December 20, 2008

The best tofu cream cheese

We were supposed to go to a solstice party tonight and my husband made a big pot of chili to take along, but the weather is so nasty and we've turned into such wimps, that we've decided to stay home and watch a movie instead. I'm really disappointed about this but the thought of driving on slippery, snowy roads just doesn't appeal. By early yesterday morning we had nearly a foot of snow and stayed home from work as the schools were all closed the roads were pretty bad. I wasn't feeling that great so the day at home was welcome, but it's snowing again and we're supposed to get four to five more inches tonight. We are on track to break last year's snow record of 101 inches. In fact, we're way ahead. At least we've got that pot of chili on the stove.

We've been going to quite a few parties lately where we had to bring a dish along. It started me thinking about the good old tofu cream cheese that I used to tote to every event. I haven't made it in years, but I dug up the recipe since it's party season, and this was a dish that everyone, vegans and omnivores, all seemed to like. It never failed that at least one person (usually more) at every event would ask who made it and request the salty-tangy recipe. There were times when I was hesitant to say the word "tofu," if you know what I mean. And the ingredients are not the most common, everyday sort.

I learned to make it during the years when we were macrobiotic, and I really don't know where the recipe came from. Maybe I got it at a cooking class or lecture. I've looked for similar recipes on the Internet but haven't seen anything quite like this one.

There is one part in the recipe where you are supposed to press the tofu for 30 minutes. At first I used to do this in my pickle press, but when pinched for time I used extra firm tofu and skipped it. I think the texture is slightly better when the tofu is pressed but it's not that big a difference. Today the tofu I used seemed more watery than usual so I squeezed it between the layers of a thick waffle-weave kitchen towel. If you want to press it you can wrap it between layers of paper-or non-linty cotton towels, place it on a plate, and put something heavy on top.

The most important thing is to buy extra-firm water-packed tofu. It just doesn't work to use the pasteurized tofu in the box. (like Mori-nu) My favorite is Whitewave organic vacuum packed extra-firm tofu. Also, measure the tahini and umeboshi exactly! Exactly.

Tofu Cream cheese
  • one pound extra-firm water-packed or vacuum-packed tofu (NOT Mori-nu)
  • 1-1/2 level tablespoons umeboshi paste
  • three tablespoons tahini (three VERY LEVEL tablespoons. Don't be generous.)
  • three or four green onions, white and green parts
  1. Place the tofu in a pot and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil and simmer the tofu for two or three minutes.
  2. Drain then press the tofu for 30 minutes. Or just drain it. (see story above)
  3. Place the tofu, umeboshi and tahini in a food processor and process until creamy and smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  4. Finely slice the green onions and add to the processor. Pulse a few times to distribute them evenly but don't purée the onions.
  5. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with paprika or a garnish of your choice.
  6. Chill in refrigerator for at least one hour.
  7. Serve as a spread for crackers or bagels or stuff into celery or cherry tomatoes.

This is a spread and is quite stiff. It has a consistency similar to cream cheese, but can be thinned to use as a dip.

UPDATE: OK, this may be the best tofu cream cheese, but I've discovered a better vegan cream cheese made from cashews. It's a dead ringer for the real thing and you can read about it here.


  1. The weather has been horrible! I am glad to hear you stayed safe at home and off the roads :o)

    Your dip looks great!


  2. This does sound fabulous! And sooo easy! I always worry about extra-firm tofu, though, because my experience has been that it doesn't get smooth enough (or maybe it's just my food processor, which is pretty old). I'd love to try this out, though!

    And I will officially stop whining about all the snow we've got over here. Yikes!

  3. Ricki, Your food processor can't be as old as mine! Tofu in general always tastes slightly gritty to me when it's put into desserts and spreads — except for this one. It doesn't taste like tofu and it's completely creamy.

    Yes, Courtney, the weather has been horrible. Unless, of course, you like huge piles of snow everywhere (Can't figure out where to put the stuff we shovel. Can't see down the street when we back out of the driveway.) and bitter wind smacking your face. One more day of ridiculous cold before it warms up to the 20s. It's sunny, though. :)

  4. Thanks for the idea. I'm always worried about what to bring to a potluck because presentation is so important. At home I dont care what my food looks like, and if it's sort of bland I mix it with something tasty and eat that. But the rules are sort of different when feeding a crowd!

  5. I beleive you when you say it's excellent. Umeboshi gives just the flavour and acidity tahini needs.

  6. Liliana F.1/8/12, 8:16 AM

    Just came upon your it! Thanks for all the great ideas. Where can I find umeboshi?


  7. Lilliana,
    Most natural foods stores (local co-op, Whole Foods, etc.) will have umeboshi paste. It's a traditional Japanese food so you can also find it in Asian supermarkets. I usually buy Eden brand. It's very concentrated and salty, and lasts a really long time.

  8. Hi, I came across this recipe through Google. I was looking for a nut-free vegan cream cheese recipe to use in a dessert. Does the umeboshi impart a distinctly savory flavor, or is it more tart? Should I leave it out like the onions, or keep it in? (I am experimenting with making rugelach, which generally calls for cream cheese in the dough.)

    1. The umeboshi is more tart/tangy than savory, and no, it can't be omitted if you want a cream cheese-like result. It's also important to measure it carefully so it won't overpower the taste. I've never used the recipe as part of a dessert, so I can't speak to what the result would be, but I think it would work. You don't actually taste the umeboshi in the finished cheese, nor do you taste tofu — it tastes like cream cheese. Remember than umeboshi is salty so it might affect the amount of salt you add to your dough.


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