Quarantine Cuisine: Virginia’s Tofu Chili (& How to Cook Tofu)
Warm up with a hearty pot of our co-owner’s famous tofu chili: a simple, filling dish anyone can enjoy. And don’t forget to scroll down to the end of this post, where Virginia also teaches us how to make the best tofu.
2 cups dried kidney beans
8–10 cups cold water
salt, to taste
⅔ cup olive oil, divided, plus a little extra if needed
6 cakes firm tofu, crumbled
¼ cup tamari
2 large yellow onions, chopped coarsely
5 cloves fresh garlic, chopped fine
2 quarts diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
3 fresh jalapeño peppers, seeded and diced
salt and pepper to taste
½ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
Grated cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
Rinse the kidney beans, and place them in a large soup pot with 8-10 cups cold water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about two hours until the beans are tender but not mushy. Add salt to taste and set aside. (Do not drain– you’ll need the liquid later.)
Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add ⅓ cup olive oil and the crumbled tofu. Cook tofu until crispy and golden brown (this takes 20 or more minutes–the tofu will get a bit rubbery/bouncy in the skillet as the water starts to cook out of it. Usually at this point you will have to add a bit more olive oil to get the tofu to actually start to fry in the pan). When the tofu is done, pour on the tamari to coat and cook it a bit longer to soak up the tamari, about 5 more minutes. Set the tofu aside.
Heat ⅓ cup olive oil in another large soup pot over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until they start to turn golden brown. Add the chopped garlic and sauté 2- 3 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, oregano, paprika, thyme, and fennel seeds. Stir well. Add the beans and bean cooking liquid.
Turn the heat down to low and simmer the chili, partially covered, for approximately one hour, stirring often until chili starts to get thick and rich-looking. (Chili should just be simmering, never boiling). Taste chili and add more spices if you want. Add tofu and continue simmering for another 30 minutes.
Add chopped jalapeños, salt and pepper to taste, and cook for another 5 minutes.
Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with chopped cilantro and graded cheddar, Monterey jack or any good melting cheese.
- Use organic ingredients wherever possible.
- I use Muir Glen brand diced tomatoes
How to Cook Tofu
Here’s how Virginia recommends cooking tasty tofu. Be sure to read the notes at the end of the recipe for all her tips and tricks!
1 package firm tofu
1/4 to 1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Organic San-J Tamari (gluten free soy sauce)
1/4 to 1/3 cup nutritional yeast (see notes below)
Remove tofu cake from the package; wrap in a few layers of paper towels for about 5 minutes just to get the excess water off of the outside. Dice into 1+ inch cubes, slice into 1/2 inch slices, or crumble if you want to substitute it for ground meat.
Heat a cast iron or other heavy skillet to almost smoking. Add 1/4 to 1/3 cup olive oil. Immediately add the tofu. Use a spatula to toss or flip the tofu in the pan to evenly coat it with oil. Cook approximately 7-9 minutes, stirring or flipping every minute or so, just until the tofu starts to get brown and crisp. (It may stick a bit but that is okay.)
Towards the end of cooking, turn the heat down to medium low and sprinkle the tofu with organic tamari. If crumbled or cubed, toss to coat. If sliced, flip slices over and add a bit more tamari to that side.
Lastly, sprinkle the tofu with nutritional yeast. Stir to combine, if crumbled or cubed. If sliced, flip the tofu and sprinkle on a bit more. Let it brown up a bit, and you’re ready to serve.
Use cubed tofu as-is, or toss with southwestern spices or curry to give it different flavors. Use slices as-is, or on sandwiches. Crumbled tofu can be used in place of hamburger meat in chili, tostadas and more.
- Nutritional Yeast: Adding nutritional yeast makes the tofu a complete protein, and adds lots of flavor and a bit of texture. It is also delicious sprinkled on popcorn. And, kids love it! You can find it in the bulk foods section at Whole Foods or other natural foods stores ~ just buy a cup or two.
- Tofu: Buy a good, organic packaged tofu. I buy Woodstock or Soy Boy brands and I buy firm tofu, not extra firm.
- Cooking: The times I have above for cooking are approximate. The main thing is the pan needs to be very hot (but not smoking) when you are cooking, so the tofu releases its moisture quickly and begins to brown. I used to cook my tofu for a much longer time than I do now, until it was very crispy; now I cook it a bit less but enough to firm it up and give it texture.