Tofu is still one of the best vegan meats out there. So why is it that we still don’t know how to cook it?
Well, maybe it is because no one actually seems to give a well-rounded answer, or because people are still so scared of the whole “soy origin” factor.
However, let us shout it for the world to hear – tofu is completely safe to eat! In fact, it contains loads of beneficial vitamins, minerals, lean good fats, and loads of protein.
So, now that we have set your mind at ease, how can you use tofu and make it taste like chicken? The best way is to simply substitute chicken with tofu in the original recipe. This way, your flavors will remain the same and you will have similar textures. Another way to create a chicken flavor is by using a chicken spice or chicken marinade.
In this jam-packed article, we will explore the many fantastic aspects of tofu, including how to best prepare it.
And, of course, we will have an in-depth look at exactly how you can and should change the texture and flavor to give it a more realistic chicken flavor.
What Is Tofu?
If you are still not completely on the tofu train, do not fret. Many people need a lot of convincing before diving into this ever-ongoing trend.
Tofu is a very controversial ingredient, which is why you might still not know how properly cook it.
So, let’s have a look at exactly what it is in order to better understand how it should be prepared and cooked.
Tofu is a plant-based product that is made from condensed soy milk. Ding, ding, ding, ding! That’s where the controversy lies.
But, what we will say is that when consumed in moderation (and if you don’t have an allergy of course) tofu is perfectly safe to eat.
This product is made by pressing the soy milk into a solid white block. The process is very similar to making cheese.
While the final consistency is definitely firm and dense, it isn’t rubbery like most people think. And, once you chew on it you’ll see it is quite smooth.
Unfortunately, as is, tofu is pretty bland. But, that is what makes it so incredibly versatile. Essentially, it only functions as an ingredient that adds texture and nutrients (protein mostly) to your food.
How To Make Tofu Better
Tofu makes an excellent substitute for chicken but unfortunately doesn’t have a natural flavor leaning towards it. So, there are two main ways that you can elevate this ingredient and make it tastier!
The first is by using the best possible cooking techniques that resemble that of chicken.
As you may know, chicken itself is extremely versatile when it comes to cooking. But, for the best result, you have to use a technique that makes the exterior crispy.
You would be shocked to taste the massive difference between a raw piece and a pan-fried chunk of tofu. It is amazing! Anything that can add some texture to the tofu is a good cooking method to use.
This includes pan-frying, deep-frying, stir-frying, grilling, and roasting (or baking). For each of these, we will go into more detail and exactly how they change the tofu in flavor and texture.
Then, another way to elevate tofu and give it a more chicken-like flavor is by pairing it with ingredients and spices commonly associated with chicken. Using chicken spice is an obvious choice, but your options are far broader.
And finally, you can also make it more like chicken by playing around with textures. This can be achieved by either pairing it with crunchy ingredients or by making it crunchy.
The flavor is nothing if the texture doesn’t work well and is appealing. This is why we don’t like over or under-cooked food!
How To Cook Tofu Like Chicken
We will first discuss some cooking techniques you can use. These techniques will directly affect which flavoring method you can use and even if you can flavor the tofu.
As we have mentioned, the best cooking techniques for tofu are ones that work best for cooking chicken.
This will help give it a similar texture and consistency. Tofu is firm and can be easily cut or sliced into pieces that resemble chicken.
Once seasoned and prepared, you will barely notice the difference!
When deep-frying tofu, you can add the pieces to the oil raw or crumbed. Both methods will give you a crunch, albeit at varying degrees.
When crumbing the pieces, there are a few factors to consider. If you want a fully vegan product, you will have to substitute the eggs with flax or chia eggs instead. No other “vegan egg substitute” will work for crumb-coating tofu.
Furthermore, make sure to properly remove any moisture from the surface of the tofu before covering it with flour, flax eggs, and breadcrumbs. Cornstarch will also work great for this purpose.
When seasoning tofu for deep-frying, the best way to do so is by adding some ground spices to the flour. Otherwise, you will have to serve some type of dipping sauce alongside it.
Pan-frying tofu works similarly to pan-frying halloumi. The firm tofu blocks will hold up well to the extreme pan temperatures and are very easy to season in this way. The key to this technique is timing.
Just like when pan-frying chicken, you can easily overdo or underdo it. To pan-fry tofu, you will again need to dry the pieces as best you can.
For a much crispier texture, we recommend coating the pieces in cornstarch or flour again. This is where you can add seasoning if you’d like. Then, simply add the tofu to a non-stick preheated pan over medium-high heat.
Fry both sides for roughly 2-3 minutes. If you have cubes, turn each one once they start browning.
You can also use this technique to cook the crispy tofu inside of a sauce or marinade like you would for sweet and sour chicken.
Roasted Or Baked Tofu
We absolutely love this technique. It is possibly our favorite! By roasting or baking your tofu, you can much more easily flavor the tofu during the cooking process. And, there are many ways to do this.
Again, you can coat the pieces in a seasoned flour or cornstarch mixture. But, you can also roast them with other aromatic ingredients like fresh herbs, onions, garlic, meat, and vegetables!
As long as the flavors pair well, the technique will work great.
You can opt for varying textures when using this method. For crispier pieces, use roasting temperatures above 350ºF. But, if you just want the tofu to be cooked, you can use lower baking temperatures instead.
This method is also very hands-free. You season the tofu, place it inside a lined baking tray, and leave it for roughly 30-40 minutes depending on the size of your pieces.
The tofu has been fully baked or roasted when the outside is crispy and golden brown, but the inside is soft and creamy.
How To Make Tofu Taste Like Chicken
Moving on to the actual seasoning of tofu, there aren’t any wrong answers! That’s great, right? Well, it can then still be pretty daunting trying to season this ingredient without knowing where to start!
Use A Chicken Recipe
The easiest way to make tofu taste like chicken is to simply substitute chicken with tofu in a recipe. Then, just adapt the cooking times and you should be ready to go.
Because tofu doesn’t have any chicken-like flavors, it will never taste like true chicken. But, you can mimic the flavor profile of chicken pretty closely.
So as an example, let’s say that you want to make baked chicken wings with a BBQ basting sauce.
When using tofu, you will simply bake the tofu for the correct amount of time while basting it every couple of minutes. Use the same recipe and the same spices.
Now, let’s say that you want to make air-fried chicken nuggets. First, portion the tofu into nugget-sized pieces. Then, crumb it as the recipe says with the same seasoning ingredients.
Finally, place the crumbed and seasoned tofu chicken nuggets inside the air fryer and cook them for about 12 minutes. Serve them with the recommended dipping sauce.
It’s easy, right? There is no need to make a big fuss over trying to mimic the flavor of the chicken. By literally using chicken recipes, you are already doing more than enough!
Use Chicken Spice
If you don’t want to create a specific chicken dish but still want the flavor, the best option is to use chicken spice as a seasoning ingredient. There are already loads of options on the market that are very affordable and tasty!
But, if you want to make your own chicken seasoning or rub at home, it is equally easy. Most chicken spices consist of the same ingredients, just in different ratios.
This includes salt, pepper, dried basil, dried rosemary, garlic powder, mustard powder, paprika, dried thyme, dried parsley, ground cumin, and sometimes cayenne pepper and celery seeds.
To make the best and most versatile spice (regardless of the recipe you are using) make sure to use only finely ground spices that are completely dried. This mix can be used in flour or as a fine rub.
You can browse the internet for thousands of different recipes. And, you can even narrow down your flavor preference even further.
You can look for something like a Mexican chicken spice or an Asian chicken spice. Trust us, the flavors differ vastly!
Use A Chicken Marinade
Yes, you can actually marinate tofu. And, again, you don’t have to change the chicken marinade recipe at all!
To marinate tofu, first, cut your pieces into the size you want. Then, place them inside the marinade and allow them to soak for at least 30 minutes.
You can also soak the entire block of tofu, but the flavor won’t penetrate effectively throughout the entire block.
Once marinated, drain the tofu blocks or block. Then, you can continue cooking it as the recipe originally states. Marinated tofu is best cooked by pan-frying or roasting the pieces. But, you can also deep-fry and stir-fry them.
Pair Tofu With Common Chicken Accompaniments
The mind is a powerful thing. If you have made, for example, tofu nuggets and serve them with some fries or a dipping sauce, it will immediately taste more like chicken. We aren’t crazy! It’s an actual psychological theory!
Suggestibility is the word used to describe this concept best. It basically means that if something is suggested to you, your brain can automatically accept or embrace it.
So, if you serve deep-fried tofu in a similar way that you would regular chicken nuggets, the consumer is far more likely to eat it than if you simply say “this is tofu”.
This is why so many vegan products are still labeled as “chicken”, “patties”, “cheese”, “milk”, and “yogurt”. People accept these words more readily than plant-based terms and are subconsciously a lot more willing to give them a try.
You can pair tofu chicken dishes with common accompaniments like a salad, fries, sauces, burgers, or other finger foods. The list goes on and on!
Now that we’ve gone over how to make tofu taste more like chicken, let’s take a look at a few related questions on the subject!
Do you have to press the tofu before cooking it?
You don’t have to; however, pressing tofu does help it absorb more flavors and give it a better texture.
To press tofu is also extremely easy and doesn’t take up too much time. Simply weigh down a plate on top of the block so that excess moisture can be released.
When is tofu perfectly cooked?
There isn’t really an exact time frame for when tofu is fully cooked. Many people simply follow the rule of crispy on the outside.
We must admit, we also follow this rule because tofu is very hard to overcook and virtually impossible to undercook. Under-done tofu is simply cold and firm on the inside. However, it is still completely fine to eat.
What are the health risks involved when eating tofu?
There are many risks involved, but the same goes for all ingredients. Tofu is simply under the microscope because it comes from soy.
This product could potentially alter your hormone levels and give you thyroid issues. On the flip side, it could also reduce the risk of diabetes, and cancer, and helps improve overall brain functioning.
Why does tofu work as a chicken substitute?
Tofu can have a similar texture to chicken, which is why it is the go-to substitute. But, the flavor is what you mostly have to alter.
Another reason it works so well as a chicken substitute is because it also contains loads of proteins, making it a good vegan plant source.
Is tofu healthier than chicken?
Both tofu and chicken are packed with different nutrients which provide a variety of benefits.
They are also great sources of lean protein, even though chicken does contain almost twice the amount. But, tofu has less fat, all of which are good fats.