Easy 2-ingredient pepita tofu that is also fast to prepare and set! Perfectly smooth and firm (no pressing required) this delicious pumpkin seed tofu is high in protein, soy-free, gluten-free, grain-free, and both keto & paleo friendly.
Green Pumpkin Seed Tofu
Making a tofu-like product from pumpkin seeds is not my idea. A company called Foodies Vegan has been making a 100% green pumpkin seed (pepita) tofu (PumFu) since 2019. While delicious and nutritious, it is very expensive, difficult to find in stores, and often out of stock from online vendors.
You know what is coming next: I had to figure out how to make my own version. It took many months, many pureed pepitas, and the addition of 1 more ingredient, but I finally developed my own version!
I love it. I am pretty certain you will, too.
Recipe Benefits of Easy 2 Ingredient Pepita Tofu
So, why make pepita tofu in general, and my particular version of it in particular? Because it is:
- Vegan (no eggs, no dairy)
- High in protein (9 grams per serving)
- Fast & easy to make (no straining, no pressing)
- Frugal (cheap!)
- Made with 2 ingredients
- Keto (2 g net carbs per serving)
Ingredients for Easy DIY Pepita Tofu
The exact amounts of each ingredient are indicated in the recipe card at the end of the post.
Two ingredients are needed to make my version of pumpkin seed tofu:
- Green pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
- Agar agar powder
You will also need regular water (I use filtered tap water) and optional salt. You can adjust or omit the latter to suit your preferences and needs.
What is Agar Agar?
Agar agar (sometimes called agar, singular) is a vegetarian alternative to gelatin. It is derived from red algae (a form of seaweed) and has been used in a wide range of dishes in Asia, both for thickening and gelling, for centuries. If you have not used it before now, it is a remarkable ingredient.
Agar agar is available in flakes or powder and is used in much the same way as gelatin: dissolve/hydrate in water, heat to thicken, and then set until firm.
Getting the ratios right can be very tricky: too much and you have an (barely) edible pencil eraser. But if you get it right, you can add perfect structure and firmness that would otherwise be impossible.
That is precisely what it does with this pumpkin seed tofu.
Why Use Agar Agar in Easy 2-Ingredient Pepita Tofu?
I wanted to make a homemade version of pepita tofu. But making it easy? That was every bit as important. I also wanted to create pumpkin seed tofu with a lighter, smoother texture than original Pumfu, which is very dense (and typically has pepita bits throughout).
So I set to work (about 6 months ago!). It was easy to create a basic pumpkin seed mix (soak some pepitas, and then purée with water). But getting it to set into something resembling tofu? Ha! All of the following were tried, multiple times, with countless failures:
- Varying ratios of pepitas to water
- Squeezing and pressing different ratios of puréed pepitas into blocks (green goo everywhere)
- Cooking different ratios of blended pepitas on the stovetop before chilling
I realized my easy tofu would need to have an additional ingredient. Chia seeds and various starches seemed like strong possibilities, too. Alas, o such luck. I was about to give up, when I remembered agar agar. Ive used it to make cashew cheese. Perhaps it might do the trick?
YES!!! It only took about a dozen or so more tries to get it right. But now it is oh so right, as well as oh so simple.
Step by Step Instructions
Step One: Quick-Soak the Pepitas
- If you prefer, you can soak the pepitas overnight: Use cold or room temperature water. Let soak for a minimum of 8 hours or up to 24 hours.
Step Two: Select a Dish for Setting the Tofu
Really, a whole step for choosing a dish? Yes!
It is not so much about the dish you choose as it is making sure the dish is chosen in advance, prepared, and ready to use as soon as the tofu mixture is blended. Why? Because the agar agar will begin to set almost immediately. You will need to work relatively quickly to pour it into the dish and smooth it out.
- Choose a shallow dish made out of glass or ceramic. I used a 5×5-inch (12.5×12.5 cm) glass storage container. It can be almost any shape, so use what you have (e.g., a pie pan, small loaf pan, etc.).
- Lightly spray the dish with nonstick cooking spray.
Step Three: Drain the Pepitas
Drain the pepitas in a colander or mesh sieve (discard soaking water). Rinse the seeds under cold water and drain again.
Place the drained pepitas in a blender.
Step Four: Prepare the Agar Agar
This next step is very fast and simple, but also critical for making the pepita tofu work.
Combine the agar agar powder and the specified amount of water in a small saucepan. Let stand for 30 seconds to hydrate the powder.
Turn on the heat to medium. Cook and stir over medium heat until the mixture comes to a low boil. Continue to stir for about 30 to 60 seconds longer. You should see the mixture beginning to thicken and gel, so keep stirring (a silicone spatula works best).
Remove from the heat and immediately add to the blender with the pepitas.
Step Five: Blend the Pepitas
Very Important: If you are using a high speed blender, set it to the function that allows for blending hot foods, such as soups. If you are using a regular blender (or any blender that does not have a hot foods setting, do as follows:
- Remove the center piece (feeder cap) of the blender lid.
- Place the blender lid (minus the feeder cap) securely on the blender.
- Cover the blender lid with a clean kitchen towel.
- Hold the lid on securely and start blending on lowest speed. Gradually increase the speed (for example, after stopping to scrape the sides of the blender container).
Blend the pepitas and agar agar mixture on high speed until completely smooth, stopping several times to scrape down the sides of the blender container.
The pepita mixture will be a medium thickness when lifted with a spatula.
Step Six: Spread Pumpkin Seed Mixture into Prepared Pan
Scrape and spread the pumpkin seed tofu mixture into at the prepared pan or dish, smoothing the top.
Step Seven: Chill the Tofu
Refrigerate the tofu, uncovered, for at least 2 hours, or until very firm (and springy). Agar agar sets much more quickly than traditional gelatin. Alternatively, leave the tofu in the refrigerator for up to two days until ready to use.
Step Eight: Unmold and Cut the Tofu
Unlike my Red Lentil Tofu, Chickpea Flour Tofu, and Easy DIY Dried Bean Tofu, this pumpkin seed tofu does not release its liquid as it sets. This is due to the super-power properties of the agar agar.
Invert the set tofu onto a cutting board.
Cut the tofu into the desired shapes and sizes you prefer for recipes and/or storing in the refrigerator.
The pieces below are jumbo 😊.
You, my friend, have just made pepita tofu. Go you!
How to Serve Pumpkin Seed Tofu
Pepita tofu is delicious and versatile! Here is how I suggest using it in a wide range of ways:
Chilled (No Cooking)
Enjoy the pepita tofu straight away (chilled, no cooking) with salads of all varieties, spiralized vegetables, atop a variety of bowls (e.g., grain bowls or vegetable bowls), and in sandwiches (thinly sliced, or chopped, as an egg replacement for egg salad).
I love to snack on it, straight from the refrigerator.
Fried / Baked / Air-fried
Yes, you can fry, bake or air-fry pumpkin seed tofu! This is not a rough and tumble extra-firm soy tofu. Be patient and take some care. A nonstick skillet works best.
For cubes of tofu, it is essential to
- Lightly toss the cubes in starch. I use tapioca flour. Sweet potato starch, arrowroot, or cornstarch will also work. Coat the cubes on all sides and keep the cubes chilled before frying. The tofu needs this added starch in order to sear the sides (without breaking down the tofu).
- Coat the cubes in nonstick cooking spray (or use a small amount of oil). Gently fry in a nonstick skillet until golden or bake/ airy at 400F (200C) for about 10 minutes. Do not overtake or the insides will dry out (not a terrible thing, but you want to keep the creamy texture inside).
- It may look like the cubes are melting a tiny bit when you first add them to the hot pan. Do not worry! It will just blob out (is that a thing? With pepita tofu it is 😂) a tiny bit. Let that side of the tofu brown, and then flip and brown the other sides. See the fried tofu photo below.
Added to Sauces, Curries & Stir-Fries
I recommend adding cubes or large crumbles of the pepita tofu to sauces, curries and stir-fries at the very end of cooking, simply to warm through. The agar agar will eventually break down if the tofu is kept over the heat for too long.
You could scramble the tofu (as an egg replacement), but I recommend that you instead try my 1-Ingredient Pumpkin Seed Scramble (no agar agar) if a vegan egg scramble is what you are after.
FAQ & Tips
What is the Taste & Texture of Easy 2-Ingredient Pepita Tofu?
The tofu has a firm, smooth consistency. The pepitas give the tofu a light, neutral, faintly nutty flavor that can be paired with just about any flavor combinations you like (= major versatility for all kinds of meals).
Can I Vary the Texture of the Tofu (extra-firm or silken)?
No, I do not recommend it.
This recipe produces a firm tofu. The following methods for making the tofu more firm do not work well (I have tried!):
- Decreasing the water or increasing the amount of pepitas: this makes the tofu mixture thicker/denser, but it also makes the mixture very difficult to blend until smooth (resulting in chunky or gritty tofu). If you still want to give it a try, make small adjustments (e.g., 1 tablespoon less water or 1 tablespoon more pepitas).
- Adding more agar agar: It sounds like a simple solution. It is not. Whether it is for pepita tofu, or any other preparation using agar agar to gel foods, adding too much (even a tiny amount too much) can yield a weird (make that WEIRD) plastic-like consistency.
For Silken Tofu: You can experiment with adding slightly less agar agar if you wish to have a less firm texture. It may take several test batches to achieve the results you want.
Can I Freeze the Tofu?
Yes! Pepita tofu freezes well. Cut the tofu into cubes and place in an airtight container. Defrost the tofu in the refrigerator. Gently blot the tofu with paper towels, if needed (there is very little moisture after thawing).
How Far in Advance Can the Tofu Be Made?
You can make the tofu up to 2 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.
I do not recommend making the tofu much farther ahead than that, unless you plan to freeze it for future use.
How Should I Store the Pepita Tofu?
As mentioned above, simply leave the prepared tofu in the baking dish, or cut and store in an airtight container, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Can I Add Flavorings Directly to the Tofu?
- Flavorings: Fresh herbs, dried herbs, spices, chiles, sriracha, pepper, you name it! Simply add in the flavorings of your choice in step five (when the soaked, dried pepitas and agar agar mixture are blended).
- Flavored liquids: Replace some (or all) of the water in the agar agar mixture with flavorful liquids. For example, consider using vegetable broth in place of the water.
Can I Use Agar Agar Flakes in Place of the Powder?
I do not recommend it (I have had inconsistent results with agar flakes, including gel blobs). For optimum results, use agar agar powder, which dissolves almost instantly (flakes take several minutes to dissolve). Agar agar powder can be found in health food stores or ordered online from any number of online vendors.
If you (nevertheless) want to try this recipe with flakes, use 1 tablespoon flakes for every 1 teaspoon of powder.
Happy Cooking! I would love to know what you think of my pepita tofu!