Mongolian Tofu is a vegan version of your favorite take-out dish that is ready in about 15 minutes, easy to make, and delicious.
Mongolian Tofu is a healthy and vegetarian version of the classic Chinese takeout dish - Mongolian Beef. It's made with crispy tofu, an addictive sweet and savory sauce, green onions, and shredded carrots. Served with a hearty serving of brown rice or soba noodles, it's a dinner you will make again and again.
One of my favorite challenges when it comes to cooking is taking my favorite take-out dishes and making them healthier at home. So when a friend told me she needed a way to curb her Chinese take-out habit and also needed it to be vegetarian, I couldn't wait to dig in.
After a long conversation, we determined her krypotonite was Mongolian Beef. She loves the sweet and salty sauce and the crispy texture. But when she found out it normally packs around 500 calories per serving, it was time to find something else. Plus with a vegetarian sister, she wanted something she could make for both of them.
The first step was to pick out a substitution for the beef. Since we needed something crispy, I decided tofu would be the best option since it's easy to get it nice and crispy on the outside. The key to doing this is pressing the tofu first using a press or paper towels so that the tofu has significantly less moisture. This means the tofu can get nice and crispy.
Then there is the sauce. It's a simple combination of soy sauce, sugar, rice vinegar, and hoisin sauce. Sweet and savory. You can add a touch of Sriracha as well if you want something spicy. Finally, there are some veggies and that's dinner. Delicious and easy.
What is Mongolian Tofu?
Did you know that Mongolian Beef, the dish this one is based on, isn’t actually Mongolian? It isn’t even really a Chinese dish.
It is loosely based on Taiwanese stir fry and first came into being around Chinese BBQ restaurants that popped up there. From there it moved to American Chinese restaurants and now refers to the sticky sweet sauce that is typically served with beef.
Of course, none of that really changes the Mongolian Tofu. It's just to say that the version most of us are used to is an American Chinese creation. Just like how most foods found at Chinese restaurants outside of China are nothing like what they would serve in China.
How Do You Prepare Tofu?
For this recipe, you will want to start with extra firm tofu, which, of all the types of tofu, is the one that holds its form the best. Extra firm tofu is usually the best choice when it comes to stir-fries.
There is some preparation required before you can cook with tofu, a process that takes about twenty minutes in total. The object of this game is to get as much fluid out of the tofu as possible.
Drain as much fluid from the tofu as you can when you take it out. Then set it between two layers of paper towels. The next step is called pressing tofu, a process of using gravity and a heavy object to press excess liquid out. You’re going to need something heavy – like a cast iron skillet or a really thick cookbook – to put on top of the tofu.
It's extremely important that you don’t press down on the tofu, as it will lose its shape if you do. Instead, let the heavy object and gravity slowly press the liquid out.
After 20 minutes your tofu has been pressed just about as much as it will be – go ahead and throw away the paper towels.
At this point, if you haven’t already, you should cube your tofu.
This is a fantastic dish to make for the first few days of your meal prep. Everything in it will stay good in your fridge and it heats up easily in the microwave. It pairs well with rice and other vegetarian and vegan recipes.
I’ve included a few down below if you’re interested in seeing a few other ideas for what to make with Mongolian Tofu.
How Long Will it Last?
Though cooked tofu will last a few days longer than it otherwise would have, there are some things you should know about storing your leftovers.
The first thing is that you shouldn’t freeze your Mongolian Tofu, and this is because of the tofu.
Frozen tofu won’t make you sick, but the freezing process completely changes the texture into one that most people find to be quite unpalatable.
So instead of freezing it, just try to make sure you don’t have too many leftovers and keep it in the fridge.
Some websites say that you can eat cooked tofu up to a week later, but really after about 3-4 days I would begin to question if it’s still good or not.
Noodles or Rice?
Before you’re ready to dish up your Mongolian Tofu, you have a very important decision to make.
Will you be having it on a bed of rice or a bed of noodles? Of course, you could have this as a side – but I think it really deserves to shine center stage.
Which brings us straight back to the classic divide: Noodles? Or rice?
First, I would say use whatever you already have; if you’ve already got rice at home, go with that. However, let's say you don’t have any rice or noodles in the house – which one do you pick? The truth is both of them are fantastic with the Mongolian Tofu, so for me it boils down to which one is easier to find in a healthy form?
For me, that means the answer is usually brown rice since I always have it on hand. For healthy noodles, reach for some brown rice noodles.
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- 14 oz. extra firm tofu
- 3 tbsp. low sodium soy sauce (GF if needed or coconut aminos)
- 2 tbsp. rice vinegar
- 2 tbsp. hoisin sauce
- 2 tsp. sugar (leave out for low carb)
- 4 tsp. cornstarch, divided
- 1 tsp. Asian chili garlic paste (or Sriracha or red pepper flakes)
- 1 tbsp. ginger, grated (more to taste)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tsp coconut oil
- 6 green onions, sliced
- 1/2 cup shredded carrots
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Heat the skillet over medium-high heat. Toss the tofu in 1 tbsp cornstarch. Add the oil to the skillet. Add the tofu and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side until crisp. Add the green onions, carrots, and sauce. Cook for 3-4 minutes until sauce thickens and green onions are tender, stirring occasionally. Top with additional fresh green onions if desired
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.
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