Shan Tofu: Easy, Delicious + Soy-free


I feel like a lucky explorer today, and I’ll tell you why.  It’s because I was flipping thru a new cookbook (a gift from Sis & The Guitar Man) and found a certain recipe, had a light-bulb-moment and made way to the kitchen, a whisk and a good dose of inspiration in hand.  A couple days and several recipes later, I was feeling downright smug.  “This stuff is so simple, so versatile, so delicious!”, I thought, and did a quick little jig before J could see me (I try to spread out the instances he catches me dancing or singing to myself in the kitchen, it maintains the illusion his wife has some tiny sliver of poise).

Before I get ahead of myself, I should explain what this recipe is for, right?  Well, it’s not the Shmoo… its tofu.  No, don’t leave yet!  Let me finish, I promise its not what you’re thinking.  No complex ingredient lists (coagulants?  NO!), no special presses…. and no soy.  What’s that?  You read that right.  This is Shan tofu.  A chickpea version from Burma that has somehow escaped my notice until now.

This is puzzling considering how beautifully simple this is.  In fact, there’s just THREE ingredients: salt, chickpea flour, and water.  And unlike soy tofu, this chickpea tofu involves only two specialized skills:

a)  the ability to whisk something
b)  the ability to boil water

…and all that “effort” takes you a whopping 10 minutes and then its off the chill in the fridge (though you could use it the minute it is room temperature for some things).


Flavor and texture-wise, it is not the same animal as soy tofu.  The texture is similar to a chilled polenta.  Sauteed, they get a nice crispy exterior and baked (or fried) they puff up but retain a creamy, almost custard-y center.  Chickpeas have a nice, natural nuttiness, but its awfully nice that you can also add your own spices and flavors right to the mixture.  So far I have used them as everything from a dessert, to snacks, to noodle dishes and salad toppers, and I’m still finding new ways to use it (the book mentions shaving them to make “noodles”!).  A few things I’ve tried mixing into the batter are:

2 teaspoons ground cumin, 2 teaspoons ground coriander and 1 teaspoon Ancho chili powder for spicy tofu to toss into salads

Add 1 tablespoon of curry powder for tofu you add to Asian noodle dishes or cut to make baked “fries”

Replace ½ cup of the initial 2 cups with maple syrup, add 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 2 teaspoons cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of nutmeg.  Let mixture chill for several hours up to overnight, then cut into squares, toss with a neutral oil (like coconut oil) and bake for 25 – 30 minutes at 400 F until puffy and golden.  Serve with a drizzle of maple syrup or some raw sugar and cinnamon, and you have something like a vegan doughnut.


I really can’t say how glad I am to have found this Burmese brilliance.  Here I was just flipping pages looking for a new soup to try.  Lucky me.


Shan Tofu – Chickpea Tofu
Adapted from Burma – Rivers of Flavor by Naomi Duguid

Hands-On Time:  10 minutes
Total Time:  2 – 24 hours
Serves 6

Gluten-free, all natural, vegan, easy, soy-free


2 cups / 150g chickpea flour (also called garbanzo flour, or Besan)*
6 cups / 1.4 liters water
1 ½ teaspoons table salt
Neutral oil for greasing pan(s)


Lightly oil pans or wide bowls for tofu to chill in later.  I use a 15 x 10 baking dish most often, but two 8×8 cake pans or 8-inch pie pans would work as well, for example.  Ceramic or glass vessels work best, but a 17-inch rimmed baking sheet lined with oiled parchment can work as well (just lift out the chilled tofu to cut it to avoid damaging the metal surface).

Whisk together chickpea flour and salt in a medium bowl and add 2 cups / 470ml water.  Whisk to incorporate.

Place your remaining 4 cups / 950ml water in a large, shallow pan or pot and bring to a boil.  Lower heat to medium-high, give your chickpea mixture a final whisking, and then pour in a steady stream into your boiling water, whisking continuously.

Lower heat to medium-low and cook mixture for 5 minutes, stirring continually and scraping sides to avoid burning.  After 5 minutes, the mixture will be smooth, thick and have a nice sheen.  If there are a few lumps, don’t worry, just try to get it as smooth as you can.

Immediately pour mixture into prepared pans, and allow to set and cool to room temperature. Once cool, transfer to the refrigerator and allow to chill for 1 hour, up to 24 hours.  The longer it chills, the firmer the texture.  At 1 hour, it will be firm enough to cut and use as cubes of tofu in salads and for snacking.  At 3 – 4 hours, it can be used for more “sturdy” applications like stir-fries and as baked “fries”.

Store in its pan, covered securely in plastic wrap for 3 – 4 days in the refrigerator, and slice portions as needed.

*Notes on variations/substitutions

Chickpea flour – I used Bob’s Red Mill or made my own for these recipes, though you can also find several brands in specialty/Indian markets (where it is often called ‘besan’).  If making your own, be sure to sift out any large pieces, and re-grind using a coffee grinder, or discard.

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Categories: Gluten-free, Meat Alternatives, Vegan, Vegetarian

Author:Mae of Little Fig

Food blogger, photographer. I


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5 Comments on “Shan Tofu: Easy, Delicious + Soy-free”

  1. August 28, 2013 at 6:46 pm #

    ? What does “slide as needed” mean? (as in “Store in its pan, covered securely in plastic wrap for 3 – 4 days in the refrigerator, and slide as needed”) I cannot make sense of this – – also
    I cannot eat chickpea flour. Can I make this with rice flour or other flours? Thank you.
    Thank you SO much for putting this recipe here. It is inspiration and hope for soy free alternatives!!!


    • January 10, 2014 at 2:19 pm #

      Good catch on the typo, JMS! Slide = slice. I’ve updated the instructions. As for the type of flour, I have tried this with a mix of chickpea + fava flours, but not with straight fava, or any other flour for that matter. Making it with rice flour might be a great experiment to try! Maybe it would be like Korean garatteok (rice cakes)! Let me know if you do try it!


  1. Crunchy Coconut Cilantro Noodles | little fig food blog - March 5, 2013

    […] tablespoons coconut oil or other neutral oil3 cups firm tofu, cubed, or shan (chickpea) tofu, cubed4 large carrots, julienne4 scallions, chopped2 cloves garlic, minced8 oz rice noodles, cooked […]

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    […] Shan Tofu: Easy, Delicious + Soy-free […]

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    […] Soya fri tofu! Fant også oppskrifter på hjemmelaget variant her, her og her og enda en her. […]

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