Fermented tofu is one of those lovely treats I always have in the fridge. It can elevate an otherwise mundane Monday salad to something else entirely.
Let’s be honest: natural tofu on its own tastes like sticking your tongue out the window. Very bland. That’s just a fact. The good news is that it readily takes on whatever flavor you throw at it.
So with a little manipulation and patience, and a lot of herbs and spices, you can make completely nondescript cubes of tofu taste like marinated feta cheese. Actually, better than feta cheese, if you ask me. The secret is in the carefully chosen combination of spices and herbs and in that most humble of human traits called patience. If you have that, you are good to go.
There is one catch, though, and that is that in order to cultivate that deeply satisfying flavor the tofu needs to sit for at least a couple of weeks and ideally a lot longer. Because the longer you let the tofu marinate the deeper the flavors will penetrate the tofu. And as long as you are careful to not introduce unwanted bacteria into the container, while at the same time making sure the tofu always stays submerged in the oil (details on this in the recipe below), then the fermented tofu will keep for several months in the fridge.
Wondering how to use these little gems? Adding them to a simple mixed green salad makes the mundane look and taste much more fancy.
You can also check out my Chickpea Salad with Preserved Tofu for some additional inspiration for a heartier salad.
- Glass jars with lids.
- 500 g firm tofu cubed
- 5 garlic clove sliced
- 3 large bay leaves scalded in boiling water to kill any bacteria
- 1 dried chipotle chili pepper, optional scalded like the bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon whole fenugreek seeds dry roasted
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds dry roasted and smashed a bit
- 3/4 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
- 3/4 tablespoon whole white peppercorns
- 2 teaspoon dried thyme, oregano, or rosemary
- 2 tsp coarse sea salt
- Extra virgin olive oil enough to completely cover the tofu in the jar
- Boil the cubed tofu in water for 5 minutes. Drain and gently dry in a clean dish towel, then place in a clean pot or bowl. Cover with another clean dish towel and leave on the kitchen counter at room temperature overnight. This first step will get a light fermentation process started.
- Transfer the tofu to one or two clean and pre-scalded pickling jar(s) (see note below). It is important to scald the jars and the lids with boiling water first in order to kill off any unwanted bacteria. The jars will be sitting at room temperature for several days so any unwelcome bacteria can quickly take over and render all your good efforts worthless.
- Add all the different spices and the salt to the jars. Don't forget to scald the bay leaves and chipotle beforehand (see note). If using two jars divide the spices evenly. Pour olive oil over until the tofu is completely covered. Shake the jars a bit to mix everything up. Cover with a tight fitted lid (scalded first) and leave in a dark kitchen cabinet for five days, shaking the jar occasionally. After five days transfer the jars to the refrigerator where it will keep for several month. The longer it sits the deeper the flavor.
- To scald the jars: place them in the kitchen sink and fill with boiling water. Be sure to also scald the lid and the rubber seal.
- To scald the bay leaves and the chipotle chili: quickly dip them in the boiling water you just poured into the jars, then set aside on a clean plate.
- When you want to take some tofu cubes out of the jar be sure to always, always, always! use a clean metal spoon or fork. This is very important in order to not introduce bacteria into the jar. If unwanted bacteria find their way in you risk seeing moldy patches in the jar next time you open it. If you see mold you will need to discard the entire batch. The same is the case if you notice a pink tinge to the tofu. This is why I always divide the tofu and spices into two jars. If one batch ends up moldy (due to me not paying attention and inadvertently using a dirty spoon to fish out the tofu) at least not all my work and patience will go to waste.
- It is also very important to always keep the tofu completely covered with oil. If the level of oil drops be sure to top it up with new oil. If the tofu is exposed to air inside the jar there is a risk of it going bad. The oil "seal" will prevent that.
- And don’t discard the oil once the tofu is used up. Use the now amazingly flavored oil in dressings and marinades. Just be sure to strain it first.