Thai Peanut Noodle Salad with Crispy Tofu

mains recipes Sep 27, 2020
 

While I’m by no means a strict vegan or vegetarian, I do love some crispy tofu every now and then. Tofu is one of those foods that people seem to love or hate, and it’s my mission to help everyone enjoy this #meatlessmonday protein swap.

The real key to tofu you’ll actually crave? It simply must be crispy! And no, I’m not encouraging you to bring out the deep fryer. This oven-baked version is simple to whip up with a few key tips for getting the right amount of crunch. Because, if you’re anything like me, you know that texture can make or break pretty much any food.

While this tofu can be enjoyed on its own or as an addition to any salad or grain bowl, I found it especially makes the perfect topping for this Thai Peanut Noodle Salad.

Here, I chose to add an additional punch of veggies by using zucchini noodles (can you tell I’m looking for any excuse to use my new spiralizer?), but you can absolutely swap for any noodles you love and prefer (rice or soba noodles would be perfect Asian-inspired options as well).

Regardless of the noodles you choose, this salad is packed with a variety of delicious and nutrient-dense veggies, including a few of my personal favorites.

Purple cabbage is a powerful ingredient in any meal as it’s loaded with antioxidants to protect against cellular damage and other plant compounds found to fight inflammation, boost heart health and fight cancer. Plus, this cabbage provides great crunch and fiber to keep you full and satisfied as well as your digestive system happy and running smoothly!

Red bell peppers are another one of my go-to vegetables to include in salads thanks to their subtle sweetness. Red peppers are one of the most vitamin C-packed foods we can consume, so you bet I’ll be adding them in whenever possible this upcoming cold and flu season.

Check out a variety of my other red-pepper packed recipes for more ways to reap the benefits:

But let’s get back to the tofu for a sec, shall we? For those unfamiliar or still unsure about this popular vegetarian and vegan protein, it’s simply processed soybean curd. No don’t be scared – it’s not as strange as it sounds!

Soy products in general have recently gained a bad rep thanks to claims that estrogen-like compounds found in soy may raise the risk of hormone-related cancers.

We now know that this is not the case, and instead soy products actually contain a variety of healthful, cancer-fighting properties. The perfect example of why we need to be skeptical of such claims and look at the real science.

Tofu contains a variety of anti-inflammatory, antioxidant phytochemicals, and it is a good source of “complete” protein meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein). Plus it likewise provides fiber, potassium, magnesium, iron, copper and manganese – an added bonus!

But perhaps what I love most about tofu is that it lends itself well to basically any and all flavors you’d like to jazz it up with. In this instance, I added a little coconut aminos for a bit more Asian flair, making it the perfect addition to this salad.

Yet in order to get that crunch we all love, a couple steps need to be taken. I highly recommend you:

  1. Press the tofu to release as much moisture as possible. The more liquid you’re able to get out of the tofu, the crunchier the result.
  2. Add cornstarch (or arrowroot starch) – this is truly the secret to getting that good crispy outside.

Together the variety of tasty veggies and the crispy tofu make the perfect base for the real star of the show – the peanut sauce. I swear this will make just about anyone enjoy vegetables. It’s creamy with a little zip, a bit of spice and overall the perfect addition to this Asian-inspired dish (or any ol’ salad for that matter).

Just drizzle it on, toss everything together, and you have an incredibly nutritious salad that’s great for a weeknight meal or even date night. Keep this recipe in your back pocket when you want a dinner that makes you feel like a million bucks and your tastebuds happy too  .


 

 YIELDS6 Servings
 

 

Ingredients
  •  2  zucchinis, spiralized (or sub noddles of choice - soba or rice noodles would work great)
  •  4 cups purple cabbage, shredded
  •  1  large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  •  3  green onions, thinly sliced
  •  ¾ cup cilantro, roughly chopped
  •  ½ cup roasted, salted peanuts, chopped
Peanut Sauce
  •  ½ cup creamy, natural peanut butter
  •  1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
  •  2  cloves of garlic, minced
  •  2 tbsp rice vinegar
  •  3 tbsp coconut aminos (or gluten-free soy sauce)
  •  1 tbsp lime juice
  •  1 tsp sesame oil
  •  1 tbsp sriracha
  •  3 tbsp warm water (more to thin if needed)
  •  honey to taste (optional)
Crispy Tofu
  •  1  block organic, extra-firm tofu (about 14 oz)
  •  1 tbsp coconut aminos (or gluten-free soy sauce)
  •  1 tbsp corn starch or arrowroot starch 

 

Directions
For the crispy tofu, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and set aside.
Drain liquid from tofu container. Line a plate or cutting board with a tea towel or several paper towels, and place tofu on top. Lay another tea towel or few paper towels over tofu, and place something heavy on top (a few books, cast iron skillet, etc.).

Press tofu for at least 10-15 minutes - longer if possible. The more liquid you're able to release, the crispier the result will be.

Remove towels, and cut tofu into cubes (I cut the block into half lengthwise and then each rectangle into 16 cubes).
To a medium-sized bowl, add coconut aminos and corn starch. Whisk to dissolve completely.
Add tofu to the bowl, and toss gently to coat. Distribute evenly on parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes, flip, and bake for another 20-25 minutes, until golden.
For the salad, add zoodles (or noddles of choice), cabbage, bell pepper, cilantro and green onion to a large bowl. Set aside.
To make the peanut sauce, whisk all listed ingredients together. Adjust spice and seasonings to taste.
Pour desired amount of dressing onto salad (will likely have additional leftover), and toss to coat. Top with crispy tofu and peanuts.

Serve, and enjoy!

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