One of the beautiful things about salad making is that you can explore how different layers and flavors work together. This is exactly what our founder, Nina, had in mind when she put together our “Asian Tofu Salad with Sweet Sesame Vinaigrette.” A combination of perfectly baked teriyaki tofu, crisp fresh veggies, mandarin oranges and maple-glazed cashews, it’s an utter explosion of sweet, salty and savory flavors that’ll satisfy practically any food craving.
If you’re a fan of Asian food, we guarantee it’ll be one of your go-to salad bowl recipes. It’s 100% vegan, gluten-free and packed with protein making it the perfect choice for a variety of different eating styles.
THE BALANCING ACT
Our baked teriyaki tofu is the highlight of this recipe, and the sweet sesame vinaigrette dressing is a close runner-up. A staple food in Asian cuisine, tofu, also known as bean curd, doesn’t get nearly the respect it deserves. A lot of people either don’t like it or just don’t know how to properly use it in a meal. If you don’t like tofu, chances are you’ve had some bad experiences with it, or you just don’t like its texture and general mouthfeel.
Or, as Nina often says, it could just be that people want tofu to taste like a meat, and it doesn’t. While you may share one or more of these thoughts about tofu, we encourage you to give it a try – or another try (study up in our Nutrition Glossary to learn more about tofu). This tofu recipe will redefine your taste buds. By marinating and baking it to perfection in our super savory teriyaki sauce, you’ll think you’re eating authentic Asian food.
Then there’s the sweet sesame vinaigrette, which is delicious enough to drink. The earthy, nutty, somewhat sweet flavor of cold-pressed sesame oil combined with the delicate flavor of rice vinegar and the other Asian ingredients really brings the tofu and veggie layers to life. The end result is a robust and filling yet light salad bowl that’ll leave you craving for more. And you can even have a little more because it’s totally guilt-free.
Let’s talk more about all the ingredients in this Asian Tofu Salad recipe and why we chose to include them.
Protein-Packed Teriyaki Tofu
You’ve probably already guessed that our Asian Tofu Salad recipe includes “tofu.” As one of only a few sources of quality protein, it packs a powerful nutritional punch. Owing to the presence of certain phytonutrients, tofu may even lower heart disease risk. While there are many different types of tofu, our recipe calls for extra-firm tofu. Extra-firm tofu has the highest content of protein and good fat, is easy to come by and holds its shape when cubed for baking.
When purchasing extra-firm tofu (or any type of tofu), we suggest going the organic route. This is because the vast majority of soybeans grown in the United States are bioengineered, which essentially means they’re grown using genetically modified (GM) crops. With so much uncertainty around the risk GM foods, we’re all about playing it safe. Luckily, a 14-16-ounce pack of organic tofu costs an average of $2-3 at most grocery stores and farmer’s markets.
Our recipe includes instructions for pressing and marinating the tofu in our teriyaki sauce before cooking it in order to achieve good texture and taste. The teriyaki sauce is a super savory blend of liquid aminos, pure maple syrup, orange juice, herbs and spices that changes the entire flavor profile of the tofu (see recipe card).
A Winning Combo of Bold and Bright Veggies
Chock-full of veggie layers, our Asian Tofu Salad bowl recipe includes a winning combination of arugula, red cabbage, red bell pepper, carrots and green onions. Each of these veggies is bold and bright in color, crisp and fresh in flavor, packed with fiber, and houses a wide range of different phytonutrients that benefit various aspects of your health. They’re also very low in calories, carbohydrates and sugar so you can add as much of them as you’d like.
This is one of those salad bowl recipes where the more veggie layers the better but even combining just a few can add great flavor, texture and nutrition to the bowl – this is especially true for bright-colored, non-starchy varieties. While we chose to use red peppers in this bowl feel free to use whatever color bell pepper you have. We do, however, suggest choosing from the brighter colored varieties, as green peppers are the lowest in nutrients.
Just A Couple of Sweet Things
Among nature’s most perfect foods, fruits are always a quick, easy and healthy way to upgrade your salad bowl with a bit of sweetness. Our Asian Tofu Salad bowl is no exception. The recipe calls for mandarin oranges along with sprinkles of candied cashews for even more sweetness, delightful texture and nutrition. This tasty duo is what makes this a perfect blend for indulging sugar cravings when (and even before) they hit. The kiddos will enjoy it too!
In general, when it comes to eating sweet things like these, That Salad Lady always recommends pairing them with protein and/or fat, as doing so helps to slow the rate at which the body digests and absorbs the sugar they contain. This salad bowl recipe totally fits the bill. But, if you’re watching your sugar, you can always leave the mandarin oranges out, and even just toast the cashews. It’s all about building your bowl, your way (remember this).
While we suggest using cashews to add a bit of Asian flair to the recipe, you can easily substitute them for almonds or pistachios.
Sweet Sesame Vinaigrette Dressing for the Finish
As we’ve already mentioned, That Salad Lady’s sweet sesame vinaigrette dressing is indeed a highlight of this Asian Tofu Salad recipe. With authentic Asian ingredients like sesame oil, rice vinegar and cloves, it’s a robust, pleasantly sweet and somewhat tangy blend that perfect brings all the flavors in this salad bowl recipe together (see recipe card for more specifics). If you choose not to make it, any quality Asian sesame dressing of your choice will do the trick.
Cooking is required for the: (1) tofu (2) teriyaki sauce and (3) cashews. Just decide whether you want to toast or candy the cashews.
Prepare the Tofu and Sauce
Prior to baking, we suggest pressing the tofu for about 30 minutes, and then marinating it in the teriyaki sauce for at least 15-20 minutes. You can start the pressing process and then prepare the sauce while you wait. To make the sauce, simply mix the ingredients in your saucepan, heat the mixture over medium heat until it thickens, and then set it aside until the tofu is pressed. Refer to the recipe card for step-by-step instructions on preparing the sauce.
Once thoroughly pressed, the tofu will appear and act like a sponge. This is a good thing as it will fully absorb the teriyaki sauce. Our recipe calls for slicing the tofu into cubes, placing the cubes in an airtight container or plastic bag and then adding the sauce. The longer you let the tofu marinate, the more flavorful it will be, so feel free to marinate it overnight.
When your tofu is all marinated, baking it is the final step. All and all, the process of baking tofu is very simple. Start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees F. From there, spread out the tofu on a lightly greased oven safe skillet and then bake it for 25-30 minutes. You can also bake your tofu on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone non-stick mat to prevent sticking.
You’ll want to toss the tofu halfway through to ensure that it cooks evenly. You’ll know the tofu is done when it’s deep golden brown and its edges are nice and crispy.
Toast or Candy the Cashews
To toast the cashews, heat up the oven to 350 degrees F and bake them for 5-10 minutes. That’s it! Doesn’t get any simpler than this. Candying requires a bit more hands-on time, but the process is very straightforward. Just combine some maple syrup and cinnamon in a skillet with a little salted water and then add the cashews. The total cooking time is less than five minutes (see recipe card). These toasting and candying processes are the same for other types of nuts.
GET YOUR CHOP ON
Our recipe calls for shredding the cabbage, chopping the bell pepper and slicing the onions. The carrots are best shredded (julienned) carrots, which can be done with either a grater or a sharp knife. To eliminate an extra step, you can also use the matchstick carrots sold prepackaged at your local grocery store. Whatever works. No chopping is needed for the arugula, as you can buy it either by the bunch or as loose leaves.
Once you’ve chopped up your ingredients, set them aside until you’re ready to build your bowl.
That Salad Lady’s sweet sesame vinaigrette is included as part of the recipe if you choose to use it (see recipe card). The dressing is super simple to make. Just gather all the ingredients, add them to a jar with a twist off lid and shake it up until everything’s well-mixed. You can also combine and whisk all your ingredients together in a small bowl. Again, if you choose not to make our dressing, any quality Asian sesame dressing will work for the recipe.
BUILD YOUR SALAD BOWL
The final step is to build your bowl or bowls. Depending on how much you choose to eat or serve (your portion sizes), simply divide all the ingredients evenly. Start with a layer of arugula, drizzle on the dressing, add the veggies and mandarin oranges, place the tofu on top and sprinkle on the cashews.
When prepared as per the recipe our Asian Tofu Salad is large enough for six generous-sized servings. If you’re planning for leftovers, we suggest storing the veggies and oranges together but keeping the arugula, tofu and cashews separate. In airtight sealed containers, leftovers will keep in the fridge for 3-5 days.
Any leftover dressing will keep for up to a week. It makes a great marinade for seafood or chicken.
SHOW US YOUR BOWL
That Salad Lady wants to see your bowl! If you like it, which we are sure you will, drop a comment below and tag pics on Instagram with @thatsaladlady, #thatsaladlady and #buildyourbowl. If you love it, pin it on Pinterest and share it on Facebook and Twitter using #thatsaladlady.
This information is provided as a courtesy and is only an estimate. Please review our full disclaimer to get a clear understanding of the nutrition and health information and resources presented and written on our website.