Tofu Scramble: The cruelty-free alternative to scrambled eggs.
Whether you’re a vegan, a vegetarian, someone interested in adding more plants to your diet, or just a curious eater open to trying new things, this savory and warm dish is easy to make for an energizing and filling breakfast. I’ve also enjoyed it as a quick way to make lunch or dinner. It’s flexible and you can adapt it to the amount of time you have, any food that might be reaching its expiration date, and your tastes.
But wait. Why not just eat eggs? It’s not like the chicken who lays the eggs is hurt or killed, right?
For the vast majority of egg-laying hens, life is miserable. Most chickens now live in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), or factory farms, where they are confined to cages in enormous windowless sheds. The average natural lifespan of a chicken is 15-20 years. A hen in the egg industry is generally slaughtered around 2-3 years because her egg-laying productivity begins to fall. When farms need to restock their egg-laying hens, they have fertilized eggs hatch. Of course, around 50% of those eggs will hatch male chicks, who are useless to the egg industry. 7 billion male chicks are killed globally every year, with about 200 million of those in the US.
So yes, unless you’re sourcing your eggs from your own backyard where you are positive the hens that produce your eggs can roam freely and live out their lives even when they stop laying those eggs, purchasing and consuming eggs supports animal cruelty and mass slaughter. But thankfully there’s a wide range of plant-based alternatives to bake and cook with!
There are a lot of versions of tofu scramble. But every recipe has two all-important ingredients: extra-firm or firm tofu and nutritional yeast or Kala Namak (Himalayan Black Salt). Tofu acts as a blank canvas for creating a flavorful meal because it’s pretty much tasteless on its own. The seasonings give the tofu that egg-like smell and taste. Nutritional yeast, and often times turmeric, give the tofu the signature yellow color of scrambled eggs.
It’s also an easily portable meal, especially wrapped up as a burrito. This past summer I worked as a student farmer on Dickinson College’s organic farm, and at least once a week I’d bring my tofu scramble in a glass mason jar or glass container, a jar of salsa, and a couple of tortillas. I’d shake or scoop the scramble unto a wrap and add some salsa, and there was my lunch! Making this dish also helped me reduce my food waste, since I could throw almost any veggie into it.
Tip: Did you run out of garlic and/or onions? Or not enough time to chop them up? Just use garlic and onion powder!
The first time I ever made tofu scramble, I used this recipe. Now after a few years of playing around with it, I’ve made some changes and am a pro at adding things I can find in my kitchen and fridge. I love tofu scramble on a tortilla with salsa and maybe black beans as a simple burrito or taco, or over buttered toast with a side of fresh fruit and roasted potato wedges. Although I’ve never personally tried it, I’ve read of others using the scramble in stir-fries as well. The scramble itself is really versatile: you can add different spices and vegetables and find the intensity of the seasoning that works for you.
Tofu Scramble Recipe
Makes about 4-6 servings
- Olive oil, canola oil, or vegan butter
- 1/2 to a whole onion, depending on your taste. You can also use scallions or spring onions!
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 package of firm or extra-firm tofu, well drained
- 1 and 1/2 tablespoons nutritional yeast OR 1 teaspoon Kala Namak
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon salt
Optional Add-Ins: Arugula, Vegan Bacon, Bell Peppers, Black Beans, Broccoli, Carrots, Cayenne Pepper, Chard, Chives, Curry Powder, Kale, Kidney Beans, Mushrooms, Mustard Powder, Olives, Fresh Parsley, Vegan Sausage, Spinach, Fresh Tomatoes, Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Step 1: chop and saute the onion and garlic in oil or vegan margarine over medium heat. Add the onion first, cook for a few minutes, and then add the garlic and cook for another minute or two. The garlic seems to cook faster than the onion, so having the onion over the heat for a bit before adding it ensures your garlic won’t burn! This is also when you can add your mushrooms, vegan sausage, or beans if they’re a part of your scramble.
Step 2: Crumble up the extra-firm tofu with your fingers over the pan with the ingredients from Step 1. Think of copying the look of scrambled eggs: you don’t want the tofu to be pulverized, but you don’t want big chunks either. Mix the tofu with the onion and garlic.
Step 3: Now come the essential flavors and spices. Add the nutritional yeast, cumin, paprika, turmeric, and salt. Take a couple minutes to mix the ingredients and incorporate them to coat the tofu. It should turn the whole meal yellow. Sometimes I add a little more butter or oil if the mixture looks too dry. You could also add unsweetened plant-based milk in this scenario. I like a moist scramble!
Step 4: If you’re adding any optional additions like kale, spinach, and tomatoes, add them at the end. Mix them into the scramble and let them cook for around two minutes.
Step 5: Serve topped with avocado, fresh spinach, sliced tomato, salsa, soy sauce, or hot sauce. Enjoy!
Storage: I generally keep my leftover scramble in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to a week. You can eat the leftovers cold, room temperature, or reheat them in the microwave or on the stove.