The Crispy Tofu Taco Recipe You'll Want to Make On Repeat

These flavorful tofu tacos prove the plant-based protein doesn't have to taste like a bland, soggy sponge.

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The-Crispy-TK-Ingredient-Tofu-Tacos-You'll-Want-to-Make-On-Repeat-Image Courtesy of Sara Haas
Photo: Courtesy of Sara Haas

You might argue with friends over the best type of peanut butter or technique for eating Oreos, but there's one thing that simply can't be debated: Tacos are always a good idea. After all, there is an entire day of the week devoted to the often spicy, handheld dish. But for self-described meat lovers, tortillas stuffed with tofu — not the usual ground beef or shredded chicken — may be a harder sell, due largely in part to the plant-based protein's squishy texture and sponge-like appearance.

That is, however, until now. Once you take a bite of these seriously crispy tofu tacos, you'll never want to go back to the meat-filled classics.

ICYDK, tofu is a soybean-based, neutral-flavored food product that originated in China as early as the year 965 C.E. (A.D.), according to research published by Colorado State University. The process to create the plant-based staple is similar to cheese-making: The beans are soaked, drained, rinsed, and ground with water, and then the mixture is boiled to cut back on the bean flavor. From there, the liquid is filtered using a cheesecloth (at this point, you have soy milk), warmed, and mixed with a coagulant (i.e. salts, edible acids, and enzymes) to initiate the curdling process, according to CSU. Depending on the variety, the resulting curds are then pressed to release excess liquid and firm up the texture, and voilà — you've got a block of tofu that can be used in soups, noodle dishes, stir-fries, and, yes, even tacos. (P.S. tempeh is totally different from tofu.)

The secret for ultra-crispy — not spongy — tofu tacos? Set yourself up for success before you start cooking. First, use extra-firm tofu, which is pressed more than its silken, soft, and firm counterparts and lends more texture. (The tofu's packaging will list its type.) When you're ready to whip up a batch, drain the water out of the package; liquid is the enemy to achieving that crispy exterior.

Next up, press the tofu. Yes, it's already been pressed, but it's been packed in liquid, remember? If you want those tofu tacos to be crispy, you'll need to squish out any extra liquid, such as with a tofu press (Buy It, $28, amazon.com) or a clean towel and heavy pan. Finally, pat your tofu dry with a towel and heat your oil before doing any cooking. In order to get that golden-brown appearance, you'll need to make sure your pan and oil are piping hot prior to adding the tofu. You'll know it's ready when the oil looks wavy and moves fluidly in your pan. (

Once you've fried your protein to perfection, a process that takes about five minutes,and loaded it into a tortilla, top off your tofu tacos with homemade pickled red onions and jalapeño slices for some zing, pumpkin seeds for an added crunch, and chopped cilantro and avocado slices for freshness. Trust, the tofu tacos will be so delicious, you'll wolf one down in record-time — and nab a key nutrient along the way.

Specifically, the tofu in each taco provides about5 grams of complete plant-based protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids — which can only be obtained from food — that you need to make new protein in the body, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. While vegans and vegetarians can ensure they get all those amino acids by eating a variety of protein-packed foods throughout the day, noshing on these tofu tacos will help get the job done in one meal. Talk about efficiency.

Ready to find out just how flavorful and crunchy tofu can be? Bust the tortillas out of the pantry and try this tofu taco recipe for dinner this week.

Tofu-Tacos-Embed-Image Courtesy of Sara Haas
Courtesy of Sara Haas

Crispy Tofu Tacos

Start to finish: 15 minutes (not including tofu pressing time)

Serves: 4 (2 tacos per person)

Ingredients

  • 1 (14-ounce) package extra-firm tofu, drained
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1 1/4 cup boiling water, divided
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons avocado, canola or vegetable oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup smooth salsa
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 8 (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed
  • Toppings (optional): 1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds, 1 cup chopped cilantro, 1/4 cup thinly sliced jalapeno, 1 sliced ripe avocado, and hot sauce, as desired

Directions

  1. Place drained tofu on a paper towel-lined plate. Cover the tofu with a few more paper towels, then place a cast iron pan* directly on top. Let sit until most of the moisture has been pressed out, about 30 minutes.
  2. While tofu is pressing, make the pickled onions: Add sugar, salt, vinegar and 1/4 cup boiling water to a jar and stir until dissolved. Place sliced onions in a bowl and cover with remaining 1 cup boiling water. Let sit 1 minute. Strain onions in a colander and transfer to the jar with the water-vinegar mixture. Use a spoon to press down on the onions so liquid fully covers them. Set aside.
  3. Cut the pressed tofu into 1/4-inch cubes and place in bowl. Toss with salt and cornstarch.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large, non-stick skillet or a wok set over medium-high heat. Add half of the tofu and cook, stirring often with a spoon until golden and crispy, about 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer cooked tofu to a plate. Set aside.
  5. Wipe out the pan and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and tofu. Repeat the cooking process.
  6. Add cooked tofu back to the skillet, turn heat down to medium, add salsa and honey, and toss. Cook and stir until sauce coats tofu, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and toss with lime juice.
  7. Serve tofu on warmed tortillas topped with pickled onions, pumpkin seeds, cilantro, jalapeno, avocado and hot sauce, if desired.

*Equipment note: No cast iron pan? Try setting a small baking sheet or cutting board on top of the tofu, then placing something heavy, such as one or two soup cans, on top of it.

Nutrition facts per serving (two tacos without toppings): 250 calories, 7g fat, 1g saturated fat, 35g carbohydrates, 5g fiber, and 12g protein.

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