Thursday, April 25, 2013

Vegan Friendly “Southern Fried” Tofu


A couple years ago, I encountered multiple articles where doctors recommend that we eat an “80% vegetarian diet”.  This means while enjoying animal protein from time to time, we should get away from meat-driven meals.  Animal proteins are the source of cholesterol, and are more difficult to digest than plant-based foods.  So I decided to learn more about vegetarian and vegan cooking. 

I saw American Idol Ruben Studdard on The Wendy Williams Show a couple years ago, after he had recently embraced a vegan lifestyle.  His remark that he still enjoyed Soul Food and Southern Comfort Food intrigued me.  I set out to find recipes for vegan versions of classics like fried fish and fried chicken.  Most use “imitation meat” products like seitan, tempeh, and tofu.  I gathered a small collection of recipes that seemed to have merit. 

I found a recipe for “Southern Fried Tofu” from theBookOfYum blog.  I don’t think it tasted anything like fried chicken, but I did enjoy it.  The recipe calls for nutritional yeast with seasonings as a coating for the tofu.  The originator of the recipe loved this fried tofu so much that her family took nutritional yeast with them to Japan when they moved there, so they could continue to enjoy Southern Fried Tofu.  Her family ate this over mashed potatoes or with sautéed greens. 


1 lb firm tofu

Cooking oil such as olive oil


Flour coating: 

½ cup brown rice flour, sorghum or white rice flour


Dipping Mix: 

½ cup low-fat non dairy milk (dairy works too)

½ Tbsp lemon juice or vinegar


Seasoning Mix: 

¾ cups nutritional yeast (Fluffy yellow flakes.  At “health food stores” this is in the bulk food section.)

1 tsp salt

½ tsp each:  garlic granules and onion granules

¼ tsp each:  paprika, dried tarragon, dried dill weed, dried basil leaves, dried oregano leaves, curry powder

1/8 tsp each:  dry mustard, ground rosemary, chipotle pepper



Pressing Your Tofu

Most recipes for frying, baking or “barbecuing” tofu specify to press the tofu first.  This makes for a more dense texture.  It’s really easy but can be intimidating when you first read it.  I have step by step photos for this in my blog post, How to Press Tofu.  Alternatively, some sources recommend slicing and freezing the tofu.  This changes the texture too.  Thaw the tofu and use in your recipe. 


Prepare Flour Coating, Dipping Liquid, and Seasoning Mix

1- Pour flour into a small shallow dish or pan, like a wide soup bowl or small pie plate. 

2- Pour milk substitute in another shallow dish.  Add acid (lemon juice or vinegar) to make “buttermilk”. 

3- Measure nutritional yeast flakes into a third shallow dish.  Add seasoning spices and stir to combine.  Don’t let it stop you if you don’t have or don’t like all of these spices.  Use what you have. 

4- Line up your dishes in order:  Plate with tofu, flour dish, dipping liquid, then seasoned coating mix, then frying pan. 

Coat, Dip, Coat Again, and Fry

1- Place tofu triangles or rectangles in flour one or two at a time.  Turn to coat both sides. 

2- Place floured tofu in liquid.  Turn to coat both sides. 

3- Place tofu in seasoned nutritional yeast flakes.  Turn to coat both sides. 

4- Place battered tofu in preheated oil in a skillet. 

5- Minimize turning to prevent losing coating.  Fry 2-3 minutes on each side.  Remove tofu to drain on paper towel.  Take another towel and pat tops to absorb excess oil. 

A Few Notes

The recipe originator said the seasoning mix was more than enough for two batches of tofu.  I went ahead and cut the recipe in half.  I still had plenty of the nutritional yeast mixture.  There would probably be enough for another small package of tofu. 

I read recently that the nutritional yeast gives dishes a cheesy flavor.  I think that’s fair to say.  The finished product actually reminded me of my Parmesan Chicken. 

I was initially reluctant about tofu because I am a bit fussy about food texture.  I found that I haven’t minded the texture at all in the things I’ve tried so far!  I think the pressing helps.  With the Southern Fried Tofu, I liked the texture best after it had cooled off a bit. 

A Vegan Friendly American Classic- Vegan Chili


I became interested in vegan and vegetarian cooking a few years ago when I saw Ruben Studdard, 2nd season American Idol winner on The Wendy Williams Show.  He revealed he had embraced a vegan lifestyle.  This was intriguing to me!  How can you satisfy your cravings for classic comfort foods?! 

Interested in decreasing my meat consumption, I started researching recipes, and among other things, targeted chili.  I found a couple recipes that I thought would be worth a try, and ultimately decided on “Really Good Vegan Chili” fromVegWeb.  It’s a hit at my house.  No one ever complains about having it, and no one cares that it doesn’t have meat. 

This is my adaptation of the original recipe, having prepared it several times now.  It’s a lot the same, but a lot different, know what I mean?  I’ll give my ingredients and instructions, and comment on variations at the end. 

My Vegan Friendly Chili


1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 Tbsp coconut oil or olive oil

1 cup each of 5 varieties of dried beans and peas, such as: 
kidney beans
pinto beans
black beans
pink beans
black eyed peas
navy beans
great northern beans
garbanzo beans
lima beans

1 large can of tomato juice (about 1 quart)
1 can diced tomatoes

8 oz baby bella mushrooms, quartered (optional)
2 Tbsp molasses

1 Tbsp each:  chili powder, Lawry’s garlic powder with parsley, Lawry’s seasoned salt
1 tsp each:  cumin, coriander, and cardamom

1/8 tsp each:  cayenne pepper, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, and smoky sweet red pepper flakes

1- Soak beans and peas 8 hours or overnight. 


2- Pour tomato juice and diced tomatoes into a 4 to 6 quart Dutch oven pot.  Use immersion blender if desired to break tomatoes into smaller pieces. 

3- Add beans and peas. 


4- Add seasonings and 1 Tbsp of oil and stir.  Cover and simmer on low, stirring occasionally.  Allow chili to simmer about 90 minutes. 

5- Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a skillet.  Add chopped onions and sauté.  Transfer onions to Dutch oven. 

6- Sauté mushrooms.  Transfer to Dutch oven.  Stir. 

7- Allow chili to simmer another 30 minutes, or until beans and peas are soft. 



Serving suggestions:  Serve with rice or macaroni; cornbread, vegan cheese, raw onions. 



My Personal Perspectives on the Recipe

The original recipe used 4 veggie burgers, broken into pieces in the skillet.  I used the crumbles, my first experience with “texturized vegetable protein” (TVP).  I didn’t know how well it would hold up, so added it after my chili had been simmering almost an hour.  I just poured it directly from the bag into the chili. Truthfully, I was not crazy about the texture. 

The second time we had this chili, I browned the crumbles (TVP) first, and added them near the end of the cook time.  I liked the texture better, having browned it a bit in the skillet.  The last time we made the chili, we skipped the TVP altogether.  I have some reservations about the “fake meats” since many have ingredients that look engineered in a lab.  Many have soy components, and I’m not convinced soy is great for you.  Sally Fallon says even the Japanese eat it sparingly. 

Sally Fallon speaks on reservations about soy
Each time I made the chili, I used different beans based on what I had.  I have made the chili with canned beans, but try to minimized use of canned goods.  Dr. Oz recently proclaimed that traces of BPAhave been found in virtually all canned foods that his team tested.  It is relatively easy to use dried beans instead of canned.  You could soak and cook your dried beans ahead of time. 

The originator of the recipe used tomato paste and a large can of tomatoes.  I used tomato juice and a smaller can of diced tomatoes.  I’ve found tomato products in glass jars at HEB Central Market.  The originator used white mushrooms but I prefer baby portabellas.  My sister doesn’t like mushrooms, but quartered mushrooms are easy enough to pick out.  Sometimes I leave them out however.  All minor differences from the original recipe. 

 BPA in Food Cans

The original recipe also uses broccoli tips, finely cut.  I’m not sure if this is for texture or for nutrients.  I like broccoli, but it’s not a chili ingredient to me.  I have left it out after the first time.  I usually add 1 to 2 cups of pureed carrots to tomato-based recipes to boost the nutritional value. 

The original recipe calls for ½ cup unsalted sunflower seeds.  I assume this is for texture, though I didn’t particularly care for the contrast.  My brother and sister liked them though. 

The original recipe was a bit vague on spices.  In the text it said “whatever seasoning appeals, like pepper, salt, crushed red chili peppers, dulse sea weed.  Lots of garlic powder is always good.”  I was inspired by the medicinal properties of spices, particularly classic Indian spices.  I think I hit on a great combination this last time, which is the list of spices I listed above.  The chili tasted heavenly, especially after two days in the frig! 

Dulse and other seaweeds are excellent sources of B vitamins and trace minerals.  I have dulse seaweed powder, but have gotten out of the habit of using it.  It smells fishy if you sniff it directly, but does not make the food taste fishy.  I’d say for this chili recipe, you could easily add a tablespoon of dulse powder.  Anytime you use dulse in a recipe, cut back on the salt in the recipe.