When healthy is surprisingly good

July 1, 2017 - 12:00am -- Living City

When healthy is surprisingly good
An alternate version of tiramisu to try for your friends

By Gesuina Yo

A friend of mine who really enjoys good food was trying to cut down on cholesterol in her diet, so we were thinking of meat alternatives for her. I had lived in Japan for 20 years and was very familiar with dishes made with tofu, which has much less cholesterol than meat, so I started experimenting with tofu-based substitutions for some of her favorite recipes. I myself had recently found out that I was lactose intolerant, so anytime I could also find tasty dairy substitutes for popular dishes, I was excited to try them out, too.

This time, the challenge was the popular Italian dessert called tiramisu, which literally means “pick me up.” It lifts your spirits. It has layers of ladyfinger cookies soaked in coffee and liquor, layered with powdered chocolate and mascarpone cheese. The soft mascarpone in the original recipe makes the dessert rich and creamy, but it is also full of calories and cholesterol.

Could I invent a tiramisu using tofu instead? I tried it out, and my friends were happily surprised with the results! In fact, it turned out so well, I began serving it to guests who came for dinner.

Once, a group of friends came over, and while one friend knew the secret to my dessert, he suggested that we keep it quiet, because another friend was wary of eating anything with tofu. It was time for dessert, and after I served the tiramisu, we watched in amazement as this friend enjoyed his piece without even blinking an eye. He even exclaimed, “This is so good!” and then accepted a second piece!

After he was halfway through it, our other friend couldn’t keep the secret any longer. “Do you know what you’re eating?” he asked.

“Tiramisu!” our friend replied.

“Yes, but this tiramisu is ‘healthy’ tiramisu. It has tofu instead of mascarpone!” Our other friend laughed, “No, you’re joking!”

“No, it is really made with tofu!”

Well, most of my friends at the table were completely won over by my recipe. That other friend a little less so — once he knew it was tofu, he was not so excited about the same dish he’d been enjoying so much just seconds before.

Sometimes our preconceptions about a certain food are hard to change no matter how tasty a recipe we find, but everyone has to try it for themselves. Here’s my healthy tiramisu recipe so you can try something new, and surprise your friends with a lactose-free, low-cholesterol alternative to this great dessert! With vegan chocolate and lady fingers, this recipe can be easily converted for a vegan diet, too.


Healthy tiramisu (serves 8–10)


  • 14 oz. hard ladyfinger cookies

  • 4 teaspoons instant decaf coffee powder

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (to dissolve the coffee)

  • 3 tablespoons rum

  • 1 teaspoon almond extract (or vanilla)

  • 1/2 cup cane sugar

  • 18 oz. silken or soft tofu (1 ½ 12 oz. packages)

  • 1/2 cup grated chocolate or cocoa powder


Dissolve coffee in a bowl with warm water and add rum. Blend tofu, almond essence and sugar until completely smooth. Lightly dip the ladyfingers into the coffee mixture and single layer them in a 7x10-inch glass baking tray. Spread a layer of the tofu blend on the top, then dust it lightly with cocoa powder. Repeat layer of cookies dipped in the coffee mixture. Spread the remaining tofu blend. Garnish the top with grated chocolate or cocoa powder. Cover and leave it in the refrigerator to set for a few hours, preferably overnight.


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