Saturday, December 22, 2012

Vegan Tofu "Turkey"


Every Christmas and Thanksgiving since becoming a vegetarian I have usually bought a Tofurkey holiday roast to eat at my family's big holiday meal. This year, I decided to try something different for our Christmas dinner by finally making my own, homemade tofu "turkey". It has been on my baking/cooking bucket list for quite a while, and I'm so glad I finally took the time to experiment and come up with something tasty, satisfying, healthy, and easy to make! I compiled a lot of different ideas and methods for making a homemade tofu turkey that I found through various websites and other recipes, to create my own recipe that is very simple and uses the exact same ingredients that you would probably use for a regular turkey - which is great if you're also sharing the kitchen with the rest of your omnivorous family.

This tofu turkey isn't quite the same as the Tofurkey brand, since it only uses tofu as the main ingredient, without any added textured soy protein or wheat gluten. The main difference is that the texture is still very tofu-like, and doesn't imitate the texture of meat. While this may be disappointing if you are looking for more of a meat texture substitute, it is a big bonus if you just want to keep things simple with minimal ingredients and a less labour-intensive recipe. I really don't mind the texture of tofu so this wasn't a problem for me, and if you use extra firm tofu and press as much water as possible out of it, then it will not have the mushy or spongy texture that many people tend to dislike. The flavour of the tofu, on the other hand, is absolutely delicious and really mimics all the seasonings used in a real turkey! The outside gets crispy and browned thanks to the savoury marinade that it is basted with, while the inside stays moist but firm. Allowing the tofu to absorb an array of poultry seasonings overnight ensures that it is saturated with flavour and smells absolutely delicious while baking in the oven. My family kept coming into the kitchen and asking what I was cooking because it smelled so good!

I know the holidays can be a bit of a stressful time for everyone, with lots of people to visit, gifts to buy, and food to make, and I know it can be an especially stressful time for vegetarians and vegans because many North American holiday food traditions revolve around largely animal-product filled meals and treats. Hopefully this and some of my other recipes can ensure that all dietary and lifestyle choices are satisfied and leave the table with a happy tastebuds and a full belly! It is my sincerest wish that all of the individuals who read my blog, whatever you celebrate and whatever you choose to put on your plate, have a wonderful holiday season filled with family, friends, and especially good food!


2 blocks extra firm or firm tofu, pressed and drained
3 tsp. poultry seasoning - If you don't have poultry seasoning then use a combination of dried thyme, rosemary, and sage 
1/2 tsp. onion powder
3/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. orange zest
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Basting Marinade:

3 Tbsp. soy sauce or tamari
2 Tbsp. fresh orange juice
2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. sesame oil - If you don't have sesame oil on hand you can just add more olive oil


1-2 day/nights before: Remove the tofu from the packaging and place the blocks on a large dinner plate. Place another large plate on top of the tofu and weigh it down with a heavy object (see pictures). Leave this for 4-6 hours to press the excess liquid out of the tofu, draining the water that has collected on the bottom plate a once or twice as it accumulates.

After the tofu has been pressed, add the blocks into a food processor along with the poultry seasoning, onion powder, garlic powder, orange zest, salt, and pepper. Pulse until completely smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary. If you don't have a food processor you can try this in a blender, but you may have to do it in multiple, smaller batches to get it evenly blended and smooth. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasonings until it is flavourful enough for you.

Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap. I used two mini loaf pans instead of one big one to make two separate tofu turkeys for different meals on different days, so feel free to do the same if you don't want to make one large one all at once.

Spread the tofu mixture into the loaf pan(s) and pack it down firmly using the back of a spoon. Cover with plastic wrap so that it is directly pressing onto the tofu. 

Place a heavy object such as a full can or bottle on top of the tofu to help press it solid and firm. Refrigerate the loaf overnight to allow the tofu to absorb all the seasonings and get firmer.

The day of: Once the tofu has been refrigerated for 1-2 days, it is going to be flavourful and ready to bake! Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Prepare the basting marinade by stirring together the soy sauce, orange juice, olive oil, and sesame oil in a small bowl. 

Remove the top layer of plastic wrap from the tofu in the loaf pan. Invert the loaf pan onto a baking sheet, cake pan, pie plate, or into a larger loaf pan. You may need to gently pull it out of the loaf pan by using the plastic wrap as handles if it doesn't come out easily on its own. Carefully remove the remaining plastic wrap from the tofu. 

Brush the outside of the tofu with the prepared marinade, using a pastry brush or by just spooning it over the top. 

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Brush the tofu with more of the basting marinade, lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and continue to bake for 1 hour. Brush the tofu with the basting marinade a few more times as it bakes. The outside of the tofu will become browned and cracked, and your kitchen will smell fantastic!

Once the tofu has finished baking, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool in the pan for about 10-15 minutes. Slice using a serrated knife and serve with vegetarian gravy or cranberry sauce! This is also delicious served in salads or sandwiches, hot or cold. Store leftover tofu turkey in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and reheat the microwave as needed. 

This recipe serves 5-8, depending on how large the servings are.

*Recipe by Brooke McMillan, inspired by Chef In You

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