Many commercial vegetarian ground beef replacements are sold. They all probably taste better than this recipe, but this one has the advantage of customization, and is also (nearly?) gluten-free. You always know exactly what goes into what you cook yourself.
All ingredient amounts are approximate.
Make mushroom powder by grinding dried shitake mushroom with a mortar and pestle until no large pieces remain (this takes some time, as the dried mushroom is slightly "leathery"). ¼ teaspoon is around a fifth of a small cap.
Make the marinade by mixing together all the seasonings in a small mixing bowl, making sure the mushroom powder and yeast extract is evenly incorporated with no lumps. Drain the tofu, pressing it to get rid of as much moisture as possible. Combine with tofu, crushing the tofu into small pieces and allowing to absorb the liquid evenly. I find that placing the tofu in a zip-top bag, pouring the marinade over it, sealing it, and then crushing the tofu with the fingers works well. You want no pieces of tofu larger than a fingernail.
Allow sufficient time for the marinade to soak completely into the tofu, such as several hours or overnight.
Heat a medium non-stick skillet over medium heat. Using a small amount of canola oil--just enough to coat the cooking surface--sauté the tofu, browning it to a golden color. Between the marinade and heat, it will achieve a medium-brown, but won't achieve the deep brown of ground beef or commercial ground beef substitute.
Once the tofu is browned, it will still be quite soft. You can improve its texture by spreading it out in the hot pan and allowing it to cool for some time.
Store the ground tofu in the refrigerator. It can be reheated by heating it through in a skillet in whatever application you desire. It can be used as a filling for tacos, sloppy joes, meat sauces for pasta, and the like.
- I find regular soy sauce or even tamari to be too salty in the end. Wheat-free is only needed if a gluten-free result is desired.
- Some vendors sell products containing a significant amount of yeast extract (such as rice cakes with yeast extract) as gluten-free; this source recommends avoiding yeast extract as containing barley. If you want to avoid the yeast extract, you might try increasing the amount of mushroom powder and beet juice.