20 Silken Tofu Recipes for Tastier Plant-Based Cooking
Pancakes, smoothies, salad dressings, and dips. Caesar salad, burgers, and ice cream. With silken tofu as your secret ingredient, you can make all these vegan recipes and more.
I ramped up my focus on plant-based foods a few years ago. Rather than sticking to Meatless Monday, my family’s been eating vegetarian dinners at least three nights a week. And then lockdown life began. Thanks to infrequent grocery shopping and the pantry-friendly nature of ingredients like whole grains and beans, we don’t eat meat more than once a week now. Many nights, we’re completely vegan. One ingredient has proved crucial to getting my husband, a happy carnivore, on board: silken tofu.
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What is silken tofu?
You may know that tofu comes in different levels of firmness, from extra-firm tofu to medium and on to soft tofu. Those levels reflect the water content — the more water, the softer the block. Silken sits at the softest end of the spectrum. With a smooth, creamy, almost delicate texture, it’s definitely not meant for stir-fries (where it would fall apart).
When it comes to eating more plant-based foods, that texture is practically magic. After you purée it in the blender or food processor, silken tofu resembles a very thick cream. You can use it in place of dairy cream, of course, but also eggs, cream cheese and ricotta, yogurt, and sour cream. The flavor is so mild, it’s endlessly adaptable. Nutritional bonus: It’s packed with protein and much lower in calories than many dairy products. Quarantine bonus: You can usually buy it in shelf-stable aseptic containers.
Following are some of my favorite ways to use silken tofu.
Vegan breakfasts featuring silken tofu
Silken tofu shines in place of dairy items like eggs, milk, and cheese. These breakfast recipes are all free of animal products.
Picture soft, fluffy pancakes that look and taste like what you’d get at your favorite diner — but they’re vegan. Silken tofu, almond milk, flour, sugar, and baking powder make a smooth, thick batter that cooks up into golden brown beauties.
An omelet without eggs? Yes, indeed. This clever recipe starts with silken tofu in the food processor and flavors it with hummus, nutritional yeast, garlic, and paprika. That mixture goes into the skillet, and cooks up very much like an egg-based omelet.
I first had tofu scramble at a shmancy spa. And I kid you not, I didn’t realize it was tofu until they passed out recipe cards after the meal. In this recipe turmeric colors the tofu a very egg-like yellow, and sautéed vegetables add tons of flavor.
This perfectly nutritious, perfectly filling breakfast smoothie takes all of five minutes. It uses silken tofu instead of yogurt, along with spinach, banana, mango, and kiwi, with a splash of almond milk and a pinch of turmeric. A brief whir in the blender yields a glass that’s tart, sweet, and perfectly creamy.
Quiche is one of those dishes I assumed would be off-limits for vegans. But thanks to — you guessed it — silken tofu, it’s very doable. Instead of cream and eggs, the filling features puréed tofu with chickpea flour and spices. Nutritional yeast and a splash of soy sauce provide the umami you’d usually get from cheese.
Creamy silken tofu dressings and dips
Silken tofu’s smooth, creamy texture is perfect for making luxurious-tasting (but secretly healthy) versions of your favorite indulgences.
Sour cream and buttermilk used to be essential for making ranch dressing. Enter silken tofu. Add some fresh herbs, a bit of garlic, some non-dairy milk, plus a nice hit of acid from lemon juice and vinegar, and you’ll be looking for excuses to eat more ranch.
This recipe doesn’t deploy silken tofu to make a vegan version of a classic dish — it still calls for traditional dairy products. But thanks to tofu’s smooth texture, a bit of yogurt, and a light hand with the Parm, it transforms a mayo-and-cheese bomb into a healthier extravagance you can eat any time.
Classic French Onion Dip is usually made with sour cream and an envelope of dried soup mix. This version, on the other hand, elevates it into something a little more sophisticated. To make it you’ll caramelize two onions, then blend them with silken tofu, a bit of (vegan) mayo, and some seasoning. It won’t taste exactly like the kind you made in 8th grade — it’ll taste a thousand times better.
Instead of relying on sour cream for its thick, rich texture, this quick, healthy sauce calls for silken tofu. The other ingredients are straightforward: just a little olive oil, lime juice, garlic, cilantro, and half a jalapeño. Try it on tacos, of course, but also on things like baked potatoes.
Especially now, when I can’t shop very often, a jar of roasted red peppers is a staple in my pantry. This simple recipe blends extra-firm silken tofu with those peppers plus some garlic, whatever fresh herb you’ve got, and a hit of acid to make a five-minute dip that works equally well as a pasta sauce.
Healthy silken tofu dinners
When you’re ready to go for a fully plant-based meal but still want something that feels familiar, reach for silken tofu.
I grew up eating corn chowder with chunks of potato, carrots, and celery plus oodles of sweet corn kernels. What pulled the whole bowl together was the rich, creamy broth. I’ll bet you already guessed — pureed silken tofu makes an ideal substitute. Thanks to the tofu, this version is not only vegan, it’s also considerably lower in calories than my mom’s chowder.
These are definitely not your average veggie burger. They’re seasoned with garam masala and packed with vegetables like bell pepper and mushrooms, with the combination of silken tofu and canned black beans providing the heft. The best part: They’re on the table in about 15 minutes!
Caesar salad has become ubiquitous for a reason: That creamy dressing, the crisp romaine, the crunchy croutons, the umami-packed Parm, and the briny anchovies make an incredibly satisfying combination. This version turns it vegan-friendly by swapping silken tofu for the egg yolks in the dressing, nutritional yeast for Parmesan, and capers for anchovies. You get the same combination of flavors and textures, but it’s 100% plant-based.
The key to a vegan lasagna: “ricotta” made with tofu. This recipe uses both silken and firm tofu, seasoned with garlic, nutritional yeast, and dried herbs, among other things. The vegan cheese gets layered with no-boil lasagna noodles, fresh (or frozen) spinach, and prepared pasta sauce before you sprinkle vegan Parm on top. It comes out of the oven bubbling and browned and irresistible.
When my son was four years old, he ate seven matzo balls in one sitting. We are definitely a matzo ball family. But usually the recipe calls for a bunch of eggs (not to mention chicken broth). Thanks to silken tofu, though, vegan matzo balls are a cinch. Simmered in vegetable broth, they’re as close to bubbe’s as possible.
Try silken tofu dessert recipes
Have you been saying no to a treat after meals because you’re trying to avoid gaining the “Quarantine 15”? Silken tofu may be your new best friend. If you don’t tell your family they’re eating something nutritious, they’ll never guess.
This decadent-tasting dessert has only four ingredients — and one of them is salt. Silken tofu, melted chocolate, espresso powder (to accentuate the chocolate flavor), and salt produce something ridiculously delicious for virtually no effort.
Yes, the pie is sweet thanks to the recipe’s sugar, but 1 cup of peanut butter along with the silken tofu means it’s remarkably nutritious. My super-picky kid could probably demolish the whole thing by himself. In this case, I’d actually be OK with it.
I grew up kosher, which means I’ve eaten my fair share of dairy-free ice cream. Kashrut laws prohibit eating dairy products with meat, so after the cookout on a hot summer day we’d be treated to tofu ice cream. Let me just say, it was not a treat. This, on the other hand, is heavenly. The key ingredients: silken tofu, almond milk, maple syrup, cocoa powder, and peppermint extract. It’s shockingly easy, and luscious to eat.
The tropical combo of bananas and coconut seems like the perfect thing as we head into summer. And because this only has a single tablespoon of maple syrup or honey to sweeten it, it’s about as virtuous a treat as you’re likely to get.
A good, puckery lemon bar makes me weak in the knees. This dairy-free, gluten-free version packs in all that creamy, lemony goodness — not to mention a crunchy, crumbly crust — but with far fewer calories.
Silken tofu, Asian style
While silken tofu makes handy substitutions for cooking mainstream American recipes, in Asian cuisines it’s prized for its gentle flavor and texture and adaptability in many traditional dishes such as Korean Vegetable Silken Tofu Jjigae and Chinese Aromatic Silken Tofu. You can explore hundreds more options here.
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