Once upon a time I thought I could never give up cheese.
Twenty years later, I now realize it was much easier than I thought. Still, two cheeses kept me in dairyland for a while: parmesan and feta.
It was the intensity of those cheeses. The flavor impact. Salty, tangy, briny. At the time, there were no substitutes on the market. So, I couldn’t imagine eating without them!
Later, feta cheese substitutes did appear in stores. I tried them, and was underwhelmed. They just didn’t hit the flavor mark. These substitutes were tofu-based, and for some reason the flavor wasn’t penetrating the tofu well enough.
I started to experiment with my own tofu feta recipe. Not only did I want a flavorful marinade that would hold up to a classic greek salad, I also wanted to find a way to make this vegan cheese recipe oil-free. Most products I tried had an oil marinade. There had to be a way to get that richness without adding that extra oil.
There is! After many trials, the secret to influsing great briny flavor in the tofu is to first simmer it in a vinegar mixture, and then marinate that warm tofu in the full marinade. A marinade consisting of herbs, lemon juice, vinegar – and chopped olives.
Bingo! Flavor success. Not only does the flavor hold up, but for me the texture improves too. The simmering breaks down the tofu just slightly so that when tossed through the marinade, it mostly holds shape but loses *just* a touch of texture. Somewhat like traditional feta cheese.
This recipes is one of my favorites from Plant-Powered Families. It was also one of Nicole’s favorites! And, I’ve heard from quite a few of you that are loving it. Since summer is here and we are enjoying big, bright salads, I wanted to share this recipe widely on the blog.
So here it is, kids. Enjoy!
(p.s. I did create a soy-free vegan feta recipe for the release of PPF. If you managed to nab the promo ebook, it’s in there – have a look!)
Tofu Feta vegan, gluten-free, oil-free, nut-free
If you haven’t been a fan of tofu feta before, give this one a try. The process of boiling the tofu first and then marinating while warm greatly enhances the flavor. This one will impress! Serves 4–5
1 package (12 oz) extra-firm tofu, cut into 1/2″ – 3/4″ cubes (see note)
1 cups water
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 cloves garlic, roughly sliced/chopped
1 tablespoons mild miso (ex: chickpea miso)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (2 tablespoons for extra tang)
1/2 teaspoon pure maple syrup
1/4 – 1/3 cup minced green olives or kalamata olives
To make the boiling mixture:
In a large saucepan, add the tofu, water, red wine vinegar, sea salt, and garlic. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 15–20 minutes, uncovered. If some of the tofu is not covered in the brine, gently stir through occasionally.
To make the marinade:
Meanwhile, in a medium/large bowl or baking dish, combine the miso, oregano, lemon juice, vinegar, and maple syrup. Whisk through, and then stir in the olives.
After cooking, strain tofu, discarding boiling liquid (it’s okay to keep the garlic). While still hot/warm, transfer tofu to the bowl with the marinade. Stir through to coat the tofu and combine well. Cover and refrigerate. Keeps for 5–6 days.
Tofu Note: When working the marinade through the tofu it’s okay if the tofu breaks up into uneven pieces rather than uniform cubes (it’s quite good that way)!
Idea: Try this tofu in a Greek salad with crispy romaine lettuce, bright tomatoes, briny olives, and crunchy cucumbers.
Serving Suggestions: Think beyond Greek salad. Try this tofu alongside baked potatoes (regular or sweet), atop pizzas, and tossed into pasta, or combine with hummus or another spread in a lunch wrap for your kiddos.