Yotam Ottolenghi’s Black Pepper Tofu is one of the most flattering recipes I’ve come across for tofu. Browned tofu cubes are drenched in an inky, irresistible sauce. It is spicy. It is surprising.
I inhaled the perfume of ginger and garlic sizzling together in butter many times as this became my favorite way to serve tofu at home. And now, just as unexpectedly, I’ve found another favorite tofu recipe: Tofu and Brown Rice Salad.
This salad bowl, inspired by bowl food queen Sara Forte of Sprouted Kitchen (via Lottie + Doof), takes tofu in a different direction. Here we have a salad that is greater than the sum of its parts, both vibrant and fresh. It’s brimming with color and texture, and everything is rounded out with a savory but light dressing.
Cooking the tofu in coconut oil imparts a hint of sweet, tropical flavor, which complements the fresh vegetables. In a pinch, you could brown the tofu in olive oil but try the coconut oil. The flavor comes through in a great way.
I fell hard for this crunchy tofu salad. After making it several times, I swapped in peas for cucumber, pistachios for cashews, and lemon for lime. I serve it all on baby arugula to stretch the salad a bit further and add even more vegetables. I recommend grating the carrots on the coarsest surface of a box grater. I was surprised by how much I preferred the coarser bits of sweet carrot in this salad to their anemic pregrated counterparts.
A bit of freshly grated ginger in the dressing brightens it up, but you can forge ahead without the ginger if you don’t have any around. If you don’t like cilantro, use Italian parsley instead. (My husband is apparently developing an aversion to cilantro as it’s starting to taste soapy to him. He’s one of those people! We’ll get through this, somehow.)
Adding brown rice here is brilliant, as it really makes the salad that much more hearty. My move these days is making a big batch of brown rice at the beginning of the week. Then I’m just a bit of browning, chopping, and tossing away from diving into this salad for dinner. And then again for lunch.
Tofu and Brown Rice Salad
This seemingly simple salad quickly becomes a weeknight dinner favorite with its vibrant color and textures. The salad keeps well for a few days, so I love making it for dinner and taking the leftovers to work for lunch.
For the salad:
14 ounces extra-firm tofu
1 heaping tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
Big pinch of coarse salt
Big pinch of freshly ground black pepper
2 large carrots, coarsely grated
1 cup cooked and cooled brown rice
1 cup (fresh or frozen) peas, blanched
1 red or orange bell pepper, seeded and diced
3 green onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1/2 cup roasted shelled pistachios or almonds (roughly chop almonds, if using)
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
Baby arugula or kale, for serving
Sliced ripe avocado, for serving
For the dressing:
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons sriracha
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
Drain the tofu and wrap in paper towels. Weigh tofu down with a cookbook or skillet to help squeeze out excess liquid. (You can prep ingredients or the dressing while tofu is drying out.) Once tofu has dried out and soaked paper towels, which will take several minutes, cut the block into small cubes.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add coconut and sesame oils to the skillet and when hot, add the tofu. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until tofu cubes are golden brown all over, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, add the carrots, rice, peas, bell pepper, onions, sesame seeds, and nuts. Add most of the cilantro, saving some for garnish. Add cooled tofu. Toss to combine ingredients.
To make the dressing, add all the ingredients to a small jar and seal with a tight-fitting lid. Shake jar vigorously to emulsify the ingredients. Pour dressing over the salad, using a large spoon to toss and coat the salad. To serve, place a handful of arugula in a wide, shallow bowl and top with tofu salad. Garnish with fresh cilantro and a few slices of avocado, if using.
Salad will keep for a couple days in the fridge. Feel free to double the recipe for more leftovers.
Recipe adapted from Sara Forte, Sprouted Kitchen.