Spicy Tofu Soup with Mizuna Greens

This spicy tofu soup is an easy weeknight vegan dinner. Cooked in one pot, it’s a relatively hands off and hearty soup.

Pot of tofu soup with mizuna greens.

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It may be spring, but we’ve still got soup weather. Sacramento spring is often marked by warm sunny days, and cool chilly nights. So far this year, it’s been no exception. This weather fuels a desire to run around outside and welcome the sunshine. But the near freezing nights means the best dinners are hearty and warm.

A few weeks ago, my friend Melissa received a bunch of mizuna greens in her CSA. Like many home cooks, she turned to Pinterest to scour the interwebs for a recipe. And what did she find? A lot of salads.

Mizuna greens are excellent in salads, but isn’t it worth having a few other things you can do with them? I thought so too.

Melissa, this one’s for you.

Spicy Tofu Soup with Mizuna Greens

I have a love for Korean food that unfortunately my partner does not share. Which means we almost never go out for Korean food. But I like to think that I might be able to convince him otherwise with this tofu soup.

Spicy tofu soup ladled into two smaller bowls.

One of my favorite things about going out for Korean food is the banchan! I could eat banchan for days. All the different pickles, vegetables, fish cakes, tofu, they’re a meal themselves.

But I do have a few favorite main dishes. Kimchi jjigae is one of them. This spicy tofu soup with kimchi is served boiling hot with a side of plain rice. It’s spicy and sour from the kimchi with hunks of slippery silken tofu. It’s fantastic. In fact, spicy, hearty stew is made for cold evenings.

Since I made these Asian roasted beets, I’ve been adding doenjang and gochujang (fermented soybean paste and chili paste respectively) to a lot of my home cooking. These Korean ingredients are excellent additions to soups and stews. I use them instead of bouillon or broth to add flavor and spice, like with this tofu soup recipe. Inspired by traditional Korean soup, but by no means an attempt at Korean food.

Nevertheless, I wanted to keep Korean and other Asian ingredients as key components of this recipe. Cooking the pearled barley in the tofu soup flavors the grains beautifully. I selected pearled barley because it soaks up more liquid compared to hulled barley. And toasted barley tea is often served with Korean food.

While kimchi jjigae is full of vegetables (ginger, onions, kimchi, scallions), I always like to add a bit more green to my meals. Enter: mizuna greens.

Cooking with Mizuna Greens

Mizuna greens are a type of Japanese mustard green. It’s another one of the many edible brassica plants like broccoli, kohlrabi, cabbage and kale. If you’re looking for more brassica recipes, this vegetarian breakfast casserole has several kinds.

Overhead shot of mizuna greens.

At first glance, mizuna greens look pretty similar to dandelion greens. However, mizuna greens have thinner, more delicate stems while dandelion greens have wider, thicker stems.

The flavor of mizuna is milder, and more sweet than other brassicas but it does have a distinctive bitterness. Traditionally, it is often eaten pickled or sauteed. These days, however, you’ll find ample recipes for salads.

Given the many other greens available for salads, I tend to use mizuna in stir fries, soups, and pastas. So, when Melissa requested a recipe with mizuna greens that was not salad, I gladly obliged and included them in this vegetarian tofu soup.

Pot of tofu soup with mizuna greens.

Spicy Tofu Soup with Mizuna Greens

This spicy tofu soup is an easy vegan one pot meal with barley and mizuna greens.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Calories 208 kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves black garlic minced
  • 6 cups hot water
  • 2 tablespoons doenjang (<-affiliate)
  • 1 tablespoon gochujang (<-affiliate)
  • 1 cup pearled barley
  • 14- ounces silken tofu diced into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 large bunches mizuna greens chopped into 1/2-inch long pieces (about 1 1/2 pounds)

Instructions

  1. In a medium pot, heat olive oil over medium low heat.
  2. Add onions, black garlic, and a pinch of salt. Cook onions and black garlic, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes until the onions begin to caramelize.
  3. Add water, doenjang and gochujang.
  4. Bring to a boil and make sure doenjang and gochujang have dissolved in the water.
  5. Add pearled barley, reduce heat to simmer. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
  6. Add tofu, and check barley for doneness. The grains should be tender and chewy. Simmer another 10 to 15 minutes as needed.
  7. Remove from heat and stir in mizuna greens.
  8. Serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

Seasoned Secret

If you have some time, let the onions and black garlic fully caramelize. The sweetness they add to this spicy tofu soup is the perfect balance to the kick of heat. If you’re looking for a less spicy soup, reduce the gochujang.

Pearled barley soaks up so much of the flavor and cooking liquid, which is why I recommend it for this recipe. If you have hulled barley (with the bran on), it will take about 15 to 25 minutes longer to cook. You can reduce the cooking liquid by one third.

Gluten-Free

Swap the barley for brown rice. Check your soybean paste and chili paste for traces of gluten, which is listed in some brands. Gluten free miso is a good alternative with chili powder or your preferred chili paste.

Omnivore

Pork is the traditional meat served with Korean tofu soup (kimchi jjigae), on which this recipe is loosely based. I recommend browning your sliced meat with the onions and black garlic before adding water and barley.

Check the Fridge

Don’t have mizuna greens? Other Asian greens like bok choy, mustard greens or napa cabbage go well with this tofu soup. They will take a bit longer to cook, so add them with the tofu. Leafy greens such as dandelion greens, chard, or beet greens will cook similarly to the mizuna greens. These are also good options.

Likewise, you can easily substitute firm tofu for silken tofu depending on what you have.

Black garlic is a slow cooked garlic. You can typically find it at health food stores. If you don't have this ingredient, use regular garlic but add it after the onions are cooked. Alternately, use roasted garlic in place of the black garlic as the sweetness is similar.


Close up of a bowl of spicy tofu soup with mizuna greens and barley.

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Erin
    March 28, 2018 at 5:22 pm

    This was SO GOOD. I already had the doenjang and gochujang from when I made your beet pasta recipe, and I loved that flavor paste so much that I knew this one would be good.. Anyway, killer recipe–delicious and simple to make. I went for the fully caramelized onions, and instead of black garlic, ended up using some roasted garlic. Black garlic will be on my radar in the future. Chard greens were great in the soup.

    • Reply
      Elaine
      April 2, 2018 at 11:09 am

      They’ve become my soup backbones along side vegetable trimmings. Full caramelized onions add so much depth and sweetness to the soup. Thanks for trying the recipe, Erin. I’m glad you enjoyed it so much!

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