If you’ve been searching for Chinese recipes with tofu, as registered dietitians, we can assure you that this Chinese Sesame Tofu and Broccoli is tasty, healthy and so easy to make that it will become your go-to, busy weeknight dinner.
For years, we’ve noticed that most homemade Asian recipes that are easy to prepare and flavorful tend to be loaded with oil, adding tons of fat and calories that make losing weight difficult, negating many health benefits that come with plant-based eating. In fact, some recipes are just as unhealthy as if you had ordered Chinese take-out, which is notorious for packing on the pounds. As weight loss experts, we’re happy to say, not this one!
If you’re like our clients, you love Chinese food and on a hectic night find nothing easier than ordering take-out, like Chinese Sesame Tofu and Broccoli, but are looking to drop a few pounds and don’t want your waistline to have to suffer—especially if you’re trying to eat more vegetarian food and hoping to reap one of the possible benefits of consuming more plants, weight loss! We get it!
The truth is that our clients tell us that after eating a Chinese broccoli and tofu take-out meal, they feel heavy and bloated. They want to know what’s happening and ask us if tofu really will help them to lose weight, like they’ve heard. They tell us that it’s certainly not making them feel lighter like they hoped!
Can tofu help you to lose weight?
If you’re confused because you’ve heard eating tofu helps with weight loss but found that when you eat it often, you gain weight, here’s what you need to know: Tofu can be a great weight loss food but if it’s prepared the wrong way, its weight loss benefits can be negated. Tofu itself is low in calories and contains an awesome combination of plant-based protein and fiber, which keeps you fuller longer, so it can keep you satisfied with few calories. And if you swap it for meat-based meals, you’ll cut your saturated fat risk, lowering your chance of heart disease. Plus, tofu lowers your cholesterol and So you better believe we made sure that our Chinese Sesame Tofu and Broccoli recipe is prepared so that you reap all of these healthy benefits—weight loss ones included!)
However, most people eat tofu that’s been prepared in high-fat and high-calorie ways and don’t realize it. Most Chinese recipes with tofu, like the ones at restaurants (and even most recipes that you make at home) fry the tofu to make it crispy in a thick layer of oil in the bottom of the pan, which adds tons of fat and calories. While you may be aware that a fried food wouldn’t be a low-calorie food, you may think it’s lower in calories than meat. However, tofu is like a sponge, and it sucks in all that fat and oil that it’s being prepared with. This can be much higher in calories than a meat option that isn’t fried—which could be why that while studies show that eating a plant-based diet is associated with lower body weight, you may gain weight if you’re eating tofu prepared this way.
And most Asian recipes with tofu that don’t call for frying, usually add a lot of oil when they sauté it or stir-fry it. So, while you start off with a low-calorie, food (about 52 calories with 6 grams protein per 3-ounce tofu serving) that fuels the metabolism, by the time it makes its way to your plate, it’s heavy and makes losing weight harder. That’s why how the tofu is prepared matters when it comes to losing weight!
Can tofu taste good?
You’re probably wondering if tofu can taste good if it’s not dressed up with a lot of fat and calories that make losing weight harder. The answer is YES! But here’s what you need to know: tofu on its own has a very mild flavor and in fact, many people say it doesn’t taste like anything. This can be a great thing! While some people love the flavor of steamed tofu plain–or steamed with companions that don’t add tons of oil and are great for making losing weight easier, like a little warm dipping sauce, garlic sauce, a combination of rice wine vinegar and ginger, or balsamic vinegar, since tofu acts like a sponge, it is an amazing vehicle for delivering delicious flavors of anything you add to it. And not everything that tastes great has to be calorie-loaded or make weight loss harder.
In fact, since tofu is the perfect vehicle for allowing other delicious flavors to shine, it’s even possible to add seasonings, including spices that taste great, help your body to function better and that even speed your metabolism, like the red pepper flakes, that are optional in our Chinese Sesame Tofu and Broccoli! (As a side note, tofu goes great with broths and citrus juice, the latter which have incredible heath-boosting properties that help your body to function better so your metabolism is more efficient. Plus, turmeric is fabulous in tofu scrambles, adding a yellow color and anti-inflammatory benefits that make weight loss easier.
Plus, there is a such thing as adding just a small amount of oil to the pan so that the ingredients don’t stick to it and then adding your seasonings, and that’s what we do in our Asian recipe (below!)
You may enjoy these recipes with tofu:
Spiced Tofu Veggie Scramble
Or toss tofu in:
What did we think of tofu when we first tried it?
We’ll admit that the first time we tried tofu when we were first experimenting with vegetarianism, we didn’t think it tasted like anything but as we started to eat it more often, while we’d typically add some of our favorite seasonings or make creations like this Chinese Sesame Tofu and Broccoli, our taste buds started to develop a keenness to identify tofu’s flavor and we like it on its own or with a little ginger and rice wine vinegar, and we love the texture of the tofu raw as well as cooked! And while we are not vegans, we do appreciate eating more plant-based proteins and are so grateful to have tofu in our toolbox and well as this Chinese Sesame Tofu and Broccoli recipe, especially for weeknight dinners!
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 cups fresh or frozen broccoli florets
- 12-oz block firm tofu, cubed*
- 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
- Dash of red pepper flakes (optional)
- On the side: 3 cups cooked brown rice (½ cup cooked per serving)**
- * We life Trader Joe’s Organic Sprouted Tofu Extra Firm Tofu and enjoy that it’s sprouted, which helps to make some of its’ nutrients more available. The container is 15 ounces, so we generally save 3 ounces for another meal.
- **You can buy pre-cooked brown rice or make a batch over the weekend to serve with this meal.
- Place broccoli florets in a microwave safe bowl and add a splash of water. Cover and microwave for 2-3 minutes, until just cooked through (this reduces the time needed for cooking in the pan– can be done in advance)
- In a saute pan or wok over high heat, heat the sesame oil. Add the broccoli and cubed tofu.
- Cook the garlic, broccoli, and tofu, stirring or tossing frequently, for about 5 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to low and add the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame seeds. If you like things spicy, add a dash of red pepper flakes. Toss to coat everything, then serve over the rice.
Nutrition facts (with ⅔ cup brown rice per serving): Calories 313, 9 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 365 mg sodium, 39 g carbs, 6 g fiber, 17 grams protein
Among many things, we help our clients to make their favorite meals healthier so their body functions better– they better fight disease and their metabolism is more efficient. We also help them to lose weight without feeling deprived.
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