Let’s get one thing out of the way right now: Scrambled tofu can never really imitate scrambled eggs.
There, I said it.
As a former vegan, I’ve had more than my fair share of scrambled tofu. And I know firsthand that while this vegan breakfast staple can definitely delight, it frequently disappoints. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had scrambled tofu that’s too dry, too soft, too bland — or, even worse, some combination of the three.
You can hardly fault the tofu. A block of coagulated soy milk simply does not behave like an egg does. So, as obvious as it may sound, the first step in making a better tofu scramble is remembering that you can’t treat tofu and eggs the same way and still expect a hearty and delicious plant-based breakfast.
But a truly tasty tofu scramble isn’t an impossible project either. Over email, I asked vegan cookbook author Gena Hamshaw for her tips on how to make a better version of the vegan classic. I can’t promise that your breakfast will taste just like eggs, but I can promise you that it’ll taste good.
Use extra-firm or firm tofu
Just as people prepare their eggs in whatever style they love most, the tofu you select should depend on whether you prefer a hard or soft scramble. Hamshaw prefers extra-firm tofu, though she doesn’t mind the slightly softer texture of firm tofu. “Some texture and solidity is important if one is truly trying to evoke scrambled eggs,” she says, “so I don’t recommend soft or silken tofu for scramble,” as both are delicate and struggle to hold their shape during cooking. But if you’re interested in re-creating the texture of a velvety French-style scramble, then soft or silken tofu might be the best pick for you.
Press your tofu dry — but not too dry
“I press tofu aggressively (which is to say, for a few hours or longer) when I’m planning to grill, stir-fry, or bake it,” Hamshaw tells me. Pressing tofu — and even freezing it — removes moisture and helps tofu keep its shape while it cooks, and results in a firmer, crisper bite. “But I don’t mind for a tofu scramble to be a little soft, so I usually only press it briefly (15 to 30 minutes) for that purpose.” Excess pressing can make your tofu dry and crumbly — which some might find unpleasant in a scramble. Like Hamshaw, I found that gently pressing my tofu (in my case, between paper towels and a plate weighed down by a 14-ounce can of beans) left enough moisture behind to ensure that my scramble remains tender.
Season your tofu well with salt and pepper while you cook, but don’t be afraid to use spices too. I rely heavily on garlic powder, nutritional yeast, and kala namak (aka black salt — more on that below) to give the dish a deep, savory flavor. Hamshaw swears by tamari for umami as well as mustard powder, along with a touch of lemon juice for acid. If you really want your scramble to resemble eggs visually, ground turmeric will lend the tofu a vibrant yellow color.
Kala namak — black salt — is your friend
Black salt has a “characteristically sulfurous, eggy flavor,” Hamshaw notes. “A little goes a long way — I recommend starting with ¼ teaspoon and adjusting to taste from there.” According to science-focused cookbook author Nik Sharma, kala namak gets its aroma from a chemical reaction that occurs when it is being heat-treated. Halite, a salt from northern India and Pakistan, “is heated for several hours… along with amla (Indian gooseberry) and haritaki, two types of fruit-bearing trees called myrobalans. Both the iron [in the] salt and the combustion of the plant material help develop the flavor of this salt. ”
Riff on it
“The nice thing about tofu scramble,” Hamshaw writes, “is that it’s more of a meal template than a recipe, so it lends itself to so many different variations of seasonings and ingredients.” Start by sautéing some vegetables — garlic, onions, or sweet bell peppers are always a solid choice — until they’re tender, then add the drained and crumbled tofu into the pan along with the seasonings and spices of your choice. Scrambled tofu is incredibly riffable, and there’s no right or wrong way to flavor it — it just comes down to personal preference. With a little experimentation and know-how, you’ll never have to eat bland, watery tofu scramble again.