A Few Blocks of Tofu, 5 Dinners

June 30, 2014

Put time into dinner now, and you can make it last forever -- or at least the whole week. Welcome to Halfway to Dinner, where we show you how to stretch your staples every which way.

Today: Let's give tofu a second chance -- starting with this week's dinners.


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Tofu is not the kind of food you fight for. Sure, you’ll take up arms for barbecue, for pork belly, and for burgers. You’ll graffiti the streets with declarations of brassica love -- but tofu? You know it as the gelatinous block in the back of your fridge and the lonely cubes adrift in your miso soup. And if you’re an omnivore, you know it as your last resort.

Bean curd deserves better. Tofu may not have the brash, earthy appeal of tempeh, but its beauty lies in its subtlety, in its willingness to mingle with whatever happens to be on your plate. Grill it, curry it, and fry it to a crisp -- even after you’ve cooked it every way imaginable, tofu will still win you over when you least expect it

More: Try tofu at its best in a Silky Vegan Chocolate Pie.

This week, let’s get to know tofu again. Unearth the package at the back of your fridge and let it save dinner, all week long. We’ll start off easy, with a bright noodle salad, and then we’ll hit the bean curd hard -- in stir-fry, in a peanut sauce, and alone, in all its grilled glory. Here’s to second chances.

Citrus Ginger Tofu Salad

Citrus Ginger Tofu Salad with Buckwheat Soba Noodles
This is a dinner for long, summer days: It's an opportunity to clear out your crisper drawer and get thrifty with your pantry. Start by making a zippy, all-purpose sauce that will be both the marinade and the beginnings of a perky salad dressing. Then, bake your tofu and toss it with soba noodles, carrots, kale, and whatever else calls out to you from the recesses of your fridge. 

Japanese-Style Fried Tofu

Japanese-Style Fried TofuTofu skeptics, this one’s for you. Chances are, you’ve been a little gun-shy after an encounter with watery tofu -- but press it first, and it will reward you later with crisp, golden cubes. Whip up your marinade with your pantry staples, and then throw your tofu in a pan. It will make a mean stir-fry, but we fully support snacking on a few pieces while no one is looking. 

Weeknight Soy Sauce-y, Peanut-Y TofuWeeknight Soy Sauce-y, Peanut-y TofuTofu stir-fry is everything you could ask for in a weeknight dinner: It’s quick, it’s hearty, and it packs well the next day. You’ll start with a couple blocks of tofu (or use your fried leftovers) and finish them off with a simple, six-ingredient sauce. Make more than you need for one dinner -- you’ll want it for lunch tomorrow, too.   

Ma Po Tofu with Ground Turkey

Ma Po Tofu (Stir-Fried Bean Curd with Ground Turkey)
Put down the phone book -- you don't need takeout tonight. This ma po tofu is a remake of the Chinese classic, with ground turkey acting as supporting cast. Brown your meat in a pan, add the aromatics, and then stir in your tofu. A drizzle of sesame oil on top is this dish’s crowning glory. 

Grilled Peanut TofuAt the height of grilling season, when you can’t stand the thought of another burger (veggie or otherwise), grilled tofu will be there for you. It doesn’t ask for much: just a quick press, a marinade, and some quality time on the grill. It can be the star of your rice bowl, but we won’t blame you for eating it with your fingers, by the slab.

What are your favorite ways to eat tofu? Let us know in the comments!

Noodle salad photo by Mark Weinberg; all others by James Ransom.

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • susan g
    susan g
  • Zu
  • Bascula
  • savorthis
  • Nazima, Franglais Kitchen
    Nazima, Franglais Kitchen
Lisa is a noodle fiend and a chocolate hoarder. She probably wants to make you cookies.


susan G. September 11, 2014
I have so many tofu favorites. Several are in my food52 recipes, and the Grilled Peanut Tofu is great! That sauce is so good, with vegetables and noodles as well as tofu.
Zu June 30, 2014
Fried tofu perfect with sliced celery, onion, tomato, parsley citrus and a bit of light soy sauce
Chillies for added zing!
Bascula June 30, 2014
This: a tofu scramble with garam masala. Really really good.
Lisa S. June 30, 2014
Genius! Thanks for sharing, Bascula.
savorthis June 30, 2014
I now always have tofu in the freezer thanks to this article: This method/recipe is so easy and has such a depth of flavor. We eat it in banh mi, or with avocado and cucumber over rice or just snack on it.
Lisa S. June 30, 2014
I am 100% behind tofu bánh mì!
Fairmount_market July 1, 2014
savorthis, I followed your link to this tofu banh mi from an earlier comment, and now it's a staple in our household! I always have a block of tofu cut into slabs in the freezer, which is a great way of removing the liquid and making it ready for sautéing, grilling, or baking.
Nazima, F. June 30, 2014
I am going to try the barbecue recipe - worried how the tofu will handle turning on the grill but the marinade sounds wonderful
Lisa S. June 30, 2014
Let us know how it goes!
Nazima, F. July 23, 2014
thanks Lisa - I had a go and it was delicious!