“It’s spicy and sweet and peanutty all at the same time.” From some people, including me, that would be a hearty endorsement, but those were the words my daughter used to express her dislike for this dish. “It’s just weird,” she continued, handing her plate to her father to finish. “It’s complex,” I countered, but she wasn’t buying it. To a pre-teen, “weird” is the kiss of death.
But let me assure you, this rich, complex dish is delicious, to us adults at least. In fact, D and I ate far more of it than we should have. I have a hard time resisting anything in peanut sauce, and having been tantalized by the heady aroma coming from the crockpot all afternoon, I was ready to fight D for E’s share of the meal. Unfortunately, at 14 grams of fat for 1 serving, it hardly qualifies as diet food or, needless to say, anything close to fat-free. So it’s going on my For Company Only list because I can’t be trusted around it.
I made it this time with what I had in the house: tempeh, frozen tofu, and half of a butternut squash. You can use all or any one of those ingredients or make it with another meat substitute such as seitan, TVP, or sweet potatoes, but I think that frozen tofu tastes best because it absorbs the sauce and has a pleasingly chewy texture. Whatever main ingredient(s) you use, you need to aim for between 2 and 3 pounds in total. And while I liked the taste of the winter squash, I think it was the source of the sweet flavor that E found objectionable, so if you’re opposed to sweet-spicy combinations, you might want to bear that in mind.
I cooked this in the slow cooker, but I found that even on low, it was ready in a little over 3 hours. It could be that my crockpot runs hot, but I hesitate to recommend that you leave it cooking for more than 4 hours. If you need to, then add a little water to the sauce, perhaps 1/2 cup, just to make sure that it doesn’t get too dry. If you’d like to cook it on the stove, cover it tightly and cook on the lowest setting until the sauce is thick, probably at least an hour.
Tofu, Tempeh, and Butternut Squash in Slow-Cooked Peanut Mole
Freezing tofu completely changes its texture, making it chewy and spongy. Be sure to freeze it for at least 24 hours and squeeze out as much water as possible before cooking so that the sauce will permeate it. Tofu can be stored in the freezer for months in its original package and then defrosted in the refrigerator or microwave before using.
- 1 dried Ancho or New Mexico* chile pepper
- 1 1/2 cups hot vegetable broth
- 3 black peppercorns (or 1/8 tsp. ground pepper)
- 3 allspice berries (or 1/4 tsp. ground)
- 1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces (or 1/2 tsp. ground)
- 3 cloves (or 1/8 tsp. ground)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup diced fire roasted tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ancho chile powder *(optional–use if New Mexico chile is used above)
- 1/3 cup natural peanut butter (or 1/2 cup roasted peanuts)
- 1 slice whole wheat or French bread (or gluten-free bread), torn in pieces
- 1/2 to 1 chipotle chile canned in adobo
- 14 ounces reduced fat tofu, frozen for at least 24 hours and defrosted
- 8 ounces tempeh, cut in 3/4″ cubes
- 1 pound butternut squash, peeled and cut in 3/4″ cubes
- 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
- Cut the dried pepper in half and remove the seeds and stem. Chop it into small pieces and put them in a bowl. Cover with 1/2 cup of the vegetable broth and set aside to soften for about 1/2 an hour.
- Place the spices in a spice or coffee grinder and grind to a powder. (If you don’t have whole spices, use ground ones in the amount specified and mix them in a small bowl.)
- In a small skillet, saute the onion until it begins to brown, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute more.
- Transfer the onion-garlic mixture, ground spices, chile pepper and its broth, tomatoes, and remaining broth to the blender. Add the salt, ancho chile powder (optional), peanut butter, bread, and chipotle pepper. Blend until the mixture is nearly smooth.
- Cut the tofu into slices about 3/4 to 1 inch thick. Squeeze each slice between the palms of your hands until all the water is removed. Cut the slices into cubes.
- Spray the bottom of the slow cooker with non-stick spray. Spread the tofu, tempeh, and squash on the bottom of the cooker and pour the blender contents over them. Stir to make sure sauce covers all surfaces. Cover tightly and cook on low for 3-6 hours, until sauce is thick and squash is tender. Before serving, check sauce and stir in the sugar, if you like, and salt to taste. Serve over rice or in tortillas.
Preparation time: 30 minute(s) | Cooking time: 3 hour(s)
Number of servings (yield): 6
Makes 6 servings. Per serving: 305 Calories (kcal); 14g Total Fat; (38% calories from fat); 20g Protein; 31g Carbohydrate; trace Cholesterol; 286mg Sodium; 8g Fiber.
(Sauce adapted from a chicken recipe in The Gourmet Slow Cooker.)
SusanVAugust 1, 2009 at 12:54 pm
Here are the comments that were lost when the blog was moved:
OpenID vegwife said…
OMG! This looks sooooooooooo good Susan! Yet another dish to add to my list of meals to eat while hubby is away (he hates squash), LOL
Thanks for sharing! 😀
10:58 AM, February 17, 2009
* Meg said…
This looks beyond amazing!
11:07 AM, February 17, 2009
* Elyse said…
Oh wow! This sounds so delicious. I’m moving my tofu to the freezer right now so that I can make this later in the week!
11:33 AM, February 17, 2009
* Laci said…
What a cool recipe! Not the typical “fat free vegetable” but I love it! (PB and butternut squash are some of my fav. foods!) 😉
11:35 AM, February 17, 2009
* Level 20 Bard said…
11:42 AM, February 17, 2009
* dreaminitvegan said…
Love peanut sauces as well! My son doesn’t like it as my husband and I do, maybe it’s a kid thing. Frozen tofu is also nice to have for a change, it does soak up the sauces wonderfully! I can’t wait to try this dish.
11:43 AM, February 17, 2009
* Michelle said…
I happen to love spicy and sweet and peanutty, so this is great! I just posted a recipe for a sweet potato spread to go with peanut butter. This sort of combo is a recent fave. Thanks!
11:48 AM, February 17, 2009
* Alicia said…
My tofu’s in the freezer and I’m going to the store to get the rest of the ingredients right now.
11:58 AM, February 17, 2009
* pulltaffy said…
This sounds like it would be great on a cold winter day! There’s something about crock-pot food that is so cozy! Although, like you, left alone with the scent, I tend to eat a bit more than I ought to. I’m allergic to peanuts though- do you know if I could substitute cashew butter and still have it turn out? I’ve never had mole sauce and I’m dying to try making it!
12:08 PM, February 17, 2009
* Krista said…
So you freeze the tofu, in the original container, for 24 hours. Then you take it out of the freezer and defrost it (in fridge?) and squeeze out as much water as possible and cook?
Also, I’m a bit scared by the sweet and spicy combo… Any suggestions for a subsitute to the butternut squash?
I’m very excited!
12:16 PM, February 17, 2009
* SusanV said…
Pulltaffy, I think cashew butter would be delicious.
Krista, that’s right about the tofu. To substitute for the squash, I use more tofu or tempeh. Or I bet potatoes would be good, too.
12:27 PM, February 17, 2009
* Veganissexy said…
Wow. Yum! I love the looks of this recipe. I’m thinking sweet pototoes would go really well also since I don’t have any butternut squash handy this week. I love any recicpe that I can set & forget! Thanks 🙂
12:46 PM, February 17, 2009
* The Voracious Vegan said…
This is so impressive. Seriously, wow. I would love to make this the next time I’m having guests over just to make them realize how amazing vegan food can be. Thank you for the recipe.
1:18 PM, February 17, 2009
* shelby said…
This looks like a party in the mouth! 😉
1:32 PM, February 17, 2009
Anonymous Alisa – Frugal Foodie said…
mmm, that sounds warm and comforting!
3:07 PM, February 17, 2009
* Mandee said…
Yummmm! I can’t resist peanutty sauces either so I would have to halve the recipe and then have someone take it away from me! I am going to try this as it’s rainy and cold here, so this will be perfect!
3:08 PM, February 17, 2009
* veggievixen said…
4:40 PM, February 17, 2009
Anonymous Theresa said…
This looks wonderful. Can you please tell me the purpose of the bread in the recipe? Does it make the sauce thicker? I would like to make this recipe, but I usually don’t have bread around and I would rather not buy any. Would it be ok to leave it out of the recipe?
5:07 PM, February 17, 2009
* SusanV said…
Theresa, that’s right–the bread is there for thickening. You could use a little flour (1 tbsp?) or a tsp. of corn starch to do the same thing.
5:11 PM, February 17, 2009
* Gina said…
Oh. My. Goodness. As soon as my slow cooker back, I will be making this.
5:52 PM, February 17, 2009
* Karyn said…
I’m going to try this, but with more tofu and no tempeh. I just don’t like tempeh.
I can’t believe its a slow cooker recipe! Yippee!!
6:11 PM, February 17, 2009
Anonymous Ruby said…
That looks pretty awesome.
Susan, have you heard of PB2? I haven’t actually tried it myself–I can’t quite permit myself the luxury of ordering foods online right now–but it’s a kind of peanut product where the peanuts have somehow had most of their fat content removed, and have then been dehydrated and powdered. You then mix it with a bit of water to have a low-fat peanut butter substitute, or you can put it directly in recipes for a peanut-y flavor.
Let me know what you think! Oh, and I guess another thing that’s kindof turned me off from actually buying this is the awful package design, haha. They really need to hire someone to make this look more appetizing.
7:37 PM, February 17, 2009
* Melody Polakow said…
the picture is stunning!
.. and the dish of course sounds delicious!
7:55 PM, February 17, 2009
* Candi said…
This is worth digging out my crockpot for! It looks great, and Britty is sometimes ok with “weird!” 🙂
8:17 PM, February 17, 2009
* Chris said…
I’ve never really been a fan of tempeh, but somehow the notion of tempeh and peanut sauce together already make me a convert! Perhaps I’ll come to love tempeh, yet 🙂
8:57 PM, February 17, 2009
OpenID theveganfoodie said…
I really like complex dishes! I find them interesting. This looks amazing! I love anything with peanut butter in it!
10:22 PM, February 17, 2009
* veggie belly said…
I love the sound of peanut mole! you are making me hungry!
10:27 PM, February 17, 2009
* Nityda said…
Are there any rules for freezing tofu? Never done it.
10:47 PM, February 17, 2009
* Eating Consciously said…
you can never go wrong with peanut butter 😉
5:15 AM, February 18, 2009
OpenID acookinthemaking said…
This sounds soooo delicious! I have some anchos that need using, and I’m so excited to give this recipe a try!
7:08 AM, February 18, 2009
Anonymous Ricki said…
I could tell from the title alone that I’d like this. . .but having read your description and the recipe, I’m drooling! I love classic mole, so I cannot wait to make this!
1:43 PM, February 18, 2009
* Ashley said…
This looks wonderful! Great photo, too 🙂
11:31 PM, February 18, 2009
* Vita-VEGAN-Vegamin said…
Wow! It’s almost midnight and I’m totally drooling over your pics.
12:51 AM, February 19, 2009
* Veganthony said…
This dish looks absolutely comforting. I love the idea and I really like freezing tofu, it gives such a different texture and sponge-like ability to absorb delicious flavors, especially in this case. I will be making this one for sure and I will be sure to fill you in on how it turns out. Thanks for being awesome.
3:27 PM, February 20, 2009
* Theresa Roach said…
This looks absolutely delicious. Wow.
3:52 PM, February 20, 2009
* Taylor said…
This looks incredible! I might have to try it tonight, if I can sell my family on squash.
4:01 PM, February 20, 2009
OpenID rhete said…
This looks delicious!
Spicy peanut sauces have to be one of my favorite things in the world.
I’ve just been given an old crock pot, and this site was the first place I looked for a recipe to try out with it. Lo and behold, you’d read my mind. Thankyou!
8:40 PM, February 20, 2009
* Amber Shea said…
Ohh, man. Tofu, tempeh, and PB? I’m sold. This looks amazing.
10:54 AM, February 21, 2009
* Kate said…
this looks SO HEAVENLY.
I would make ALL of your beautiful healthy recipes if I weren’t at college with a serious oven deficiency 🙁
4:29 PM, February 21, 2009
* Holler said…
I am here for the complex taste and I am going away happy 🙂
1:06 PM, February 22, 2009
Anonymous Nessy said…
This looks and sounds absolutely delicious! I can’t wait to try it. Great photos, as always. ^_^
9:42 PM, February 22, 2009
* Candi said…
Thank you for stopping by my blog and for the nice words you said! (And for the link!) 🙂 You are very sweet and I’ve been so amazed to watch your blog grow over the years and for all the incredibly hard work you put into this. It makes it much easier for all of us in the kitchen! 🙂
Thank you again!
2:03 AM, February 23, 2009
Thanks for this and other fantastic ideas! Just tried a variation on it last night, since I don’t have a slow cooker; did all the sauce (broth, spices, onion mix & PB) in a large saucepan and baked the tofu in the oven . . . layered both of these over rice and it came out great! Even better cold, the next morning for breakfast! 😉
11:08 AM, February 23, 2009
* Judy’s Nutrition said…
Oh wow, this looks and sounds delicious!
1:26 PM, February 23, 2009
Anonymous Nick said…
What an incredible sounding recipe. I’ve made a peanut butter mole before that was delicious but I love all the spices in your version and chopped up bread? Does that help the overall consistency after it’s all blended?
5:16 PM, February 23, 2009
Anonymous Rebecca said…
I always wondered how the premarinated tofu I buy was all spongy and chewy, now I know! I made this with chesnut mushrooms instead of the tempeh because you can’t get it round here, and it turned out amazing. I’m another big fan of the sweet/spicy/peanutty combo. I’ve only been vegan for a few months and this website has made it so much easier!
12:56 PM, February 25, 2009
Anonymous Nancy said…
Except for the “It’s just weird” part, I agree with E’s description 100%. I decided to make this yesterday and it came out delicious! I had to improvise a bit, as I didn’t have everything on hand and it was pouring rain (and I didn’t want to go to the store), but it came out excellent. Spicy, sweet and peanutty works for me! I’ll definitely make this again.
11:42 PM, February 28, 2009
Anonymous Lorelei said…
first time commenter!!
i made this today, Susan. i ‘live with’ my boyfriend and his 7 year old daughter. i’m not vegan myself but we are all vegetarians so i surf your blog almost exclusively for tasty things to eat that are not labor-intensive but able to hold my interest. using your recipes is causing my b/f to think that i am good at cooking. :O
anyway, my boyfriend and i loved it! of course, his daughter would only have a single bite of it. it’s not like we were sad, though, hahaha. like you, i was ready to fight him for her plate. 😛
i am making your Enchilada Casserole recipe for the second time tomorrow. i can hardly wait!! i once had a DREAM about eating it, it was so good, no joke! 😀
8:55 PM, March 03, 2009
Anonymous EasyComfortFoods said…
This really sounds like Vegan Comfort Food.
Vegan cuisine that makes you feel happy is a wise choice!
1:27 PM, March 13, 2009
I made this yesterday. DELICIOUS!
1:35 PM, March 23, 2009
Anonymous Keri Anne said…
I’ve enjoyed reading your blog for some time but this was the first recipe I’ve tried thus far and WOW! I used sweet potato, butternut, and tempeh. The flavors are amazing! It is an incredibly comforting yet complex dish. I’ve never had tempeh taste so good before…Bravo! Everyone should try this dish!
10:22 PM, April 05, 2009
AnonymousDecember 5, 2009 at 12:52 pm
Hi, I was wondering where I can find fire roasted tomatoes. I've checked in a few store, but to no luck. What would be a substitute?
Thank you, this looks amazing and I'm eager to try this!
SusanVDecember 5, 2009 at 11:15 pm
Here's a link to a recipe that includes instructions for making roasted tomatoes that can be used wherever canned roasted tomatoes are called for: Tomato Soup with Roasted Garlic. If you have a Whole Foods or other natural food store nearby, try checking there for the Muir Glen brand of roasted tomatoes.
AnonymousJanuary 2, 2010 at 12:05 am
Made this last week..Wow!! Really loved the complex flavors, simply wonderful. I'll be making this again and again. Thank you so much
JenniferJanuary 31, 2010 at 11:45 pm
WOW this sounds amazing! Look forward to making a pot!
caterinaNovember 17, 2011 at 9:06 am
Do you think that freezing any leftovers would not affect the taste/texture of this dish?
Susan VoisinNovember 17, 2011 at 9:22 am
It should freeze fine, especially since the tofu’s texture was already changed by pre-freezing.
Moi Contre La VieFebruary 26, 2013 at 11:39 am
This look AMAZING. I’m having a serious love affaire w/ my slow cooker and I can’t wait to give this a try!
WonderousandstrangeAugust 8, 2013 at 6:33 pm
This recipie is amazing. The sauce is delicious. Although not meant to be flattering your daughter was right with her description. You could lather old shoe laces with the sauce and it would taste great. I have “taste tested” the dish three times. My husband better get home soon or it will all be gone! this is my favorite plant based site. Thank you for sharing your genius.
KBeaneOctober 17, 2013 at 12:23 pm
If I served this with rice, do you have any suggestions for a good side? Thanks! It looks delicious!
mishkaNovember 25, 2013 at 4:36 pm
I tried this three days ago and I really wish I liked it more. I was so excited to try the recipe after I discovered it since it sounded exactly like the flavour profiles I enjoy. For modifications, I swapped out the squash for white sweet potato, since my partner and I prefer less-sweet vegetables, and we used smoked tempeh. I also added a little lime juice to the sauce since I like the way the acidity balances with peanutty-garlic sauces.
I probably should have omitted the tempeh as I originally planned, because neither my partner nor I enjoyed the soft cubes at all. The tofu firmed up nicely in the leftovers (I like really firm, chewy tofu) and the sauce still tasted good after sitting in the fridge. But I did feel the sauce was still missing a component that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Perhaps more lime juice? Maybe some ginger? I think some experimenting might help me get it to a place where I like it even more.
I don’t think this was a bad recipe – my experience is definitely based on my own personal taste – I was just disappointed that it didn’t quite match the idea of what I had in my head.
Margo SmithFebruary 26, 2015 at 12:59 pm
Hi Susan, Love your website and recipes. I just printed out your Tofu, Tempeh and Butternut Squash in Slow Cooked Peanut Sauce. It looks delicious and I want to try it! You noted the fat calories from the peanut butter, also a concern of mine. Have you tried “Just Great Stuff” powdered organic peanut butter? It is a defatted peanut butter powder and also contains a small amount of coconut sugar. 2 Tbsps is only 45 calories and 1.5 grams of fat! It reconstitutes easily with water and is slightly sweeter than natural peanut butter, but still has a great peanuty flavor. I’ve been buying it at Whole Foods. I wonder how it would work in this recipe? I will try and let you know! Keep up the great work!
Susan VoisinFebruary 26, 2015 at 1:08 pm
I don’t like any kind of sugar in my peanut butter–or peanut butter powder–so I use Hoosier Farm’s peanut powder, which is made from peanuts only. It works well to substitute for some or all of the peanut butter in all of my recipes. I buy it from Amazon here.