Miso Salmon

Prepare to be amazed by this miso salmon! The savory glaze is the perfect accent for this broiled fish and makes an easy dinner. Here’s an impressive dinner idea that’s packed with umami and fantastically irresistible: Miso Salmon! Miso makes magic in the kitchen: it adds incredible savory flavor to everything it touches. Here it features in a miso glaze that’s so full of flavor, you’ll want to brush a glossy swipe onto just about everything. One of the ultimate ways to use it? On a tender fillet of salmon. Brush it on before and after broiling, and it’s absolutely stunning. If fact, we couldn’t tear ourselves away from this. (Our three year old was particularly smitten.) What’s in miso glaze? The secret to this miso salmon is this tasty miso glaze. You can use it on just about anything: any type of fish (like tuna or cod) or sauteed vegetables. The star is miso, a Japanese fermented soybean paste that’s full of nutrients and savory flavor! It’s known for its intense savory notes, otherwise known as umami. You can find miso in your local grocery next to the Japanese products. There are several colors of miso, each with their […]

A Couple Cooks – Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

Prepare to be amazed by this miso salmon! The savory glaze is the perfect accent for this broiled fish and makes an easy dinner.

Miso salmon

Here’s an impressive dinner idea that’s packed with umami and fantastically irresistible: Miso Salmon! Miso makes magic in the kitchen: it adds incredible savory flavor to everything it touches. Here it features in a miso glaze that’s so full of flavor, you’ll want to brush a glossy swipe onto just about everything. One of the ultimate ways to use it? On a tender fillet of salmon. Brush it on before and after broiling, and it’s absolutely stunning. If fact, we couldn’t tear ourselves away from this. (Our three year old was particularly smitten.)

What’s in miso glaze?

The secret to this miso salmon is this tasty miso glaze. You can use it on just about anything: any type of fish (like tuna or cod) or sauteed vegetables. The star is miso, a Japanese fermented soybean paste that’s full of nutrients and savory flavor! It’s known for its intense savory notes, otherwise known as umami. You can find miso in your local grocery next to the Japanese products. There are several colors of miso, each with their own flavor.

This glaze comes together in just a few minutes and uses only 5 ingredients (plus salt). Once you whisk together the ingredients, there may still be some chunks of miso that do not dissolve: that’s ok! Just try to get it as smooth as you can. Here’s what you need for the miso glaze:

  • Miso: We like yellow or light miso for this recipe, but you can use whatever you find.
  • Soy sauce: substitute tamari or coconut aminos as necessary
  • Rice vinegar
  • Sugar: substitute maple syrup or honey if you like
  • Sriracha hot sauce
  • Salt
Miso glaze

Buy a high quality piece of salmon

The other part of this miso salmon recipe that’s important: buying a great piece of salmon! You can make it with any quality, but it tastes optimal with a high quality of fish. We splurged and used King salmon for this one, and wow! It’s beautifully tender and juicy, making for one irresistible piece of fish. But you can use other types too! Here are some pointers one how to buy a

  • Fresh salmon is best. You can find good frozen salmon, but for the very best salmon, buy it fresh from your local seafood counter.
  • Buy wild caught salmon. Wild caught is the way to go! It’s most sustainable and has the best flavor.
  • Coho is a good choice. We tend to like Coho salmon for its mild flavor: it’s a good middle of the road option in terms of price. Of course, King salmon is incredible but more of a splurge. Avoid Atlantic salmon as it is typically farmed salmon.

Ways to cook miso salmon

There are lots of ways to cook salmon. For this miso salmon recipe we chose the broiler because it is quick and easy! There are some tips on broiling salmon below. But you can also choose any salmon cooking method you like! Here are a few other options:

  • Pan Seared Salmon: Paint on a bit of the glaze when you flip the salmon to skin side down, then add a little more after it’s out of the pan.
  • Oven Baked Salmon: Use the glaze in the same way as broiling!
  • Grilled Salmon: Paint the glaze on right before you add it to the grill, then add more after grilling just like with broiling.
Miso salmon

Tips for broiling salmon

The best way to cook this miso salmon is broiling, we think! Here are a few tips

  • Let the salmon come to room temperature, or brine it (lower quality salmon). It’s important to let the salmon come to room temperature before broiling it so it cooks evenly. If you’re using lower quality salmon, you may want to brine it during this time: go to Broiled Salmon for more!
  • Broilers vary, so watch the cook time carefully! The exact timing for this broiled salmon depends on your specific broiler and the thickness of the fish. It will be different every time: so watch closely! Estimate 4 to 5 minutes for very thin salmon or 7 to 10 minutes for 1-inch thick salmon. A food thermometer is nice for judging whether it’s done.
  • Most broilers are about 3 to 5 inches from the heating element. If yours is closer, take care and watch the salmon during the cook time.
Miso salmon

Sides to serve with miso salmon

What to serve with miso salmon to make it into an easy dinner? There are so many options! The flavors are Asian inspired, so you can use Asian-style ingredients or opt for other elements that fit the vibe. Here are some of our favorite ways to accessorize miso salmon:

This miso salmon recipe is…

Pescatarian, gluten-free, and dairy-free.

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Miso salmon

Easy Miso Salmon


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (5 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

Prepare to be amazed by this miso salmon! The savory glaze is the perfect accent for this broiled fish and makes an easy dinner. 


Ingredients

  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds high quality skin-on salmon fillets, wild caught if possible
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons light or yellow miso
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (or tamari or coconut aminos)
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (or maple syrup)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Sriracha hot sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Optional garnish: Sliced green onions, sesame seeds

Instructions

  1. Let salmon rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, make the miso glaze: Whisk the miso, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, Sriracha and kosher salt together in a small bowl until smooth (the miso may have a few lumps depending on its texture, which is okay). 
  3. Preheat the broiler to high. Place a large sheet of aluminum foil on a baking sheet and brush it with olive oil. Pat each piece of salmon dry and place it on the foil skin side down. Brush salmon liberally with the glaze (1 to 2 tablespoons).
  4. Broil about 4 to 5 minutes for very thin salmon or 7 to 10 minutes for 1-inch thick salmon, until just tender and pink at the center (the internal temperature should be between 125 to 130F in the center). Brush with more of the glaze and serve.

  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Broiled
  • Cuisine: Asian inspired

Keywords: Miso salmon

Best salmon recipes

Salmon is one of the best healthy dinner ideas! Here are some more salmon recipes to add to your repertoire:

A Couple Cooks - Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

Butternut Squash Curry

This butternut squash curry is an easy plant based dinner that’s vibrant and full-flavored, starring Thai red curry paste and coconut milk. You know about natural flavor pairings like peanut butter and jelly, and tomatoes and basil. Here’s another unique pairing that works like a charm: butternut squash and Thai curry paste! There’s something about the sweetness of squash and the spicy aromatic flavors of curry paste that go hand in hand. Try them together in this Butternut Squash Curry recipe! It’s easy to make, full of colorful vegetables and bursting with Thai curry flavor. The moment I took the first bite, I couldn’t stop singing its praises. Is this an authentic Thai red curry?   Curry is a very loose term. Per Bon Appetit, in many countries it was a word used by colonizers to simplify what they saw as foreign cuisines. Today, curry is usually a dish with a spiced sauce and meat or vegetables, often eaten with rice or flatbread like naan. Sometimes  curry powder is included in the sauce (like in many Indian curries), or sometimes curry paste (like Thai curries). The dish is made in many countries, including India, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, and England. This […]

A Couple Cooks – Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

This butternut squash curry is an easy plant based dinner that’s vibrant and full-flavored, starring Thai red curry paste and coconut milk.

Butternut squash curry

You know about natural flavor pairings like peanut butter and jelly, and tomatoes and basil. Here’s another unique pairing that works like a charm: butternut squash and Thai curry paste! There’s something about the sweetness of squash and the spicy aromatic flavors of curry paste that go hand in hand. Try them together in this Butternut Squash Curry recipe! It’s easy to make, full of colorful vegetables and bursting with Thai curry flavor. The moment I took the first bite, I couldn’t stop singing its praises.

Is this an authentic Thai red curry?  

Curry is a very loose term. Per Bon Appetit, in many countries it was a word used by colonizers to simplify what they saw as foreign cuisines. Today, curry is usually a dish with a spiced sauce and meat or vegetables, often eaten with rice or flatbread like naan. Sometimes  curry powder is included in the sauce (like in many Indian curries), or sometimes curry paste (like Thai curries). The dish is made in many countries, including India, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, and England.

This butternut squash curry is a recipe we designed in the style of a Thai red curry. This is a Thai dish with a sauce made with red curry paste and coconut milk. It can be made with different proteins like chicken, beef, shrimp, or tofu. Thai cuisine does feature different types of squash and pumpkin, but usually not butternut squash since it is not a native plant. So this uses the principles and flavors of Thai red curry to highlight this tasty winter squash. 

Butternut squash curry

The key to butternut squash curry: red curry paste!

Do not make this butternut squash curry unless you can find red curry paste! This is what makes the fragrant Thai curry flavor. What is it? Red curry paste is a jarred paste that takes all the flavor of a Thai curry and concentrates it into a paste. In traditional Thai cooking, you’d make it with the real ingredients. Curry paste is a shortcut: it has all the chili peppers, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, kaffir lime leaves, cumin, coriander, and more. It brings incredible flavor and lasts for months in the fridge. A few notes on red curry paste:

  • It ranges from mild to medium spicy, based on the brand. We love using Thai kitchen curry paste which is very mild. Taste your curry paste before using it: if it’s very spicy, use less than the recipe specifies.
  • It’s easy to find near the Thai products in most grocery stores. It keeps for months in the refrigerator and you can use it in lots more recipes (see below). You can also buy it online: Thai Kitchen red curry paste.
Butternut squash curry

How to cut butternut squash: some tips!

The main part of this butternut squash curry that requires technique is cutting the butternut squash! It takes a little time to peel and cut the squash. Here are a few tips: 

  1. Watch the video: The easiest way to understand how to cut it is by showing you! Watch this quick video of How to Cut Butternut Squash.
  2. Use a serrated peeler: The easiest way to peel butternut squash is a squash peeler! It’s serrated, which makes it easier than a normal vegetable peeler. Here’s the serrated vegetable peeler we use.
  3. Cut off the neck and chop it separately from the base: Don’t try to cut the entire squash together. Chop off the neck, then peel it and chop into squares. Do the same for the base. 

Can you substitute frozen squash? (No.)

Important: don’t be tempted to substitute frozen squash in this butternut squash curry recipe! This has been optimized for fresh squash. In fact, we tried it with frozen because we thought it would be a natural swap. The squash came out mushy and waterlogged: nothing like the fresh version. So stay away from this swap for this recipe. 

A few ideas for adding protein to butternut squash curry

You can eat this butternut squash curry on its own, but if you want to load it up with more protein, here’s what to do: 

  • Add shrimp. Throw in raw shrimp in the last 5 minutes of simmering. 
  • Add chickpeas. Make a butternut squash chickpea curry by adding drained and rinsed chickpeas when you add the coconut milk. You may need to increase the salt a bit in the final seasoning.
  • Add tofu. Make Pan Fried Tofu on the side (or in advance) and add it in the last 5 minutes: pan frying it in advance gives it a nice texture. Or even easier, add tofu cubes when you add the coconut milk: this results in a soft tofu texture, but it’s just as tasty. 
How to make butternut squash curry

What to serve with butternut squash curry? 

This butternut squash curry is Thai-style, so it’s most authentic to serve it with rice. Don’t attempt to add naan: that’s for an Indian-style curry! Here are the types of rice we like to serve with a Thai-style curry: 

  • Jasmine rice (best fit): Jasmine rice is also called Thai fragrant rice: because of its beautiful popcorn-like nutty flavor. Try our jasmine rice recipes: How to Cook Jasmine Rice and Instant Pot Jasmine Rice.
  • Basmati rice (also works): Basmati rice also works, but it’s less fragrant and more often used for Indian curries. See How to Cook Basmati Rice and Instant Pot Basmati Rice.
  • Jade rice (for fun!): Jade rice is a fun option: it’s naturally dyed green using bamboo extract and has a fluffy texture almost like couscous. We served the squash curry this way and it was excellent. 

Want to know more about rice nutrition? See Quinoa vs Rice.

Butternut squashs curry

More recipes with red curry paste

When you buy a jar of red curry paste for this butternut squash curry, there are lots more ways to use it! Here are some of our top favorite recipes using curry paste: 

This butternut squash curry recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free and gluten-free.

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Butternut squash curry

Butternut Squash Curry


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (6 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 4
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

This butternut squash curry is an easy plant based dinner that’s vibrant and full-flavored, starring Thai red curry paste and coconut milk.


Ingredients

  • 1 medium butternut squash (4 cups chopped*)
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or coconut oil
  • 3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste**
  • 15-ounce can full fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups baby spinach or chopped spinach
  • To serve: jasmine rice, basmati rice or jade rice
  • Optional: Add shrimp, chickpeas, or tofu to add more protein***

Instructions

  1. Start the jasmine rice, basmati rice, or jade rice
  2. Peel and chop the butternut squashDice the onion. Place them in a bowl together. 
  3. Mince the garlic. Cut the pepper into thin strips.
  4. In a large skillet, pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and butternut squash and saute for 5 minutes, until onions are translucent. Add the garlic and red pepper and saute for 1 minute.
  5. Add coconut milk, curry paste, turmeric, water and kosher salt and bring to a simmer. Simmer until squash is tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the spinach and wilt for 1 minute. Serve immediately with rice. 

Notes

*Do not substitute frozen butternut squash; the texture does not work in this recipe. 

**The spice level for red curry pastes varies based on the brand. The brand we use (Thai Kitchen) is very mild. Taste your curry paste before you make the curry and add a little less if you’re worried about the heat level. 

***Add shrimp in the last 5 minutes of simmering, or chickpeas when you add the coconut milk (you may need to increase the salt a bit at the end; taste and add more to taste). For tofu, make Pan Fried Tofu on the side (or in advance) and add it in the last 5 minutes: pan frying it in advance gives it a nice texture. Or even easier, add tofu cubes when you add the coconut milk: this results in a soft tofu texture, but it’s just as tasty. 

  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Curry

Keywords: Butternut squash curry

A Couple Cooks - Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

Ultimate Hummus Sandwich

A hummus sandwich is the best healthy easy lunch idea! This plant based recipe takes just a few minutes to make with colorful crunchy veggies. Looking for healthy and easy lunch ideas? Here’s a genius idea for busy days or even a lightening fast weeknight dinner. This Ultimate Hummus Sandwich! That’s right: hummus on a sandwich. You don’t have to reserve hummus just for carrots and pita triangles! It works as a sandwich spread that’s full of plant-based protein to keep you full for hours. Throw it on bread with all your favorite crunchy veggies and it’s a lunch or snack that couldn’t be easier to whip up. Here’s all you need to know about making the ultimate hummus sandwich of your dreams. Ingredients for the ultimate hummus sandwich This hummus sandwich make look like just a random assortment of vegetables with hummus, but it’s more than that! Here are some things to note about getting just the right combination of flavors and textures in a hummus sandwich: Hummus: Use your favorite hummus brand, or even better: make a batch of homemade! The flavor varies widely in store-bought brands, so choose wisely. Bread: We suggest using a crusty artisan bread. […]

A Couple Cooks – Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

A hummus sandwich is the best healthy easy lunch idea! This plant based recipe takes just a few minutes to make with colorful crunchy veggies.

Hummus Sandwich

Looking for healthy and easy lunch ideas? Here’s a genius idea for busy days or even a lightening fast weeknight dinner. This Ultimate Hummus Sandwich! That’s right: hummus on a sandwich. You don’t have to reserve hummus just for carrots and pita triangles! It works as a sandwich spread that’s full of plant-based protein to keep you full for hours. Throw it on bread with all your favorite crunchy veggies and it’s a lunch or snack that couldn’t be easier to whip up. Here’s all you need to know about making the ultimate hummus sandwich of your dreams.

Ingredients for the ultimate hummus sandwich

This hummus sandwich make look like just a random assortment of vegetables with hummus, but it’s more than that! Here are some things to note about getting just the right combination of flavors and textures in a hummus sandwich:

  • Hummus: Use your favorite hummus brand, or even better: make a batch of homemade! The flavor varies widely in store-bought brands, so choose wisely.
  • Bread: We suggest using a crusty artisan bread. If you’re an overachiever, you can make homemade! Try our Sandwich Bread, Whole Wheat Bread, or No Knead Bread.
  • Pickled Vegetables: This is the flavor maker! Using pickled vegetables brings in the best nuance of tangy, sweet, and salty flavor.
  • Raw Vegetables: You can use any combo you like. We used cucumber, red onion and tomato.
  • Cheese: Add cheese for a vegetarian sandwich, or keep it as a vegan sandwich and omit!
  • Sprouts or Microgreens: The finishing touch! It’s optional, but adds nice texture.
Hummus sandwich

The flavor maker: pickled vegetables!

Let’s talk about those pickled vegetables again! This is a trick we picked up from an Italian sandwich shop we visited in Traverse City this summer (Folgarelli’s: we highly recommend it!). One of their vegetable sandwiches had a garlic cheese spread, raw vegetables and the kicker: marinated vegetables from the Italian deli. They added such great tangy, nuanced flavor that it made the entire sandwich taste better!

You can use either mixed pickled vegetables or marinated vegetables. Try pickled cauliflower and carrots (or this recipe for homemade), or whatever you see that strikes your fancy. Or grab some marinated vegetables, jarred or from the antipasto bar if your grocery has one.

Tip: remove excess moisture!

The most important part of this hummus sandwich is this: make sure to remove all excess moisture from the vegetables before you start. Pickled vegetables have quite a bit of moisture (since they’re canned in brine), and so do veggies like tomatoes.

All you have to do is squeeze out the pickled veggies in a paper towel or clean dish towel before building your sandwich! You can also blot the tomatoes with a paper towel to remove excess moisture.

Hummus sandwich

Step it up with homemade hummus

Step up your hummus sandwich by using homemade hummus! It’s the best way to bring in big flavor. Or, use one of our hummus flavors below to mix it up. Here are some ideas:

Variations: more hummus sandwich toppings

It goes without saying that you can vary the toppings in this hummus sandwich to your liking! This is more of a concept than a recipe that has to be followed exactly. Here are some ideas on how to branch out and create thousands of hummus sandwich variations:

Hummus sandwich ingredients

Make-ahead info for a hummus sandwich

Last thing to note about this hummus sandwich. It is best made right before eating! Because hummus has moisture and the veggies have moisture, it gets a little too soggy in the fridge. If you want to bring it to an office or outside of the house, here’s what to do:

  • Slice the veggies in advance and place in a container. Assemble the sandwich right before eating.
  • Try making the sandwich as a wrap. A wrap can better hold up to storage than bread.

This hummus sandwich recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free and plant-based.

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Hummus Sandwich

Ultimate Hummus Sandwich


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (5 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 2 sandwiches
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

A hummus sandwich is the best healthy easy lunch idea! This plant based recipe takes just a few minutes to make with colorful crunchy veggies.


Ingredients

  • 1/4 medium cucumber
  • 1 small tomato 
  • 1/4 small red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped jarred pickled vegetables (we used pickled cauliflower and carrots)
  • 1 cup hummus
  • 2 slices provolone cheese, optional (omit for vegan)
  • 4 slices bread
  • Microgreens or sprouts, optional
  • Other optional toppings: avocado slices, roasted red pepper, lettuce, feta or goat cheese crumbles, fresh herbs, etc.

Instructions

  1. Chop the veggies: Peel and slice the cucumber (or peel alternating strips as we did here). Thinly slice the tomato. Slice the red onion. Chop the pickled vegetables. 
  2. Toast the bread: If desired, toast the bread.
  3. Remove excess moisture: Meanwhile, place the chopped pickles in a paper towel or clean dish towel and squeeze out any extra water. Place the tomatoes on a paper towel or towel and blot them to remove excess moisture.
  4. Build the sandwich: Place the cucumber slices on the bottom of the sandwich to act as a moisture barrier. Top with a layer of hummus. Add the cheese (optional), pickled vegetables, red onion, tomato, and microgreens or sprouts (if using). Spread the remaining hummus on the top slice of bread and place it on top. Note: This sandwich is best made right before eating. If you’re bringing it outside the house like to work, we recommend chopping the components in advance, then building the sandwich right before you eat it. To make it in advance, you could make it as a wrap.

  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Sandwich
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Hummus sandwich

More great sandwich recipes

The sandwich is one of the easiest ways to a healthy lunch or easy snack! Here are some of our favorite sandwich recipes:

A Couple Cooks - Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

Homemade Mac and Cheese

Here’s how to make homemade mac and cheese! Cook this ultimate comfort food from scratch and it’s better than any you’ve ever had. Ready for the best EVER homemade mac and cheese? We promise: it’s really worth pulling out the superlatives here! Making this comfort food from scratch makes it taste infinitely better than the kind from a box. Want to impress everyone? This homemade mac and cheese tastes homey and cozy, with the best gooey, cheesy sauce and crunchy breadcrumbs. Alex and I made this for a recent family gathering and everyone around the table agreed: “this is the best mac and cheese.” How to make homemade mac and cheese: basic steps! Here’s the thing. Making homemade mac and cheese is easy, but you need to know a few basic cooking techniques to make it perfect. Here are the two techniques you’ll have to master: How to cook pasta to al dente. How to make a roux. Once you’ve got these two skills under your belt, the rest is a piece of cake! Let’s talk through these briefly before we start. How (and why!) to cook pasta to al dente What is al dente? Al dente means “to the […]

A Couple Cooks – Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

Here’s how to make homemade mac and cheese! Cook this ultimate comfort food from scratch and it’s better than any you’ve ever had.

Homemade mac and cheese

Ready for the best EVER homemade mac and cheese? We promise: it’s really worth pulling out the superlatives here! Making this comfort food from scratch makes it taste infinitely better than the kind from a box. Want to impress everyone? This homemade mac and cheese tastes homey and cozy, with the best gooey, cheesy sauce and crunchy breadcrumbs. Alex and I made this for a recent family gathering and everyone around the table agreed: “this is the best mac and cheese.”

How to make homemade mac and cheese: basic steps!

Here’s the thing. Making homemade mac and cheese is easy, but you need to know a few basic cooking techniques to make it perfect. Here are the two techniques you’ll have to master:

  • How to cook pasta to al dente.
  • How to make a roux.

Once you’ve got these two skills under your belt, the rest is a piece of cake! Let’s talk through these briefly before we start.

How to make mac and cheese

How (and why!) to cook pasta to al dente

What is al dente? Al dente means “to the bite” in Italian. It refers to cooking pasta to just the point where it’s tender but has a subtly firm center. Here’s the thing: overcooked pasta is not only rubbery and unappetizing. It also has less nutrients and it makes you less full (read more here). Cooking the pasta for this homemade mac and cheese to al dente means it tastes better, you get more nutrients, and you’re full for longer. Win, win, win! Here are some notes on how to cook pasta to al dente:

  • Don’t trust the package instructions! Most pasta packages have timing that results in overcooked pasta. Start tasting the pasta a few minutes before the package indicates.
  • Taste and drain it right when it’s tender but firm inside. Some chefs say to look for a small white fleck at the core (others think it should just disappear for perfect al dente).
  • Move quickly! Pasta can go from al dente to overcooked in a matter of seconds.

Tips for making a roux

The main kitchen technique you need for homemade mac and cheese is making a roux. What’s a roux? A “roux” (pronounced “Roo“) is flour and butter cooked together and used to thicken sauces. It’s usually made from equal parts of flour and butter. For mac and cheese, you make a roux and then add the cheese. This is what makes the gooey sauce: cheese by its would be too sticky. There are a few important things to note about making a roux:

  • Measure out your ingredients in advance (mise en place). The cooking process goes fast, so you don’t want to be distracted by measuring. The French way to say measure out all your ingredients is mise en place, which means everything in its place.
  • Don’t leave the stove, and watch closely. The flour and butter can burn easily here! You must stand by the stove and start adding milk right when the flour turns golden brown.
  • Add the milk gradually. Pour in the milk and constantly whisk, adding it little by little, until it forms a smooth sauce. Once you get to this point, it’s smooth sailing!
Homemade mac and cheese

Best noodles for homemade mac and cheese

By the way…you don’t have to use macaroni for homemade mac and cheese! No: it’s actually even tastier when you use different types of noodles. You can use all sorts of short pasta shapes, from shells to bowties to penne. Here are our favorite types of short pasta for mac and cheese, in order of preference:

Mac and cheese

Best cheese for homemade mac and cheese

There are a few different cheeses that work well in this homemade mac and cheese. Here’s what we’d recommend, and then a few other options:

  • Use sharp cheddar and Monterey Jack. This is the perfect combination for a classic mac and cheese flavor! But be aware…
  • Don’t use aged cheddar! It sounds like it would taste delicious, but aged cheddar doesn’t have quite the right flavor. Stay with a standard sharp.
  • Get fancy with gouda, Havarti or white cheddar. Substitute the cheddar, or try our separate recipes: Gouda Mac and Cheese, Pesto Havarti Mac and Cheese, or White Cheddar Mac and Cheese.

Sides to serve with homemade mac and cheese

Cook this pasta to al dente and this cozy homemade mac and cheese is the stuff dreams are made of! We recently made a pan of this for family who were grieving a loved one, and it was just the right food that tastes like a hug. It’s perfect for anytime you need a cozy meal. Here are a few sides that are full of nutrients and fiber to make it into a healthy dinner idea:

Homemade Mac and Cheese

Tip: how to reheat mac and cheese!

Here’s a great homemade mac and cheese kitchen hack! You can save leftovers of mac and cheese in the refrigerator for about 5 days. But the cheese solidifies and dries out in the fridge! How to get it back to a creamy sauce? Here are our tips:

  • Place it in a skillet and add a splash of milk. Use a ratio of about 1 cup noodles to 1 tablespoon milk.
  • Heat over medium heat and stir until the sauce becomes creamy again!

This homemade mac and cheese recipe is…

Vegetarian. For gluten-free, use gluten-free noodles.

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Homemade Mac and Cheese

*Best* Homemade Mac and Cheese


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (6 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 10 to 12 as a side, 6 to 8 as a main
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

Here’s how to make homemade mac and cheese! Cook this ultimate comfort food from scratch and it’s better than any you’ve ever had.


Ingredients

  • 1 pound short pasta of any type (we like large shells)
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese (not aged)
  • 8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups 2% milk
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup seasoned Italian breadcrumbs (or plain breadcrumbs)

Instructions

  1. Boil the pasta: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add about 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Start tasting the pasta a few minutes before the package instructions and stop cooking once the pasta is just tender but still firm. Then drain the pasta in a colander and rinse it quickly with warm water.
  2. Meanwhile, make the sauce: Grate the cheese (if necessary). Measure out the butter, flour, milk, salt, onion powder, and garlic powder. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the butter over medium heat; when it melts, stir in the flour. Heat the mixture for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Immediately when the color starts to turn light brown, reduce the heat to low. Start to add the milk very slowly: whisk constantly until the mixture is completely smooth, then add a bit more milk until it is fully incorporated, then repeat. Once all the milk is added, add the salt, onion powder, and garlic powder. Continue cooking on low heat for about 2 minutes to thicken slightly, whisking frequently. After 2 minutes, gradually add the grated cheese and keep stirring until it is fully melted.
  3. Top with breadcrumbs and serve: Stir the pasta into the cheese sauce, then pour it into a dish and top with breadcrumbs. If you’d like, place it in a baking dish and broil it for 2 to 4 minutes until the crumbs are lightly browned, turning the pan to even out the browning as necessary. Serve immediately. Refrigerate leftovers up to 4 days. Reheat on the stovetop with a splash of milk and stir until creamy. 

  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Homemade mac and cheese, how to make mac and cheese

A Couple Cooks - Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

Cauliflower Stir Fry

This easy cauliflower stir fry is an ideal healthy and easy dinner idea! It’s full of nutrients and covered in a punchy sauce. Hands up if you love cauliflower! (All hands raise, over here.) This vegetable has star status among veggies these days: because there are endless creative ways to use it. Make it into tacos, use it as a plant based stand-in buffalo wings, or hide it in alfredo sauce. Here’s our new favorite way to use these tasty florets: in a cauliflower stir fry! Fry it until lightly charred and tender, then add bell peppers and a punchy stir fry sauce. It’s the best way to make eating your veggies irresistible! Try it as a healthy side dish or an easy plant based dinner (with the protein adders below). Ingredients in this cauliflower stir fry This cauliflower stir fry is fast and easy to make! On its own it works as a side dish, but eat it with a plant based protein (see below) and it’s an easy dinner. The main thing to note is that cauliflower requires much more time to stir fry than other veggies, so you’ll need to add it to the pan first. Here […]

A Couple Cooks – Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

This easy cauliflower stir fry is an ideal healthy and easy dinner idea! It’s full of nutrients and covered in a punchy sauce.

Cauliflower stir fry

Hands up if you love cauliflower! (All hands raise, over here.) This vegetable has star status among veggies these days: because there are endless creative ways to use it. Make it into tacos, use it as a plant based stand-in buffalo wings, or hide it in alfredo sauce. Here’s our new favorite way to use these tasty florets: in a cauliflower stir fry! Fry it until lightly charred and tender, then add bell peppers and a punchy stir fry sauce. It’s the best way to make eating your veggies irresistible! Try it as a healthy side dish or an easy plant based dinner (with the protein adders below).

Ingredients in this cauliflower stir fry

This cauliflower stir fry is fast and easy to make! On its own it works as a side dish, but eat it with a plant based protein (see below) and it’s an easy dinner. The main thing to note is that cauliflower requires much more time to stir fry than other veggies, so you’ll need to add it to the pan first. Here are the basic ingredients you’ll need for this stir fry:

Nutrition note: This recipe uses 2 bell peppers along with the cauliflower. 1 medium red bell pepper provides 169% of your daily vitamin C, so using 2 knocks this vitamin off the charts (Source)!

Cauliflower stir fry

Notes on the stir fry sauce

This cauliflower stir fry has an incredible stir fry sauce that brings in lots of savory, salty and sweet flavor! Use the recipe as printed, or another option is our Go To Stir Fry Sauce. It’s just as good and is an oil free option. Here are a few notes on the ingredients in the stir fry sauce:

  • Soy sauce: Use regular sodium to get the full seasoning. Tamari is a gluten free soy substitute, or use coconut aminos for a soy free gluten free substitute. You may need to add a pinch more salt in both cases.
  • Cornstarch: Arrow root powder is an effective substitute for cornstarch in stir fry sauces!
  • Miso: Miso is a Japanese fermented soybean paste that’s full of nutrients and savory flavor. It’s a must in this sauce and can’t be replicated. You can find miso in the international foods aisle near the Japanese ingredients. There are lots of types of miso: we used yellow or light miso here.
  • Gochujang (optional): Want to add a little spicy funkiness to your sauce? This Korean chili paste steps it up a notch.
How to make a cauliflower stir fry

How to make a cauliflower stir fry: some tips!

The overall process for this cauliflower stir fry is easy: but there are a few things to note to make it come out perfectly. Here’s what to know:

  • Stir fry the cauliflower about 5 minutes before adding other veggies. Here’s the kicker: cauliflower takes much longer than other veggies to stir fry. If you add them all at once, it will come out too tough. Make sure to follow the instructions exactly.
  • Use medium high heat. The point of a stir fry is to cook at high heat: quickly. This will get nice char marks onto your cauliflower.
  • Don’t double the recipe. The biggest tip for a stir fry: you can’t crowd the pan! If there are too many veggies, they’ll steam instead of stir fry. If you want to increase quantities, cook the veggies in batches then re-warm everything together.
Cauliflower stir fry

Add protein to make it a main dish!

Are you serving this cauliflower stir fry as a main dish? It’s a perfect healthy meal or fast and easy dinner idea. Just make sure to serve with a whole grain and consider adding protein to keep it filling. Here are some ideas:

  • Serve with Rice: Rice has protein (about 10% of your daily needs in 1 cup cooked) and fiber, which helps to make a filling meal. Try our White RiceBrown Rice, or Instant Pot Rice.
  • Cashews: Throw 3/4 cup cashews into this stir fry when you add the cauliflower. This makes a main dish of about 2 to 3 servings.
  • Edamame: Add 1 cup shelled, frozen edamame in the last 2 to 3 minutes of the cook time. Or eat edamame in the shell as a side: try Easy Edamame or Spicy Edamame.
  • Tofu: Cook Marinated Tofu or Pan Fried Tofu, then add it once the stir fry is done.
  • Shrimp: Make Garlic Shrimp but use sesame oil instead of butter and omit the lemon.
Cauliflower stir fry

Or serve cauliflower stir fry as a side dish

You also can serve this cauliflower stir fry as a side dish instead! It would be fantastic with the following main dish options:

This cauliflower stir fry recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free and gluten-free.

Print
Cauliflower stir fry

Easy Cauliflower Stir Fry


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (6 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 3 to 4 as a main with added protein, 4 as a side
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

This easy cauliflower stir fry is an ideal healthy and easy dinner idea! It’s full of nutrients and covered in a punchy sauce. 


Ingredients

  • 1 medium head cauliflower (2 pounds)
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 orange bell pepper
  • 1 medium white onion
  • 3 green onions
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar*
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce (or tamari or coconut aminos)
  • 1 tablespoon light miso
  • 1/2 tablespoon gochujang (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (or maple syrup)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil (regular, not toasted)
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch (or arrowroot powder)
  • 3 tablespoons neutral oil for stir frying, divided
  • To serve as a main dish: Add 3/4 cup cashews with cauliflower**, add 1 cup shelled frozen edamame in the last 2 to 3 minutes, or add Marinated Tofu, Pan Fried Tofu, or Sauteed Shrimp and serve with rice

Instructions

  1. Chop the cauliflower into small florets. Thinly slice the bell peppers. Thinly slice the white onion. Thinly slice the green onion.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together rice vinegar, soy sauce, miso, gochujang, sugar, sesame oil, and cornstarch (or make the Go To Stir Fry Sauce). 
  3. In large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons neutral oil over medium high heat. Add the cauliflower and a pinch of salt and cook unstirring, for 3 to 4 minutes until charred. Flip the florets and continue cooking for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the bell peppers, white onion, a pinch of salt and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and cook 4 to 6 minutes until tender.
  5. Turn off the heat. Pour in the sauce and add the green onions. Stir until the sauce coats everything and thickens. Serve immediately. 

Notes

*Or substitute the Go To Stir Fry Sauce for the sauce ingredients (oil free).

  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stir Fry
  • Cuisine: Asian inspired

Keywords: Cauliflower stir fry

More great cauliflower recipes

There are so many tasty cauliflower recipes to try if you love this healthy veggie! Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Buffalo Cauliflower Wings They’re crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, and tossed with spicy buffalo sauce.
  • Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower No one can resist this roasted cauliflower with Parmesan! It’s as irresistible as French fries, baked in a hot oven until browned and crisp.
  • Creamy Cauliflower Sauce Like a healthy alfredo sauce using cauliflower as a base! It has less calories and all the benefits of this healthy veggie.

A Couple Cooks - Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

Blackened Salmon

Blackened salmon is the ultimate salmon recipe: fast, easy and seasoned to perfection! It’s guaranteed to become a favorite. Speechless. That’s what I was when Alex made this beautiful salmon recipe for me…and we hope you will be too. This Blackened Salmon is so flavor filled, you’ll feel like you ordered it at a restaurant. Even better: it’s fast and easy. The cooking process takes just 5 to 8 minutes. The homemade blackened seasoning has a savory intrigue and makes a crispy black crust on the outside of the fish. (Yeah, it blackens your pan too…but it’s 100% worth it.) What is blackening, anyway? First, let’s talk about the cooking method: blackening! Blackening is a style of cooking fish and meat in a cast iron skillet with a special blend of Cajun-style spices until the outside is crispy and blackened. It’s a technique that was popularized by celebrity Cajun chef Paul Prudhomme of Louisiana. He created a recipe for blackened redfish in this 1980’s cookbook that took the world by storm. Since then, blackening has become a popular technique. It’s all about the spices: and each chef has their own special blend. Let’s talk spices! Ingredients in blackened seasoning Here’s […]

A Couple Cooks – Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

Blackened salmon is the ultimate salmon recipe: fast, easy and seasoned to perfection! It’s guaranteed to become a favorite.

Blackened salmon

Speechless. That’s what I was when Alex made this beautiful salmon recipe for me…and we hope you will be too. This Blackened Salmon is so flavor filled, you’ll feel like you ordered it at a restaurant. Even better: it’s fast and easy. The cooking process takes just 5 to 8 minutes. The homemade blackened seasoning has a savory intrigue and makes a crispy black crust on the outside of the fish. (Yeah, it blackens your pan too…but it’s 100% worth it.)

What is blackening, anyway?

First, let’s talk about the cooking method: blackening! Blackening is a style of cooking fish and meat in a cast iron skillet with a special blend of Cajun-style spices until the outside is crispy and blackened. It’s a technique that was popularized by celebrity Cajun chef Paul Prudhomme of Louisiana. He created a recipe for blackened redfish in this 1980’s cookbook that took the world by storm. Since then, blackening has become a popular technique. It’s all about the spices: and each chef has their own special blend. Let’s talk spices!

Blackened seasoning

Ingredients in blackened seasoning

Here’s the thing about blackened seasoning: every chef has their own recipe, so there’s no “true” definition! The famous chef Paul Prudhomme had his own technique, and ours is heavily influenced by his method. Most recipes have spices familiar to Cajun cuisine: paprika, garlic, onion, oregano, thyme, and of course, cayenne for the heat. To our recipe we added a hint allspice and cloves to add intrigue and nuance.

This blackened seasoning blend has a hint of heat, but it’s mild. We wouldn’t even call it medium (our 3 year old loved it and didn’t detect heat). We recommend making this blend homemade because it’s just not the same otherwise! The ingredients in our homemade Blackened Seasoning are:

  • Smoked paprika or sweet paprika
  • Onion powder
  • Garlic powder
  • Oregano
  • Celery seed
  • Allspice
  • Cloves
  • Cayenne
  • Salt and black pepper
Blackened salmon

How to buy a great piece of salmon

Aside from blackened seasoning, you’ll also need a fantastic piece of salmon for this blackened salmon. Lower quality salmon can taste very fishy and have a mushy texture. Here’s how to buy a great piece of salmon:

  • Buy wild caught salmon. Wild caught is the way to go! It’s most sustainable and has the best flavor. Buy it either fresh from the fish counter or frozen works too.
  • Coho is a good choice. We tend to like Coho salmon for its mild flavor: it’s a good middle of the road option in terms of price. Of course, King salmon is incredible but it’s on the expensive end. Avoid Atlantic salmon as it is typically farmed salmon.
  • Make sure to buy skin on. You’ll need skin-on salmon for this recipe.

Basic steps for how to make blackened salmon

You can skip right to the recipe if you’re ready to start this blackened salmon. But let’s chat briefly about the method, because knowing why you’re doing something in the kitchen is just as important as doing it.

  • Brine the salmon. Brining takes 15 minutes, but it makes the best crispy on the outside, moist on the inside piece of salmon. Simply place the salmon in a salt water solution for 15 minutes; this also allows the salmon to come to room temperature.
  • Add blackened seasoning. Pat the salmon dry and season with the homemade seasoning blend (you can mix it up while the salmon is brining).
  • Sear the salmon skin side up for 2 to 3 minutes. Use a stainless steel or cast iron pan to get the best sear (not a non-stick pan)! Cook it over medium high heat until it’s cooked about halfway.
  • Flip and cook 2 to 5 more minutes. The timing depends on the thickness of the piece of salmon, so use your best judgement. It should be just tender and pink at the center (about 130 degrees Fahrenheit).
Blackened salmon

Helpful tool: a fish spatula!

You don’t need any special tools for blackened salmon, but here’s one that makes the process a little easier: a fish spatula! A fish spatula is a wide slotted metal spatula that’s used to gently slide underneath fish when you’re searing it. It’s actually useful for many more tasks outside of seafood: like flipping eggplant pizzas or fries.

Use any large, wide spatula if you don’t have a fish spatula. Metal is nice so that it can easily slide under the fish skin. Want to grab one for yourself? Here’s a link to our fish spatula.

How to clean your pan after making blackened salmon

After making blackened salmon, your pan will have a lovely blackened char as well. (Sorry, it’s part of the fun!) Here are a few things to note about cleaning your pan:

  • Don’t leave it for hours. You can eat your food first, of course! But don’t leave it for hours or overnight so that the black crust solidifies.
  • “Deglaze” the pan. Deglazing the pan is a cooking technique where you add wine or another liquid to loosen the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. You can use it for cleaning too! Simply place water in the pan and heat it on a burner over medium heat. When the blackened bits start to loosen, scrape them off gently with a wooden spoon or silicon spatula.
  • Use a non-toxic kitchen cleaner. If you have bits that are really stuck, we like to use a cleaner like Bon Ami.
How to make Blackened salmon

Sides to serve with blackened salmon

And that’s it: how to make blackened salmon! It makes a beautiful healthy dinner recipe that’s great for weeknights or to impress when you’re entertaining. What to serve with it? Here are a few side dishes we’d pair with it:

This blackened salmon recipe is…

Gluten-free, pescatarian and dairy-free.

Print
Blackened salmon

Classic Blackened Salmon


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (8 votes, average: 4.50 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

Blackened salmon is the ultimate salmon recipe: fast, easy and seasoned to perfection! It’s guaranteed to become a favorite.


Ingredients

  • 1 pound wild caught salmon fillets, skin on
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons homemade Blackened Seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon butter (or more olive oil for dairy free)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus one drizzle
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Brine the salmon: In a large shallow dish, whisk together 4 cups room temperature water and 3 tablespoons kosher salt until dissolved. Place the salmon in the water and wait for 15 minutes.
  2. If you haven’t already, mix up the blackened seasoning.
  3. Pat the salmon dry with a clean towel. Rub it generously with oil and sprinkle it with the kosher salt and blackened seasoning.
  4. Heat a large skillet (not non-stick*) over medium high heat and add the butter and olive oil. When butter is melted, add the salmon skin side up and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until cooked about 1/2 way to center of thick part of salmon.
  5. Flip the salmon (a fish spatula makes easy work of it). Tilt the pan down slightly and quickly spoon the pan juices over the top of the fish a few times. Drizzle with the lemon juice and spoon the pan juices a few times again. Cook for 2 to 5 minutes, depending on the thickness, until just tender and pink at the center (the internal temperature should be between 125 to 130 Fahrenheit in the center when removed). Remove from the heat and serve.

Notes

*You’ll get the best sear from a stainless steel or cast iron skillet.

  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Seared
  • Cuisine: Cajun inpsired

Keywords: Blackened salmon

More healthy seafood recipes

We’ve got lots more healthy seafood recipes and fish recipes to try! Here are some favorites:

  • Pesto Baked Salmon Bright green basil pesto is a natural fit with baked fish! An easy weeknight meal that also works to impress guests.
  • Tilapia Fish Tacos Bake or broil the fish, then add sauce and slaw. A total crowd pleaser!
  • Creamy Shrimp Pasta Easy to make with the best big flavors: garlic, lemon, and Parmesan.
  • Seafood Paella This stunning one pan dinner features shrimp, vegetables and all the authentic flavors of this traditional dish.
  • Salmon with Capers Oven baked in foil until it’s perfectly tender, then topped with a delicious caper sauce. An easy healthy dinner recipe!

A Couple Cooks - Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

Go-To Tofu Stir Fry

This tasty tofu stir fry recipe is our go-to for healthy plant based dinners! It’s got the best stir fry sauce, and you can use any veggies. Did you know tofu is delicious? For years Alex and I veered away from tofu because we weren’t quite sure what to do with it. Of course, tofu right out of the container is a colorless, flavorless goo. But cook it up right and it’s one of the tastiest plant-based dinners you can have. This healthy vegan protein is great for incorporating into your meal prep repertoire. Want to fall in love with it? Come taste this tofu stir fry. It’s got the most flavor-packed stir fry sauce that works with any veggie, and the tofu is crisped on the outside and perfectly seasoned. First off: is tofu healthy? We get this question a lot, because there have been some tofu rumors out there in the rumor mill. Here’s our two-cents: Tofu is part of a healthy diet. According to the Harvard TH Chan School of Nutrition, soy is a nutrient-dense source of protein that can safely be consumed several times a week. It’s likely to provide health benefits, especially when you eat it as an […]

A Couple Cooks – Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

This tasty tofu stir fry recipe is our go-to for healthy plant based dinners! It’s got the best stir fry sauce, and you can use any veggies.

Tofu stir fry

Did you know tofu is delicious? For years Alex and I veered away from tofu because we weren’t quite sure what to do with it. Of course, tofu right out of the container is a colorless, flavorless goo. But cook it up right and it’s one of the tastiest plant-based dinners you can have. This healthy vegan protein is great for incorporating into your meal prep repertoire. Want to fall in love with it? Come taste this tofu stir fry. It’s got the most flavor-packed stir fry sauce that works with any veggie, and the tofu is crisped on the outside and perfectly seasoned.

First off: is tofu healthy?

We get this question a lot, because there have been some tofu rumors out there in the rumor mill. Here’s our two-cents: Tofu is part of a healthy diet. According to the Harvard TH Chan School of Nutrition, soy is a nutrient-dense source of protein that can safely be consumed several times a week. It’s likely to provide health benefits, especially when you eat it as an alternative to red meat and processed meat. Learn more about tofu here: Straight Talk About Soy and Is Tofu Good for You?

How to make a tofu stir fry: the basic steps

Even better than being healthy: tofu can be completely delicious if you cook it correctly! Here’s what to know about the elements of making this basic tofu stir fry:

  • Make the stir fry sauce. This sauce is SO good! You’re going to love the flavor and the thick body of the sauce.
  • Chop the veggies. This is where much of the prep time will come in. We’ve used only a few veggies so you don’t have to spend hours chopping.
  • Cook the tofu. The main idea is to cut it into small squares, then pan fry for 5 minutes per side.
  • Stir fry the veggies. Add the veggies for 6 minutes. Then add the tofu and sauce and turn off the heat! The sauce will heat and thicken using the residual heat. If you have the heat too high, the sauce will evaporate.
Tofu stir fry

Guess what: you don’t have to press the tofu!

Did you notice something was missing? Pressing the tofu! If you’ve made other tofu recipes, they may have called for wrapping the tofu in a towel and placing a heavy object on top for 30 minutes. The theory is that this extracts more water, helping the tofu to get crispier. But really: who has the time for that?

This tofu stir fry works for weeknight dinners because you don’t have to spend the time pressing it before cooking. Just pat it dry with a towel and you’re ready to cook.

What’s in this delicious stir fry sauce

Did we talk up this stir fry sauce enough? Let’s just spend a little more time there. You can use this sauce for any stir fry that’s intended for 4 servings. You can also easily make the sauce in advance! Whip it up and store in a covered jar or container until you’re ready to cook. It saves a few minutes: which can be crucial on a weeknight. Here’s what’s in this sauce:

  • Soy sauce
  • Rice vinegar
  • Sugar
  • Miso
  • Cornstarch
  • Garlic powder
Tofu stir fry

Other veggies to use in a tofu stir fry

You can use lots of other vegetables in this tofu stir fry! We chose broccoli, red and orange bell pepper, and shiitake mushrooms because they have beautiful colors, lots of nutrients, and a similar cooking time. Here’s a cheat sheet for other vegetables you might want to add to show the timing for each one:

Vegetables that take 6 to 7 minutes to stir fry:

Vegetables that take 3 to 5 minutes to stir fry:

  • Cabbage, thinly sliced
  • Snap peas
  • Bok choy, chopped
  • Zucchini or summer squash
  • Edamame, frozen and shelled

Vegetables that take 1 minute to stir fry:

  • Garlic, minced
  • Ginger, minced
  • Green onion, thinly sliced (or use as a garnish)
Tofu stir fry

What to serve with this tofu stir fry

Lastly, let’s talk about how to serve this tofu stir fry! This makes a fantastic healthy vegan dinner idea or easy vegetarian meal. You’ll want to serve with some sort of whole grain to make it more filling. Here are some options:

  • Rice: The easiest and most traditional option for a stir fry. Go to How to Cook Rice or Instant Pot Rice.
  • Quinoa: When we want to mix things up, quinoa is a fun grain to serve with a stir fry. Go to How to Make Quinoa or Instant Pot Quinoa.
  • Cauliflower Rice: Don’t want to eat a whole grain? Try cauliflower rice! Take 1 head of cauliflower and chop it into large florets. Place half of the florets into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until fully chopped and the cauliflower resembles grains of rice. Remove the “rice” to a bowl and process the remainder of the cauliflower.
Tofu stir fry

This tofu stir fry recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free and gluten-free.

Print
Tofu stir fry

Go-To Tofu Stir Fry


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (9 votes, average: 4.56 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 4
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

This tasty tofu stir fry recipe is our go-to for healthy plant based dinners! It’s got the best stir fry sauce, and you can use any veggies.


Ingredients

For the stir fry sauce

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon miso
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

For the tofu stir fry

  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh broccoli, stem on (about 3 large heads or 6 heaping cups florets)*
  • 1 red bell pepper (or half red and half orange)
  • 4 ounces shiitake mushrooms (optional)
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 14-ounces firm or extra firm tofu
  • 3 tablespoons sesame oil, divided
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoons sesame oil
  • Sesame seeds

Instructions

  1. Start the rice: If serving with rice, start the rice.
  2. Make the sauce: Whisk together the stir fry sauce ingredients in a medium bowl, or make the sauce in advance and refrigerate until cooking.
  3. Chop the veggies: Chop the broccoli into florets. Thinly slice the pepper. Remove the shiitake stems and thinly slice them, if using. Thinly slice the green onion. Peel and grate the ginger.
  4. Cook the tofu: Cut the tofu into bite sized pieces (1-inch squares, 3/8-inch thick and pat it dry with a towel. Add the oil to a large non-stick pan and add the tofu cubes and a few pinches kosher salt. Turn on the heat to medium-high. Cook 5 to 6 minutes until lightly browned on the bottom.
  5. Flip the tofu: Briefly remove the pan from the heat to reduce spitting. Flip the tofu with chopsticks (the easiest method!) or tongs. Return the heat to medium-high and cook 5 to 6 minutes until browned. Remove the tofu to a bowl and set it aside.
  6. Stir fry the veggies: Add another 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet. Add the broccoli, pepper, and shiitake mushrooms and two pinches salt and cook 6 to 7 minutes until just starting to brown on edges, stirring occasionally. In the last minute, add 1 tablespoon water and allow the vegetables to steam.
  7. Turn down the heat to low. Add the green onion and ginger and cook 1 minute. Turn off the heat. Add the tofu and sauce and stir until the sauce thickens. Serve immediately. Store leftovers up to 3 days refrigerated.

  • Category: Stir Fry
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Vegan

Keywords: Tofu stir fry

More easy vegan dinner ideas

Love eating plant based? Here are a few more vegan dinner ideas to add to your repertoire:

A Couple Cooks - Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

Easy Grain Bowl

Here’s how to make a grain bowl! Pair a whole grain, protein and veggies with this amazing tahini sauce to make a healthy, fast and easy meal. Want to make a grain bowl? Bowl meals are so popular these days, and often they’re on our table because it’s one of the easiest ways to turn random ingredients into a healthy dinner! But here’s the thing: you can’t just throw anything into a bowl. A good grain bowl has to be well-seasoned, and play up contrasts in color, texture and flavor. It’s got to have enough protein to keep you full, and a great sauce to bring it all together. Yes, there are rules to grain bowls! (Kind of.) We’ll talk you through a few steps, and then show you our favorite grain bowl that makes a fast and easy dinner in 30 minutes. How to make a grain bowl A good grain bowl has four main elements, and plays up the contrasts between these ingredients. If you’d like, you can top with some extras (see below). A grain bowl features these major elements: Whole grain: quinoa, rice, farro, bulgur wheat, millet, freekah, Protein: chickpeas, black beans, white beans, tofu, tempeh, […]

A Couple Cooks – Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

Here’s how to make a grain bowl! Pair a whole grain, protein and veggies with this amazing tahini sauce to make a healthy, fast and easy meal.

Grain Bowl

Want to make a grain bowl? Bowl meals are so popular these days, and often they’re on our table because it’s one of the easiest ways to turn random ingredients into a healthy dinner! But here’s the thing: you can’t just throw anything into a bowl. A good grain bowl has to be well-seasoned, and play up contrasts in color, texture and flavor. It’s got to have enough protein to keep you full, and a great sauce to bring it all together. Yes, there are rules to grain bowls! (Kind of.) We’ll talk you through a few steps, and then show you our favorite grain bowl that makes a fast and easy dinner in 30 minutes.

How to make a grain bowl

A good grain bowl has four main elements, and plays up the contrasts between these ingredients. If you’d like, you can top with some extras (see below). A grain bowl features these major elements:

How to make a grain bowl

Accentuate contrasts in flavor, texture and color

When you choose the elements for your grain bowl, you’ll have to keep contrasts in mind! Think about textures, colors, and flavors as you pick out each of the elements. You don’t want a bowl that’s all mushy, drab, or all the same flavor profile. Here are a few notes:

  • Texture contrasts: Whole grains are fluffy, beans and chickpeas can be soft. Think about adding a crunch with raw veggies, needs or seeds.
  • Color contrasts: We eat with our eyes! No one wants a brown or yellow bowl. Add colorful fresh or cooked veggies to round out the bowl! The more colors, the better.
  • Flavor contrasts: Using several components naturally makes flavor contrasts. Think about contrasts in elements that are savory, naturally sweet, tangy, salty, and even lightly bitter.

Use a theme to tie the grain bowl together

Using a vague theme can be helpful for tying a grain bowl together. It’s not necessary, but using flavors that go from a specific cuisine can make for harmony in the bowl! Here are a few ideas:

  • Mediterranean style: That’s the style of this easy grain bowl! It’s got Mediterranean or Greek style elements like tahini sauce, chickpeas, cucumber and tomatoes.
  • Mexican style: Try a bowl like this Rice Bowl with rice, black beans, and cilantro sauce.
  • Hawaiian style: Go for a Poke Bowl vibe (or Vegan Poke Bowl).
  • Moroccan style: Roast up a bunch of veggies for a Roasted Vegetable Bowl with freekah and lemon yogurt sauce.
  • Japanese style: Try a Sushi Bowl with sushi rice, ahi tuna, and healthy veggies.
Grain bowl

Make this easy grain bowl…in 30 minutes!

This easy grain bowl is Mediterranean-inspired and takes just 30 minutes to make into a healthy lunch or dinner! Because some grains can take longer to cook, this concept can often take longer than 30 minutes if you make them all at once. This recipe is quick and easy! Make it even faster with our make-ahead tips below. Here are the elements that make this grain bowl so quick:

  • Easy chickpeas: These Easy Canned Chickpeas are our trick on how to make a bland can of beans taste great in just 5 minutes! We use this trick all the time in the kitchen.
  • Seasoned quinoa: This Perfect Seasoned Quinoa is another trick to make quinoa taste fantastic. Put on a pot and make the rest of your components.
  • Mediterranean-style veggies: Grab your tomatoes, cucumber, and some Kalamata olives if you’d like.
  • Tahini sauce: This Tahini Sauce works for lots of different bowls: and it’s perfect for this one with a Mediterranean flair.
Mediterranean quinoa bowl

Make ahead tips & meal prep ideas

Want to make a grain bowl ahead of time? Great! Because it can take a while to prepare all the components. To make the fastest healthy dinner or lunch, think about doing a few things in advance. Here are a few ideas:

  • Cook the grain in advance. Refrigerate until serving. Reheat on the stovetop lightly, or just serve it at room temperature. Rice can dry out, so when you reheat it on the stovetop, add a splash of water and then cover it so it can steam.
  • Cook the protein in advance. If you’re making a bowl with chicken, fish, or tofu, you can cook that in advance and refrigerate until serving.
  • Use a grain bowl to use up leftovers! The best part about bowl meals? They’re great for leftovers. Use the bowl concept to eat up leftover items you’ve cooked throughout the week.

Let us know how you enjoy this grain bowl in the comments below! And here are 10 more ideas to get your wheels turning.

Variations: 10 more grain bowl recipes

Here are more of our favorite grain bowl ideas! There are so many to choose from: and you can mix and match the grains and components in each.

This grain bowl recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free, and gluten-free.

Print
Grain Bowl

Easy Grain Bowl


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (7 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

Here’s how to make a grain bowl! Pair a whole grain, protein and veggies with this amazing tahini sauce to make a healthy, fast and easy meal.


Ingredients

For the grain

For the grain bowl

  • 2 15-ounce can chickpeas*
  • 2 small garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika or regular paprika
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 recipe Tahini Sauce
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1 English cucumber
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives (optional)
  • 1/4 red onion

Instructions

  1. Make the grain: Go to Seasoned Quinoa to make the quinoa, or follow the other whole grain recipes listed above. The quinoa takes about 25 minutes total, so use the cook time to prepare the remaining ingredients.
  2. Make the chickpeas: Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Mince the garlic. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute until fragrant but before it browns. Add the chickpeas, smoked paprika, salt, and several grinds of black pepper. Cook 2 minutes until warmed through.
  3. Make the sauce: Make the Tahini Sauce. (Or, try Lemon Dill Sauce or Creamy Cilantro Sauce.)
  4. Prep the veggies: Slice the tomatoes in half. Slice the cucumber. Slice the red onion.
  5. Assemble the bowls: Place the quinoa and chickpeas in the bowl. Add the fresh veggies and drizzle with the sauce.

Notes

*This makes a solid 4 to 6 servings of protein. If you’re cooking for 1 or 2, make half this recipe (or go to Easy Canned Chickpeas.)

  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Grain Bowl, How to make a grain bowl

A Couple Cooks - Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

Easy Rice Bowl

This easy rice bowl comes together in a flash! This fast dinner stars black beans and veggies with zingy cilantro lime ranch sauce. Every time we ask readers what they want, we get a similar answer. Fast and easy dinner recipes! Essentially, you don’t care how basic it is. You just want easy, healthy ideas to get food on the table. So here’s one to file under dinnertime basics: this Easy Rice Bowl! This 30 minute dinner features these easy black beans, a trick to make a bland can of beans taste amazing in 5 minutes. Pair it with rice and colorful veggies. The kicker? A zingy cilantro lime ranch that you’ll want to bathe in. These were so tasty and easy, we knew we had to share (we simply inhaled them). How to make rice: our favorite methods The longest lead time on a rice bowl is cooking the rice. So get that started first! You can use any variety of rice you’d like. We like cooking rice on the stovetop, but a pressure cooker also makes quick work of it. You can also make the rice in advance and reheat it before serving (instructions below). Here are our […]

A Couple Cooks – Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

This easy rice bowl comes together in a flash! This fast dinner stars black beans and veggies with zingy cilantro lime ranch sauce.

Rice bowl

Every time we ask readers what they want, we get a similar answer. Fast and easy dinner recipes! Essentially, you don’t care how basic it is. You just want easy, healthy ideas to get food on the table. So here’s one to file under dinnertime basics: this Easy Rice Bowl! This 30 minute dinner features these easy black beans, a trick to make a bland can of beans taste amazing in 5 minutes. Pair it with rice and colorful veggies. The kicker? A zingy cilantro lime ranch that you’ll want to bathe in. These were so tasty and easy, we knew we had to share (we simply inhaled them).

How to make rice: our favorite methods

The longest lead time on a rice bowl is cooking the rice. So get that started first! You can use any variety of rice you’d like. We like cooking rice on the stovetop, but a pressure cooker also makes quick work of it. You can also make the rice in advance and reheat it before serving (instructions below). Here are our favorite methods for cooking rice:

Easy rice bowl

The star: 5-minute easy black beans!

The best part of this rice bowl, similar to a burrito bowl, is the easy black beans! This is the way to bring big flavor with only a few minutes of cooking. Once you’ve got your rice started, whip up those black beans. Here’s what you need to infuse huge flavor into these beans in no time:

  • Canned black beans: You don’t even have to rinse them! The residual can liquid makes a creamy sauce.
  • Fresh garlic: Minced fresh garlic brings big savory flavor.
  • Cumin: A hint of cumin adds the final flavoring.

Pop them in a pan for just 3 minutes, and you’ll be surprised at the amount of flavor you’ll get. You can use these beans as a component in lots of different meals outside of this rice bowl.

Black beans

How to make a rice bowl

Once you’ve got your rice and your beans: it’s time to make a rice bowl! The vegetable and sauce ideas we’ve provided here are just ideas. This is a free-form concept so anything goes! Here are a few ideas for vegetables and components you can swap to make a rice bowl. This one is like to a burrito bowl, but you can use different flavors and sauces for a different vibe. The main guiding principle: maximize contrasts in color, flavor and texture!

  • Make the rice. See above.
  • Make the protein. You can of course use any type of protein you like: beans, tofu, tempeh, chicken, shrimp: you name it! This bowl would be great with Cilantro Lime Shrimp too.
  • Prepare the veggies. Use lots of colorful raw veggies. Some favorites are avocado and cherry tomatoes. We like to add corn for sweetness and red onion for a savory crunch. Other ideas: bell peppers, leafy greens like spinach or mixed greens, or roasted sweet potatoes,
  • Add the sauce. Top it all off with a healthy sauce to bring it together: ideas below!

5 different sauce variations (with vegan options!)

What makes a rice bowl? The sauce. This rice bowl is covered in a creamy, zingy cilantro lime ranch that takes it over the top! You’ll love this tasty sauce: but we’ve got lots of other options too. If you’re looking for a vegan variation, review the list below:

Cilantro lime sauce

White rice vs. brown rice

Which type of rice is best for a rice bowl? Is it better to eat brown rice? Here’s a little breakdown of the benefits of making either variety for this rice bowl:

  • White rice is quick to cook and takes about 20 minutes total. It’s great when you’re in a time crunch!
  • Brown rice has more vitamins, minerals, and fiber than white rice. 1 cup cooked white rice has 0.6 grams fiber, but 1 cup cooked brown rice has 3.2 grams of fiber, 13% of your daily need. (Source) It’s also less processed so has more nutrients. It does take longer to cook, but use our quick method above to cook it in 35 minutes.

Shortcut: make the rice in advance and reheat it!

Make this rice bowl even quicker by making the rice in advance. Refrigerate it until you’re ready to serve. You may have noticed that when you refrigerate rice, it gets very dry. Here’s a trick for how to reheat rice so that it’s perfectly moist:

  • Place the cold rice in a saucepan on the stovetop.
  • Add a small splash of water.
  • Heat the rice until it’s warmed through: the water will steam and absorb into the rice.
Rice bowl
Components in a rice bowl: rice, protein, veggies and sauce

Black beans nutrition

You can make this rice bowl with a variety of different protein options. But here’s a plug for using black beans! Here’s why black beans are such a plant-based powerhouse (source):

  • Excellent source of protein. 1 cup has 15 grams of protein, about 30% of your daily protein needs.
  • Excellent source of fiber. 1 cup also has 15 grams of fiber, about 50% of your daily intake.
  • Black beans have a lower glycemic index compared to many other high-carbohydrate foods, meaning they cause a smaller rise in blood sugar after a meal. In fact, some studies have even shown beans eaten with rice can reduce a rise in blood sugar vs when people eat rice alone.

This rice bowl recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free, and gluten-free.

Print
Rice bowl

Easy Rice Bowl


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (5 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

This easy rice bowl comes together in a flash! This fast dinner stars black beans and veggies with zingy cilantro lime ranch sauce.


Ingredients

For the black beans*

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 15-ounce cans black beans, drained but not rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • Scant 1 teaspoon kosher salt

For the rice bowl


Instructions

  1. Cook the rice, according to How to Cook Rice.
  2. Cook the black beans: Mince the garlic. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds to 1 minute until fragrant but not yet browned. Add the beans (drained but not rinsed), cumin, kosher salt, and several grinds of black pepper. Cook 2 minutes until warmed through. Taste and add additional salt if desired.
  3. Make the Cilantro Lime Sauce (or Chipotle Sauce).
  4. Slice the tomatoes in half. Slice the avocado. Defrost the corn. Thinly slice the red onion.
  5. To serve, place rice in the bowl and top with black beans and vegetables. Drizzle with the sauce and top with torn cilantro.

Notes

*If you’re cooking for 1 or 2, make half this recipe and cook 1 cup dry rice.

  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Mexican inspired

Keywords: Rice Bowl, Rice Bowls

A Couple Cooks - Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

Cherry Tomato Pasta

This cherry tomato pasta pairs sweet tomatoes blistered in a hot pan with fresh basil and Parmesan. An easy dinner idea that’s simply stunning! Here’s a meal that’s simple, stunning, and highlights the very best summer ingredients: Cherry Tomato Pasta! Just looking at these photos makes us swoon. (And yes: it tastes as good as it looks.) This easy dinner idea stars blistered tomatoes, a technique of cooking tomatoes in a hot pan until the skin blisters and blackens. Mix the tomatoes with tangy balsamic vinegar, then add al dente pasta and peppery fresh basil. You’ll be amazed at the amount of flavor these classic summer ingredients infuse in 20 minutes. Use it to impress guests, or as a fast and easy dinner that’s over-the-top tasty. Ingredients for cherry tomato pasta Here’s a breakdown of ingredients you’ll need for this cherry tomato pasta recipe. It’s only a handful, but of course you’ll want to have the best tomatoes you can find. Cherry tomatoes: Use only the ripest, best cherry tomatoes. Farmers market or garden tomatoes are ideal. Some grocery stores carry hydroponic greenhouse cherry tomatoes, which can have good flavor. Make sure you know the quality before making this recipe! […]

A Couple Cooks – Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

This cherry tomato pasta pairs sweet tomatoes blistered in a hot pan with fresh basil and Parmesan. An easy dinner idea that’s simply stunning!

Cherry tomato pasta

Here’s a meal that’s simple, stunning, and highlights the very best summer ingredients: Cherry Tomato Pasta! Just looking at these photos makes us swoon. (And yes: it tastes as good as it looks.) This easy dinner idea stars blistered tomatoes, a technique of cooking tomatoes in a hot pan until the skin blisters and blackens. Mix the tomatoes with tangy balsamic vinegar, then add al dente pasta and peppery fresh basil. You’ll be amazed at the amount of flavor these classic summer ingredients infuse in 20 minutes. Use it to impress guests, or as a fast and easy dinner that’s over-the-top tasty.

Ingredients for cherry tomato pasta

Here’s a breakdown of ingredients you’ll need for this cherry tomato pasta recipe. It’s only a handful, but of course you’ll want to have the best tomatoes you can find.

  • Cherry tomatoes: Use only the ripest, best cherry tomatoes. Farmers market or garden tomatoes are ideal. Some grocery stores carry hydroponic greenhouse cherry tomatoes, which can have good flavor. Make sure you know the quality before making this recipe!
  • Pasta: You can use any type of pasta here. We like using a short pasta so the tomatoes don’t get lost. See below!
  • Fresh basil: Fresh basil is a must! Not only does it have a lovely contrasting color, it completes the flavor.
  • Grated Parmesan cheese: This is the type that is like powdery snow, not thin sticks. You can use either, but the powdery effect melds into the pasta better.
  • Olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper: Round it out with the usual suspects for an Italian dish!
Cherry tomato pasta

Tips for blistered tomatoes

Blistered tomatoes are cooked quickly in a hot pan so the outsides get blackened and the tomatoes deflate but don’t burst. The technique for making blistered tomatoes is fast, but you need to know a few pointers before you start! Read this before proceeding with the cherry tomato pasta:

  • Important: don’t crowd the pan! If the pan is crowded when you attempt this recipe, the tomatoes will steam instead of blister. They’ll get all wet and soggy. This is not what you want!
  • You may need to blister the tomatoes in batches. Use your largest skillet and make sure there are space between the tomatoes. If not, blister the tomatoes in 2 batches!
  • Don’t touch the tomatoes for the first minute of cooking. This lets the tomatoes get perfectly blackened on one side. Then shake the pan during the rest of cooking so they are cooked on all sides.
Cherry tomato pasta

Use a short pasta shape

You can use any type of pasta for this cherry tomato pasta. But we prefer using short cuts. Why? The tomatoes can get lost in long pasta because it all clumps together. Short cut pasta makes it easier to get tomatoes and pasta in every bite. Here are some of the pasta shapes we recommend here:

  • Orecchiette: This is the pasta shape shown here! It means “little ears” in Italian, and it has a fun, unique shape.
  • Penne: Penne is easy to find and works well.
  • Rigatoni: This tublar pasta shape is another favorite of ours.
  • Cavatappi: Cork-screw shaped pasta would be great here.
  • Shells: If you can’t find orecchiette, small or medium shells are a good substitute.

How to cook perfectly al dente cherry tomato pasta

No pressure, but making perfectly al dente pasta is the key to this recipe! Cherry tomato pasta is only great if your pasta has just the right chewy bite. In fact, al dente means “to the bite” in Italian. The ideal texture is a tender exterior, balanced by a firm bite with a fleck of white at its core. Here are our tips on how to cook pasta to al dente:

  • Taste often. Do not trust the package instructions! While cooking, check pasta continually for doneness. Many package instructions have inaccurate timing.
  • Look for a small white fleck. Drain the pasta as soon as the pasta has a tender exterior but a fleck of white at its core! Even a few seconds can be the difference between al dente and limp noodles.
  • Remember to reserve some pasta water! In this recipe, you’ll need a little pasta water before you drain. See below!
Cherry tomato pasta

Use pasta water to deglaze the pan

A trick from the Italians: reserve pasta water from boiling your pasta and use it to create a sauce! This technique is crucial in Italian cuisine: the starchy water from cooking the pasta makes the best loose sauces. (It’s the key to this Creamy White Sauce Pasta and Pesto Pasta.) Here’s what to know about using this technique in this cherry tomato pasta recipe:

  • Pull out the pasta water with a liquid measuring cup before draining. It’s easy to forget, actually. (We do it all the time!) Get out your liquid measuring cup in advance and place it on the counter right next to the pan as a memory jogger.
  • Use the pasta water to deglaze the pan juices. You’ll saute garlic in the same pan as the blistered tomatoes, then pour in a little water to deglaze all the pan juices. (You could use white wine for this part if you wanted to be fancy.)

What to serve with cherry tomato pasta

And that’s it: all the tips you need to make a killer cherry tomato pasta! When it comes to serving this pasta as a meal, it needs a little plant-based protein to round it out if you’re going vegetarian. Of course, it would be a fantastic side dish for baked salmon or grilled fish. If you want a meatless meal, here’s what we’d recommend:

Cherry tomato pasta

This cherry tomato pasta recipe is…

Vegetarian.

Print
Cherry tomato pasta

Cherry Tomato Pasta


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (6 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 3 to 4 servings
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

This cherry tomato pasta pairs sweet tomatoes blistered in a hot pan with fresh basil and Parmesan. An easy dinner idea that’s simply stunning!


Ingredients

  • 8 ounces short pasta (penne, rigatoni, orecchiette (shown here), shells, cavatappi, etc)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 pints whole cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup pasta water
  • 1 handful fresh small basil leaves, chopped if large

Instructions

  1. Make the pasta: Start a pot of well salted water to a boil. Boil the pasta until it is just al dente. Start tasting a few minutes before the package recommends: you want it to be tender but still a little firm on the inside; usually around 7 to 8 minutes. Before draining, reserve some pasta water with a liquid measuring cup (at least 1/4 cup). Drain the pasta.
  2. Blister the tomatoes: Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a very large heavy skillet over medium high heat. Once hot, add the tomatoes, making sure there is space around each tomato (they are not touching) and the pan is not crowded. If you’re using a medium pan, cook the tomatoes in 2 batches.* Cook for 1 minute without touching the pan, then 2 to 3 more minutes until blistered, shaking the pan several times to rotate the tomatoes. Turn off the heat and drizzle with the balsamic vinegar, gently shaking several times to coat. Add 2 pinches kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste. Remove the tomatoes from the pan to a bowl.
  3. Finish the dish: Mince the garlic. Once the pasta is done, in the same pan, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium low heat. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute until fragrant. Deglaze the pan with 1/4 cup pasta water, scraping the pan with a spoon to release all of the flavor of the tomato juices. Turn off the heat.
  4. Add the pasta to the pan and toss to coat. Add the blistered tomatoes, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, and basil. Season with 2 pinches of kosher salt and lots of fresh ground pepper. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Serve with the remaining 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

Notes

*If the pan is too crowded, the tomatoes will steam instead of blistering. It all depends on the size of your pan: if you’re using a medium pan, you’ll have to cook 1 pint at a time.

  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: Cherry tomato pasta

A Couple Cooks - Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes