Chickpea flour tofu: budget-friendly, soy-free & tasty recipe
Time: prep. 5 mins
soak. min. 6 h
cook. 8 mins
set. min. 3 h
Difficulty: very easy
Yields: 2 portions
Chickpea flour tofu is a surprisingly simple and humble recipe, as it consists mainly of just 2 ingredients… if you don’t count the salt. Not to mention ideal for those who value a healthy, cheap, ethical and, above all, gluten, meat and soy-free diet.
In fact, to be soy-free, it would probably need a different name, such as fake chickpea tofu; compared to making the original tofu (you can find the fantastic recipe here), not only is there no soy, there is also no coagulation.
And if you don’t like the term ‘fake’, call it Burmese tofu, or even Shan tofu, because in Burma (now Myanmar) tofu is yellow and made from chickpea flour (or dried chickpeas).
The absence of soy not only does not weaken the recipe for chickpea flour tofu, it makes it a real superstar for people who, for a thousand and one reasons, cannot or do not want to consume soy. Can you guess why?
What’s wrong with soy?
Soy is a very ancient food, rich in macro- and micronutrients; it also has a complete protein profile, as if it were of animal origin: it contains all the essential amino acids and has a high bioavailability.
However, like every rose, it also has its thorns; the presence of a high concentration of phyto-oestrogens makes it a potent allergen, capable of interfering with the delicate hormonal balance, especially when consumed in large quantities: unless you are an Oriental (thanks to thousands of years of use, the Asian body has evolved to be able to metabolize large quantities of soya without suffering any side effects)
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If you also want to reduce your soy intake, you will love chickpea flour tofu.
Is soaking necessary or not?
As I explained in my tried and tested farinata, alias Italian chickpea flatbread recipe, soaking is something you should never do without. Of course, you are free to follow the wily tips on ‘quick’ farinata or chickpea tofu all over the web and still end up with a seemingly edible food, but I know my readers know the difference between filling their tummy and eating consciously.
So for those of you who are still unsure about the importance of the ancient practice of soaking, I suggest you read the highly clicked article on lectins.
Having understood that this proposal is not motivated by a simple ode to slowness, but rather by the need to take care of one’s body, let us see how we can best organize ourselves to optimize the long soaking and cooling times (given that for an optimum result a minimum of 9 hours and a maximum of 42 hours in total would be required).
Is it better to use chickpea flour or dried chickpeas?
Actually, both are fine, but although dried chickpeas are much more readily available, I would recommend chickpea flour for 2 reasons:
1) to get perfect tofu, i.e. without those annoying grainy texture that cause the tofu cubes to break when you cut them, you need to use a blender; and a pretty powerful one at that;
2) chickpea tofu, made from dried chickpeas, is softer if you don’t cook it like cornmeal, for at least 20 minutes: frankly, I find this very annoying and all in all unnecessarily time-consuming.
So I suggest you buy chickpea flour and try the recipe that way.
Ingredients for a very firm chickpea flour tofu
150g chickpea flour
salt, one pinch (then adjust to taste once cooked)
1 scant tablespoon of evo oil to grease the baking dish
For standard cooking (free to use any recipe you like)
1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
a sprig of rosemary or other spices
salt, pepper (chilli optional)
This recipe is simple but consists of a number of steps, fortunately all of them very very easy.
To optimize your time, I suggest you follow my pathway:
1) In the morning, before you go to work, prepare the dough: mix the water and the chickpea flour.
While you are at work, some endogenous enzymes (such as phytase) present in the chickpea flour will also start to work, breaking down as many water-soluble anti-nutrients as possible.
2) In the evening, when you turn back home, pour the mixture into a saucepan and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently, as if you were cooking polenta. Adjust the salt at this stage. When it has thickened enough, at the end of the indicated minutes, pour it into a lightly greased baking dish.
With the quantities given in this recipe, I use an oval baking dish of about 28 cm. Keep in mind that if you choose a much smaller baking dish, the chickpea tofu will be thicker; conversely, a very large one will make it thinner: either case could cause problems during the subsequent cooking.
Cover the dish with a lid.
Once cooled to room temperature, place the chickpea flour tofu in the fridge for at least 4 hours: a short setting time will produce a soft chickpea tofu; conversely, the longer you leave it in the fridge, the firmer it will be.
3) The next morning you can cook it according to your favorite recipes.
But if you want a firmer consistency, like the one in the photo, I recommend waiting until the next day.
Confused? Don’t worry: if you prepare the batter (for example) on Tuesday morning, you can cook the chickpea tofu for dinner on Thursday evening.
Before cooking, wipe off any water that may have formed on the edges of the chickpea flour tofu (inside the dish) with a tea towel (or kitchen roll): the longer you let it set, the more water the tofu will repel.
Then turn the dish upside down on a chopping board and cut the tofu into cubes, or into strips if you prefer.
You can keep the chickpea flour tofu in the dish (with the lid on) for up to 4 days, and if you want to double the amount by freezing half of it, you have the green light: In this case, before freezing the whole chickpea tofu block, I recommend that you cut it into cubes first, spread out the pieces on a tray; and freeze it for a couple of hours before transferring the cubes in a freezer container/bag (this technique also works wonders when you want to store avocado puree); when you want to consume it, to prevent the chickpea flour tofu from crumbling, thaw it before cooking.
You are now ready to cook chickpea tofu the way you like.
Personally, I like to cook it simply with the ingredients listed above and serve it with vegetables (or salads) dressed with plenty of lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil: this improves the absorption of iron and other essential minerals.
Enjoy your chickpea flour tofu and good revolution to all
1) Samtiya, M., Aluko, R.E. & Dhewa, T. Plant food anti-nutritional factors and their reduction strategies: an overview. Food Prod Process and Nutr 2, 6 (2020)
2) Hallberg, L et al. “The role of vitamin C in iron absorption.” International journal for vitamin and nutrition research. Supplement = Internationale Zeitschrift fur Vitamin- und Ernahrungsforschung. Supplement vol. 30 (1989): 103-8.