Move over, chicken salad — there’s a new kid in town!
I dreamed up this lightly curried tofu salad recipe to help my daughter, who recently decided to shift to a vegetarian diet, get enough protein into her diet. Thankfully she’s still eating eggs and dairy — top-notch protein foods for any vegetarian (and a huge relief for the mother of any vegetarian…).
However, she also wanted to find ways to eat tofu — a food that never really made it into my culinary repertoire since it’s not part of the traditional Mediterranean diet. Also, I must confess that I’m always underwhelmed when I prepare it myself; no matter what I do with it, it always seems to taste like spongy blobs of nothingness — though I love what they do with it in Asian restaurants, where I order it frequently.
Protein is one of the big challenges for plant-based eaters (read more about this here), especially at lunch when usual omnivore protein options — meats, fish, and cold cuts — are off your menu (and, no, hummus is not a good source of protein — unless you add protein powder to it, as I did here).
To make this salad, I chose the highest-protein tofu I could find (a super-firm, baked tofu providing 17 g of protein per serving), mixed it with my traditional chicken salad dressing, and — hey presto! — a delicious new sandwich filling/salad topping was born. Alas, even when using super-firm tofu, this salad is still relatively low in protein (19 g per serving). By comparison, when you make it with chicken, it contains about 30 g of higher-quality protein.
So to get enough protein at a meal that includes this salad, you might have to add other protein-rich foods. (Most adults need about 30 g of protein per meal.) For instance, you could eat the salad on a slice of high-protein bread, like Carbonaut’s Seeded Loaf (7 g of protein per slice) or Orowheat’s Keto Sandwich Thins (12 g protein).
Or, if you’d rather not eat these types of (pretty processed) breads, you could accompany the sandwich with a small bowl of lentil soup or a serving of bean salad. Or, if you are an ovo-lacto vegetarian, you could enjoy a tub of Greek yogurt, Skyr or a matcha latter made with dairy or soy milk for dessert and get another 15-odd grams of protein that way. Every little helps.
Curried Tofu Salad
- 3 tbsp Greek yogurt or plant-based yogurt, though this is likely to contain significantly less protein
- 3 tbsp avocado mayonnaise Chosen Foods or Primal Kitchen brands; alternatively, use homemade mayonnaise; I make mine with olive and avocado oil (50:50)
- 1 tbsp fresh lime or lemon juice or white balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp maple syrup
- ¾ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper freshly ground
- 1 tbsp curry powder or more, if you like spice; most commercial curry powders aren;t terribly hot
- 1 clove garlic finely minced; I grate it on a Microplane grater
- 2 medium celery sticks finely cubed
- 4 medium green onions finely chopped
- ⅓ cup dried apricots finely cubed
- 14 oz baked tofu cut into roughly ¼-inch dice. Try to find the tofu with the highest amount of protein; I used this brand, which had 17 g of protein per serving
- ½ cup cilantro coarsely chopped; reserve a few leaves as garnish
- In a large mixing bowl, combine mayonnaise, yogurt, lime/lemon juice/vinegar (whichever using), maple syrup, salt, pepper, curry powder, garlic, celery, green onion, and dried apricots and mix with a spatula.
- Using a spatula, gently fold in the diced tofu and chopped cilantro until the tofu cubes are coated all around by the sauce. For a more homogeneous mixture, stir with an electric whisk for 30-60 seconds.
- Serve on sourdough or imported pumpernickel bread, wrap in a tortilla (I like La Banderita’s low-carb tortillas) or on a lightly dressed pile of greens.
- Refrigerated in a tightly sealed container, this lasts 4-5 days.