ORIGINS: Based on a Google Books search, the earliest recorded tofu scramble recipe in English likely dates back to the 1960’s. There is one earlier mention of a Japanese recipe for scrambled tofu from 1914, but it looks like this one might have contained real egg. In Asia, it’s common to cook tofu, eggs, or even meat in the same dish, whereas in the West, tofu seems to have been relegated to vegan cuisine only. Using tofu as a scrambled egg substitute, which really started taking off in the 80’s, is mostly an American concept.
Eggless Veggie Tofu Scramble
- 1 tbsp cooking oil
- 1/2 pack extra-firm tofu 175 g to 225 g
- 1/2 tsp kala namak (black salt) *optional; see Notes
- 1/4 tsp turmeric *optional; see Notes
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast *optional; see Notes
- 1/4 red onion 50 g
- 1/4 bell pepper or Anaheim pepper (or even jalapeno if you like spicy) 40 g
- 4 cherry tomatoes
- 1 pack mushrooms 150 g
- 3 cloves minced garlic 10 g
- 1 ½ cup baby spinach 40 g
- salt and black pepper I would start with 1/2 each and adjust to taste
- Wash and prep veggies: dice the onion and pepper, mince the garlic, and roughly chop the tomatoes and mushrooms.
- Heat up a large cast iron skillet on medium heat. Pat dry the tofu.
- Once skillet is hot enough (after ~5 minutes, or, if you have a laser thermometer, when the cast iron reaches 400 F), add oil and crumble in the tofu. If the tofu is still wet it will splatter a bit, so be careful!
- Pan-fry the tofu, moving them around every thirty seconds or so with a spatula or wooden spoon and breaking up the larger chunks. Don't stir too often because you want each piece to develop a nice seared crust.
- When the tofu pieces are looking nice and golden brown, add the onion and pepper.
- After a minute, add the tomatoes. Another minute, add the mushrooms… and finally the garlic.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the spinach. The spinach only takes a minute or two to wilt, after which the tofu scramble is ready to eat!
Firm or extra-firm tofu work best for this. Got soft or medium tofu? This crunchy pan-fried tofu recipe will work better for you.
The black salt, turmeric, and nutritional yeast are optional flavour enhancers. They’re there for a bit of additional eggy taste and colour. I’ve made scrambled tofu without any of these and the dish still turned out very tasty, but if you have any of them on hand definitely add them!
Any cooking oil you have is fine, though I would suggest something with a smoke point over 400 °F because we are gonna want some searing on that tofu which is hard to achieve with a lower temperature. This is a chart of oil smoke points that I find to be pretty accurate. I use peanut oil because it adds a delicious nutty aroma.
The vegetable ingredients here are pretty versatile. You can leave out what you don’t like/don’t have or add a veggie you’re dying to use. For example, sometimes I’m not in a tomatoey mood, and I won’t add the tomatoes. Or some days I don’t have any fresh peppers in my house so I’ll just leave it out. And I’ve found that peas, diced carrots, and potatoes work pretty well too if you want a pot pie vibe. But I generally try to keep the onions and spinach in the picture.
More Tips and Details
I made a Whole Foods recipe for veggie and tofu scramble recently and was pretty underwhelmed by its lack of flavour and colour. This really confirms the way I’ve been doing my previous tofu scrambles: the tofu needs to be sauteed before the veggies, and also you can’t let too much moisture accumulate in the pan.
You’ll want to stagger the vegetables. If you add them all at once, they’re gonna release so much moisture and it’ll take a while for the excess water to evaporate. Adding them one by one and using a large skillet with lots of surface area on which to distribute means that each ingredient can be cooked relatively quickly without making the whole thing soggy.
Basic rules I follow: onion always goes first; a longer cook time allows it to really soften up and start to caramelize. Garlic and spinach go last, as they cook quickly.
I recommend a cast iron and using the full tablespoon of oil, it gets the most flavour out of the tofu and prevents sticking (which is my worst fear in a cast iron!). If you’re avoiding oil or something, you can use a nonstick, and it is possible to brown the tofu but it will take much longer.
Veggie Trick: Sunbathe Your Mushrooms!
This is a cool fact I learned about mushrooms recently: exposure to sunlight increases their vitamin D content! You may be aware that ‘shrooms are one of the only plant sources of vitamin D, but did you know most mushrooms sold in stores actually contain very low amounts? Since UV exposure is required for vitamin D production, and most commercially-sold mushrooms are grown in darkness, the ones you’re eating most likely lack any significant vitamin D levels. But let them sit under the sun for a couple hours and their vitamin D levels will shoot up enough that you can cover your daily recommend intake with less than 200 g of the stuff.
Lately I’ve been setting my mushrooms outside on the balcony for a few hours before it’s time to cook. (It’s these kinds of conveniences that I’m gonna miss once WFH ends.) Of course, this might not work as well if you live somewhere perpetually cloudy like, uh, London or Vancouver. It helps that Calgary is the sunniest city in Canada!
Use Black Salt for an Eggy Taste
Black salt (kala namak) is one of those things that every vegan pantry should have. It just makes so many things so much better. It’s great on:
- any type of veggie egg-analogue (such as vegan fanqie chaodan, Chinese scrambled tomatoes and
- homemade chaat masala, which can be sprinkled on anything from fries, to roasted nuts, to curries, to fruit.
(Fruit?! I know. The idea of eggy, sulfuric smells on my fruit was not an appealing one at first. I would say it’s an acquired taste, but I really enjoy it now.)
If you’re in Canada, you can get a big old bag for less than $3 at larger Loblaws-group grocery stores (look for Suraj brand). It will last you forever.
Nutrition, Cost, and Emissions Information
One large plate of eggless tofu scramble is 468 calories, costs $3.78, and releases 1,004 gCO2e of carbon emissions into the atmosphere.