Genius Chickpea Tofu

chickpeatofu3

As someone who eats a predominantly plant-based diet, you can imagine that I’ve enjoyed a long history of consuming soy-based foods. When I became a vegetarian at 16 and vegan thereafter, there wasn’t the variety of plant-based protein foods readily available as there are these days, nor was I educated about alternatives to meat back then. Soy became my answer and my replacement for everything from dairy to eggs to chicken nuggets (eew). Before I knew it, I was eating some form of soy up to three or four times a day, when things started to get weird. Without going into too much detail I’ll just say that my PMS and menstrual issues became incredibly, ahem, challenging. I didn’t even like being around me. Period.
Ha.

Once I started studying holistic nutrition, I began to think that perhaps my issues lay in the hands of the health food industry’s little darling. Yes, soy. Seeing as I was really grooving on being a human guinea pig while studying, I decided to give up the soy for other foods, such as hemp, chia, nuts, seeds, leafy green, other legumes just to see what would happen. Call it a coincidence, but after a couple months, my symptoms started to clear up and I returned to my regular, only slightly neurotic self, every 28 days. Did I miss tofu? Actually, yes. And I still do from time to time, which is why I’m pretty darn excited to share this recipe with you today. A recipe for tofu, made from chickpeas.

chickpeatofu2

But first, let’s discuss soy. I’ve gotten a lot of emails and inquiries from many of you regarding this topic, because soy and soy foods are drowning in controversy these days. What is all the fuss about? Well, there are two schools of thought: one being that soy is a highly valuable source of plant-based protein because it is complete (meaning that it contains all essential amino acids). The other school of thought is that soy is “bad”, or even harmful for you if it is not fermented.

This brings up a good point, and it’s great to hear that more people are turning toward fermented foods, especially legumes and grains. But the idea that unfermented soy is downright dangerous to eat is blowing things a little out of proportion if you ask me. If we are going down that road, then we also have to say that all legumes, grains, nuts and seeds are harmful if not fermented. The process of fermentation neutralizes some of the naturally occurring phytic acid (a compound that binds to minerals in the digestive tract making them difficult to absorb), while breaking down some the hard-to-digest proteins. Soy actually contains less phytic acid than some of its vegetable counterparts, like flax, sesame, Brazil nuts, and pinto beans. This is why soaking legumes, grains, nuts and seeds before eating them is important for better digestion, nutrient assimilation, and therefore overall health. That is a statement I can get behind.

Fermented soy foods include tempeh, miso, and naturally brewed soy sauces, like tamari. I for one have been eating fermented soy foods exclusively for the past few years just because I feel better eating that way. I also choose non-GMO and organic soy because I support those agricultural practices.

In conclusion, I will say that eating any food in balance is okay, as long as it is minimally processed. That definitely excludes tofu chicken nuggets, soy cheese, soy eggs, and even most soymilk (always check the ingredient list – some brands are good and some contain a laundry list of un-pronounceables). My rule of thumb with any food, is that if you can’t make it at home, don’t eat it. Although tofu and tempeh are bit of an ordeal to make yourself, I’ve done it and it is possible. Tofu chicken nuggets? Good luck with that one.

tofuprocess

Okay, onto the Chickpea Tofu! Although this stuff is pretty genius, I am not the genius who came up with it. It’s a traditional food originally from Burma, and often referred to as Burmese tofu or Shan tofu (here’s the original recipe I followed). It is easy to make with just a few basic ingredients and is a tasty, soy-free alternative to regular tofu that I think will be on the regular rotation in my kitchen.

I think the really surprising thing about Chickpea Tofu is its texture. It is lusciously creamy and silky, not unlike silken tofu in fact. It is delicate yet firm, and kind of melts in your mouth. I’ve found it works really well fresh in salads (a traditional way of serving it), and in soups. This way you can really enjoy its unique consistency. I liked the it in a simple miso-ginger broth with a few rice noodles swirling around too. I’ve even seen recipes online for “egg salad” sandwiches and coconut curries. Yum!

The downside of Chickpea Tofu is that it doesn’t do all the things that tofu can do. It doesn’t fry very well (deep fried however, I’m sure would be ah-mazing), nor can you really bake it to crisp up as I had hoped. But, I am pretty new at this game and looking forward to trying out more recipes with it. If anyone out there really knows how else to work with Chickpea Tofu, please clue me in down below in the comments section! I am so curious to learn more.

chickpeatofusalad

Some thoughts on the recipe…
You can purchase chickpea flour at most health food stores, but it is also available (and tends to be much cheaper) at ethnic grocery stores. Chickpea four is also called garbanzo bean flour, gram flour, and cici flour. It also falls under the name besan, an Indian flour made from both chickpeas and yellow split peas. This will work just fine for the recipe.

I think making a half batch of this would be a good idea. This made so much tofu that I had to freeze the majority of it, and I have no idea what it will be like after thawing.

I used turmeric in my recipe, which is a traditional ingredient for colour. This is optional but gives the tofu a lovely golden hue. I also added garlic powder – a decidedly untraditional ingredient but I am really happy that I did because it gave the tofu a mellow garlicky flavour, which I love. This is also optional.


The salad in the top photo was a very quick dish I threw together to enjoy the tofu with, and it turned out so well I thought I should share it with you. I took the dressing from this recipe and combined it with shredded purple cabbage, spring onion, and plenty of cilantro. Later in the evening for dinner, I tossed the leftovers together with brown rice pad thai noodles, and it went over very well with the husband. He said it tasted better than junk food, which, coming from him, is the biggest compliment ever.

*   *   *   *   *   *

SAV_BFBA_FINALIST_2014

In other news, I am thrilled to mention that I’ve been nominated again this year for the Saveur Best Food Blog Awards! Super cool. And congrats to the other nominees in my category of “Special Diets” – what an honor to be in your company! If you’ve been enjoying My New Roots in the past year, show some love and vote for me (scroll down to the bottom of the page to the last category). Thank you a ton for your support. I’m still wild about writing this blog and it feels good knowing you’re wild about reading it.

Hugs and Chickpea Tofu,
Sarah B.

69 comments

  1. Lady Montagu

    Dear Sarah,

    that looks great – do you think this might also work with mung beans? If you grind them into a flour and proceed as with the chickpea flour?

    All the very best,

    Lady Monatgu

  2. Keren (Just One More Spoon)

    This looks interesting! I love tofu and I also think people demonise soy because they’re misinformed and unaware that the issue is not with the beans (it’s just a bean!) but rather with us messing about it’s properties. The issues is with soy in processed food, not soy itself.

  3. Linda

    I made the chickpea tofu, and was very pleased! I too, am avoiding soy. I have never cared for the “green” taste of most brands, but my husband really missed some of his favorite recipes. To my surprise there was no “green” taste and I liked it much better. It also makes my husband’s “Nutty butter pudding” with almond butter, almond milk and sweetener, and great smoothies with yogurt and fruit. So far that’s all I have tried, but still have a list to complete. Thanks for another great recipe!

  4. Sophia

    I am very bummed. I waited over a month to make this, I have a 6 month old who is getting over whooping cough so planning 12 hours plus 8 in advance was a lot to hope for. Anyway, I finally went ahead and made it, beginning last night. I halved the recipe. it does not work halved. I did not want to waste 3 cups of chickpea flour if I did not like it. What I got out of this is OK, but no where near worth the effort or not looks anything like the results shown in the photos and with no good flavor there is no point in trying again. The cooking time has to be greatly adjusted but since I had never made this before I would not know how much. I even shorten the cooking time and it is playdough and edible, but barley. I usually do not decide to not make a recipe based on one bad experience, but 20 plus hours it too much time to not like something and try it again.

    • Darren

      So you didn’t follow the recipe, tried to adjust it to fit your needs, and then complain about it being bad? Whose fault is that again?

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  9. Kath

    I have just stumbled across your blog looking for a lentil salad recipe (going to make your Best Lentil Salad Ever! recipe tonight and can’t wait..). This chickpea tofu also looks fantastic! I am a naturopath and nutritionist, and like you, I get a lot of questions about soy – is it good for you? Or is it just plain evil??? I just wanted to say thank you to you for your balanced viewpoint – this is exactly what I tell my clients and students. Stick with the traditional, non-processed, preferably fermented stuff. As far as estrogens go, if people are worried about soy (which contains very weak acting phytoestrogens as do linseeds, sprouts, all other legumes and green leafy vegetables) they should actually be far more worried about the meat, plastic and non-organic food they eat which is full of the much more harmful xeno-estrogens! Anyway, thanks once again for your wonderful blog – I can’t wait to try out some of your recipes :)

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  11. nettelie

    So, this was delicious! Just a heads up though: does NOT freeze well. I ended up with dry spunges with a faint turmeric flavor. Umm, no thank you.

  12. efrat

    Hi Sara! i know this recipe not as chickpea tofu but as a kind of italian pizza called “farinata” – they make it and serv it hot in slices just like pizza- i make mine with mushroom toping and its an easy family dinner
    love your blog!!

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  14. Robert Mookerdum

    Hi Sara,thank you ever so much for your blog on how to make Chickpea Tofu. I was born and
    grew up in Burma.I’ve been experiencing a lot of health issues lately and as such I’ve switched from eating animal protein to Soya based protein.Commercially produced Tofu being top of the list.I used to eat Chickpea Tofu which is called Tohu in Burmese and salad made from it is called Tohudok,while I was still in Burma till 1968.Here in Germany it is unheard of and Tofu made of sojabeans is the only alternative.Since soya tend to be a GMO
    food product I will be making Chickpeatofu at home and will enjoy eating it like in old times.Thank you again.

  15. simon

    I just finished making this, is it supposed to smell kind of ferment-y/unpleasant during the process/when it’s finished? I’m not sure if I messed something up somehow because the texture is also a little more grainy than silky. I’ll have to try again! I’m not sure what went wrong with mine but I love the idea of chickpea tofu

  16. Rosy

    Just tried the recipe…. came out exactly as you wrote. It is delicious. I can just keep eating it for the whole week – the quantity is a lot but it is great for trying out with different things. I am going to try using it in a couple of other recipes and see if that works – will keep you informed if it comes out good. THANKS!!!!

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  18. Liz

    My family and I really enjoyed the chickpea tofu, and a half batch was enough to feed the four of us for supper with some left over. In my hands, the tofu came out on the firm side–more like extra firm soy tofu–which worked out fine. I used the besan which I happened to have on hand, and my measuring was probably a bit generous.

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  21. val

    I still enjoy the occasional tofu meal, but I did swap almond milk for soy milk several years ago, and processed foods were never a big part of my diet. I guess 28 years ago, there was no need for all of that fake meat. My pediatrician said eat beans–and there are dozens (if not more) of those! That said, I love exploring ethnic cuisines like Burmese, and Naomi Duguid’s excellent Burma features Shan tofu. You can even slice it into thin strips and eat like noodles!

  22. N

    Hi there! I’m definitely going to try this recipe. And conveniently enough I have red cabbage in the fridge too. I’d like to recreate that yummy looking salad you photographed, because I’m not sure how else to incorporate it into things until I try it. I’m sorry if you’ve posted the recipe before, but would you mind sharing it (like what dressing and such you used)? Thank you!

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  25. Dee

    I made a half batch, and it is completely delicious! I used it in a kale salad yesterday, and I am thinking of trying it in a curry sauce today.
    One tip- the half batch doesn’t seem to need near the cooking time recommended, barely 20 minutes really. And it still makes a fair amount, too.
    Thankyou for a lovely recipe!

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  28. EmpressFerns

    your blog is a delight! uplifts me every time. i voted for you! hope you win :) wishing you goodness.

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  31. Lauren

    This post is awesome on so many different levels. First, soy has always seemed to affect me in some negative capacity, but I’ve missed the flavor and texture. Second, I absolutely adore chickpea anything, so I’m excited to see it used here. C, you’re just freakin’ funny. :-)

  32. Cassandra Risler

    Hi, Sarah,
    I just found your blog and love this idea. However I am confused on number 2 of the directions. It says: “Carefully pour in the remaining liquid….” What remaining liquid. I am very confused by this. The recipe seems easy to make but I just don’t understand what you mean by chickpea sludge and the remaining liquid. Can you pretty please go into more detail about this so I can make it? Anyone else confused by this or know what she means. Please help! Thanks!

  33. Kate

    Congrats on the nomination! I am happy to read your sane assessment of soy. My dad is Japanese and tofu is an incredibly nutritious part of traditional meals, rich in protein and calcium, that people have been enjoying for generations. Everyone’s body is unique and different and responds differently to foods. For example, I’m allergic to peanuts, but tofu feels good to my body. I often feel that food trends, including fears, can be more harmful than just listening to your body and eating a varied and balanced diet. That said I am in awe of this chickpea tofu recipe! I will have to try it when I have a little more time on my hands. Thanks for a fascinating blog!

  34. Donna Eusebio

    Thanks, Sarah, I have been staying away from soy for the same reasons for a few years and this is a great substitute, can’t wait to try.

  35. Laran

    WOW. Not to be incredibly dramatic but…you just blew my mind. I have been a vegetarian since 18 and like you, started eating a lot of nasty fake-meat soy because I didn’t know what else to do. Around 20 I developed a soy allergy which was really inconvenient.Since then I have gotten used to eating much much healthier and cooking without soy, but I crave meals with a tofu-like addition here and there. This recipe looks like it will fit that need and expand my recipe options by adding a protein source. Thank you!

  36. Marie

    Sarah, like many others, I follow your blog, your instagram, follow your knowledge and thoughts and aspire to transition from following to doing. living. being. You are not only and inspiration, but a teacher and reminder of the importance of caring for oneself by caring relationally with what one eats and where it comes from; and what purpose it serves in and out of, well, the belly. This particular post, however, made you very human to me…I feel silly even writing this, but here goes! I too am a chef from Canada, and someone whose relationship with food has evolved into what tastes good to people whom I will never see eat (ie: restaurant customers) to how can I help others better their relationship with food by attaching taste with health, flavour, and with understanding and gratitude. To distill my thoughts: as often as I have visited your site etc for advice or inspiration, it is this post in particular that made me smile. The balance of your humorous wit with your healthful integrity is the exact balance I try to live: playful yet aware. …..ok, so basically I love that you are down to earth in more than one sense: as a well grounded, honest, witty woman–and as an admirable gratuitous holistic chef who continually reminds me of the same wholesome feeling I got when I was an organic farmer and winery chef: that a meal should be as flavourful as the earth offered it as; that a meal is more than sustenance, but, nothing less, life. And life is funny. Thank you for inspiring balance and lightness. Because now, as a yoga instructor and food coach, I strive to do so too. peace, love, and so much humble gratitude.

  37. ML

    Hi Sarah,
    Speaking of husband and junk food, i would love to hear you about how you manage your lifestyle every day with your husband. Does he eat same as you? Does he cooks? I find it not easy to deal with my boyfriend food choices!

  38. tunie

    Looks amazing, what a great share! Will be trying it, definitely. Makes me think of chickpea fry dough – the difference must be that this is more fully hydrated and therefore creamier? Will just have to try and see, I guess ; )

  39. Michelle @LALLnutrition

    Wow, this sounds so unique and as a former soy consumer something I hope I get around to making. I think the husband will be quite pleased too (1. because he’s obsessed with legumes and 2. especially after your husband’s junk food comment!)

    ~Michelle xoxo :)

  40. Maike

    Hi Sarah!!
    I’ve been following your blog for months now and I just LOVE EVERY SINGLE POST! Your sense of humour, honest writing and mouth-watering, delicious, extraordinary, incredibly healthy recipes are always my first go – to place! I cannot wait to see your cookbook, I am so very looking forward to it!
    I was wondering if you could make the chickpea flour at home in a blender? I know you’ve posted an “It’s miller time!” article some time ago and I am always wondering if just blending the dried chickpeas really fine was the same deal as buying the packaged flour. Would love it if you’d answer! Keep up the great work – I’ll definitely be voting for you ! Love from Germany, Maike

  41. Mariah

    Is it possible to make chick pea flour by grinding up chick peas in my vitamix blender? That is how I make most of the grain flours I use for recipes just wondered if it could be the same for chick pea flour as well. Thank you for the recipe. Can’t wait to try it!!

    Mariah

  42. Katie @ Whole Nourishment

    Congratulations on the nomination, no surprise there! Love this chickpea tofu idea AND the salad. I’m studying to be a holistic health coach so I really appreciate you addressing the soy debate and pointing out the difference between naturally process fermented soy products versus over-processed soy products where most of the good-for-you nutrients in soy have been stripped away!

  43. Suzanne @RollWithIt

    Wow, thank you for bringing this recipe to us! I never thought of using chickpea flour in this way. I am going to try this (but cut the recipe in half). And, as always, your photos are stunning.

  44. Maria Tadic

    This is such a fun recipe! AND i have a huge bag of chickpea flour at home (of which I got very cheaply at a local ethnic market). Will definitely try this! Is the texture similar to tofu as well???

  45. Nina

    Ooh, another non-soya-eating vegetarian here, thinking YUM (and I’ve got chickpea flour in the cupboard…). I can’t tolerate dairy or coconut oil, though – guessing it’ll be OK to use olive oil?

  46. Laurel

    I signed up JUST to vote for you! I personally believe you should be in the best photography category as well!

  47. Beata

    Hi Sarah, first of all – i love your blog! Everytime i see email in my postbox that means u posted a new recipe, both happy and thrilled!

    About the tofu- i have some gainng-on-weight-problems, so i need to be carefull with callories.
    How many callories does this appx contain?
    How much of this tofu can an adult, working out person it for lets say a lunch?

    Greetings from Norway,
    Beata

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