Tofu, Pea and Herb Fritters
Here’s a spring-perfect way to enjoy tofu–turn them into fritters with peas and herbs. I used scallions and dill but use your favorite spring veggies and herbs. They’re super easy, too.
When you’re craving salmon cakes and crab cakes but you can’t shake persistent thoughts of a meatless alternative these tofu fritters happen instead. I have these Quinoa Cakes deep in the L+A archives—but using tofu was new to me.
What an inspired idea, I thought, but it lasted for just a second. Somehow I knew that Google would burst my bubble and I was right—of course everyone else has done tofu fritters before, how silly of me.
But though this recipe may be not be culinarily innovative it’s still worth sharing. I wanted a spring-themed fritter so I paired the tofu with peas and instead of bold flavor boosters like curry powder or turmeric I opted for something simple, a flexible recipe that I could use for variations down the road. So I went with unexotic but not bland herbs and seasonings.
My humble add-ons were dill and scallions but this would work with parsley or cilantro and whatever spices you prefer. Bell peppers would be a great addition, too, and I can see Thai-inspired tofu fritters happening soon with the addition of Thai red curry paste.
The biggest tip I can share is to make sure your tofu is well-drained before you use it. Though I normally use extra-firm tofu in my cooking I went with the softer silken variety for these fritters because the latter seemed to be the popular choice in the recipes I came across on the web. Both will work just fine.
Important: If you use firm tofu you can crumble the drained block in small pieces. With the silken variety I recommend draining the block at least several hours or overnight. After mine had drained for a few hours quite a bit of liquid had collected in my bowl. Then dinner plans changed at the last minute so my silken tofu stayed in the fridge until the following afternoon. I was surprised to see how much more liquid had drained out of it. And contrary to recipes that instruct the cook to use a food processor I found that mashing the tofu in a bowl with a fork was much easier and worked great. A food processor would have turned the tofu to mush.
Even if you drain the tofu overnight you will still have a slightly moist mixture but don’t worry. Up until you form the patties and press them into the plate of bread crumbs you’ll think that your fritters will fall apart but they won’t. They will magically come together in the pan, turn a beautiful golden brown with a light crispness on the outside and steaming inside. They will be firm enough to eat with your hands but would pair well with a light salad, too.
They also reheat well in a pan or toaster oven, the dill flavor more amplified a day or two later. I used a store-bought sweet chili dipping sauce for my fritters but you can use anything you like—tzatziki, teriyaki or tartar sauce. And as weird as it sounds, try melting a slice of cheese on top of the fritters as you reheat them—it’s what I did with my leftover pieces and they tasted great, especially with a dash of green Tabasco. If I’d had hamburger buns I would have been tempted to make a mock fish sandwich with them.
But scratch that. They don’t need to be called mock anything. These tofu fritters don’t need to play second fiddle–not to a salmon cake, crab cake or a fish sandwich. They can certainly hold their own.
Tofu, Pea and Herb Fritters
Here’s a spring-perfect way to enjoy tofu–turn them into fritters with peas and herbs. I used scallions and dill but use your favorite spring veggies and herbs. The key is to make sure your tofu is well-drained.
- 1 block Silken Tofu, well-drained (See Note)
- 3/4 cup fresh or defrosted frozen peas
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 egg (omit if vegan or use an egg substitute)
- 1 shallot finely minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped (or your favorite herb)
- 2 stalks scallions, chopped
- 1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon Maggi seasoning or coconut aminos
- 2 cups Panko breadcrumbs
- olive oil for frying
- Sweet chili sauce for dipping
Put the block of well-drained tofu in a mixing bowl and mash it with a fork until you have tiny tofu pieces. The mixture will still look a little wet but everything will come together just fine. Just make sure you drained for at least a few hours.
To the tofu add the ingredients from the peas to the Maggi seasoning. Use the fork to toss the ingredients together. Again, it will look a little wet and this is fine. If you think it looks too wet sprinkle a bit more flour.
Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a well-seasoned cast iron or nonstick pan (see note). Pour the bread crumbs on a plate. Using your hand, take a roughly lime-size or golf ball-size portion of the tofu mixture and form it into a patty. Press both sides into the bread crumbs. The mixture will be loose and light but don’t worry. Transfer the patty onto the pan with the heated oil and cook each side for 4-5 minutes. Don’t be afraid to keep the patty in the pan. You want each side golden and look crisp. Add oil as necessary as the patties will absorb it as it cooks. Repeat with the remaining mixture–you’ll need to cook in batches.
Serve with your favorite sweet chili sauce. Note: leftover patties can be refrigerated and heat well on the stovetop a day or even two days later.
Tofu: Silken tofu is much softer and wetter than firm tofu. For this, it’s very important to drain it well. I let mine sit on a colander in the fridge overnight but at least a few hours will do. The tofu will still seem too wet to use but it will come together. I like it because it’s easy to mash. Firm or extra-firm tofu should also work–it should also be drained well. If it doesn’t mash easily with a fork you can crumble in small pieces with your hands or pulse through a food processor.
Frying the Patties: You can use a lot of oil to fry the patties but I prefer to use only as much oil as I need so I use a few tablespoons in the pan at a time and add as needed.