For those of you who have been around reading my blog for a while, you know I am not a HUGE fan of tofu. But I am always willing to give things a try. And this recipe for a tofu ground beef is definitely a winner. Crumbled tofu is seasoned and then baked to dry it out just a bit, creating a consistency very similar to ground beef. Keep reading on to find out how to make tofu ground beef!
My inspiration for this recipe came about while I was in school studying nutrition. We had a cooking competition in class and the ingredient we all had to use was tofu. Our group won with a recipe similar to Crispy Tofu Tacos, but the group right behind us created a Bolognese Sauce with Tofu, and I swear the tofu tasted just like ground beef.
What is nutritional yeast?
This recipe includes nutritional yeast. Have you heard of it? It’s likely there are many people out there who are not familiar with it or its uses. Nutritional yeast, a supplement used frequently in vegan cooking, is the same type of yeast used in baking bread and brewing beer, but it has been specially grown to be used as a food additive.
The cells of the yeast are actually killed in the manufacturing process unlike in bread and brewer’s yeast where it is alive. When cooking with nutritional yeast, it adds a cheese-like, umami flavor to vegan food. I use it frequently as a cheese replacement and flavor enhancer in all types of food.
Vitamin B12 and Nutritional Yeast
Most often nutritional yeast is fortified with certain vitamins including B-12 which is of particular importance to vegans. Vitamin B-12 is only found in animal foods and thus vegans are frequently deficient in this vitamin because they do not consume any meat products. Vitamin B-12 is instrumental in the health and creation of blood and brain cells and also makes DNA in cells.
NOTE: This post includes affiliate links which means that if you click through and purchase, I do receive some small financial benefit at no cost to you which helps me to continue to provide you with free content.
You can find nutritional yeast in most organic food stores and in some larger urban areas in the regular grocery section. It is also available online from places like Amazon.
Benefits of eating soy
Research indicates that there are benefits of eating soy including reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and some cancers. In addition, soy appears to benefit women in menopause by reducing the occurrence of hot flashes. (I say yay to that!!) 🙂
Soy also has a small effect on lowering blood pressure and may work to reduce cholesterol in the blood. Most of soy’s benefits come from isoflavones contained in the soybeans. Isoflavones administer a weak estrogen affect on the body. This effect is weak meaning that when humans eat soy, it is unlike that unexpected things will happen in the body.
Macronutrient structure of soy
Soy is rich in protein and contains a higher quality protein than other plant proteins and even animal proteins. Soy is also a complete protein so it provides all the essential amino acids needed from food. The carbohydrates in soy are primarily of the oligosaccharide form which the body is unable to digest. But these undigested carbohydrates in soy serve as a prebiotic, traveling to the colon where they serve as food for the healthy bacteria that live there. Soybeans are also a source of healthy fats including omega-3 and omega-6.
Making tofu ground beef
The process begins with adding flavor to the the tofu and then creating a texture similar to ground beef. The seasonings work to add color and flavor to the tofu and the oven serves the purpose of drying the tofu out a bit so that it is less squishy.
In the first step of the process, remove the tofu from the package and allow it to drain in the sink. You do not need to attempt to remove any more liquid at this point as additional moisture will cook out in the oven.
Next mix up the nutritional yeast, olive oil, soy sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder and smoked paprika, creating a paste.
Crumble the tofu up in to small pieces of assorted sizes and then mix together with the paste.
After the tofu and paste are mixed together, spread the tofu out on a well sprayed or oiled sheet pan. The tofu cooks best in an even layer on the sheet pan. Place the tofu in the oven to cook. Be sure to check back frequently and move the tofu around on the pan.
How long the tofu will take varies wildly and depends much on your oven. For me, it seems to take about 30 minutes. About 2/3 of the way through the cooking , you will notice that the tofu starts to take on the texture of ground beef.
I recommend that you start checking it every 5 minutes or so at this point to ensure that it doesn’t burn. The recipe may take as long as 35-45 minutes to cook the tofu but it could be less time or more time depending on the actual temperature inside your oven and the size of your sheet and how spread out you can get the tofu.
Using tofu ground beef
When I cooked this recipe at home, I have to admit that I was very skeptical at first. I was impressed when I tried it in class, but I wasn’t sure that I could truly make it work. Well, I was mistaken. The results were pretty spectacular. My version came out a little more red and not meat-like in its color. But I thought the texture and flavor were great.
In my opinion this form of tofu really shines in recipes such as a pasta sauce or maybe even a thick stew or soup, like chili.
I tried it over pasta with a traditional marinara sauce and it worked exceptionally well. The mouth-feel of the tofu was close to ground beef and the dish had lots of flavor. It also works great on its own or mixed with lentils, taco seasoning and a bit of tomato sauce creating a delicious vegan form of taco filling.
Is eating soy safe?
The results from research on soy are often conflicting and difficult to make sense of for most people. This issue is mainly due to the structure and format of the studies.
Why this isn’t an easy yes or no answer?
First, researchers conduct studies on both humans and animals. In most of the human studies, the results demonstrate the benefits of soy. In most cases, the negative outcomes resulted from animal studies. These shouldn’t be completely ignored, however it is important to note that most animal models are quite different from the human body in how they process and metabolize nutrients thus the negative outcomes won’t necessarily translate the same for humans.
Is eating soy safe?
In the end, small quantities appear to be safe for humans
Yes, the research is very confusing. And you may be asking “So what does this all mean?”. In my opinion, there is more positive research on the value of consuming soy for humans than negative. And what I take away from all the research is that eating soy in small quantities each day or week will not cause any harm to me.
The only exception here that I want to insert is that if your doctor has advised you to avoid soy in all forms, then that should be respected and followed. I know in certain types of estrogen type cancers, avoiding soy is recommended and you should definitely follow your doctors instructions.
Tofu Ground Beef
- 1 package extra-firm tofu
- 1 T low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 T olive oil
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 T nutritional yeast
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Open tofu package and drain off water.
- Mix all other ingredients together in bowl to create a paste.
- Once tofu has drained, crumble it up into small pieces.
- Mix together paste and tofu until all of the tofu is coated.
- Coat a baking sheet with non-stick spray or with a light brush of oil.
- Evenly spread out tofu on pan and place tofu into a 350 degree oven.
- Cook tofu for 30-45 minutes. Stirring every 10 minutes or so to move the tofu around on the pan. Watch it closely after 20-25 minutes as it may cook faster than the allotted time and you don’t want it to burn.
Please take a moment to tell me about thoughts on this recipe or your experience in cooking it by leaving me a comment on the blog. If you have any questions, you can use the contact me page to send me a message. I promise to respond.