It's ready to customize with your favorite flavors—and whatever you've got in the fridge.

By Haile Thomas
August 31, 2020
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Tofu is a block of soybean curd. But it's also a canvas for creativity, body benefits, and the origins of plant-based innovation. Before challenging myself to switch to a vegan lifestyle in 2014, I wildly under-appreciated and underestimated tofu. It was just the tiny cubes floating around in my occasional bowl of miso soup. The "weird" thing I heard vegetarians ate instead of chicken. Nothing I was too excited about. But as I embarked on my vegan journey, I discovered that tofu is far more interesting than what I'd experienced or heard before.

I soon found myself learning the right preparation techniques and experimenting with chocolate puddings, smoked tofu steaks, and scrambles (more on this shortly), all made with tofu! Experiencing such versatility in one ingredient was eye-opening. It inspired me to be more open to trying other plant-based foods that I wasn't so familiar with. Yet, what I'd discovered about tofu has been known across the globe for thousands of years. Since being invented in China over 2,000 years ago, tofu has traveled through different countries and eras, with countless remixes and recipes designed to celebrate this unique soy food. Varying in firmness and texture (extra-firm, medium, silken, fresh, etc.), variations of tofu have truly created the foundation for meat-alternatives. Many plant-based products on the shelves list soy as their first ingredient. Which means tofu is the ultimate ancestor of today's newest vegan foods.

Haile Thomas' new cookbook, Living Lively, is out now.
Alexsey Reyes

The journey of tofu gives us a glimpse at our deep culinary interconnectedness and that the emerging, more plant-forward food culture wouldn't be the same without it. So, the next time you question how modern food sorcery is possible (like vegan burgers that taste like meat), remember that the history of plant-based techniques and traditions birthed over two millennia ago is very much connected with the food technology we're witnessing today. Plus, it's a great lesson on culinary curiosity! Legend has it that if it weren't for a Chinese cook accidentally curdling soymilk, we wouldn't have tofu! And millions of others, myself included, wouldn't be cooking some of their favorite recipes using it.

My vegan adventures have allowed me to get creative and take advantage of the fiber, magnesium, iron, and the fueling power found in this complete protein. I used to love scrambled eggs, and tofu scrambles are one of the closest alternatives I enjoy. Tofu scrambles out in the world can be hit or miss at times, so I thought I'd get to work on a version I could make at home and customize it to fit the ever-changing seasons. And that's how my recipe Make-It-Your Own (MIYO) Tofu Scramble was born! I feature this recipe in my new empowerment cookbook, Living Lively because it genuinely is that good. I love being intentional with the ingredients I choose to mix into my scrambles while experimenting with ingredients like Kala namak (black salt), which gives the tofu a sulfuric "eggy" flavor! Vegan or not, it's a joy to set aside assumptions about tofu and find delicious ways to cook it—and make it your own.

Get the Recipe: Make-It-Your-Own Tofu Scramble