Protein Sources for Vegetarians: Tofu
For a number of years now, I’ve been interested in plant based proteins. Tofu is one of my favorite high protein vegetarian foods. It has been a staple in my diet, even before I went fully meatless. I often make some kind of tofu vegetable bowl when meal prepping for the week. There are plenty of simple tofu recipes out there. I’ve tried my hand at a few, but I often return to a tofu scramble sort of method. I usually wind up incorporating it with whatever I have on hand that sounds good. By making a sort of vegetable stir fry, I am able to incorporate protein, grains, and vegetables to create easy meatless meals.Jump to Recipe
Why Tofu is a Great Meatless Ingredient
My favorite thing about tofu is that it really takes on the flavor of whatever you cook it with. This means that it winds up being a really flexible ingredient. There are many ways to cook tofu, including methods that call for freezing the tofu which make it denser. It’s a pretty forgiving food, so you really can’t go wrong.
Tofu comes in a few different textures, and different styles are better for different cooking methods. Silken tofu, for example, is a mostly liquid style, whereas medium and soft tofu are easy to crumble or cube. Extra firm styles are ideal for pan frying or even grilling, which I’d like to try at some point. I tend to use extra firm styles because they also crumble well with a fork.
Tofu Nutritional Value
Tofu is often touted as one of the best protein sources for vegetarians and vegans. In a 3-ounce serving of tofu, you can expect to have approximately 8 grams of protein, 4 grams of fat, and 2 grams of carbs. There is some variation in these numbers based on the style of tofu you get.
Beyond this, though, one reason I really enjoy incorporating tofu into my vegetarian meal prep is that it contains all nine essential amino acids — like quinoa — which the body cannot make on its own. It is also full of vitamins and minerals, such as iron, potassium, and manganese. These nutrients are important for vegetarian and vegan nutrition.
Tofu is a Soy-Based Food
As a soy-based food, tofu contains plant estrogens. This has been a source of concern for individuals at higher risk of breast cancer. There seems to be some evidence that these estrogens aren’t harmful in humans like they could be in rodents, on which studies have been done, since humans process soy differently. Read more about this here.
I’m not a medical professional by any stretch of the imagination. So I recommend talking to a doctor and nutritionist about this issue if you’re concerned.
Quinoa and Tofu Vegetable Bowl
This Quinoa and Tofu Vegetable Bowl recipe is one of my favorite quick meatless dinner options. The best part, in my opinion, is that it’s really a one-pot meal. Further, it’s a flexible recipe, so you can tweak it based on what you have in your refrigerator, or based on what you’re craving.
If you don’t have quinoa on hand, you could always swap it for rice or another grain. I prefer quinoa because it’s so easy to make, especially when you’re using higher water content ingredients like tofu and vegetables. Between the quinoa cook time — approximately 20 minutes — and the forgiving nature of the quinoa-to-water ratio, it’s a pretty low-maintenance grain.
There is more detail in the recipe below, but I have had the best luck when I don’t quite follow the 2-to-1 quinoa-to-water ratio. Instead, for one cup of quinoa, I use approximately a cup and a half of water. The water from the vegetables and tofu make up for the missing half cup and prevent the dish from becoming too wet.
Quinoa and Tofu Vegetable Bowl
- 2-4 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 large white onion, diced
- 2-3 cups raw spinach
- 1 cup carrots, diced I used carrot chips and roughly chopped them
- 1 pack tofu
- 1.5 cups quinoa
- 3-4 slices Chao vegetable based cheese slices Alternatively, use another vegan cheese of your choice or regular cheese, if you eat dairy.
- 2 tbsp shelled hemp seeds
- Roughly chop or dice the white onion and carrots. Add them to a pot with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Saute until onions begin to become transluscent.
- Add quinoa to the pot and incorporate the dry quinoa with the vegetables and oil.
- Add approximately 2.5 cups of water to the pot. Bring to a boil.
- Add spinach leaves and mix together.
- When the water is mostly absorbed (approximately 10-13 minutes), dice or crumble the tofu and add to the pot. Mix everything togehter.
- Chop or tear up the plant-based cheese slices and add them to the pot. Mix everything together well.
- Add hemp seeds and incorporate. Add salt and pepper to taste.
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More Easy Vegetarian Dinner Recipes and Meatless Meals from Cats & Coffee
- Broccoli & Squash Rice & Lentil Bowl
- Pasta e Ceci
- Polenta with Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- Roasted Pomodoro Pasta
- Easy Instant Pot Vegetable and White Bean Soup
- One Pot Dinner: Vegetable Quinoa with Chickpeas