January 31, 2009

Tofu Balls

by IsaChandra

Makes 12 – 16 tofu balls
Time: 30 minutes

This is modified from Louise Hagler’s Tofu Cookery. It was the recipe that my family and I started cooking together over 20 years ago.

1 lb. extra firm tofu
1 small very finely chopped onion
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons peanut butter
1/2 cup bread crumbs
A few pinches fresh basil or oregano

Flour for rolling balls in

Oil to pan-fry in

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Roll into 1 1/2 inch balls. Roll in flour and fry in preheated skillet, cooking until slightly to medium brown on all sides.



  • February 4, 2011 at 3:15 am: Corey

    I made this for the first time tonight. Scanning the ingredients list, I was doubtful, but they taste AMAZING! However, mine ended up a little… mushy? They were nice and crispy on the outside, especially where they had cooked longest, but they fell apart very easily. Any way to firm them up a little?

    • February 4, 2011 at 6:51 am: IsaChandra

      I’d add some breadcrumbs if they’re too mushy, but the recipe is a bit mushy.

  • February 18, 2011 at 9:27 pm: Katherine

    what kind of sauce do you usually serve with this?

  • March 22, 2011 at 12:55 am: Kumquat

    I make this recipe frequently, however, instead of bread crumbs, I substitute whatever gluten-free crackers or chips I have on hand (crushed, of course). The first time I tried to make them, they didn’t hold together, but I ended up with a great-tasting dish, anyway. Now, I don’t even try to make balls out of them and Tofu Hash is one of my families’ most requested dinners. We like it best with spagetti.

  • April 29, 2011 at 4:04 am: Jenni

    Is this a substitute for meatballs?

  • May 8, 2011 at 1:08 pm: Julieanne

    I’m vegetarian and my boyfriend is a total carnivore and last time I tried to make ‘meat’ balls I used GimmeLean’s ground beef and it was terrible tasting….do you think this is something a carnivore would enjoy?

    • May 9, 2011 at 12:14 am: IsaChandra

      All of the meat-eaters I have served this to over the past 20 years have loved it. However, don’t call them meatballs. They are their own special creation!

  • May 11, 2011 at 7:15 pm: newbie

    Love your site and your cookbooks. Just received the cookie book and excited to bake! Ok… forgive my ignorance with this question. I’m a newbie and haven’t used tofu yet beyond marinating, slicing, and baking or sautéing. I think I’m missing something really obvious here. When you say combine ingredients in a bowl, does the tofu get mushy and mix-in with all of the other ingredients or do I need to cut it into small pieces or grate it before I put it in the bowl? Thanks!

    • May 12, 2011 at 2:31 am: IsaChandra

      You have to mash it really well! You can mash the tofu first, then add everything else and mash together with your hands.

  • June 10, 2011 at 1:10 pm: Trista

    After I added all the goods, I used my hands and mashed it up real well, then I rolled them and put them in the fridge for about 15mins. They stayed together real well while I cooked them in the pan. I enjoyed the flavor and texture.

  • August 1, 2011 at 1:30 am: Sabrina

    My mouth is watering!!! I look forward to making this very soon!!!

  • August 6, 2011 at 1:12 am: Karina

    question , i have a family member allergic to all nuts. Is there anything that can be substituted for the peanutbutter?

  • October 1, 2011 at 10:01 pm: Melissa

    I’m curious if you prepared these in advance, and freezed them, if they would be less mushy? I haven’t tried the recipe yet but I’m aware that freezing tofu can give it a nice chewy texture (an awesome Asian vegan restaurant in Worcester, Ma makes all their meat substitutes out of tofu and I’m pretty sure this is part of their method–they speak very bad English so I’ve never asked).

  • October 1, 2011 at 10:15 pm: Melissa

    ‘freezed’? Why did I think that was a word a few minutes ago? My intellect is apparently reverting to that of a 3 year-old.

  • October 17, 2011 at 11:22 pm: Samantha

    MMMMMM! delicious!!!! Only issue was that they are a bit delicate, but a bit more bread crumbs helps with that, so does chilling them before cooking. Sooo tasty!

  • November 11, 2011 at 5:03 pm: Elizabeth

    I absolutely loved these! Sooo yummy. I plan on making this often!

  • December 1, 2011 at 2:30 am: kizat

    these were fun to make. they held their form while cooking but when you cut them, they did crumble. they were tasty none the less, but could use more seasonings. next time i will throw in more herbs/spice for some punch. the first night i served them with pasta & marinara, second night a pesto sauce which was better. there are endless flavor combinations with these tofballz!

  • December 5, 2011 at 4:17 am: linda @spiceboxtravels

    these were awesome! mine kept form so long as I didn’t fry too long. the tofu and PB reminded me of Indonesian gado-gado– I think these would be great with rice noodles and shredded scallions and ginger, maybe a drizzle of sesame oil. this is the second PPK recipe I’ve tried (the other was cornbread for TG stuffing) and both were fantastic.

  • December 6, 2011 at 1:34 am: culpritsmom

    WoW! These were wonderful. I used thawed frozen tofu which did add a nice consistency. I had some extra mushrooms I needed to do something with so I added them too. I had one tablespoon of tomato paste left so I threw that in too. I ate one after I pan fried it and was afraid that I would eat them all before the noodles cooked! As a relatively new vegan, I am hooked on your recipes. Thanks!

  • December 6, 2011 at 11:45 pm: becky

    must.make.these.now.

  • December 7, 2011 at 1:15 am: Priscilla

    I wasn’t sure what these would be like but I trust you, so I went for it. I should not have doubted you. They were delicious!

    I had a couple balls fall apart in the pan. It seems like if you cook them evenly on all sides, so one side doesn’t get too hard, they stay together better. I think they stay more structurally sound if the outside is of even strength, rather than one side getting hard while another side is very soft.

    Question…do you think all this could just be whipped together in a food processor?

    • December 7, 2011 at 6:41 am: IsaChandra

      The trick is to much them really really well and make sure the onion is very well chopped. If the pieces are too big, that’s when you’ll have trouble. I’ve never had a ball fall apart in 20 years! And no, it has to be mushed by hand otherwise it’ll be gloopy.

  • December 8, 2011 at 11:00 am: Andy L-S

    Curious how these would be baked, rather than fried? Any thoughts?

  • December 9, 2011 at 6:34 pm: jillian

    i just made these gluten free with ingredients i had on hand at home. i subbed gluten free pretzels that i threw in the food processor for the bread crumbs, tamari for the soy sauce, and madrona almond butter for the peanut butter. i didn’t roll them in flour afterwards, but they turned out pretty good! i just topped with artichoke pesto sauce for a snack. it was a little difficult to fry, they started falling apart a bit, but they taste good.

  • December 10, 2011 at 8:07 pm: Cait

    @Andy: I made something similar once and baked them. They firmed up well enough but i think you really do need to fry them to get that lovely browning (although maybe broiling would have helped). If you bake them, you might not need the flour either.

  • December 13, 2011 at 9:45 pm: Jonathan

    Dynamite! Thanks for the great recipe. I cooked them up last night with the pesto pasta, and they were very good. I substituted in tamari for soy sauce, almond butter for PB, and panko for bread crumbs. I also add about a tsp of garlic/onion powder. Yummy!

  • December 18, 2011 at 6:32 pm: Laura

    I’m going to try this tonight!I Can’t wait!

  • January 4, 2012 at 1:14 am: Suzanne

    These were fantastic! I made them instead of the bean balls with the marinara sauce in Veganomicon. So easy, too. I was skeptical with such few ingredients, but even the raw product was tasty. The only changes: red pepper flakes and oregano. Love ‘em!

  • January 6, 2012 at 9:07 pm: Caitlin

    What kind of oil are you using to fry these in?

    • January 6, 2012 at 10:06 pm: IsaChandra

      Olive oil.

  • January 11, 2012 at 8:08 pm: IanMaddox

    Can’t wait to make these tonight! We aren’t vegan but don’t eat red meat very much at all. Tofu is not something I am used to using but this recipe sounds divine! :D Thanks!

  • January 16, 2012 at 1:10 am: Reginald Szewczyk

    Could you bake these in the oven for a healthier version?

    • January 16, 2012 at 3:31 am: IsaChandra

      Sure!

  • January 21, 2012 at 12:00 am: Kate

    These were so delicious. I threw them in the fridge for a few hours before frying, and they held together when eating very well. I also accidentally used vital wheat gluten instead of regular flour; not sure if that made a difference too.
    They were so easy to make! I’ll definitely be making these again.

  • January 28, 2012 at 12:32 am: Dixie

    I made mixed all the ingredients together last night, but then didn’t have time to cook them. I let it sit overnight in the fridge, then baked them for a bit. They were great baked, but then I pan-fried them for a little extra crispiness and served them on tofu Shiritake noodles with melted Daiya and sauteed spinach! YUM! THANK YOU!

  • January 30, 2012 at 6:10 pm: Sonja

    I made these last night with the PPK pesto recipe (and roasted cauliflower and brocolli, also from that recipe). Every single aspect turned out yummy, and I’ve still got lots of mixture to make them again tonight (that’s why I’m here, mooching for more sauce options). I blended everything then added the onion, and although they came out more like patties, it was delicious blended. Thank you Isa!

  • January 31, 2012 at 10:47 pm: Alisha

    Can these be frozen and used at a later date? If so, what’s the best way to reheat them?

  • February 5, 2012 at 5:35 pm: erin

    what do you do with the firm brick of tofu when combining all ingredients? crush it with a fork/crumble it?

  • February 7, 2012 at 4:05 am: Red Jay

    These were great: I didn’t have extra firm so I used firm Tofu and did them in the oven. Awesome taste and hard not to eat them all out of the pan!! I ended up putting them into fresh made corn tortilla’s with pan fried peppers/onions, some lettuce and a little liquified baba ganoush drizzled overtop ….great twist on a soft taco.

    2 for 2 awesome recipes!!

  • February 15, 2012 at 2:34 am: Kim

    I made these last night and they look exactly like the picture! They didn’t fall apart in the pan either. I used really firm tofu and I crumbled it by hand until they were tiny chunks before mixing the rest of the ingredients in. Wow these were awesome and very filling! I also made the Bestest Pesto recipe and cauliflower and everyone loved it. I doubled all the recipes so I actually have LOADS left which is awesome for lunches :)

  • February 16, 2012 at 11:00 pm: NR

    I just made these. I was curious to see how they taste fried vs. baked so fried a few and baked the rest (400 oven on a baking paper + a bit oil) and I think i like the baked versions as much as the fried!! Another thing I added was a little bit of garlic powder and cinnamon (a bit of midle east style spice that is usually used with meat) and I really like the results!

  • February 17, 2012 at 1:49 am: Caitlyn

    I love these so much! I also tweak the recipe sometimes (more breadcrumbs and a bit more peanut butter), roll them in breadcrumbs with some spices, and bake for tofu nuggets. Yum!

  • March 2, 2012 at 10:20 pm: Rebecca

    Oh, my! Another great recipe. I’ve been experimenting with your tips and recipes lately, and I have never had my food come out so good (and sort of looking like the recipe pictures)!

  • March 29, 2012 at 7:42 am: jejune

    these are good with sweet chili sauce :}

  • April 18, 2012 at 2:22 am: Alyssa

    I make this recipe about twice per month. Sometimes, when I feel like getting crazy, I use herbed tofu instead of plain. I know. Insane. Other days, I make chick’n nuggets by rolling them into seasoned panko bread crumbs and baking in a 350-ish degree oven for 10-20 minutes-ish. Once I even subbed tahini for peanut butter. Yes, I’m not lying. I totally did. All of these methods result in deliciousness.

  • May 28, 2012 at 8:51 pm: Therese

    I love these balls! And they are so versatile… Awesome with shallots and parsley, or with extra basil and garlic instead of onion. Can’t get enough of ‘em! Thank you Isa!

  • June 1, 2012 at 1:43 pm: Gretchen

    Wow, these were great! A hit with my picky six-year-old, too! Crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside. Made our gluten-free spaghetti and meatballs a filling, delicious meal.

  • September 17, 2012 at 7:44 am: Jeff

    I’ve found that grating the tofu with a box grater works best for me :)

  • November 3, 2012 at 3:06 pm: Beth Anne

    Has anyone tried rolling in cornstarch instead of flour? I always found that crisps up my regular sliced tofu really well. Also, adding a bit of Nutritional Yeast to the mixture helps with flavor.

  • November 9, 2012 at 9:14 pm: Gwen

    For those who are getting a mushy result: truly firm tofu cannot generally be purchased at a super market. You must get your tofu from either a health food store or Asian grocery. This is the secret.

  • December 10, 2012 at 7:11 am: Malorie

    Before I make these, which kind of peanut butter would be best to start with? The kind you need to stir with just peanuts and salt (more runny and grainy) or the no stir kind (usually also has sugar in it and thicker)? Thanks :)

  • January 9, 2013 at 1:22 am: Caiti

    Just made these tonight for supper. I read that they stay together bet if refrigerated a bit so I made them a bit early in the day and they probably sat in the fridge for 2.5 hours. I had zero problems with them falling apart and they were excellent! I kept the ingredients hidden from the man in fear that he’d reject them, but after taking a bite and exclaiming how good they were he was shocked at what the ingredient list was. Definitely a recipe to make again in the future.

  • February 5, 2013 at 8:32 pm: Hanna

    I plan on making these tonight and am hoping for some clarification. The type of tofu here, is it the bricks in liquid? Or the unrefrigerated blocks on the shelf? Also, this will require at least two bricks of tofu, right? Will tamari be an adequate substitute for the soy sauce? Should I use a bit more tamari or some salt in addition to make up for it? I don’t have soy sauce on hand. Thank you! I have loved EVERY one of your recipes so far and just got VWAV and AFR in the mail today!

    • February 6, 2013 at 1:10 am: IsaChandra

      It’s a refrigerated block of tofu. Only one. They are usually 14 oz or so, so not quite a pound. Tamari will work as a 1:1 swap. Enjoy!

  • March 2, 2013 at 5:24 am: Hanna

    I made these last night with the following variations – tamari subbed for soy sauce, almond butter instead of peanut (I don’t like peanuts or their butter), and I added italian seasoning, garlic salt, and oregano to taste. They were amazing. Like, not just vegan-good, they were out of this world delicious. I dried the tofu out very well, and microwaved it a bit to get out some of the moisture. It was the perfect consistency. I used a medium-sized ice cream type scoop to scoop out the balls and they were just perfect. Not crumbly or anything. Perfection. I will forever be in your debt, for these and many more vegan delights!!!!!!

  • March 9, 2013 at 8:06 pm: Deanna

    Tried these today! Didn’t have breadcrumbs so I pused some oats in my food processer and this held together well! Love i!

  • July 2, 2013 at 11:54 pm: Julie

    This recipe turned out grrrrrreat!!

  • August 9, 2013 at 12:22 am: Inabubble

    I Love, love these! Had the recipe years ago. Lost it. Soooo happy to have found it. Thanks!

  • August 22, 2013 at 5:18 pm: Julia Goryun

    I just made them but they are not my peace of cake. Like falafel much better.

  • September 23, 2013 at 4:29 am: Nicole

    These are great. Seems the key is to chop the onions almost to the point of mincing. And mash it up really well. Also, I used tongs to turn them in the skillet. I think if I’d used a spatula or spoon, they would have fallen apart. I made these gluten-free also, and they turned out great–I used Ener-G gluten-free breadcrumbs and Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose flour. Excellent recipe. Will definitely keep it on file.

  • December 17, 2013 at 3:49 am: Michelle

    I used chickpea flour instead of bread crumb and baked them.

  • February 27, 2014 at 3:40 pm: dk

    I’ve made this a couple of times and half the time, I don’t roll them flour and just bake them at 400 for 20 min, turning a couple times and I think they are just as tasty!

    Also, I use panko breadcrumbs, worchestershire sauce for half the soy, and add some strong mustard. mmmm! Love new ideas for the old tofu block!

  • March 5, 2014 at 2:01 am: Mal

    Awesome and easy to modify! Thank you!
    I regularly make vegan sausage and seitan so this was a nice addition to the rotation.
    My “additions”: added 1/2 cup of vital wheat gluten, worcestershire and soy, italian seasoning, 2 tbsp of ketchup. Fried in oil first then baked at 325 for 20 min.
    Results: great taste and yummy possibilites!

  • March 16, 2014 at 2:18 am: Clinch

    I made these after reading all the positive reviews…no one in my family liked them. We each tasted one and threw away the rest.

  • April 7, 2014 at 8:01 pm: Stephanie Duggan-Haggan

    Nice I have the Tofu Cookery in my cook book stack as well , bought it 25 years ago or so :-) I’ll be giving your version a wurl :-) thanks Iza you rock !

  • April 17, 2014 at 5:56 pm: Rita

    Wow! I am pleasantly surprised and impressed!! These are VERY similar in texture to the tofu and edamame nuggets from Trader Joe’s, and that’s a very good thing! After I mixed everything, I let it chill in the fridge while I made the Bestest Pesto, and they held together beautifully (I also had about 1 or 2 Tbs extra breadcrumbs, just to be safe). They were a bit chilly in the middle (my ancient stove has issues), so after getting a nice sear on them, I finished them in the oven. YUM. I see a tofu meatball sandwich happening very soon.