Tofu: Terrible, Terrific, or Tolerable? Tofu Tuesday Tutorial 1!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011
I got a lot of reactions when I posted the quip above a couple weeks ago as part of a "semi-wordless Wednesday" post and I think I might have been slightly misleading. I don't really think tofu tastes like wallpaper paste, although it is a pretty unappealing substance when left to its own devices.  

In an attempt to convert all you tofu-naysayers into tofu enthusiasts, I'm embarking on a multi-week Tofu Tuesday Tutorial. In this four week series, we'll cover how to convert that suspicious white blob of soy into something truly (cross my heart!) delicious.

Ready for today's tutorial? Here we go . . .

Tofu Tuesday Tutorial 1:  It's Actually Pretty Good When It's Pretending to Be Something Else . . . aka Sloppy Toes. 

The post below was originally posted at The Happy Home

I grew up in a vegetarian household and ate probably far more than my fair share of tofu dogs as a child. My parents were Diet for A Small Planet generation vegetarians, where it was still believed that vegetable protein was slightly inferior to meat protein and vegetarian cooking was treated as some sort of complex geometry proof. As we grew, my brother and I tasted many recipe hits and misses (barbequed tofu was not a hit) as vegetarian cooking evolved. The joyful result of all those culinary experiments was some adventurous taste buds and the knowledge that food could be just about anything you wanted it to be.

Now that I’m on my own, I’ve incorporated meat into my diet, but we still prepare a large number of meatless meals at the cabin. When we do eat meat, I prefer to purchase organic, free-range chicken and we avoid beef and pork.

Despite the fact that we rarely (if ever) have ground beef in the house, we eat Sloppy Joes on a regular basis. The secret is a childhood recipe which uses tofu in lieu of ground beef. Years ago, my father dubbed the recipe “Sloppy Toes” and the off-putting nickname stuck.  

One bite of this yummy sandwich filling will thwart that inevitable question asked of all vegetarians: “Where’s the beef?” I’ve used the recipe to help tofu-phobic roommates overcome their resistance to soy protein. It’s a great kid-friendly, weekday meal that uses everyday ingredients and happens to be vegan too. The only thing you need to remember is to pull the tofu out of the freezer night before.

Over the years, I've tried to initiate others into the world of Sloppy Toes, with mixed results. Here's my tofu-phobic college roommate Sarah testing it out. (Please note, I was unsuccessful in this Joes to Toes conversion attempt.)
Look at that unbridled enthusiasm!
"Do  I really have to eat this?"
Mmm, delicious!
Try taking the Joes to Toes challenge yourself!  

Sloppy Toes
1 lb. extra firm tofu, frozen and defrosted*
2 tablespoons tamari (or other soy sauce)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
½ medium green pepper, chopped
1 cup ketchup
2 teaspoons vinegar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons prepared mustard
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Squirt of hot sauce (I use Sriracha)

Squeeze excess moisture from tofu. (I usually place the cake of tofu between two plates in the kitchen sink and place a heavy object – like a bag of sugar – on top of the top plate to press some of the moisture out. Then I use my hands to get the remaining moisture out.) Tear tofu into small crumbles. Place in a bowl and mix with tamari. Set aside.

Saute onion, celery, and green pepper in oil. After about five minutes, or when onions are soft, add tofu and brown lightly for a minute or two. Meanwhile mix up a sauce of the remaining ingredients. Add sauce to tofu and heat gently for a half hour. Serve on sandwich buns.

*We’ve always used frozen, then defrosted tofu because it seems to have a crumblier texture closer to that of ground beef that tofu used fresh out of package.


  1. I actually saw this post when it was featured elsewhere! My meatless sloppy joes are made with beans, but this might be the perfect way for me to dive into the world of tofu, LOL! ;)

  2. I like Tofu. I always buy it organic and add it to a lot of things.

  3. I really like tofu. I make tofu pad thai regularly. I think it is healthy to eat meatless a few times a week....
    Going to check out this recipe!

  4. Tofu and me are not really friends. Maybe one day I'll give it another shot....maybe : )

  5. Haha, well good for you at least trying :) I am not a hater of Tofu, but not exactly it's biggest advocate either. To each his own! :)

  6. I grew up eating tofu. And it really just seems to acquire the taste of anything that you put on it. I cook it two ways that are particular favourites. soy orange tofu (dip two sides of tofu into corn starch and pan fry cooking only one the corn starchy sides) and then add two parts juice to one part soy sauce and dump it in on a high hit into the pan with the tofu. AMAZING.

  7. Hahaha, people react so much on things! It's a funny picture, it's not like I would be upset if it was about chicken or salmon, I would simply laugh about it because it's a humourous picture!
    My sister said about tofu when I asked: "hmm... it's a white mass that doesn't really taste anything". LOL!

  8. Hmmm...i bought my first piece of tofu a little while ago and it's just been sitting there and i didn't know what to do with it...i may just try this out! Tnx for sharing! :)

  9. I eat meat but I also like tofu. I grew up eating it, my mom would always make tofu sandwiches and tofu burritos. They are my happy comfort foods now. Yum.

    Happy Cooking,


  10. Ada, I agree, tofu by itself is pretty unappealing, but in the hands of a skilled cook, it transforms like magic! Your Sloppy Joes sound fantastic -- great seasoning and spices! I was so excited to have you link up to "A Little Birdie Told Me...". Thank you, my friend!

  11. Interesting, I'll have to try this. I've recently started trying to eat more vegan but I wasn't entirely sure what to do with tofu! Lol. I'll look forward to reading more of your suggestions.


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