With the introduction of Chipotle sofritas, vegans around the USA rejoiced. For anyone not familiar, Chipotle is a fast food chain that serves burritos, burrito bowls, tacos, and salads. The customer chooses a protein and then chooses from a selection of beans, veggies, salsa, and other toppings. Previously, the vegan option was to skip the proteins altogether and of course, pass on the optional cheese and sour cream.
When sofritas, the first dedicated vegetarian/vegan protein option, was rolled in at Chipotle’s West Coast locations, I waited with bated breath for it to reach me here on the East Coast. Spicy shredded tofu, braised with fresh spices in adobo sauce? Sign me up, right? I’m happy to say that, at least for me, sofritas totally lived up to my expectations when it finally got to Baltimore. Spicy, juicy, and full of flavor, it was a great addition to my vegan burrito. So why make a copycat sofritas at home when the original is so good? I’ll tell you my reasons
- Chipotle’s sofritas is a little on the salty side. Combined with the salsas and beans that they offer, it can make for an overall too-salty meal. By making sofritas at home you can control the salt level yourself, depending on your tastes and what the accompaniments are.
- Chipotle hack: if you decline a protein option, you get free guacamole! Otherwise, the guac costs $2 extra. When we have Chipotle we usually get it as take-out, so with a batch of sofritas in the fridge, I can get the free guacamole, add my homemade sofritas, and save money.
- General taste preferences: I personally happen to really enjoy the sofritas, but some people aren’t as sold on it. By having this method of shredding and braising tofu in your back pocket, you can make something similar but change up the spices, heat level, and/or amount of sauce according to your own preference.
This tastes surprisingly similar to the sofritas you get at Chipotle, but with key differences:
- Not as salty (see above)
- Mouthfeel is not as oily (but cook with more oil if you prefer!)
- Chewier: I attribute this to the super-firm tofu that I used and to the slightly larger pieces of tofu.
- Cheaper! Duh!
Of course, the most important reason at all to make homemade tofu sofritas is that it’s incredibly tasty! It doesn’t have to be in a burrito bowl – we enjoyed this sofritas in collard green wraps; quesadillas; and in a bean dip! I imagine it would also make for a truly fantastic chili. (Or be used anywhere that soyrizo is called for). The method for the tofu is not difficult, and in this particular recipe, I don’t call for freezing – just pressing it for a few minutes before getting started.
In a nutshell: the tofu is pressed, then pan-fried at a high heat. Once it cools slightly, we chop or shred the tofu into tiny pieces, and return it to the pan along with a a vibrant sauce made from chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chargrilled fresh poblano pepper (you can substitute another pepper if needed/desired), tomato, garlic, onion, and seasonings. The tofu simmers in the adobo sauce until the flavors and juices are absorbed. Yum! I chose to freshly grind the spices in my coffee grinder. I’ve been buying more whole spices in an effort to increase their shelf life and flavor. You can use already-ground spices but you may need to adjust the quantity. It’ll taste good no matter what, though!
- 16 oz. extra-firm tofu (the firmest you can find; I used Trader Joe's super-firm)
- ~2 tb. grapeseed oil (or other neutral, high-heat oil)
- 1 and ¼ tsp. cumin seeds, lightly toasted
- 1 tsp. coriander seeds, lightly toasted
- ¼ tsp. black peppercorns, lightly toasted
- ½ tb. dried oregano leaves
- 1 tsp. raw sugar or coconut sugar
- 1 medium poblano pepper
- 2 tb. chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
- 2 tb. additional adobo sauce
- ½ c. water or salt-free vegetable broth, divided
- ½ white or yellow onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 and ½ tb. tomato paste
- 2 tb. soy sauce (or tamari)
- 1 tb. cider vinegar
- (optional) 1 tsp. nutritional yeast (for added umami)
- ¼ tsp. salt + more to taste (I personally went up to almost ½ tsp.)
- Press the tofu using a heavy object & towels, or your tofu press, for at least 5 minutes to remove any excess moisture. Slice the tofu into about 8 slices.
- In a skillet, add 1 tb. or so of grapeseed oil over medium-high heat, until shimmering. Add as many slices of tofu as you can fit without crowding.
- Cook the tofu for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until evenly browned all the way around the outside. Remove from the heat and repeat with remaining slices of tofu. Set aside.
- Once the tofu has cooled, chop it into very small pieces, or to the size desired.
- In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and peppercorns just until they start to smell fragrant. Add them to a spice grinder or mortar & pestle, along with the oregano and sugar. Grind into a fine powder.
- If you have a gas stove, then turn on a burner and use metal tongs to hold the pepper over the flames. Rotate frequently until the pepper is blackened all the way around. You can also grill the pepper, or roast it at a very high heat in the oven until fully browned.
- Remove the skin, stem and seeds from the pepper.
- In a blender or food processor, combine the poblano pepper, chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, about half of the water or broth, onion, garlic, tomato paste, soy sauce, vinegar, and optional nutritional yeast. Process until completely smooth.
- Add the sauce to a large skillet or saucepan along with the chopped, fried tofu. Bring to a gentle boil and then reduce the heat to medium.
- Add the rest of the water/broth, the salt, and about half of the prepared spice blend. Cover the pan, and cook for 5-7 minutes.
- Taste for seasoning and add more salt and/or more of the spice blend as desired. Stir, cover again, and cook for about 5 more minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed and the raw onion and garlic taste is gone.
- Enjoy in a burrito bowl, or anywhere else with Mexican-inspired flavors!
This recipe is definitely spicy. If you don't like spicy food try using only half of a poblano, or cutting down on the chipotle peppers. Make sure that the poblano pepper is thoroughly cooked, not just charred on the outside, but soft on the inside. And pair the sofritas with things like refried beans or guacamole/avocado to help balance out the heat.
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