery, too mushy, or (horror of horrors!) too bland. Or, you might be like the majority of people, and be just plain turned-off by the watery, white blocks you see in the non-dairy aisle.

So, if you’re not feeling the ‘fu — there’s no way in the world your toddler’s going to go for it. Right?

Today, we are sharing with you 3 delicious, healthy, and toddler-tested tofu recipes your whole family will love — we promise!

Tofu 101

Tofu originated in China over 2,000 years ago. Tofu is believed to have been invented by Taoists, but then became very popular with Chinese Buddhists as part of their strict vegetarian diet.

Tofu is a great source of protein for vegetarians and vegans, and it’s also high in calcium, iron and naturally cholesterol-free. Plus, it’s inexpensive, costing between $2-$4 a block, which is enough for most standard, family-of-four-feeding recipes.

There are lots of myths floating around about soy; let’s address the top two:

1. “Soy causes breast cancer.”
This is false. While it’s true that breast cancer grows in the presence of estrogen, and soy can mimic estrogen, there’s no direct evidence that soy causes cancer. In fact, in cultures where soy consumption is high, findings have shown either no link to breast cancer or lower rates of the disease.

2. “Speaking of estrogen, shouldn’t men steer clear of soy, since it decreases testosterone?”
Again, there are no concrete findings supporting this claim, and in fact, men may benefit from some dietary soy, as it seems to decrease prostate cancer risk.

Tofu is made similarly to cheese, and the process starts by extracting soy milk from ground, cooked soybeans. The soy milk is then heated, and salt is added to separate the curds (solid) and whey (liquid). After the whey is drained, the remains are then pressed together into a solid block of tofu.

Does Organic Matter?

When shopping for tofu, be sure to choose organic. Most brands you’ll find are organic, and very affordable. If you are purchasing non-organic soy products, like tofu, you are likely consuming soy that has come from a genetically modified plant, or GMO. GMOs have been linked to serious health problems such as cancer and food allergies, so it’s best to steer clear of any conventionally produced tofu.

Prepping Tofu

When shopping for tofu, you’ll encounter four main types:

  • Extra Firm: contains the least amount of water. Best for cubing and tossing into stir fry’s; sliced on sandwiches; or marinated and baked into square “cutlets.”
  • Firm: contains a little more water than extra firm. Good for tofu scrambles/wraps.
  • Soft/Silken: this undrained, unpressed tofu contains the most moisture, making it easily blend-able in smoothies, creamy salad dressings, “cheesy” vegan sauces, or decadent puddings/desserts.
  • Baked: this is marinated, ready-to-eat tofu that’s great for sandwiches or salads.

When working with extra firm or firm tofu, you’ll first want to drain and press it to remove excess water (silken doesn’t need any draining — just careful handling as it’s very fragile!).

Do this by carefully removing the block of tofu from the packaging, then wrapping it with several paper towels to absorb moisture. Place the wrapped block on a cutting board, then top with another cutting board, a heavy frying pan or cookbooks — anything nice and heavy. Leave out for 20-30 minutes to allow excess water to drain and the tofu to firm up. Now you’re ready. Let’s get cooking!

Product Recommendation

To make the pressing/draining process easier (and save paper towels!), we recommend the TofuXpress, a spring-loaded, manual press which mechanically drains the liquid out of your block of tofu. It’s dishwasher safe, and made out of FDA-approved thermoplastic and stainless steel and very durable. You can also use it to drain liquid out of spinach (for a veggie lasagne) or eggplant (think eggplant parmesan), and use it to marinate veggies or Portabella mushrooms before grilling.

Tofu Scramble

This is a classic vegetarian breakfast that can be customized to suit virtually any taste preference. Does your child like “cheesy” eggs? Here’s a version using tofu:

  • One 14-16 ounce container of organic, firm tofu, drained and pressed
  • Shredded cheddar cheese (use a substitute like Daiya or nutritional yeast to “veganize”)
  • Splash of extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt, pepper and paprika, to taste
  • Optional: ketchup or hot sauce, if you’d like your “eggs” with a little kick!
The Process
  1. After your tofu has been drained and pressed, crumble the entire block into small and medium pieces. Place in a bowl, and use a paper towel to gently absorb any additional moisture.

  2. Preheat a skillet to medium high; add a splash of oil.

  3. Toss your tofu, salt and spices into the skillet, then cook for 5-7 minutes, until tofu is cooked through. It will take on a golden color when done.

  4. Remove from heat, divide onto plates, and sprinkle cheddar cheese on top!

For yellow, more “eggy” looking eggs, add a tablespoon of curry power or turmeric to your tofu as it cooks. This will also add a bit of spice — so be careful!

Tofu Tenders

If your kids like chicken tenders, try these! Use your favorite seasoning salt and dipping sauce to make these tenders familiar for kids.

  • One 14-16 ounce container of extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
  • 3-4 Tb. extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tb. wheat germ
  • 2 Tb. cornmeal
  • 1 tsp. salt, or your favorite seasoned salt (we like Trader Joe’s Garlic Salt) or seasoning (Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute works great!)
  • Ketchup, barbecue sauce or your kid’s favorite dip-able dressing.
The Process
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  2. Cut your drained and pressed block of tofu in half, then cut each half into 8-10 rectangles. Press the pieces gently with a paper towel to soak up any remaining moisture.

  3. Combine your dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Pour olive oil in a separate bowl.

  4. Rub a little olive oil on each piece of tofu, then toss in the dry mixture, coating thoroughly.

  5. Arrange on baking sheet, and bake for 15-20 minutes, flipping halfway through. The tenders are done once golden brown and firm!

Serve warm with ketchup or your favorite sauce.

Tofu Pudding

This is a delicious, dairy-free, protein-packed alternative to chocolate pudding. Serve with banana slices or strawberries. Great for your child’s lunch box, too!

  • One 14-16 ounce container of organic, silken tofu
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips (use non-dairy chocolate to make this recipe vegan)
  • 3-4 Tb. agave nectar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Optional: banana slices, strawberries or chocolate chips, for garnish
The Process
  1. In a high-speed blender, process the tofu until smooth.
  2. Transfer to medium-sized saucepan and add chocolate chips.
  3. Cook tofu/chocolate mixture on low, stirring frequently, until the chocolate has melted and mixture is combined.
  4. Remove from heat, add agave and vanilla, and stir. The mixture will look very liquid-y, but that’s normal! It will set up in the refrigerator.
  5. Chill in the refrigerator until you’re ready to eat. Garnish with fruit, chocolate chips or sprinkles.

So you see, tofu is one of the most versatile foods out there — you just need to know what to do with it!

If you’re craving more vegetarian options, check out our recipe for vegan tacos: Meatless Monday: Tempeh Tacos!

Photo Credit: eceveryshop, Sarah M.
Sources: 1. Whole Foods Market | 2. The World’s Healthiest Foods | 3. American Cancer Society | 4. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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Sarah is a yoga practicing, mostly vegan, coffee chugging, Jack White-loving, stay-at-home-mom to three kids 4 and under in Cincinnati, Ohio. In her free time, she does freelance work for Cincinnati Parent, Dayton Parent and Indy’s Child, and blogs about her adventures with three kids in the Queen City.

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