You’ll love this easy vegan sous vide sesame chile tofu recipe! Sous vide cooking is all the rage, yet some people are not convinced that sous vide is worth it even for vegetarians, let alone vegans. That’s because sous vide became popular because it makes even the toughest cuts of meat very tender. But sous vide cooking is more (way more) than a way to tenderize things, and you can sous vide all sorts of vegetables, vegan meat products and, yes, tofu. Let our recipe for sous vide tofu prove it to you.
It’s important to note that sous vide cooking isn’t an alternative to other methods of cooking, it’s a method all on its own. For example, there is no other way that you could make this tofu recipe and have it come out the way that it does. The consistent, gentle application of heat without direct contact with the heat source or the water or air is unique to sous vide cooking.
So just what is sous vide cooking? Sous vide cooking involves immersing whatever it is that you are cooking in a hot water bath that is held at a constant temperature by your sous vide device. However, the food itself is never touched by the water – instead, the food is vacuum-sealed in either a vacuum sealer bag (such as a Foodsaver bag – although you can also use a ziplock bag out of which you have sucked as much air as possible, but if there is any air left in the bag it’s not really sous vide cooking), or a canning jar with, again, all of the air sucked out (this requires a vacuum sealer, and a canning jar attachment – which you can get on Amazon here). Sous vide is literally French for “under vacuum”.
Believe it or not, good sous vide devices can be fairly inexpensive. We absolutely love our Instant Pot brand sous vide device, which we got for $79. We bought it not only for the price, but because the reviews were through the roof (5 stars from nearly 3500 reviews!), it is very easy to use, we trust the Instant Pot brand, and even though it is designed with using the Instant Pot stainless steel liner in mind, you can clip it onto the side of any big pot (see picture below). You can check it out on Amazon here: Instant Pot Sous Vide device.
The Instant Pot brand sous vide device clips on to any large pot
Mason Jar Vacuum Sealing Device
For more information about sous vide generally, there’s a good article here at Bon Appetit.
Now, on to this very easy, and very delicious, sous vide tofu recipe!
Fantastic Easy Vegan Sous Vide Sesame Chili Tofu
1 block firm tofu – we use the House Foods brand tofu from Costco, which is perfect for this
1/3 cup gluten-free tamari (ok to use soy sauce or Bragg’s aminos as well)
1/3 cup sesame or toasted sesame oil (ok to use a neutral oil as well)
2/3 cup vegan brown sugar OR 1/3 cup brown sugar and 1/3 cup maple syrup
1 to 2 Tablespoons chili paste or chili garlic paste to taste (optional)
Preheat your oven to 400°.
Drain the tofu, and press it for 15 to 30 minutes. This is the press that we use, set in a bowl to catch the liquid (not pictured: we fill a mason jar with water and set it on top of the press to provide pressing weight):
Cut the drained and pressed tofu into 1-inch blocks. Line a baking pan with parchment or lightly oil it. Place the tofu blocks on the baking pan, making sure they aren’t touching each other. At this point you can spray them lightly with cooking oil spray, or you can bake them naked, which is what we do.
Put your tofu into the preheated oven, and bake for 15 minutes – 20 minutes, flipping them over half way so that they bake evenly. You want the tofu to start turning to a golden brown, but you don’t want it completely cooked.
We pre-bake our tofu dry, without oil, and look how beautiful it is!
Note: you can omit the step of pre-baking the tofu, but it really does take it to the next level.
While your tofu is in the oven, mix all of the other ingredients together – we do this in a microwave-safe measuring cup and microwave it for a bit to help the sugar to dissolve, although you don’t have to do that, because it will dissolve while cooking in the sous vide bath.
Remove the tofu blocks from the oven, and gently put them into either a quart canning jar, or the bag that you will be using.
Pour the liquid mixture over the tofu in the mason jar or bag, and vacuum seal. It has to be said that when there is a fair amount of liquid in a sous vide recipe, as there is in this one, using the canning jar is much easier, as with a bag the vacuum sealer will suck up the liquid (one way to combat this is to make the bag extra long, and hang the bottom of the bag with the food in it over the edge of the counter while sealing, so that your vacuum sealer has to fight gravity in order to get the liquid moving up towards the vacuum sealer).
If you don’t have a vacuum sealer, you can use a heavy-duty zipper-type (i.e. ZipLoc) freezer bag. See here for a good tutorial on how to use a ZipLoc bag for sous vide.
Put your tofu, sealed in its jar or bag, into the water bath, and set your sous vide appliance temperature to 180°, and the cooking time to 4 hours. Because the air has been removed from the jar or bag you should not have a problem with it trying to float, but if it does you can just set something on top of the jar, or clip the bag to the edge of the pot making sure that the food is always below the water line.
If using a jar, turn the jar over every half-hour to an hour, to make sure that all of the tofu gets soaked in that tasty sauce.
Once the time is up, pour your incredibly delicious, chewy-on-the-outside and pillowy-soft-on-the-inside sous vide tofu and sauce over rice or ramen or some other gluten-free noodles!
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