My Mind-Blowing Red Lentil Tofu will rock your world! It is soy-free, high protein, super-easy, versatile, & made with 1 ingredient (plus water, and optional salt). You can make it silken, firm, or extra-firm in texture!
Soy-Free Tofu made with Lentils
I am so excited about this post!
I wrote about my renewed affection for tofu a few years ago when I published a recipe for chickpea flour tofu (also known as Bumese tofu or Shan tofu). It is a game changer! Soy-free, easy-to-make, and delicious, it opened a wealth of new eating options.
Chickpea flour is not always available in mainstream supermarkets (or at least, not yet). You can make your own chickpea flour in a high speed blender, but not everyone has one available. So I started to wonder if could create a Burmese tofu-style option using whole legumes.
Lentils–notably red lentils–came to mind. They do not require pre-soaking, like beans, and cook quickly.
So I set to testing. And testing. And testing some more until I had a simple, brand new, soy-free tofu, inspired by Burmese tofu, but 100% my own creation. It is delicious, versatile, and neutral in flavor, perfect for any and all recipes that call for tofu. It is also easy to make, requires no special equipment, and is made with one inexpensive, readily-available ingredient.
Introducing my Mind-Blowing Red Lentil Tofu!
It’s pretty in pink, too.
You will want to run to the store to purchase a bag of red lentils ASAP because this remarkable tofu is:
- Vegan (no eggs, no dairy)
- High in protein (9 grams per serving)
- High in fiber (10.5 grams per serving)
- Low calorie (128 calories per large serving)
- Easy to make
- Made with 1 ingredient (plus water & optional salt)
Ingredients for the Red Lentil Tofu
The exact amounts of each ingredient are indicated in the recipe card at the end of the post
The only ingredient needed to make this tofu is dried red lentils.
The red lentils available in the United States are typically labeled “red lentils,” but they are actually split red lentils (see the photo above).
If you live in another country, or purchased your red lentils at an International or Indian market, you might have whole or split red lentils. Both varieties work. The recipe does not need to be adjusted, but for accuracy, weigh the lentils (141 grams, whether split or whole).
Making the recipe also requires regular tap water. I recommend adding salt to the tofu, but it is optional (and/or adjustable) depending on your needs and tastes.
Step by Step Instructions
Let’s make some tofu! It is super-easy.
Step One: Rinse the Lentils
Place the lentils in a colander or mesh sieve and rinse under cold water. This removes any dust or debris from the dried lentils.
Step Two: Quick-Soak the Lentils
Combine the lentils and boiling water in the container of blender (regular or high-speed). Let stand for 15 to 20 minutes until the lentils are plump and the water has cooled (do not drain).
I specifically designed this recipe to be made without the use of specialty equipment. Hence, instead of grinding the lentils into a fine flour (which would require a high speed blender or spice grinder), I quick-soak the lentils in boiling water, which allows for easy blending in a regular blender.
Step Three: Blend the Lentils
Blend the lentil-water mixture on high speed until completely smooth, stopping several times to scrape down the sides of the blender container.
Step Four: Cook the Lentil Mixture
Pour the lentil mixture into a medium-size, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Whisk in the remaining (room temperature) water and optional salt until blended.
EXTRA-FIRM TOFU & FIRM TOFU OPTIONS Good news! I now have three versions of the tofu, the original recipe (medium-firm), firm and an extra-firm variety that works especially well for stir-frying. Equally good news: the only difference is the amount of water to add here in Step Four. Everything else (ingredients and steps) is the same. Notes are in the recipe card below.
Whisk over medium-high heat for 6 to 8 minutes until the mixture is VERY THICK, glossy and coats the bottom of the pan (turn heat down to medium, as needed–the batter starts to bubble up hot bits). The mixture will glob onto the whisk when it is lifted from the pan.
Step Five: Pour Lentil Batter into Pan
Scrape the batter into an 8-inch (20 cm) square glass or ceramic baking dish, smoothing the top.
The pan does not need to be oiled or sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. The tofu will release (with ease) from the pan once it is set.
Do not worry if you do not have an 8-inch dish. Use any nonreactive pan of similar shape and size, or divide the mixture between two or more smaller containers (I like the tofu to be roughly 1-inch/2.5 cm in depth).
Step Six: Chill the Tofu
Refrigerate the tofu, uncovered, for at least 60 minutes until firm. For firmer tofu, refrigerate overnight, or for at least 8 hours. You can leave the tofu in the refrigerator for up to 5 days until ready to use.
The surface of the tofu will be slightly darker in color and look dry once it is set.
The tofu releases some of its liquid as it sets, so if you want an extra-firm tofu, consider making the tofu at least one day in advance.
Step Seven: Unmold and Cut the Tofu
Run a dull knife around the edge of the baking dish before inverting the tofu onto a cutting board. The upended side of the tofu will be shiny and smooth.
Cut the tofu into the desired shapes and sizes you prefer for recipes and/or storing in the refrigerator.
It’s official. You’re a tofu-maker.
What is the Taste & Texture of the Red Lentil Tofu?
Red lentil tofu is smooth, firm and creamy. The flavor is neutral and very mild in taste (more so than soy tofu or chickpea tofu), making it ideal for any and all added flavors.
How to Serve Red Lentil Tofu
Use the red lentil tofu as a 1:1 substitute for soy tofu, in stir-fries, scrambles, soups, sandwiches, kebabs, or as an ingredient in baking or dessert recipes.
I think it is delicious plain, with a favorite dipping sauce on the side. Lightly frying, baking or broiling the tofu, with just a smidge of oil, is crispy-creamy heaven! Even my resident carnivores give it big thumbs up!
Can I Make this Tofu Firm or Extra-Firm?
You asked, I listened. And then I got to testing! The original recipe makes a creamy, medium-firm tofu. Simply reducing the overall amount of water by 1/2 cup (118 mL) will produce firm tofu, and reducing by 1 cup (237 mL) will produce extra-firm tofu.
The extra-firm texture holds up better to stir-frying (and sometimes you just want/need a firmer texture). Keep in mind that frying works best when you allow one side to sear off (get browned) before moving around/flipping it.
I have notes for the firm and extra-firm options in the recipe card.
FAQ & Tips
Is There a Non Soy Tofu?
Yes! It is quick and easy to make with red lentils.
Can I Make Soy-Free Tofu with Dried Beans?
Yes, with my new recipe for 1-ingredient Dried Bean Tofu. It is just as easy as this recipe, with a few minor yet important changes.
Update: Can I Freeze the Mind-Blowing Red Lentil Tofu?
Yes. If you are planning ahead, make the extra-firm variety (it freezes best). Cut the tofu into cubes and place in an airtight container. Defrost the tofu in the refrigerator.
The tofu will feel wet and springy once defrosted. Place the cubes between layers of paper towels to remove excess water (very gently press, as needed). Do not press hard or the tofu will fall apart.
Can I Use Other Varieties of Lentils?
Yes! But there is a catch.
Other lentils (green, black, tan) work beautifully in the same proportions–no modifications are needed. Just make sure to use the same weight (141 grams). The cup measurement (3/4 cup of red lentils) may vary slightly depending on the variety of lentils.
Here’s the caveat: the taste and texture will be different.
Here is a photo of the tofu made with the common variety of tannish-green lentils:
The tofu was still delicious BUT, unlike the red lentil tofu, it had a noticeable lentil flavor. I like the flavor, but it is not the uber-neutral flavor that red lentils produce.
The texture was less smooth, too. This is likely due to the skins of the whole lentils and might be overcome by longer blending, perhaps in a high-speed blender.
The taste and texture differences are not necessarily downsides, especially depending on how you use the tofu (e.g., the addition of strong flavors and marinades), but they are features to consider.
For the most neutral flavor and light, creamy-smooth texture, stick with red lentils.
How Far in Advance Can the Red Lentil Tofu Be Made?
You can make the tofu up to 5 days ahead. Leave it in the original dish, or unmold it, cut into pieces, and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Note that the tofu will become firmer with each passing day due to the release of liquid.
How Should I Store Mind-Blowing Red Lentil Tofu?
As mentioned above, simply leave the prepared tofu in the baking dish, or cut and store in an airtight continuer, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Can I Add Flavorings Directly to the Tofu?
Absolutely! Fresh herbs, dried herbs, spices, chiles, sriracha, pepper, you name it! Simply whisk in the flavorings of your choice in step four (when the extra water and optional salt are whisked in).
For example, check out my Vegan Red Lentil Salmon Recipe. It uses the basic method for this red lentil tofu, but with a few seafood flavors added. The salmon is broiled, with or without a tasty, super-easy glaze.
Happy Cooking! I would love to know what you think of my new invention!
Tuesday 14th of March 2023
I love the idea and how easy it is to make! I tried it tonight, it was so quick and effective to put together. I just seared it in a pan and sprinkled it with some garlic, onion powder and smoked paprika. I think it may need more flavor...can you marinate without it falling apart?
Wednesday 15th of March 2023
Hi Flavia! Glad you like the recipe. This style of tofu does not marinate well in the same way as curd-style tofu. Instead, I recommend adding flavors directly to the tofu when you are making it. If you do not want an entire batch of one flavor, you can divide it into portions and add different flavors. You can do more than spices: I have added garlic cloves to the blender, vegetarian stock instead of water, tomato paste, and even some shredded carrot. So many options!
Sunday 12th of March 2023
Hi, I just made this and it is currently in the fridge firming up. I was wondering if there is a chance at to make this into a vegan quiche. Have you tried? I can’t wait to cook with this btw! I’m super excited!
Saturday 11th of March 2023
It would be fun to use little silicone candy molds to pour the batter into. The shapes it makes would be fun for kids (of all ages), and I'd bet you could get a crisp on them by deep frying or air frying the shapes.
Saturday 18th of March 2023
That is such a clever idea, Julie!!!
Wednesday 1st of March 2023
Came out exactly as you described! Wonderful recipe! I do have a question though… I air fried mine, and while it was deliciously crispy on the outside ( I tossed it with a little bit of arrowroot, flour, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, S&P and nutritional yeast), The inside was so mushy it almost disappeared… It was almost hollow like… Thoughts? Thoughts? did I maybe leave it in the air fryer too long? (400 for 14 mins)
Saturday 25th of February 2023
I went ahead and poured the extra water into the blender and pulsed a few times which make the blender completely clean on pouring. I did have thin foam on top while cooking but it wished into the mixture easily when thickened. I am going to love this! Thanks for the recipe!
Sunday 26th of February 2023
You are very welcome, Anita!