This tofu ground beef is easy to make, perfectly seasoned, and cooks up with a texture similar to ground beef. It quickly comes together using common pantry staples for an easy weeknight meal. Add it to pasta sauces or use it as a ground beef substitute in your favorite plant-based dinner recipe.
Originally, I made a tofu crumble to add to my vegan sloppy joes recipe. It worked perfectly and gave the lentil filling a nice meaty texture.
Since the crumble was such a great addition to the sloppy joes, I knew it needed its own recipe.
I decided to up the flavors so it would taste great alone, or added to recipes that call for ground beef.
So, if you’re looking for a good vegan meat substitute to add to your dish this one is for you! It's delicious, packed with protein, and versatile.
Ingredients and Substitutions
These simple ingredients are all you need for this vegan ground beef recipe.
Tofu – Use extra-firm tofu for the best texture. Super firm tofu (vacuum sealed) is another great option and it doesn't need to be pressed. To use firm tofu, you may need to press it and cook it a bit longer.
Olive oil – I used olive oil to add richness to the vegan ground beef. You can use any neutral oil you have, or leave it out for an oil-free option.
Soy sauce – This gives the tofu an umami flavor and a darker color. Use tamari sauce for a gluten-free replacement.
Nutritional yeast – The nutritional yeast brings another savory element to the dish as well as some added vitamin B12.
Tomato paste – I used tomato paste as a thickener and for more flavor.
Agave Nectar – This sweetener is used to neutralize the tang in the tomato paste. You can use maple syrup or another liquid sweetener as a substitute.
Chili powder – Use a mild chili powder blend to keep the dish from being too spicy.
Other spices – Paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and oregano make up the remaining spices. I suggest using all of them for the best flavor.
How to make tofu ground beef
This recipe comes together in about 15 minutes following these easy steps.
Start by pressing the tofu to remove the excess water. You can use a tofu press or wrap it in a clean kitchen towel, or a few paper towels, and place a slightly heavy object on top.
Step 1: While the tofu is being pressed, make the seasoning mix.
In a small bowl, combine everything except the tofu –spices, oil, tomato paste, soy sauce, and sweetener. You should have a paste similar to the above image after mixing, set it aside.
Step 2: In a large bowl crumble the tofu. Use your hands to break it into small pieces.
Step 3: Add the seasoning paste to the bowl of crumbles.
Step 4: Mix everything together until the tofu is evenly covered in the seasonings. You can use a spatula or a large spoon to mix.
Tip: It may seem like there isn't enough seasoning paste, but keep mixing. Eventually, the tofu will be evenly coated.
Step 5: Now, spread the crumbles out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Step 6: Bake at 350ºF for 20-30 minutes. Periodically check to see if the top is browning. If so, mix the crumbles around the pan to evenly cook them.
Tip: My favorite way to cook the tofu is in the oven, but you can also cook it on the stovetop. Instructions are in the recipe card below.
This vegan tofu crumble can be adapted to fit any recipe that calls for ground beef. Enjoy it in any of these dishes and more.
It’s delicious in pasta sauce. Try it in bolognese sauce, spaghetti sauce, or lasagna. It adds a meaty texture and extra protein to the meal.
Use it in Mexican dishes. Include a few extra spices like cumin, coriander, and lime juice. Add cayenne pepper or chipotle powder for some extra heat. Then use it in your tacos, burritos, nachos, stuffed peppers, Mexican casseroles, taco soup, skillets, rice dishes, and more.
Enjoy it in your favorite recipe. Try it in shepherd’s pie, a casserole dish, stir fry, vegan wrap, or vegan chili as a ground beef replacement.
Or, use it as a ground sausage substitute. Add smoked paprika or liquid smoke and ground fennel seed then, use it as a pizza topping, in breakfast burritos, or vegan hamburger helper.
For overcooked tofu: If your tofu dries out too much during the cooking process, no problem. If you're adding it into a sauce it will rehydrate. Otherwise, you can add a few Tablespoons of water or veggie broth to rehydrate it.
For the best crispy texture: For the crispiest texture, crumble the tofu into small pieces and use the baking instructions. The bigger the tofu crumble pieces are the softer they will be, but they do add a variety of texture if you don’t mind.
Frequently asked questions
Absolutely! This recipe is great for freezing. It keeps in there for 3-4 months so it's easily available when you need a ground meat substitute. Thaw it in the fridge, reheat it in a sauce, or reheat it in the oven straight from the freezer.
Yes! Spread the seasoned crumbles out in the air fryer basket in a single layer. Cook at 325ºF for 15 minutes. Stir the tofu every 5 minutes to keep it from drying out too much. If needed, cook in batches.
It can! Since tofu is very plain it can be seasoned to taste like meat. And in this recipe, when the tofu crumbles are baked the texture can resemble real beef that will even impress a meat eater.
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- 1 (14-ounce) block of extra-firm tofu
- 2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon soy sauce, or tamari
- 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon chili powder blend
- 1 teaspoon ground paprika
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ⅓ teaspoon agave nectar, or maple syrup
- ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
Prep the tofu and spice mix
- Press the tofu: Start by pressing the block of tofu to remove the excess water. You can use a tofu press or wrap it in a clean kitchen towel, or a few paper towels, and place a slightly heavy object, such as a heavy chopping board or plate, on top. Set aside to drain for 10-15 minutes.
- Mix the seasonings: In the meantime make the seasoning mix. In a small bowl mix all of the ingredients together (except the tofu) until well combined. It should create a paste. Set it aside.
- Crumble the tofu: In a large bowl, use your hands (or a potato masher) to break up and crumble the tofu into small pieces.
- Mix together tofu and seasoning paste: Then, add the seasoning paste to the bowl of crumbled tofu. Use a spatula or a large spoon to mix them together until the tofu is evenly covered in the seasonings. It may seem like not enough seasonings, but keep mixing. Eventually, the tofu will have an even coating.
Now it’s time to cook the tofu. It can be baked in the oven or pan-fried on the stovetop. Baking will produce the best crispy texture.
- Preheat your oven to 350ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Transfer the seasoned crumbled tofu to the baking sheet.
- Bake at 350ºF for 20-30 minutes or until the texture is to your liking. At the 10-minute mark, stir the crumble around the pan to evenly cook. Then, check back every 5 minutes or so to see if the top is browning. If so, give it another stir.
- Place the seasoned tofu in a large skillet or nonstick pan. Add a few extra teaspoons of olive oil (or neutral cooking oil of choice) to the pan.
- Cook over medium-high heat stirring frequently for about 15-25 minutes, or until the tofu is brown and the texture is to your liking.
Use it in vegan: tacos, burritos, nachos, skillet meals, spaghetti, lasagna, bolognese, shepherd's pie, stir fry, chili, wraps, or as a pizza topping.
Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.
For the best texture bake the tofu: The baked tofu cooks up crispier than the pan-fried version. The oven dries the tofu out which the pan can not do as well. So, if you want the best meaty texture I suggest using the baking instructions.
For a sausage flavor: Add ½ teaspoon smoked paprika and ⅛-1/4 teaspoon ground fennel seed to the seasoning mix.
To use it in Mexican dishes: Add ½ teaspoon cumin, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon powder, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. For extra heat add red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, or chipotle powder to taste.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 29Total Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 326mgCarbohydrates: 2gSugar: 1gProtein: 3g
**Nutritional info is provided as an estimate based on the ingredients I used and for convenience and as a courtesy only.**
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