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Mind-Blowing Red Lentil Tofu (soy-free, easy, 1 ingredient)

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!

two white bowls on a marble countertop, one filled with red lentils and the other with red lentil tofu

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.

white dish filled with cubes of red lentil tofu

Recipe Benefits

You will want to run to the store to purchase a bag of red lentils ASAP because this remarkable tofu is:

  • Soy-free
  • Vegan (no eggs, no dairy)
  • Grain-free
  • Gluten-free
  • Oil-free
  • Nut-free
  • Seed-free
  • 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
  • Frugal
  • 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.

over head shot of two glass bowls, one filled with red lentils and one with salt

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

a blender container filled with soaked, plumped red 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.

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.

glass bowl filled with blended red lentils

Step Four: Cook the Lentil Mixture

Pour the lentil mixture into a medium-size, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Whisk in the remaining 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.

red lentil tofu mixture cooking in a stainless steel saucepan

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.

white baking dish filled with red lentil tofu mixture

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.

set, chilled tofu in a white baking dish

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.

unfolded chilled lentil tofu on a cutting board, cut into cubes

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

lightly fried red lentil tofu on a white plate with scallions and a dipping sauce alongside

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.

extra-firm tofu on a grey marble cutting board

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.

extra-firm tofu on a white plate with vegetables.

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:

a small black plate with cubes of tofu made from greenish-tan lentils, surrounded by dried 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!

Yield: about 2 lbs (907 g)--4 big servings

Mind-Blowing Red Lentil Tofu (soy-free)

white dish filled with cubes of red lentil tofu

My Mind-Blowing Red Lentil Tofu will rock your world! It is soy-free, high protein, super-easy, versatile, and made with 1 ingredient (plus water, & optional salt).

A reminder about not republishing: Do not republish this, my original recipe, on other websites or outlets. This was developed, entirely, in my kitchen (i.e., it is not a variation of another red lentil tofu recipe and the process is unique). Please see my recipe sharing policy for details. 😊 If you ADAPT my recipe, please give proper credit and provide a link to this, the original recipe.

Prep Time 3 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Additional Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 11 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup (141 grams) red lentils
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (355 mL) boiling water
  • 2 cups (473 mL) room temperature water (or much less for FIRM for EXTRA FIRM; see notes below)
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Place the lentils in a colander or mesh sieve and rinse under cold water. This removes any dust or debris from the dried lentils.
  2. Combine the lentils and 1 and 1/2 cups 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.
  3. Blend the lentil-water mixture on high speed until completely smooth, stopping several times to scrape down the sides of the blender container.
  4. Pour the lentil mixture into a medium-size, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Whisk in the remaining 2 cups water (or 1.5 cups water for extra-firm texture) and optional salt until blended.
  5. 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).
  6. Scrape the batter into an 8-inch (20 cm) square glass or ceramic baking dish, smoothing the top (the dish does not need to be oiled).
  7. Refrigerate the tofu, uncovered, for at least 60 minutes until firm. For firmer tofu, refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or overnight (Alternatively, leave the tofu in the refrigerator for up to 5 days until ready to use.)
  8. Run a dull knife around the edge of the dish; invert the tofu onto a cutting board. Cut the tofu into the desired shapes and sizes you prefer for recipes and/or storing in the refrigerator.

Notes

Firm & Extra-Firm Tofu Options: The original recipe produces a medium-firmeness tofu. For firm or extra-firm tofu (ideal for frying, baking, and stir-frying), prepare the recipe as directed but only add (1.5 cups/355 mL for FIRM or 1 cup/237 mL for EXTRA FIRM) of room temperature water in step 4.

Storage: The tofu can be prepared 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 the longer it sets.

Freezing the Tofu: 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.

Tip: Use the red letnil tofu as you would in any recipe calling for soy tofu.

Other Varieties of Lentils: Other varieties of lentils can be swapped in for the red lentils. However, the taste (lentil flavor, not neutral) and texture (slightly less smooth) will change with darker skinned, whole lentils. See the blog post for example.

Nutrition Information

Yield

4

Serving Size

1/4 of entire recipe (about 8 oz/227 g)

Amount Per Serving Calories 128Total Fat 0gSaturated Fat 0gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 0gCholesterol 0mgSodium 0mgCarbohydrates 21 gFiber 10.5gSugar 0gProtein 9 g

Did you make this recipe?

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Chris

Monday 7th of November 2022

I have never been able to eat tofu. I find everything about it repulsive. I have tried it multiple times in various forms and can’t do it. That being said, this recipe is a total game changer! I made it yesterday (extra firm version) and served it tonight by subbing it for soy based tofu in a Dinner a Love Story’s newest book Weekday Vegetarians. Absolutely delicious! I will be serving this on the regular!!

Camilla

Tuesday 8th of November 2022

Yippee whahoo! I am thrilled to hear it, Chris. So happy you were able to plug it in so easily to a recipe that you would not have tried (with regular tofu).

Liz

Friday 4th of November 2022

Hi! Do I need to add the extra water when cooking the bean mix after the blender? I tried to make a pinto bean tofu and it’s a bit mushy still…maybe I need to cook it longer on the stove??

Camilla

Tuesday 8th of November 2022

Hi Liz, When you say "extra water": just making sure that you have drained the beans (drained off the soaking water), and then added the 2 and 3/4 cups water to blend them, yes? It should be very liquidy, so no, you do not need to add more. Yes, it sounds like the bean mixture need more cooking. I have added some extra emphasis in the post and recipe card about how the mixture should look (very thick, glossy--it will start to set up before it is in the refrigerator if it is cooked to this point). I hope this helps!

Whitney

Wednesday 2nd of November 2022

What is the best way to fry up the firm tofu, should I use a coating?

Chris

Monday 7th of November 2022

@Whitney, I used cornstarch and a little onion powder.

Camilla

Thursday 3rd of November 2022

Hi Whitney! I do not add anything most of the time, just let each side sear before turning the cubes or other shaped pieces. But I also like to use a light coating of starch--for example, tapioca flour/starch, potato starch (or cornstarch, if you are fine with that). Lightly toss the pieces of tofu in the starch before frying. You can add all kinds of flavors to the coating, too (some nutritional yeast, herbs, spices, you name it). Have fun!

AHY

Friday 28th of October 2022

So excited to try this recipe! Is there a reason why you don't long soak (which is optimal for digestions of legumes and grains as well as traditional for cultures that use lentils).

Sue

Wednesday 26th of October 2022

Wowza! I added old bay and served as a square mock crab cake on a sandwich. Phenomenal protein and clean ingredients. Fantastic! Thank you so much!

Camilla

Wednesday 26th of October 2022

That sounds FANTASTIC, Sue! So happy to hear this was a success!

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