Basil Tofu Bowl with Stir-Fried Quinoa

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Last night I made this Basil Tofu Bowl with Stir-Fried Quinoa:


If you’re not into tofu, please don’t stop reading just yet. You might change your mind, since I pretty much hated tofu until yesterday. Seriously. Sure, I’d tolerate it in the occasional miso soup or Pad Thai, but overall, I have always dismissed tofu as tasteless, slimy mush.

The few times that I have mustered up the courage to dabble in the world of soy didn’t exactly leave a pleasant taste in my mouth. I happen to do a lot of writing at the vegetarian coffee shop on my corner, where they sell all manner of scary soy-based creations. In a recent over-caffeinated, undernourished state of delirium, I decided to try the soy sausage wrap. Long story short, it made me want to die.

Why then, would I willingly make myself a tofu-based meal? Honestly, I have to chalk it up to pure culinary curiosity. Weirdly, I’ve been hyper conscious of the tofu in my surroundings over the past couple of weeks. Observing its many incarnations at Whole Foods, perusing recipes in various food magazines, and discussing it with my (few) tofu-eating friends has made me wonder about the potentially interesting possibilities of cooking with bean curd.

So, last night I hoofed it to the health food store in my neighborhood and bought my very first block of tofu.

Scary Tofu.

I’m not going to lie, I stared at that block of tofu for a good five minutes when I got home trying to figure out what to do with it. Perplexed, I put it in the fridge, poured myself a glass of wine and went down the Google rabbit hole. After some significant research (i.e. searching “how to make tofu not gross”), I decided to go with the “dry-fry and marinate” method because it promised that I would not end up with the tasteless, mushy tofu I’ve spent so many years avoiding. Paired with one of my favorite marinades and spicy, vegetable-laden quinoa, the Basil Tofu Bowl with Stir-Fried Quinoa was born…

Don’t panic, I’m not about to jump ship and become a soy-obsessed vegetarian, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved this tofu recipe. Dry-frying, which involves pressing all of the moisture out of the tofu and then searing it without any oil, works miracles on the texture of tofu. It’s not at all creepy, mushy or mealy, and it actually has a very meat-like consistency.  I am proud to report that it is the least tofu-like tofu that I’ve ever tasted, which is exactly what I was going for. Soaked in a mildly spicy marinade, this tofu is far from tasteless, and fresh basil adds a bright infusion of sweetness.

Stir-fried quinoa, which is one of my favorite weeknight staples, provides the perfect base for basil tofu. Nothing beats quinoa with fresh vegetables, a little garlic, and the sweet and spicy combination of Sriracha and soy sauce. It’s healthy, comforting, and beyond simple to whip up. Toss your quinoa and tofu in a bowl with some crunchy cucumbers, scallions, and fresh lime juice and you’ve got yourself a fancypants vegetarian feast. I highly recommend keeping this recipe in your arsenal for the next time you have a meat-shunning guest for dinner. I guarantee they’ll be grateful to be served something other than pasta or double portions of side dishes. Namaste.

NOTE: If you’ve experienced one too many tofu traumas and the idea of it still offends you, you are obviously welcome to use beef, chicken or pork. Duh.


Basil Tofu Bowl with Stir-Fried Quinoa: (Serves 4)

For the quinoa:
1 cup quinoa
1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
¾ cup grated carrots
½ yellow onion, minced
½ red bell pepper, finely chopped
½ cup frozen peas
2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1½ tbsp Sriracha
For the basil tofu:
14 oz firm tofu
2 garlic cloves, minced
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce (there are vegetarian varieties available)
1 tbsp Sriracha
1 tsp honey
1 small bunch of fresh basil (you can use Thai basil or sweet basil), about ¼ cup chopped (Thai basil or sweet basil)
For garnish (optional):
Cucumber, thinly sliced
Scallions, finely sliced
Lime wedges


Preparing your Basil Tofu Bowl with Stir-Fried Quinoa:

-Cook your quinoa according to the package directions.

-While your quinoa is cooking, get to work on the tofu. Gently slice the block of tofu into ½ inch pieces.


-Place the slices of tofu between two cloth napkins or dishtowels. Carefully press the tofu to remove as much of the moisture as possible. You don’t want to break the tofu, but you do want to press firmly to really dry your tofu out. Trust me on this one, if it is too moist, it will fall apart when it’s cooking and be very mushy. GROSS.


-Slice your dried tofu into 1-inch squares.


-Heat a wok or large non-stick pan over medium heat. When hot add your tofu in an even layer. (I recommend doing this in two batches.)


-Allow it to cook for about 3 minutes or until browned and then flip it with a spatula. Cook for another 3 minutes and remove it from the pan.


-In a mixing bowl, combine the garlic, lime juice, soy sauce, oyster sauce, Sriracha, and honey. Mix well. Add the tofu to the bowl and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.


-While your tofu is marinating, go back to the quinoa. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a wok or large sauté pan. When hot, add the garlic, carrots, onions, and bell peppers and sauté for 2 minutes.


-Add the peas and sauté for another 3 minutes until they are cooked through (aka warm and tender).


-Add the quinoa, soy sauce, and Sriracha and heat through.


-When your tofu is marinated, heat your wok/pan over medium heat. Remove the tofu from the marinade and add it to the wok. Cook for about 2 minutes until heated through. Pour the marinade over the tofu and cook for another 1-2 minutes, until it thickens. (Be careful not to let it burn!).


-Remove it from the heat and stir in the basil.


-Divide the stir-fried quinoa among four bowls. Top with basil tofu and garnish with scallions, cucumber, and lime wedges if using. Get zen with your badass vegetarian meal. Namaste, bitches.


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  1. Gillian Ellis on May 11, 2014 at 7:31 pm

    I made this dish for my parents and everyone loved it! I’m Vegan and it was a great meal to serve to those not familiar with tofu. Delish!

    • Serena_Wolf on May 12, 2014 at 9:41 am

      So happy to hear this, Gillian! This is my go-to for converting tofu skeptics, so I’m thrilled that your parents loved it!

  2. Katy Zukas on March 20, 2014 at 6:33 pm

    you had me at “went down the Google rabbit hole”. Love this blog! Will definitely keep reading!

    • Serena_Wolf on March 21, 2014 at 9:42 am

      Thanks, Katy! The Google rabbit hole is the best/worst. Rivaled only by the Seamless and WebMD rabbit holes.

  3. petesjoy on February 11, 2014 at 3:25 am

    Didn’t tweak a thing and it was awesome! Easy, healthy meal.

    • Serena_Wolf on February 11, 2014 at 9:02 am

      Thank you! This is one of my favorite weeknight meals, so glad it was a success!

  4. Ka on February 8, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    I tried this out tonight and it was AMAZING! My friends loved it as well! Thank you so much for sharing the recipe!

    • Serena_Wolf on February 10, 2014 at 9:12 am

      So happy it was a hit, Ka!

  5. benzel on April 2, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    Glad to see that you enjoyed the tofu! Its a common misconception that tofu is mushy and not appetizing. Its such a versatile, healthy and protein rich food. The secret to preparing good tofu (use firm and extra firm tofu, not silken tofu)is pressing the water out. I use the EZ Tofu Press to get the water out and then marinate the tofu. Thank you for the recipe!

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