They do not like it, Sam-I-Am

By Mir
February 24, 2009

It’s been nearly four months since my daughter went vegetarian, and so far everyone is still alive. I would say our meat consumption as a family has gone down by about 50%, and my love of black beans has gone up about 500%.

Chickadee appears to be having no trouble sticking to her new lifestyle, and I have only found Otto hiding behind the house gnawing on a T-bone once. (I’m kidding.) (It was a package of sausage.)

Sometimes I make a “meat” entree for the rest of us and a “faux meat analog” for my daughter, of course, but a lot of the time I try to make a vegetarian meal that everyone will like. And we have several recipes in the rotation that everyone enjoys.

The problem is that my family keeps insisting that they don’t like tofu.

And; okay. I get it. I DO. Tofu is finicky. It must be prepared carefully if it’s to taste like something other than gummy pencil erasers. Truth be told, it’s not exactly my very favorite food, but it’s a great source of protein and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, VEGETARIANS SHOULD LIKE IT. I mean, I’m not surprised that Otto hates it, because Otto is… ummm… handsome and rugged and brilliant and wonderful and just a WEE BIT PICKY about his food. He’s a meat-n-potatoes kind of guy. But Chickadee insisting she doesn’t like it drives me BONKERS.

In fact, I like nothing better than when she’s raving about one of those Boca Burgers or Morningstar Farms patties (I keep them in the freezer for her to have when we’re having a meat-ful meal) than telling her that IT’S TOFU, SUCKER. (Sometimes I tell her it’s people, but she’s actually more freaked out by tofu than soylent green. WEIRDO.)


I went through a billion-step process, yesterday, to make a dinner with tofu that everyone could not help but love. I went to the health food store for nutritional yeast. I borrowed the definitive cookbook on how to make palatable tofu. And I used approximately an entire roll of a paper towels, pressing and draining my block of organic, hand-fed, gently-pampered tofu.

The tofu was double-fried per directions and then added to a modified (meat-free) version of a curry dish we used to eat all the time. I made this one with red and yellow peppers and red onion and sweet potatoes, so it was BRIGHT and COLORFUL and DELICIOUS.


Otto quietly ate what I served him and carefully declared, “I really like the sauce, the flavor of it.” He did not have seconds, which in Otto-world means he hated it.

Chickadee scarfed down the accompanying coconut rice and then carefully ate all of the peppers and reminded me again that she really doesn’t like tofu.

Monkey ate his rice at a glacial pace, then speared a piece of tofu at my urging and beamed. “Yum, CHICKEN!” he said, mid-chew.

“It’s TOFU,” corrected his sister.

“Oh,” he said, face falling. “I’m full. May I please be excused?”

This is the third or fourth meal I’ve made with tofu, and was definitely the most elaborate to prepare. This happens every time I make tofu, no matter HOW I make it; and isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?

FOR THE RECORD, I happen to think this particular tofu preparation (double-frying, coating with nutritional yeast) is actually REALLY REALLY TASTY. I would go to the trouble to do it again, even, if my family wasn’t full of UNAPPRECIATIVE FREAKS.



  1. Marissa

    Ummm…you’re pretty. I truly appreciate all of your efforts, it sounds very yummy…and can I have the recipe for the meaty version. Thanks!

  2. Kris

    My husband makes awesome Grit-style tofu. It is one of my very favorite things to add to any veggie stir-fry or curry dish. And homemade Golden Bowl? *swoon*
    Anyway, unappreciative freaks, all of them! It’s probably good for them that they are cute. You, however, have impeccable taste in meat alternative products.

  3. Leandra

    Have you tried tofu on pizza? Even though I’m only an occasional tofu fan, I DO like on pizza.

  4. Foodie

    adopt me! adopt me! adopt me! :) You’re a great mom, and an even greater friend. I’ll take your daughter’s veg rejects ANYTIME! :) XO

  5. Otto

    Hey – I did have seconds, after the kids left the table … and I just ate around the tofu. The rest truly was excellent.


    PS – It wasn’t sausage. It was a frozen ham steak …

  6. Tracy

    What the heck is tofu anyway? I tried the MorningStar sausage patties, YUCK! I do love turkey as opposed to hamburgar but the veggie burger and those others, I just can’t do. I do have to admit, you are a special mom to go out of your way to fix separate meals. When I was growing up, it was you eat what is fixed OR you don’t eat! I’m not that extreme with my kids but I do NOT fix separate meals. Your kids are lucky…hope they know that!

  7. Megan

    How thoroughly frustrating.

    Where does Chickie draw her veggie line? Will she eat fish? Eggs? What about shrimp or shell fish?

    We’re not the most meaty of meat eaters but just thinking about trying to force enough protein down my terrifyingly ectomorphic son without being able to resort to a gritted, “put down the damn apple and EAT SOME TURKEY ALREADY” is enough to make me slightly nuts.

    No helpful suggestions on the tofu – my horrible Children won’t eat it either.

  8. Kate

    I’m probably on the weird side because I’ve been known to happily pop cold, uncooked chunks of tofu into my mouth while preparing a meal and if I do that, maybe no one will take anything I say about tofu preparation seriously.

    But…and maybe you have tried this already…but have you tried freezing the tofu first and then thawing it out and preparing it whatever way you’ve already been trying? It totally changes the texture and helps it absorb flavors more thoroughly. I suppose it’s possible some would find it even worse that way, but it’s worth a try.

  9. dad

    When you try it again, I’m in. Tofu tastes like whatever you flavor it with and that dish sounds scrumptiodelicious.

    Isn’t there a twelve strp program for recovering carnivores?

  10. Katie in MA

    Those tofu burgers ARE delicious. Especially grilled…. Mmmm…. Now I want lunch. (Only problem being that I just ate it.)

    Perhaps have a tofu recipe contest in the house with a really cool prize?

  11. Jill in Atlanta

    Take 14oz soft tofu (squeezed) and puree it in the food processor with 2 bananas and 2 granny smith apples, some lemon and cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Spread it on good bread and see what they say.

    I had a serious tofu aversion after eating some accidentally when babysitting as a teenager. I’d avoided it for years before my husband tried to find a PB&J alternative for our kids. I have to admit this is good (even though I still don’t like tofu).

  12. Michele Bardsley

    I love tofu. I even get the tofu dish at Panda Express. The next time you make tofu … lie. Lie like a rug. Protein or honesty? Sometimes we have to make the hard decisions.

  13. Amy

    I think you should definitely share the recipe. I love, love, love tofu, but am so intimidated by cooking it that all I can ever manage is stir-fry. Which gets boring.

    (At Thai places, I order fried tofu as an appetizer; I’m not a vegetarian, but I routinely order tofu over meat when it’s an option. I just love the stuff.)

  14. StephLove

    Maybe it’s time to try tempeh.

    We’re vegetarians here and trying to cut back on the fake meats because they are so high in sodium and Partner has high blood pressure. They are very tasty, though and convenient. I say let her eat those in moderation along with peanut butter, eggs and cheese. My kids cycle through what kind of protein they will eat. As long as they like one or two kinds at a time, I’m happy.

  15. Deva

    As a former vegan, I can say that I do like tofu, but that it has a texture that takes some getting used to. Don’t force it. Really, unless she’s all skin and bones, and from what I’ve seen, she’s not :). Try Seitan if you’re looking for a protein-dense meat-analogue substitute. You can find good recipes for it in Vegan with a Vengeance or Veganomicon, or even buy in in packages at the health food store. It’s got a denser, meatier texture than tofu and is really good. IMO, as long as she’s eating a variety of foods, not just fruits and veggies, but grains, nuts, seeds, eggs, cheese, fruits, and veggies, she will be fine.

  16. Deva

    Just a quick addendum. If you buy silken tofu and if she likes smoothies, you can sub in silken tofu for yogurt (some or all of it), and add in berries, bananas, mango chunks, pineapple, etc. It’s very good. You can also puree tofu and add melted chocolate chips and some vanilla, and a little bit of soymilk or regular milk to make pudding.

  17. Chris

    I use only the firm tofu & usually try to marinate it overnight. My husband swore he didn’t like tofu either until I started sneaking it into everything:) A good way to introduce it is in small chunks in a stir fry- hard for the kids to recognize it and refuse it. You might try the tofu crumbles that are similar to ground meat in texture.
    Of course, I can’t stand soy yogurt or milk, so go figure.

  18. Patricia

    Have you tried coating tofu with Bacon Salt? Perhaps if it tastes like yummy, yummy pig flesh it would turn Chickie’s hard heart???

  19. Sarah

    Tofu crumbles to make homemade tacos. I swear to god, you cannot tell AT ALL.

  20. hollygee

    Coinkadinky, I am making Kung Pao Tofu for supper with fried rice — yeah, pork in that one — and fried spring rolls. And I hate tofu too. I do love those fried tofu pockets with sushi rice in them – inari. I can eat too many of those in one sitting.

  21. exile on mom street

    Aww man! I can’t believe I told you about the draining and frying thing and then they wouldn’t eat it.

    I’ll drive up and munch your leftovers!

  22. bec 39

    Could it be that they didn’t like it because they knew what it was? My kids were certain they did not like tuna, but they’d eat it when we called it Bumblebee Salad. It’s been about 2 years of this, and just last night my older son said, “can I have more tuna?” So he’s finally figured out he likes tuna.

  23. heels

    My #1 “You’ll never taste the tofu” recipe is a veggie lasagna where I substitute part (or sometimes all!) of the ricotta with mashed-up, soft tofu. It’s awesome!

  24. Rasselas

    Eh, I’ve been a vegetarian for 8 years now, and I still kind of dislike tofu and soy-products. I find that I’m getting along fine without them.

    Well-prepared tofu is a torture to make, I salute your patience and effort. It took me a long while to start liking tofu when it’s well prepared, and I still can’t drink soy milk at all. I’m actually slightly irked that it’s immediately assumed that I eat lots of tofu and soy-stuff because I’m a vegetarian. People, I eat everything the rest of you do, only without the meat.

  25. Barbara

    Chuckling in understanding, Mir.

    My family did not like tofu even before one of us went freak in addition to being increasingly unappreciative (=teen). I like it, but I gave up trying to convince them.

    I do think it is more convincing to have the tofu crumbled instead of chunked in the food.

    Soy powder and soy milk? Aren’t they the same as tofu? Some nice ideas have already come in.

  26. tj

    As odd as it sounds, tofu wanton soup is one of the best things out there :). You can come cook for me anytime!

  27. Visionsister

    I love tofu, but sadly it doesn’t love me. Eating soy products gives me terminal raging PMS. I would gladly trade my love of it to you.

  28. Amy

    Pad Thai. The one and only tofu dish that the meat eaters in our family will all eat, and it rally doesn’t require too much tofu prep.

  29. Heidi

    Another source of protein is quinoa (keen-wah). It’s somewhat similar to couscous but is actually a seed (but some call it a whole grain). It has a slightly nutty flavor (more so if you toast it before rinsing it), and has a cool springy sorta soft crunch to it. If you google it, there’s all kind of info available. I love it!

  30. Kathleen

    I’ll second Heidi’s quinoa recommendation. It’s pretty high-protein, plus it has a lot of essential amino acids.

    I buy the red kind from the bulk food bin at Whole Foods, boil it until the little strings come out, and use it as I would rice. It’s a little crunchier than rice, but it’s pretty good.

  31. Randi

    I have to give it to you – I’d freak if one of my kids went vegetarian. Toad doesn’t like enough vegetables or fruits TO BE vegetarian! In fact, he looks at a piece of ham and goes “mmmm – fried pig”.

    Why not incorporate chickadee into cooking some tofu? Find a recipe together and cook it, without telling the family (until they’ve devoured it all). Then have her help you to make it. THEN, once they’ve chowed down on it, go “oh yeah – there’s tofu in it.” I’m all about lying when it comes to getting rid of preconceived notions.

  32. Lois

    Try freezing the tofu to change the texture. You can defrost and refreeze to change it even further. Once you defrost you can wring out the tofu just like a sponge so easier to drain well. Then crumble and add taco seasoning for tacos. Or cube and marinate in any flavor you choose and bake it for real crunch. Also can crumble and saute with salsa and corn (maybe some black beans too) and a bit of cumin and top with diced avocado and tomato and crumbled tortilla chips.

  33. Amy-Go

    Wow. Sorry babe, I’m with the fam on this one. Tofu…YUCK.

  34. Kerry

    I never had luck converting a chicken dish, but new to us dishes could occasionally be pulled off. However it only worked deep fried, or mashed really fine and seasoned to be more like ricotta cheese than anything that was alive.

    They used to have a package of “Tofu scrmabler” that was delicious. Maybe tofu just works better for vegans than vegetarians.

  35. Michelle

    It appears Monkey secretly liked it. They’re just determined NOT to.

  36. Tammy

    Ok, let me get this straight. There are 4 people in your family, 1 vegetarian and 3 meatatarians. One person likes tofu, the other 3 do not. The person that likes tofu (not a vegetarian) is going to Extraordinary and Elaborate lengths to convert the rest of the family and has so far been unsuccessful in four attempts. Correct?

    Mir, you’ve given it your best shot. They don’t like tofu and they probably never will. I give you permission to give up the Great Tofu Conversion for now. If Chickie is going to make this a lifestyle, she’ll probably come to appreciate tofu in her own time.

    Oh, and I have a REALLY tasty meatless Enchilada Bake recipe that I would be happy to share. It does not have tofu but it does have bright, shiny, sparkly Black Beans. ;)

  37. Burgh Baby

    I’ve been a freakatarian for over 17 years, and I still forget that I actually LIKE tofu. It doesn’t seem like I should. It doesn’t look like I would. Yet, when I actually taste it, I’m all, “Oh, yeah! I like this!”

    Happens about once per year.

  38. Amber

    This reminds me of my mother’s insistence that I would like parmesan cheese if she hid it well enough or prepared it properly. I didn’t, not as a kid. I remember one day rejecting pizza (which, I was 10, it was my favourite) because she’d sprinkled the tiniest amount of parmesan in the sauce. I don’t think you can win this war, as much as it pains me to say it.

  39. The Mother

    You can please some of the people some of the time, BUT NOT AT DINNER.

    You have gone WAY over the top even agreeing to your daughter’s veggie lifestyle. Thank the stars, I have confirmed carnivores. I don’t do tofu.

  40. EmmaC

    Have you tried baked tofu? It’s chewy and delicious. It’s good in tacos and salads and just about anything. Especially at 11:30 at night straight out of the tupperware container. I cut it in cubes, soak it in soy sauce for an hour or so, and then bake it at 350 for about an hour, flipping them to a new side every 15 minutes.

  41. wafelenak

    I am seriously convinced that poor tofu is so often slighted due to a psychological block people have about it.
    And speaking of psychological, I am the kind of kook that would be hell-bent on finding the perfect recipe that my family would love and never suspect it’s tofu. Mu ha ha! :)

  42. vanessa

    The FIve Ingredient Vegetarian Gourmet is your answer.

  43. Karen

    If it’s any consulation…..Tofu is some people’s mortal enemy. Really. My husband has a gout attack, everytime he eats anything with Soybeans in it. Ya, try and find a bread without soy flour. UGH! Anyway, we have done some research on soy and tofu particularly and I am not sure it is all that great for you. Just saying. Something about absorbing aluminum and leading to dementia. To much phyto-estrogen, blah, blah, blah. We don’t let the stuff in our house.

  44. Lady Euphoria Deathwatch

    Hi Mir,

    A rose by any other name. Call it soy bean curd and make mock egg salad. Mash some tofu with a fork and prepare like you would egg salad. Add a dash of mustard for color. It fools my husband every time.

    I’ve used it instead of cheese on pasta too and no one knew. Once they got used to that the rest was a lot easier. It makes good shakes and cheese cake too.

    Sincerely, Euphoria

  45. Headless Mom

    “He did not have seconds, which in Otto-world means he hated it.”

    Sounds like Headless Dad.

    Double Hmph.

  46. Motherhood Uncensored

    I mash it up and use it as stuffing for stuffed shells or manicotti and have fooled TOFU haters. (No egg needed, just some parsley, garlic powder, and/or whatever you usually put in the ricotta.

    No cheese if you want to go vegan.

    Seriously fooled. AND oddly angry.

  47. The Domestic Goddess

    As a former vegetarian (who is thinking of going veg again because I’ve gained fifteen pounds)I can tell you TOFU SUCKS. But Boca Burgers and Morning Star Farms Sausage patties are awesome. You can try texturized Vegetable protein, though. Mixed in with soups and stews you’ll never know it’s there.

    ALso? Protein? Beans, nuts and cheese, if you aren’t completely vegan. And eggs. Lots of eggs.

  48. Wendalette

    Although I agree that you don’t HAVE to eat tofu (not even Chickadee!), I’m concurring with the frozen tofu suggestion. After thawing and squeezing out the water in about a pound of firm or extra firm tofu, we toss it with a blend of approx. 1T soy sauce, garlic powder to taste, 2 T tahini (sesame butter) or peanut butter and enough water to thin it enough to pour. Let it marinate a while, then fry it in some oil (I guess medium high) until it gets golden or medium brown and crispy-edged. Add sauteed or frozen sliced bell pepper (green, red and yellow) and onions, dump a bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce and simmer (til the veggies are done). Pile onto hamburger or kaiser rolls and DON’T TELL THEM WHAT IT IS!!! One of my uncles–absolute carnivore–loved this. Well, something like this; I don’t remember exactly how my mom made it, but this recipe is how I make it. Sort of. I never actually measure anything.
    Silken tofu also does make a lovely “cheesecake”, but I don’t have mom’s recipe. I know HERS is good; others I’ve tried were kind of meh.
    Hope we all are of some help to you.

  49. Pat

    Tofu… I squoosh it through my fingers and use it in lasagna. People always think it’s ricotta. Bwah ha ha ha ha. I have made my lasagna with no meat for years.

  50. Michelle

    I have been vegetarian for about 14 years and I really can’t stand tofu. I tried to, at first, and my husband (the meat eater) loves it. I just can’t find a recipe that doesn’t have me wishing I’d left out the tofu. I think the only way I’ve ever almost enjoyed it was breaded and cooked on a rack in the oven. Way to much trouble for the results. However, Morningstar Farms Grillers PRime…I drool just thinking about them. The many fake meats are God’s gift to vegetarians. Truly. Add the Morningstar Farm steak strips to a soup at the beginning, with fake beef bouillion cubes and it’s heaven.

    Oh and one way to have tofu that is actually extraordinary, the chocolate peanut butter tofu. I’m sure you could substitute on the PB and still have excellence.

  51. daysgoby

    Tofu cheesecake is good stuff.

  52. Kate

    Tofu sucks.

  53. TSL

    Tofu in lieu of ricotta, I’ll have to try that!

  54. alison

    Too bad! Some people hate it forever, but sometimes the right recipe can do the trick (*sometimes*)

    Try these:

    -Crumble it and ‘scramble’ it like eggs for breakfast with lots of flavour (oregano and fresh garlic and basil with tomatoes and red onion for Greek scramble, cumin and tumeric with spinach and tomatoes for Indian…)

    -Crumbled in pasta sauce – just like ground beef!

    -Cut firm tofu into tiny cubes and sauteed on all sides until golden brown, then put on a pizza

    -Soft tofu blended with apple juice and frozen berries in a smoothie. YUM.

    -Soft tofu pureed in soups instead of cream

    -This recipe with tempeh or tofu:

    -And the general secret to flavourful tofu: as soon as you get home from the grocery store, cube it up and put it in a tupperware full of marinade sauce (balsamic vinegar, garlic, and rosemary is a fave) in the fridge. It will keep for days – a week, even – and has lots of time to soak up the marinade goodness.

    Good luck!

  55. alison

    Wow – just read that and realize I sound like a tofu-aholic, which I am most certainly not. Tofu isn’t easy to digest and does have mimic estrogen, so I try not to have it more than 1 or 2 times a week. Everything in moderation!

  56. TC

    My version of Chickadee (who isn’t a vegetarian, but IS a frustrating preteen!) swore she hated tofu, too…until I made (for myself) this recipe from Catherine Newman’s Wondertime blog, and she wandered into the kitchen to see what smelled so good, and took a proffered bite, and then ATE HALF OF MY DINNER, THAT BRAT.

    May not work for you, but might be worth a try, because…NO DRAINING REQUIRED. Plus, there’s butter. Mmmmm…

  57. Jasmine

    My husband was stubbornly anti-tofu when we married…one of the first things I made that managed to sway his opinion (at least a smidge) was tofu chili in the crockpot. Like several others have mentioned, I freeze the tofu first (101 things to do with tofu is a great little book for such suggestions, btw). After it’s unfrozen and I’ve squeezes all the liquid out that I can, I crumble it in a pan with my sauteeing peppers, onions, garlic, chiles, and spices for 5-8 minutes. It soaks up some great flavor, and looses alot of it’s nasty white coloring :). From that point on, I just use a basic chili recipe for the slow cooker, 6 hours on low.

    I think tofu in general is also just more flavorful when cooked in the crockpot…more time to absorb all those yummy flavors!

  58. Andrea

    Well, Chickadee may not ever like it but thanks for the post…I’ve just gotten a ton of new ideas for tofu.
    And my newest trick, puree the tofu and put into mac and cheese, replacing some cheese. Very creamy!

  59. Fran

    I like to cook, I even like elaborate preparations but if no one is going to enjoy or eat it, then sorry, I’ve got bon bons to eat instead and soaps to watch instead.

  60. Cheryl

    While attempting to eat a vegan diet, Mary over at “The Eleventh” called tofu “a quivering block of compromise.”

  61. Stace

    I can’t eat tofu, it sits like cement in my intestines, but even if I “could” eat it, I wouldn’t…yes you can make it taste like whatever you want it to, but its the weird texture of it that gets to me, and the moment I put it in my mouth, i can feel the difference.

  62. crockpot lady

    hmm. You prepared it the best way—-getting that crunch on the outside is important to those with texture issues. Do they like Thai Coconut or Hot and Sour Soup? The tofu just sneaks down the hatch with those soups.
    We eat lots and lots of tofu, and the kids jump and clap when I say I’m going to make it.
    I’m going to try to incorporate it into the meal plan once a week because it’s so cheap.


  63. Nancy R

    I want to know more about the coconut rice!

  64. Erika

    Ha!! Recovering Carnivores! Your Dad is hilarious. He reminds me of my father. I miss him so much.

  65. Grace

    Hehe. Sorry to say it Mir, but I am with your family! I was a vegetarian for years, and I have never been able to get behind any preparation of tofu. I don’t even like it in Pad Thai or spring rolls. It’s just nasty.

  66. Susan

    I don’t think anyone ever died from not eating tofu. If you like it, make it for yourself, but I wouldn’t kill yourself trying to make anyone else eat it. I’ll quite happily eat it if it turns up in a dish that is presented to me but whenever I look at it in the store I think ‘bleh’!

  67. jennielynn

    I’ve had no luck with any meat substitute products. My family are dedicated carnivores.

  68. nil zed

    You know, just because you are vegetarian, doesn’t mean you have to eat tofu. Sure they eat it in Japan & China and Korea and Vietnam. But all those millions of vegetarians in India mostly have never even heard of it. If you want to make curry, without meat, substitute potatoes for the meat to bulk out the recipe, then serve a bean dal for the protein.

  69. Carolie

    I never used to like tofu. It was always chalky and a funny texture. But now I use the Morningstar Veggie Crumbles, which are basically tofu. I use them in place of ground beef in chili and in spaghetti sauce, and they are GREAT. My “tofu hating husband” has NO IDEA that for the past three years, I’ve been doing this — he eats it all up and brags to his friends about it. In many dishes, tofu is very obviously not meat, but in those dishes (and similar recipes), the texture is just exactly right.

    I understand you can get the exact same thing by freezing, then thawing extra-firm tofu…press the liquid out of it, and then just crumble it up. The freezing/thawing makes it chewy and more like ground meat.

    Silken tofu makes a really good vegan mayonnaise, and makes good smoothies when blended with frozen fruit.

    I have also discovered that if you can find any place that makes their tofu fresh, it’s a THOUSAND times better than the chalky stuff in the grocery store. I do not care for that stuff at all.

  70. Gigi

    Wow! What a great discussion thread. I’m going back and read all these ideas with a pen and notepad in hand. I’ve been eating a vegan diet for about 20 months now, and at first I couldn’t really say I loved tofu. But there was lots of other things to eat, so no big deal. However, I’ve recently noticed that I like tofu now. So maybe it’s an acquired taste? Whenever people say tofu has no flavor I think of all those rubbery chunks of flavorless chicken meat I ate through the years.

    Can I just say that you are a wonderfully supportive mom and I admire you so much for that, and also, yum, I want to eat your food.

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