September 14, 2011

Blackened Scrambled Tofu & Garlicky Grits

by IsaChandra

Serves 4
Active time: 30 minutes || Total time: 30 minutes

Maybe it’s because I’m watching too much Food Network and True Blood lately, but I’ve been craving Southern food like mad. Or it could be that I just feel like I’m in the country, what with my garden and bird feeder, so it makes me want to sit on the porch with some sweet tea, just like in the movies! That’s all people in the south do, right?

But I think it’s also just that as the weather changes I begin to crave heavily seasoned foods and the feel of my cast iron skillet. So Southern cooking fits the bill!

I’ve always loved the look of shrimp and grits, with all those dark spices against a shimmery canvas of grits. So I thought I’d try it the hippie (or is it yuppie?) way…but does tofu and polenta have the same ring? Probably not.

In any case, these were easy and fun to make. Tofu is scrambled in big chunks with lots of onion and garlic, and then coated in dried herbs and spices, including two different kinds of paprika. I threw some cherry tomatoes in to bring a little moisture back to the scene. And like I said, the grits are actually polenta, with lots of sauteed garlic tossed in at the end. But feel free to use grits, too, I just didn’t have any at the time. This made a great brunch, but I think it would be good for dinner, too. And as you can see, I served it with a side of sauteed kale. Any greens will do!

Oh and a note: the polenta definitely makes more than you need, so poor the excess into a square tupperware while still hot. When ready to eat, slice into squares and panfry.

For the tofu

Spice blend:
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon coriander powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne (optional, if you want it spicy)
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed with your fingers

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, quartered and sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 block (12 to 14 oz) extra firm tofu
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
Fresh black pepper
1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half (I used sungolds)
Scallions for garnish

For the grits:
1 cup polenta corn grits (such as Bob’s Red Mill brand)
4 cups vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon salt (to taste, depending how salty your broth is)
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced

To make the tofu:
Combine the spice blend in a small cup or bowl.

Preheat a large, heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat. Saute the onion in olive oil for about a 5 minutes, then add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds.

Break the tofu apart into bite sized pieces and saute for about 10 minutes, using a spatula to stir often. Get under the tofu when you are stirring, scrape the bottom and don’t let it stick to the pan, that is where the good, crispy stuff is. Use a thin metal spatula to get the job done, a wooden or plastic one won’t really cut it. The tofu should get browned on at least one side, but you don’t need to be too precise about it. The water should cook out of it and not collect too much at the bottom of the pan. If that is happening, turn the heat up and let the water evaporate.

Add the lemon juice, salt and pepper and saute a minute more. Add the spice blend and mix to incorporate. Add the tomatoes and cook until they are warmed through and slightly broken down, about 5 minutes. Taste for salt and seasoning and keep warm until ready to serve.

To make the polenta:
Bring vegetable broth and salt to a boil in a 2 quart pot. Lower heat to simmer. Add the polenta in a slow steady stream, stirring constantly with a whisk. Whisk for about 5 minutes, until polenta is thickened. Keeping heat low, cover and let cook for 20 more minutes or so, stirring occasionally.

When polenta is almost done, preheat a small pan over medium-low heat. Saute the garlic in oil just until it begins to sizzle, being careful not to burn. Stir for 30 seconds, then transfer to the cooked polenta and mix well.

To serve:
Spoon some polenta onto a plate and scoop on some tofu, overlapping a bit. Complete the plate with greens, then garnish with scallion.



  • September 14, 2011 at 6:27 pm: PeaSoup

    I’m making this tonight!

  • September 14, 2011 at 6:52 pm: Kaitlyn@TheTieDyeFiles

    Amazing! I might make this for breakfast for the boyfriend and I this weekend. Prove to him that vegan breakfast can be just as delicious as his beloved omelettes!

  • September 14, 2011 at 7:39 pm: Lacey

    I’m a southerner, so maybe I’m nitpicky, but polenta and grits are not the same thing.

    • September 14, 2011 at 7:45 pm: IsaChandra

      I said as much in the recipe!

  • September 14, 2011 at 7:42 pm: Tizmarelda

    I’ve been on a big tofu scramble kick lately, i’ll have to try this one – probably with the kale cooked right into the scramble. Also, love the addition of the “grits”.

  • September 14, 2011 at 8:46 pm: Christopher

    I think you mean sungolds. Jonagolds are the apples. Just picking nits. Looks yummy.

    • September 14, 2011 at 9:33 pm: IsaChandra

      Haha, my brain is broke! I’ll update.

  • September 14, 2011 at 8:48 pm: melody polakow: Vegan for 3.33 a day

    Perfect comfort food!

  • September 14, 2011 at 10:35 pm: LoveNola

    Thanks for the southern love the past few weeks! After making the okra gumbo, might I request a vegan etouffee? I will definitely make it if it appears in your bog.

  • September 14, 2011 at 10:47 pm: Anne

    Looks great! I always thought the recipe for shrimp and grits looked yummy, except for, you know, the shrimp……

  • September 15, 2011 at 1:33 am: Meister @ The Nervous Cook

    Blackened tofu sounds so good — I always forget (embarrassing!) how versatile tofu is, and end up getting into a complete rut with the stuff. But this might be just the thing to get me out of said rut. (If I have to eat one more baked-tofu sandwich…)

  • September 15, 2011 at 2:01 am: Ricki

    Holy jeepers, this looks amazing! I love, love, love blackened anything! Can’t wait to try it. :)

  • September 15, 2011 at 2:19 am: Ausfox

    Excellent, just realised I already have everything I need for this so a yummy breakfast coming up for us tomorrow!

  • September 16, 2011 at 1:23 pm: Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar

    Love this! Everything looks so yummy!

  • September 19, 2011 at 9:17 pm: Emily

    I made this last night with grits instead of polenta, and it was incredible. Leftovers for lunch today were even better. Thanks Isa!

  • September 22, 2011 at 1:34 pm: Gwen Binns

    We tried this last night, and it was a HUGE hit with the family! I’m pretty lucky that our kids like trying new things and love tofu! I will definitely make this again. I look forward to trying more recipes. :)

  • September 26, 2011 at 1:49 pm: mikaila

    I made this on Saturday, and it was perfect. I’m a huge fan of blackening just about anything and tofu is no exception. Served up with some biscuits and tempeh gravy from VWAV.

  • September 26, 2011 at 2:50 pm: Carol

    mmmmmmmm, this looks so good. i’m drooling..

  • September 27, 2011 at 5:32 pm: Amy

    WOW!!! This was delicious! My husband could not stop raving about the recipe. Thank you so much!

  • September 28, 2011 at 5:35 pm: hannahmarie

    This is going to be dinner tonight. I can’t wait!

  • September 28, 2011 at 9:04 pm: Ana

    Can we get a calorie count and yield? Thanks

  • October 6, 2011 at 6:51 pm: Elizabeth

    Although I couldn’t get the tofu to brown this was delicious anyway!! I ended up adding green peppers along with the onions and creamed up some cashews and garlic to add to the polenta instead of doing it the other way (making the garlic and then adding it). Mostly because I was lazy and had some left over from the kale I was making. This is such an awesome repeat and I’ll definitely make it again. It’s awesome that it’s perfect for either breakfast OR dinner :)

  • October 10, 2011 at 8:26 pm: Amanda

    mmm. made this tonight. dellicious! i didn’t even have the right kinds of paprika and it still turned out amazing!

  • October 12, 2011 at 12:17 am: Heather

    This was really delicious! I did garlic millet instead of polenta and it’s so so good. Thanks!

  • October 14, 2011 at 2:10 am: Sue

    This is brilliant….I’m sitting here sweating as I type after eating a heap of this stuff (I went heavy on the cayenne). The lemon juice seemed wrong in this recipe, but I went with it, and it was exactly the RIGHT flavor. I used already-pressed tofu which I highly recommend for this type of recipe. It’s firmer than firm and very little water in it. My local Asian grocery has about 50 different types of tofu, many of which are incomprehensible, but “PRESSED” I understand. It even looks flattened.

  • October 19, 2011 at 12:56 am: Marian @ marianwrites

    this was so delicious! I was really worried it wouldn’t turn out since I basically crumbled my tofu (instead of breaking into small pieces) and used white balsamic instead of lemon juice….but it was amazing. I loved the thyme/paprika combo. The flavors were spot-on, it was SO satisfying, and I love any recipe that asks me to mince a WHOLE HEAD of garlic. As always, Isa, you rock.

  • October 31, 2011 at 8:32 pm: Lisa

    This was amazing! I made the scramble with the greens mixed in and added some “Fakin Bakin” tempeh bits just for giggles. Skipped the grits in favor of Isa Chandra’s buckwheat pancakes (which I haven’t even made yet, because I’m so enthralled with the blackened tofu). The yellow tomatoes and greens with the little bits of black flecked tofu make this a great Halloween dinner. Yum!

  • November 3, 2011 at 11:06 pm: Emily

    I used a teaspoon of marmite with the water since I was out of stock as well as actual corn grits and it turned out great. I needed a little more salt but that is an always an easy fix after. Thanks Isa for the wonderful recipe!!

  • December 3, 2011 at 2:25 pm: Elisabetta Pendola

    emily, sounds great with marmite as well! great recipe I just love tofu scramble for breakfast, dinner and everytimes!

  • February 5, 2012 at 4:49 pm: Cocoa

    Thank you for this wonderful recipe! Just tried it now wishing that I had made more. I mixed spinach in with my scramble and it was absolutely delicious! This is truly an “any time of day” type of meal. Yummy!

  • March 29, 2012 at 2:48 am: Juba

    MMMM na na na na. This recipe is so good it hurts. A tweak: add some fresh dill. Kicks it up. Boyfriend just asked “do you want me to finish yours for you.” hah.

  • April 4, 2012 at 11:52 pm: Amanda

    I just made this tonight and it was AMAZING!!!!! Thank you so much! :D

  • June 18, 2012 at 2:06 pm: Marcus

    Very cool. I’ll be eating this tomorrow morning!

  • July 30, 2012 at 9:00 pm: Jessie

    This has become my favorite fridge cleanout dish. Had too many baby heirloom tomatoes, so oven cured them the night before and added to the scramble. Perfect!! Even my 1 year old gobbled it up.

  • November 21, 2012 at 3:32 am: Sarah

    I have been trying to make perfect scratch pancakes – vegan or not for years and have never been able to get them right. I made your recipe this morning and they came out exactly like the picture – perfect!!! I am so excited to have finally found a recipe to make pancakes from scratch that is vegan and wonderful! Thank you so much! One comment for those having a hard time getting the milk and vinegar to froth, use an immersion blender if you have one, it works great.

  • November 21, 2012 at 4:06 am: Sarah

    So i left my comment on puffy, pillow pancakes in the wrong spot, sorry!

  • December 2, 2012 at 3:03 am: Endless Jake

    This was amazing. The only things I changed was to add more garlic and cayenne. This is my new default tofu scramble recipe. Thanks for sharing

  • January 29, 2013 at 3:52 pm: Meridith

    Made this last night with sautéed spinach with liquid aminos and it was so tasty. Thanks Isa!

  • May 22, 2013 at 1:03 am: Shannon Rose

    Isa, have you ever made tofu scramble in an enameled cast iron pan? Does the metal spatula scratch the enamel? I can attest that plastic does not cut it. All the good brown bits, lost to the pan…RIP brown bits.

  • September 16, 2013 at 2:10 pm: Robin F.

    As luck would have it, my CSA has a “pick your own” patch and I had a ton of Sungolds to get rid of and I saw this recipe and knew I had to make it! So one Sunday morning, my family ate like kings thanks to this meal! The blackened tofu was perfectly seasoned and the polenta was garlicky but not too overwhelming and serving it with collard greens just completed this dish perfectly. I will be making this again!

  • October 28, 2013 at 9:20 pm: Betty

    Most of the comments here are not how your recipe tastes but how great it sounds. For a true review, I’d like to see feedback on how your recipe tastes not how amazing it sounds.

  • May 1, 2014 at 4:29 am: Sally K.

    I love my cast iron skillets and pots! This is just the sort of rustic comfort food I crave when the weather turns bleak. I have smoked paprika and plain paprika in my spice collection, so this is a perfect time to try your lovely recipe.