These are the tofu crumbles you never knew you needed! These tofu “meat” crumbles are easy, delicious, oil-free, and infinitely versatile. They’re crispy, full of flavor and umami, and will help you replace ground meat in your diet. If you’re transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle, these crumbles will help you stick to your plan!
Tofu seems to be a really divisive food, doesn’t it?! Some love it, some hate it. Some think it’s unhealthy and avoid it altogether. Today, I hope to make you a tofu-believer with a crispy recipe that will appeal to pretty much everyone. Even if you’ve hated tofu in the past, I urge you to try this recipe!
The texture of these crumbles is “meaty”, for lack of a better word. They’re chewy, smoky, and packed with umami. Whether you’ve been missing meat on a plant-based diet or simply want to incorporate a few meatless meals per week, this recipe is for you.
This oil-free ground tofu recipe is infinitely cheaper and healthier than the premade store-bought versions. All you need to make these baked tofu crumbles is a block of extra-firm tofu and some pantry staples, like dried spices and tomato paste. Oh, and the best part? All of your recipe prep is done in the 10-12 minutes it takes your oven to preheat! Let’s make some tofu crumbles!
More About Tofu “Meat” & How to Use It
These baked crumbles are crispy thanks to their time spent in the oven. They’re also satisfying thanks to their multiple umami sources. If you’re transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle, this tofu will absolutely fill the ground beef-shaped void in your diet.
These crumbles are great for burritos, tacos, and all kinds of bowls. They’re amazing on pizzas, in pasta sauces, and added to chilis. They’re also the perfect topping for baked potatoes and nachos.
Basically, almost anywhere you would have used ground beef or bacon bits, you can use this healthy and crispy baked tofu meat!
In terms of nutrition, these crumbles are high in vitamin A, calcium, protein, and iron. They’re also much lower in fat and calories than ground beef. Since tofu is high in isoflavones, you’ll also enjoy the benefits of phytoestrogens. (Learn more about soy, isoflavones, and phytoestrogen here.)
Even if you aren’t vegan or vegetarian, any opportunity to replace red meat in your diet should not be passed up.
Ingredients Needed For Tofu Crumbles
- Extra-firm Tofu: The base of these heart-healthy crumbles. Naturally high in protein and low in calories, tofu is also typically high in calcium, iron, and/or magnesium, depending on the brand. In order to avoid GMO soy, buy organic tofu. For added health benefits, look for sprouted organic tofu, like this one.
- Tomato Paste: A pantry staple, tomato paste adds color and flavor to these crumbles.
- Low-sodium Tamari (or soy sauce): Another pantry staple, tamari packs a ton of umami. It adds color and helps make these crumbles taste delicious.
- Miso Paste: A traditional Asian food, miso is a paste made of fermented soybeans. Though it is high in salt, it doesn’t increase your blood pressure the way regular salt does. In this recipe, it adds umami and saltiness.
- Dried Spices: We’re using garlic powder, ground cumin, smoked paprika, and chili powder here. Spices are some of the healthiest things you can add to your plate, and they help give this tofu its smoky flavor.
- Cayenne and Black Pepper: These add a little bit of heat and also help round out the flavor of the tofu crumbles.
How to Make Tofu Taste Like Ground Beef
Will this recipe taste exactly like ground beef? No, not exactly. Ground beef contains a lot of fat, including quite a bit of saturated fat, and can taste greasy.
This oil-free recipe, on the other hand, is much lower in fat, is heart-healthy, and tastes crispy rather than greasy.
Here’s what you’ll do to make your tofu taste like “meat”:
- Press your tofu while your oven preheats. Since we’re crumbling the tofu for this recipe, you don’t have to be delicate with your tofu. Whew!
- Then, since tofu doesn’t have much flavor on its own, we’ll add a generous amount of spices to get a nice, smoky flavor.
- Finally, you’ll spread your tofu out on a large baking sheet and bake it all up for 20-30 minutes until nice and crisp.
- After baking, your tofu crumbles will smell delicious. You’ll want to eat them immediately. Resist the urge, though! Allow your ground tofu crumbles to cool on the baking sheet for at least 5 minutes, or longer if you can wait. This additional time allows the tofu to cool fully and keep its crispy texture.
How to Press Tofu
There are so many ways to press tofu. Don’t get overwhelmed though! This recipe is super forgiving. Since we’ll be crumbling the tofu anyway, it doesn’t matter if you break your block of tofu. Thus, feel free to disregard the usual tofu best practices of going slowly and adjusting the pressure on your tofu gradually. More pressure at once = Less time spent pressing. 🙂
How to Press Tofu With a Tofu Press
Step 1: Open your package of tofu and drain off all liquid. To any store-bought tofu press, add your whole block of extra-firm tofu.
Step 2: Place your tofu press over a large bowl in order to collect the liquid. Then follow the instructions for your particular tofu press regarding how to press the tofu.
For example, you will crank the dials, press down on the springs, or exert some pressure to get the process started. I use this tofu press and find it to be super easy.
Step 3: Press for approximately 10 minutes.
For this recipe, we’re looking to get as much liquid out as quickly as possible and we don’t mind if the tofu breaks. (If you’re following these instructions for a recipe where you want to slice or cube your tofu, then adjust your tofu press gently and gradually and press for at least 20 minutes.)
Step 4: Take your tofu out of the tofu press and discard all liquid. You’re now ready to use your tofu!
How to Press Tofu Without a Tofu Press
Step 1: Open your package of tofu and drain off all liquid. Then wrap your block of tofu in a clean dish towel.
Step 2: Place your wrapped tofu on a plate or in a wide bowl in order to collect the liquid.
Step 3: Add a few heavy objects on top of the tofu. A heavy cast-iron skillet or soup pot filled with canned goods works well. A cutting board with a few cookbooks on top will also work well.
Essentially, you’re looking for a flat surface directly on top of the tofu for even pressure. Then you’ll add a good amount of weight on top of your flat surface to press the liquid out.
How to Press Tofu the Lazy Way
Step 1: Add your tofu to a nut milk bag or wrap it in cheesecloth.
Step 2: Then manually squeeze out as much liquid as possible over your sink. This can definitely be a hand workout!
Tips for Making Crispy Tofu Crumbles
This recipe is pretty easy! All of your recipe prep is done in the 10-12 minutes it takes your oven to preheat and you’ll be using basic, pantry ingredients. However, there are a few tips you should know for the crispiest crumbles possible.
- First, don’t skip the pressing of the tofu. I’m guilty of doing this sometimes, but do as I say and all that. 🙂
- Please be sure to use extra-firm tofu in this recipe. If you can only find firm tofu, then press your tofu for closer to 20 minutes. You may also need to bake it for a few minutes longer, keeping a close eye on the crumbles towards the end of their cooking time.
- A silicone baking mat (like a Silpat) or parchment paper is 100% necessary for this oil-free recipe. Unfortunately, your tofu will stick to a metal baking sheet.
- This recipe starts with a full 16-ounce package of tofu. However, since we’re removing all the water, you’ll be left with much less tofu than you wish you had. 🙂 If you’re looking to feed a crowd or make-ahead a big pot of “meat” sauce, you may want to double this recipe and spread your crumbles on two baking sheets.
Please let me know if you have any recipe questions. I hope that these tofu crumbles become a plant-based staple in your house and help you remove red meat from your diet!
- 1 package of extra-firm tofu (14-16 ounces)
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon low-sodium tamari (or soy sauce) - ensure gluten-free if necessary
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon miso paste
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
- While your oven preheats, start pressing your tofu. You can use a tofu press if you have one, or put a few heavy pans on top of your tofu block. Set aside and allow the liquid to drain off for 10 minutes. (Reference the post above for more information about how to press tofu.)
- Meanwhile, gather your remaining ingredients and combine them in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Once your tofu has been pressed for 10 minutes, crumble it into small pieces directly into your mixing bowl. Stir very well, breaking the tofu into small pieces and evenly coating it in the spice mixture. (Your hands are great mixers.)
- Add your seasoned tofu to a large rimmed baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat (or parchment paper).
- Bake your tofu for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, stir well, and return to the oven for an extra 5-10 minutes. Timing will vary slightly depending on how much liquid you were able to remove from your tofu.
- Remove tofu from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for at least a few minutes. As these crumbles cool, they continue to crisp up, so don’t add them to a serving bowl while steaming hot! Cooled tofu crumbles store well for up to a week in the fridge. They’re great in tacos, on top of pasta, or in any kind of grain bowl.
- Please be sure to use extra-firm tofu in this recipe. If you can only find firm tofu, press your tofu for approximately 20 minutes and plan to bake it for longer, keeping a close eye on the crumbles towards the end of the cooking time.
- A silicone baking mat (like a Silpat) or parchment paper is 100% necessary for this oil-free recipe. Your tofu will stick on a metal baking sheet.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: Approximately 1/3 of a cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 141Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 242mgCarbohydrates: 3gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 16g
Nutrition information is an estimate only, based on the recipe as written. This recipe was calculated using 15 ounces of extra-firm tofu. Data was obtained through MyFitnessPal's recipe creator.
The Background and Science Behind These Ingredients
- “…[T]he consumption of organic, non-GMO whole soy foods is highly advisable. Because when soy is consumed whole, it actually has an anticancer, antiestrogenic effect.”
- Soy is a complete protein and a great source of isoflavones. Though phytoestrogen sounds like estrogen, each is distinct and has a unique effect on the body. To learn more about these plant estrogens, see the article linked above!
- “There’s no debate: Soy is beneficial to your health”
- Miso is very healthy and doesn’t cause an increase in blood pressure the way salt does. In this recipe, we’re taking advantage of miso’s umami and saltiness. To take advantage of miso’s probiotic benefits, add miso at the end of cooking for most recipes.
What do you think?
Thanks so much for stopping by! If you make this recipe, then please leave a comment and rating. I would love to hear what you think and how it worked out for you!