Getting kids to try a new food can be a huge challenge. Choruses of “Ew!” or “That’s gross!” (or “Ookies!” from my toddler) seem to greet each kitchen innovation.
But a diverse diet is essential to growing children, both to meet their nutritional needs and to help them develop a varied palate. A great addition to a child’s diet is tofu. “Tofu is a highly nutritious part of a toddler’s healthy diet as it is filled with protein, antioxidants, and omega-3 fats, all of which are known to promote cardiovascular health,” says Dr. Joanna Dolgoff, New York City pediatrician and official spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Dolgoff recommends making tofu tasty — “tofu itself has little flavor,” she says — to make it a hit with your kids.
This recipe takes unfamiliar tofu and gives it a fun shape and a flavor like the ever-popular chicken nugget.
What You Will Need
- 1 block of firm or extra firm tofu (the kind that is sold in tubs in the produce department)
- Paper towels
- Two plates
- Two or three cans (to be used as weights)
- Small, fun-shaped food cutters
- Two shallow bowls
- One egg
- Flour or breadcrumbs
- Vegetable oil or light olive oil
- Large frying pan
- Dipping sauce
Prep Time: 75 minutes | Cook Time: 15 minutes
- About an hour before you are ready to cook, remove tofu out of the refrigerator. Open the container and rinse the tofu. Wrap it in two or three paper towels so the entire block is covered. Place the wrapped block on one of the plates and stack the other plate on top. Stack two or three heavy cans of food on top of that. Make sure the whole setup is stable, then leave it alone for about an hour. (If you decide that tofu is a good addition to your cooking repertoire, you might want to invest in a tofu press, as described by Peas and Thank You author Sarah Matheny.)
- Once the tofu has drained for an hour, unwrap it. It should feel much denser than when you first took it out of the container. Keep the plates handy to use later.
- Cut tofu into 1/4-inch slices lengthwise. Use food cutters to trim into fun shapes, such as stars, teddy bears, hearts—whatever your kids like best. You can ask your kids to do this part of the recipe.
- Beat the egg and place it in a shallow bowl. Place the flour or breadcrumbs in the other shallow bowl.
- Cover the bottom of your frying pan with oil and let it heat on medium-high. Take one of the plates you were using to drain the tofu and cover it with paper towels. Set it aside to soak the oil from cooked tofu.
- While the pan is heating, dip the tofu shapes in the egg and dredge them in the flour or breadcrumbs. Place the coated tofu pieces on the second plate. (No need to get too many dishes dirty.) Drop these one at a time in the hot pan.
- Cook a few pieces of tofu at a time to minimize sticking and ensure that each piece gets fried just right. When the pieces are golden brown on both sides (3-4 minutes), remove them from the pan and drain them on paper towels.
- Serve the tofu warm with your kids’ favorite dipping sauces.
Other Ways to Get Your Kids to Eat Tofu
You don’t have to bread and fry your tofu every time. Once you drain the water, it is easy to substitute tofu for meat in some of your family favorites.
- Make mock fish sticks. Add old bay seasoning to the breading and a few drops of liquid smoke to the egg.
- Fry it without the breading. After you drain the tofu, cut it into one-inch cubes and fry it in oil. Add it to stir-fry vegetables and sauce for an easy, healthy meal.
- Bake it. Slice the tofu into 1/4-inch slices horizontally instead of lengthwise. Bake these in the oven until they are slightly browned. Cut it into bite-size pieces and serve it with vegetables and pasta.
- Crumble it in lasagna. Instead of ricotta or cottage cheese, use tofu for one of the layers in your favorite lasagna recipe.
How do you use tofu in your recipes?