What’s the one meal you always remember being a go-to, weeknight meal at your house?

For me, it was chicken with Shake ‘n’ Bake. Oh, and not just any Shake ‘n’ Bake, Zesty Italian Shake ‘n’ Bake. What can I say — we were cultured kids.

I never grew up actually knowing how to bread anything. Shake ‘n’ Bake was the closest I ever came. As a result, I really don’t like heavy batters very much.

This recipe actually came to me from a fish recipe I saw years ago — rather than a heavy Italian or Panko breadcrumb, it was crusted in pecans. It seemed really interesting, but of course, I don’t eat fish (never have!) so I thought, how can I make something similar with tofu?

This, ladies and gents and non-binary pals, is an “impress the in-laws” kinda meal. It’s crusty, it’s crispy, it’s not-too-heavy, it’s deeeeeevine!

Can’t do nuts? This recipe works just as well with crunchy sunflower seeds.

This ingredient list might seem a bit long to you, and while the cooking process might seem a little fussy, trust me when I say even a kitchen novice can get the hang of this. It takes old-school cooking fit for a meat-eating king and gives it a healthy, plant-based twist.

Almond-crusted tofu, serves four

Info

  • Vegan
  • Refined sugar-free
  • Sugar-free
  • Gluten-free
  • Nut-free option
  • Prep time: 10-15 minutes
  • Cook time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • One extra-firm block of tofu
  • 1/4 cup+2 tbsp almonds (or sunflower seeds), processed to a coarse crumb
  • 2 tbsp hemp hearts
  • 1/2 tsp dried dill
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup oat flour (or fine, neutral-tasting flour of your choice)
  • 1 aquafaba* “egg” (3 tbsp+1 tbsp water)
  • 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tbsp vegan butter or coconut oil
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced

* WTF? Aquafaba is the liquid from a can of beans (most commonly chickpeas). Save it when you’re making hummus or another chickpea-based dish (like my colourful curry chickpea salad) and use in a pinch for a quick sub for eggs in baking, or for key dishes like meringue and mayonnaise.

Instructions

  1. Press the tofu for about 20 minutes to release the moisture.
  2. Process the almonds to a coarse crumb in a large food processor. You don’t want to make almond butter, so I recommend a pulse setting rather than continuous processing.
  3. Combine the almonds, hemp hearts, dill, smoked paprika, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl.
  4. In another bowl, combine the aquafaba and water.
  5. Finally, shake your flour into another shallow bowl.
  6. Cut your tofu into four evenly sized filets. Dredge each in flour before dipping in the aquafaba like you would an egg, then coat in the nut and seed topping.
  7. Meanwhile, heat your olive oil and vegan butter over medium low heat. When the pan is evenly coated and the oil is warmed, add the minced garlic.
  8. Because you’re not using a dairy-based butter, your butter won’t “brown,” but you’ll know the pan is ready to accept your tofu when the butter is slightly frothy and the garlic is fragrant.
  9. Add the coated tofu and cook for three to four minutes on each side, or until the nuts are slightly charred.
  10. Serve with a lemon wedge and a nice light salad.

Seriously, this is going to be my new go-to for whenever we have a romantic night in, or whenever I want to impress the husband’s folks. What’s your go-to “fancy” meal — your grown-up Shake ‘n’ Bake?