Welcome to a tomato vegetable curry with crispy tofu with an easy do-it-yourself curry paste, tomato bean puree, your favorite veggies (fresh or frozen) and of course, crispy baked tofu. It’s all here, it’s all super-easy and it’s plant-based delicious with a double-digit exponent.
How to make crispy tofu – without oil
To be honest, I didn’t cook or eat a lot of tofu before I started down the plant-based path. Sure, I’d eaten the occasional tofu in restaurants, but I mostly found it to be tasteless and with an unappealing texture. So, I shoved tofu into my box of ‘someday when I can be bothered’.
When I got serious about plant-based eating and started developing my own recipes, I returned to tofu and started experimenting. I learned and I became totally appreciative of tofu for both the flavor, texture and versatility, it has the capacity to add.
What makes tofu taste good?
When it comes to flavor, tofu is like a sponge. It happily takes on what you give it. That’s where marinating it in something flavorful gives you an edge when it comes to tofu satisfaction. The easiest example of this is making smoky tofu bacon. I’ve even taken to abandoning the marinating part tossed all the ingredients into a food processor and making my own bacon strips and bits that can be used in our favorite scalloped potatoes and salads.
Tofu texture makeover
For me, plant-based eating and oil-free are one and the same. I was never a fan of frying anything in a lot of oil anyway, so improving the texture of tofu came down to 2 cooking processes. Dry frying and baking.
Dry frying tofu
People rave about dry frying tofu and there are loads of videos on this particular subject. I’ve tried it and here’s my problem – no matter the type of pan, no matter how careful I am about the heat and no matter how patient I am about waiting before turning, the crispy bits of the tofu invariably stick to the pan. It’s so frustrating! I don’t give up easily, but I did on dry-frying tofu. I’m sure there is the perfect pan out there what will change my mind, but I don’t have the patience (or budget) to pursue that at this point.
By far, the best option I’ve found for cooking tofu pieces, is baking it. I always place the tofu on parchment paper or a baking mat to keep it from sticking. It’s also a good practice to ensure that the tofu pieces aren’t touching on another.
My latest discovery is arrowroot. Did you know that if you toss 8 ounces of tofu in just 2 teaspoons of arrowroot, you end up with super crispy tofu? It’s true. I did exactly this when I made crispy baked tofu with Indian curry sauce last week and it was so brilliant, I couldn’t resist adding it to tomato vegetable curry.
The process is super simple. You can either marinate the tofu (this is good if you want large strips) or just toss pressed tofu with a bit of lemon juice, garlic powder and whatever spice goes with your recipe. I used a bit of curry powder here. Then just sprinkle 2 teaspoons of arrowroot and about ½ teaspoon of salt and toss the pieces so they are covered on all sides.
A few baking tips
When you add the coated pieces to the baking tray, but sure they are separated. The arrowroot will get sticky as it cooks. Make like easy and roll out that parchment paper too. Toss the pieces a few times so that all the sides get crispy.
Why not just use oil?
For me, plant-based was an evolution. Unlike other ‘diets’ where I just blindly followed the ‘plan’ and waited for the ungraceful tumble off the wagon, I took my time with plant-based, started with the bare bones principles of eating whole grains, legumes, greens, roots, veggies, fruit, and lot’s of new spice combinations. That was the plan. No day 1, 2 and onward. The fall as it turned out became an escalation. The more I learned, the more I focused upward.
One of my evolutionary paths was all about added oil. To be honest, since childhood, I’d been told not to eat ‘greasy’ foods. Then it was types of oils and fats (saturated, unsaturated, etc.) or their origins (coconut, vegetable, olive). It wasn’t until I dove head long into the research and started studying that I understood that oil is oil. Ok, there are variation of goodness and badness, but all oil is 100% fat, calorie dense and nutrient poor. To make it even more unappealing, according to the Campbell Center for Nutritional Studies, just a little oil has a negative impact on heart health because it injures the Endothelium, the lining of your arteries.
Never go back
If you think you can’t possibly enjoy food without oil (including salad dressings), here’s the other thing I’ve learned. Once you go oil free, you won’t go back. You’ll discover that food tastes better, you’ll find ways to thicken up salad dressings (try ground chia or flax seeds) and when you’re pans and sick is sparkling clean, you’ll consider how happily the blood is pumping through your veins.
Forward steps for great tomato vegetable curry
Step 1: Quick curry paste
After the tofu, there are three quick steps to making tomato vegetable curry. The first is making a curry paste which involves tossing minced red onions, garlic, ginger, red chilies (as many as you like), date paste, lemon juice, curry powder, turmeric and salt in a food processor or blender. The result is a thick paste that is the heart of the flavor for our veggie curry. This isn't a Thai red curry paste, it's definitely Indian-inspired.
Step 2: Bean puree
Could this one be simpler? I chopped up the cauliflower, zucchini and onion with my plan of using frozen beans and peas. This took just a few minutes (whew). To make the sauce, grab that same blend or food processor if you like and simply puree 1 can of tomatoes, 1 can of drained white beans and 1 ½ cups of vegetable broth. The sauce is done!
Step 3: Cook it!
Once you have the curry paste and tomato puree done, this process is quick, quick. Take a moment to toss your tofu. If it’s already done just set is aside, it can reheat when you drop it into the simmering pot.
You’re just sautéing and adding. I started as I always do with the onion. I didn’t dice for this recipe, I cut the onion in half and then into half moon slices (I did the same for the zucchini). When you sauté the onion slices, you can always add a tablespoon of water if they start to stick. Then just coat the onion with the curry paste and add the cauliflower and zucchini. I cut the cauliflower into small florets which means they will cook quicker. Once you coat everything in the curry paste, add the tomato puree and let it simmer until the cauliflower gets tender. You don’t want it mushy, so it will take about 10-15 minutes.
Frozen beans and peas came in really handy and was a welcome addition for the tomato curry. You could also use frozen cauliflower by the way. If you do, then you’ll just add it here as well. Let it cook a minute, it’s getting hot now.
Sing that praises of using parchment paper for the tofu as you slide then into the simmering pot. Once thing about using the arrowroot – your tofu will stay crispy. Even if you reheat the curry the next day, so we’ve learned.
Cilantro – always optional
We are cilantro lovers around here. It’s an absolute must for pico de gallo in my book. That said, I always make it optional for recipes, because, let’s face it – we are not all lovers of the cilantro. It isn’t my experience, but to some, cilantro tastes like soap. That doesn’t make anyone happy. No one wants to cook something that someone won’t enjoy eating and no one wants to intentionally eat soap.
The great thing about cilantro is that is can always be chopped and served up as a condiment. Win-win. If you decide to add this last step to the cooking process for the tomato curry, do it right at the end. Cilantro is not a hearty herb, so it will break down quite quickly. It just needs to be added and stirred.
Evolution, not revolution. That’s my thought for today. Nothing radical, just step by step. There’s no need for a plan in a box or a set up for a wagon tumble. Start with a few simple aspirations – eat more plants. Move from there at a pace that keeps you moving forward. Open yourself to learning new ideas (or recipes) and the evolution will come. The past will be as distant as those bottles of oil that sit unused in the cupboard. Eyes up. Peace.Print
Tomato vegetable curry with crispy tofu, make your own spicy curry paste and creamy, oil-free tomato puree and enjoy an easy plant-based, low calorie dinner that everyone will love.
- 8 oz. (250 gm.) block of tofu, pressed and cut into bite-sized cubes
- ½ tsp. garlic powder
- 1 tsp. curry powder
- 2 T. lemon juice
- 2 tsp. arrowroot
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ cup minced red onions
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 1 T. minced ginger
- 1-3 fresh red chilies
- 2 T. date paste
- 2 T. lemon juice
- 1 T. curry powder
- ½ tsp. ground turmeric
- 1 tsp. salt (optional)
- 1 - 15 oz. (400 gm.) can white beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 – 15 oz. (400 gm.) can undrained tomatoes (fire roasted are great here, but any high-quality canned tomatoes are equally wonderful)
- 1 ½ cups water vegetable broth
- 1 large onion, sliced in half and then into half-moon slices
- 3 cups cauliflower florets, cut into small bite-sized pieces
- 1 zucchini (courgette), diced or cut into half moons
- 1 cup frozen green beans (if you use fresh, add them with the cauliflower and zucchini during the cooking process)
- 1 cup frozen green peas
- 1 cup fresh cilantro (coriander) chopped (optional), added to the tomato curry or as a garnish for the table.
- Press the tofu by first cutting it into quarters and then pressing it between 2 plates. Weigh the top plate down so squeeze the moisture from the tofu. Press for 20 minutes.
- Once the tofu is pressed, preheat the oven to 4000 F (2000 C). Line a baking tray with parchment paper and set aside.
- Cut the tofu into small bite-sized cubes. In a medium dish or on a rimmed plate. Mix together the curry powder and garlic powder. Mix in the lemon juice.
- Toss the tofu pieces in the spice mixture to coat all the sides. Sprinkle the 2 tsp. arrowroot on top and the ½ tsp. salt. Toss the pieces using a spoon (or your hands) until the tofu pieces are covered.
- Arrange the tofu on a baking tray, being careful that the pieces don’t touch.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, tossing them a few times after the first 15 minutes.
Tomato vegetable curry
- To make the curry paste, add all the ingredients to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
- Next, make the tomato puree by adding the white beans, tomatoes and vegetable broth to a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Set aside.
- In a medium pot, sauté the onions for 5 minutes until they start to soften. Add water a tablespoon at a time if they being to stick.
- Add the curry paste and stir to coat the onions. Be sure the pan is not getting too hot, so the paste doesn’t burn.
- Add the cauliflower florets and zucchini. Stir to coat them with the curry paste.
- Add the tomato puree and be sure the pot is simmering. Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the cauliflower is tender when you pierce it with a fork.
- Add the frozen green beans, peas and tofu. Simmer for 5 minutes until everything is heated through.
- Stir in the cilantro, if using, and simmer for another minute.
Serve with lemon wedges and your favorite rice or grain.
- Nutritional information does not include rice or gain.
- You can make this recipe using frozen cauliflower or entirely from frozen mixed vegetable if you like. Just add everything once you’ve added the tomato puree and simmer until the veggies are cooked through. Then add the tofu.
- The tofu can be prepared a day ahead and then added to reheat.
- This curry is made for veggie experimenting. Yellow squash or sliced carrots are a welcome addition. I’d avoid sweet potatoes as they will dramatically change the flavor of the dish.
- Category: Main Courses
- Cuisine: Indian
Keywords: tomato vegetable curry with crispy tofu