Vegan Tofu Katsu Salad

This tofu katsu salad is a deliciously fresh take on a Japanese tofu katsu curry. It’s made with crispy gluten free breaded tofu, crunchy veggies, brown rice, and a curry sauce inspired salad dressing. You’ll be wondering why you’ve never tried katsu in a salad before! 

Bowl of tofu katsu salad with lime, coriander, and pickled radish on the side

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What is katsu?

Katsu is simply the Japanese word for cutlet! Most often, katsu is made by coating chicken in panko breadcrumbs and frying until crispy and golden.

But don’t worry, we don’t have to miss out on that goodness just because we’re vegan! Katsu can be made using a vegan friendly meat substitute such as tofu or seitan, or even vegetables. Aubergine and sweet potato are really popular vegetable alternatives to chicken for katsu. 

I’ve used tofu here- it’s the perfect stand in for this katsu salad!

What is katsu curry?

Katsu curry is when crispy katsu is combined with a sweet Japanese curry sauce. This sauce is normally referred to as ‘katsu curry sauce’. It’s slightly fruity, with a base of carrot and garlic, and lightly spiced using mild curry powder. It’s also often sweetened with sugar.

What are the elements in tofu katsu salad

I love katsu curry, and wanted to be able to enjoy it in a healthier, meal-preppable salad. Inspired by katsu curry, this Japanese salad has all of the elements- crispy tofu, perfectly cooked rice, and curry sauce inspired dressing, and crunchy veggies.

To keep things super easy, I have used my vegan tofu nuggets for the katsu element of this recipe. I love using these crunchy baked tofu nuggets, as they’re perfect for a gluten free tofu katsu. Baking them also helps to keep this katsu curry salad healthy and low oil. 

Tofu katsu salad with one piece fo tofu katsu cut open

Without egg or dairy, they’re completely vegan. If you want to keep this recipe more traditional, simply swap out the ground almonds for panko breadcrumbs. For a bit of extra Asian flavour, you can add a dash of soy sauce to the milk mixture.

The tofu katsu is paired with a katsu sauce inspired Japanese salad dressing (more on this below!).

To balance the tofu katsu salad out, I’ve used super healthy brown rice, as well as some simple pickled radishes and crunchy raw veggies.

What is the katsu salad dressing made from?

I’ve captured the sweet and fruity curried flavour of katsu sauce in this Japanese salad dressing, whilst still keeping it healthy, without any added sugar. The ingredients which go into the katsu dressing are:

Ingredients for tofu katsu salad

How to make the Japanese salad dressing

To make the katsu salad dressing, you need to start by roasting the carrots and apple to soften them. The great thing about this is that you can roast them at the same temperature and time as the tofu nuggets.

Place the chopped carrots and apple in a small oven safe dish with a tablespoon of water, cover, and roast them for 20-25 minutes until they’re softened. The tofu nuggets should be ready to come out of the oven at this time too. 

Add the softened carrots and apple to a bullet style or normal blender, along with the yoghurt, garlic, ginger, rice vinegar, curry powder and salt. Blend on high until it is completely smooth. If you don’t have an upright blender, you can also use a stick blender to make the dressing.

How to make the katsu salad

Make the katsu curry salad dressing and tofu nuggets as above. Cook rice according to packet instructions, or simply simmer 250g in a large pot of boiling water for 20-25 minutes until cooked through. Allow it to cool to room temperature, then store in the fridge.

To make the quick pickled radishes, combine the sliced radishes with half a cup (125ml) apple cider vinegar (or vinegar of choice), half a cup (125ml) warm water, a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar in a small bowl. I use around 12 trimmed radishes for this, but feel free to up the amounts if you want to keep some more for later!

Chop the mangetout along the lengths, shred or ribbon the carrots, and chop up the leaves if you would like.

Once the elements have been made, all that’s left to do is build the katsu salad. I like to put the rice and veggies at the bottom, top with the tofu nuggets, then pour the katsu curry dressing over the top. A sprinkle of sesame seeds and sliced spring onion are delicious on top.

Variations on katsu curry salad

Tofu katsu salad is a great option to use up product in your pantry or fridge, as it’s really easily customised to your tastes.

  • The rice- Katsu curry often comes with a sticky white rice, or jasmine rice. You can swap out the wholegrain basmati for either of these, or whatever you have in your cupboard. For something a little different, try quinoa, or even cauliflower rice if you’d rather keep it on the lower carb side.
  • Pickled veggies- I love the colour that pickled radishes give to the dish. If you don’t like radishes, you could pickle any veggies you fancy. Try red cabbage or onions, or even cucumber for something a little lighter. 
  • Raw vegetables- Try shredded napa cabbage for a more traditional veggie side to this dish. Your favourite vegetables are sure to work in this dish. Perhaps you like shredded beetroot, broccoli, or crunchy peppers and cucumber.

You can also enjoy this salad as a warm main course, when the tofu katsu and rice are freshly cooked.

photograph of tofu katsu salad in bowl from overhead

How best to store this salad for meal prep

If you store all of the elements together, you’ll find that the tofu nuggets will lose their crispiness (let’s face it- it’s the best bit!). I like to portion up the cooled rice and vegetables into four large containers

I keep the tofu nuggets separately in one large container in the fridge and pop them on top of the salad each day. Or if I need to transport them, I’ll keep each portion in a small reusable container.

For dressings, I love to keep hold of small jars which have had things like cooking pastes or jam in them. Once rinsed out, they’re absolutely perfect for transporting this Japanese salad dressing to work. You can buy purpose-made containers for this, but I like to reuse (cheaper and environment friendly!).

Close up of vegetables in tofu katsu salad bowl

Katsu salad FAQ’s

What else can I use the salad dressing for?

Although inspired by katsu curry, the dressing doesn’t necessarily have to be used over katsu! Keep it in the fridge and simple drizzle it over your favourite salad. It goes great with Japanese cabbage salad. It also works as a great dipping sauce for chopped veggies, pitta, tortilla chips, rice cakes, or even slices of apple (trust me!).

How long does tofu katsu salad last?

This is a perfect meal prep option as it will keep well for 5 days in the fridge. I would recommend storing as I mentioned above- with the veggies and rice, katsu, and dressing separately. You can squeeze a little lemon juice over the chopped veggies to keep them extra fresh.

Can you freeze katsu curry dressing?

If you make too much dressing, or just want to make a batch for future use, it freezes up really well. You can store it in a small container, but I like to use an ice cube tray, as it means I can just defrost the amount I need at a time. 
Allow it to defrost at room temperature, or overnight in the fridge, and give it a good stir before use.

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tofu katsu salad pin
Bowl of tofu katsu salad with lime, coriander, and pickled radish on the side

Vegan Tofu Katsu Salad

Chloe from Forkful of Plants
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 35 mins
Course Main Course, Salad
Cuisine Japanese
Servings 4
This tofu katsu salad is a deliciously fresh take on a Japanese tofu katsu curry. It's made with crispy gluten free breaded tofu, crunchy veggies, brown rice, and a curry sauce inspired salad dressing. You’ll be wondering why you've never tried katsu in a salad before! 

Ingredients
  

  • 1 batch baked tofu nuggets (recipe below)
  • 250 g brown rice (1¼ cups)

For the dressing

  • 2 medium carrots peeled and chopped
  • 1 apple peeled and chopped
  • 240 g plain dairy free yoghurt (1 cup)
  • 1 clove garlic peeled and roughly chopped
  • ½ inch ginger peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar
  • ½ tbsp curry powder
  • ½ tsp salt

For the quick pickled radishes

  • 12 radishes trimmed and sliced
  • 125 ml apple cider vinegar (½ cup)
  • 125 ml water (½ cup)

To serve

  • 1 handful mangetout sliced lengthways
  • 2 carrots thinly sliced or ribboned
  • 4 handfuls mixed leaves

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 200°c/ 390°f. Make the vegan baked tofu nuggets as instructed here*.
  • Place the chopped carrots and apple in a small oven safe dish with a tablespoon of water, cover, and roast them for 20-25 minutes until they’re softened. The tofu nuggets should be ready to come out of the oven at this time too.
  • Meanwhile, cook the rice according to packet instructions, or simmer in a large pot of salted boiling water for 20-25 minutes until cooked through.
  • Add the softened carrots and apple to a blender, along with the yoghurt, garlic, ginger, rice vinegar, curry powder and salt. Blend on high until completely smooth**.
  • To make the quick pickled radishes, combine the sliced radishes with the apple cider vinegar, warm water, a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar in a small bowl.
  • Assemble your bowl with the rice and veggies at the bottom, and top with the tofu nuggets and katsu curry dressing. You can garnish with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and sliced spring onion.

Notes

*I use my baked tofu nuggets recipe here as they are easy, healthy, and gluten free. If you would rather, you can use store-bought breaded protein, or use your favourite breaded veggie recipe.
**If you don’t have an upright blender, you can also use a stick blender to make the dressing.
 
Storage for meal prep
If you store all of the elements together, you’ll find that the tofu nuggets will lose their crispiness (let’s face it- it’s the best bit!). I like to portion up the cooled rice and vegetables into four large containers
I keep the tofu nuggets separately in one large container in the fridge and pop them on top of the salad each day. Or if I need to transport them, I’ll keep each portion in a small reusable container.
For dressings, I love to keep hold of small jars which have had things like cooking pastes or jam in them. Once rinsed out, they’re absolutely perfect for transporting this Japanese salad dressing to work. You can buy purpose-made containers for this, but I like to reuse (cheaper and environment friendly!).

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