During the winter time, the lack of sun and overwhelm from the holidays are just some of the many contributors to imbalanced serotonin levels, our happy hormone. One effective way we can increase our serotonin is through our diet. Foods don’t have serotonin in them, but foods do have Tryptophan. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid found in many protein-based foods and dietary proteins including meats, dairy, fruits, and seeds. It is a precursor of serotonin synthesis but must be obtained through diet because it cannot be synthesized by the body. In other words, tryptophan converts to serotonin in the brain, but that must be achieved through the diet.
The recommended daily intake for Tryptophan is 280 mg.
Below are 5 Serotonin Boosting Recipes that are quick, easy to prepare, and high in Tryptophan. Use these recipes anytime you are needing a boost to your serotonin levels. Recipes can be adjusted based on your dietary preference.
The Sunshine Smoothie (Vegan)
1/2 cup Blueberries
1 ripe Banana
1-2 handful of leafy greens(spinach and/or kale)
½ -1 cup Soy milk (dependent on preference of thickness)
1 tbsp. Almond Butter
1 tbsp. of Pumpkin Seeds
1 tsp Hemp seeds
½ tsp Flax meal
¼ tsp Spirulina
Add the leafy greens and blueberries to a blender and blend for 10 seconds. (Blending up the greens first allows them to break up more.)
Add remaining ingredients to blender and blend until smooth.
*Optional: add ice to get a cold, crunchy-textured smoothie.
3 Mixed Nuts
1 cup-Pistachio Nuts
1. Combine all nuts in one bowl and mix.
Keep in an airtight container/jar
*Optional: Chop up walnuts and halve the almonds beforehand.
Salmon Quinoa Bowl (Dairy and Gluten Free)
3-4 oz Wild-caught Salmon (cooked to your preference)
1 large Egg (with yolk)
1 cup cooked Tri-blend Quinoa
1-2 handful of Leafy Greens (spinach and/or kale)
¼ cup Cooked Edamame
¼ cup chopped Almonds & Walnuts
1. Prepare the quinoa over the stove or in rice cooker.
2. Prepare your Edamame while the quinoa cooks.
3. Coat the salmon with an oil, then bake in the oven 400 °F for 9-12 minutes.
4. Cook your egg to your liking (hard-boiled is my preference for this recipe).
5. Chop up almonds and walnuts and slice up the avocado.
6. Once everything has cooked, make a bed of quinoa at the bottom of a bowl.
7. Add the salmon, edamame, leafy greens, and egg.
8. Top with the avocado and chopped almonds and walnuts.
1 ¼ cup cooked Edamame
½ cup low or Zero-Fat Yogurt
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
1/2 tsp Sesame Oil
1/2 tsp Chili Powder (optional)
Handful chopped Cilantro
A pinch of salt and pepper
1. Simply blend all the ingredients in a blender or food processor. If the dip is too thick, you can add more yogurt to get the consistency you like, but it should be coarse, not smooth. Use it as a dip or serve on toast!
Lentil & vegetable Stew (Vegan)
1 pound of Lentils, soaked overnight and rinsed
1 chopped Onion
2 chopped Carrots
2 chopped stalks of Celery
1 chopped bunch of Kale, with ribs removed
1 chopped Sweet Potato
1 tbsp of Nutritional Yeast
8 cups of Vegetable Broth
2 tbsp of Avocado Oil
Chopped Parsley for garnish
1. In a large pot, warm up the oil over medium heat, and add the onion, carrots, and celery. Sprinkle in salt and pepper and sauté the ingredients until soft and brown.
2. Add in the lentils, vegetable broth, kale, sweet potato, and nutritional yeast. Bring to a slight boil, stirring now and then to mix in the kale.
3. Lower the heat to medium-low, then cover, leaving the lid ajar. Simmer the stew, stirring as needed, until lentils become tender.
4. Garnish with chopped parsley.
Find all of these ingredients at the Co-op!
It is important to note that all these recipes will work great with baked, grilled, panfried, or crumbled tofu. These recipes work great in rice bowls, with veggies like bok Chou, onions, snap peas, carrots, and broccoli, or in a creative taco! Let us know what you create by posting a picture and tagging @davisfoodcoop!
Sweet Garlic Baked Tofu
- 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
- 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh garlic
- 2 teaspoons warmed honey
- 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons mirin
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons peanut or toasted sesame oil
- 1 block extra-firm tofu, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
- Preheat oven to 400ºF.
- Place the grated garlic and ginger in a medium bowl. Add the honey, light soy sauce mirin, water, and oil. Whisk well to combine all ingredients
- Place tofu cubes in a single layer in an 8×8″ glass baking dish. Take care not to crowd the pieces of tofu. Pour the marinade over the tofu pieces, turning them to coat well on all sides.
- Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Rotate pieces and bake for 15 more minutes, checking periodically that the liquid has not completely evaporated. Remove from oven and serve hot with dipping sauce or use in stir-fries.
Taco Tofu (Crumbed or small cubed)
- 2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
- 1 Tbsp Water
- 1 tsp Smoked Paprika
- 1 tsp Cumin
- 2 tsp Chili Powder
- sprinkle of Cloves
- Salt and Pepper
- 1 Block Extra-Firm Tofu
- Best with diced onions and mushrooms!
- Mix tomato paste, water, and spices in a bowl. Add cubed or crumbled tofu and evenly coat.
- Heat cast iron with a little oil.
- Saute diced onions and mushrooms.
- Add tofu and cook on medium heat until onions are slightly translucent.
Ginger Baked Tofu
- 1 pound extra-firm tofu, sliced into 1/2-inch thick rectangles
- 1/4 cup sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced (2-3 cloves)
- 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced (2-inch piece)
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 1/3 cup Mirin (sweet rice wine)
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- Preheat oven to 400ºF.
- Pat the tofu rectangles dry with a paper towel, and place on a sheet pan with a rim. Brush the tofu with the sesame oil. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping each piece over after 15 minutes. Carefully drain most of the oil from the sheet pan. Mix together the ginger, garlic, tamari, Mirin and maple syrup, and pour it over the tofu. Bake for another 15 minutes until the tofu is firm and the sauce has reduced. Remove from heat and serve, drizzled with the sauce from the baking pan and garnished with fresh minced ginger, sesame seeds and scallions.
Cilantro Lime Grilled Tofu
- 14-ounce block extra-firm tofu
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1 bunch cilantro, washed and dried
- 1/3 cup fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon white sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- 1/4 cup black or white sesame seeds
- Preheat grill to medium-high heat.
- Beginning at the short end, slice the block of tofu into 8 even rectangles. Lay the tofu on a baking sheet and sprinkle with tamari. Let sit, flipping once while preparing the pesto.
- Cut the stems off of the washed cilantro and puree the leaves in a blender or food processor with the fresh ginger, oils, sugar, salt, and lime juice. The resulting pesto should resemble a vibrant green smoothie.
- Lightly oil the grill. Using a metal spatula, place the tofu on the grill and cook for 2 minutes. Flip and grill for 2 minutes on the other side. Remove to a plate and let cool, then toss with the cilantro pesto and garnish with ½ cup sesame seeds, black or white. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate until ready to use.
- 12 ounces extra-firm tofu
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce, divided
- 3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil, divided
- 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
- 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
- 2 tablespoons Sriracha
- 2 tablespoons seasoned rice wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons white miso
- Slice the tofu crosswise into 8 squares. In a large non-stick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil over high heat. Add the tofu and sear until golden brown on each side. Reduce to medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of tamari, cook for 1-2 minutes, then flip the tofu and continue cooking until all the tamari is absorbed. Remove and reserve the tofu.
- In a medium sauté pan, combine 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil, seasoned rice wine vinegar, Sriracha, 1 tablespoon tamari and brown sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking to blend in the sugar. Turn off the heat and whisk in the miso paste until smooth. Gently add the tofu to the sauce, flipping once to coat. Let sit.
Looking for a way to switch up your Taco Tuesday? We have a recipe that is plant-based, protein-packed, and perfect for a laid-back weeknight meal. Watch the video below for an explanation of what ingredients we chose and a walkthrough of the steps. The ingredients and instructions are listed below.
1 to 2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
Apple cider vinegar
10-12 corn tortillas (use GF if desired)
Tofu “cheese” crumbles (1 C crumbled extra firm tofu, 1 tsp salt, 2 tbsp Nutritional Yeast)
Garnishes: 1/2 cup salsa, avocado, fresh cilantro, lime wedges
- Preheat oven to 425F.
- Coat the sweet potatoes in about 2 tbsp of oil, salt, chili powder, and cumin. Then put on a baking sheet in the oven for about 15 minutes. Stir and flip, then roast another 15 minutes.
- While this is roasting, saute the onions in about a tbsp of oil. Just before they are soft, add the garlic and jalapeño, saute for another minute. Then add the drained and rinsed black beans and a splash of apple cider vinegar. Cook until hot.
- Crumble extra firm tofu into a bowl, add salt and nutritional yeast. Mix well. This is your cheese!
- Warm the tortillas in a dry skillet or in the microwave.
- Let everyone fill their tacos with sweet potatoes, beans, avocado, salsa, cilantro, and cheese! Yum!
This recipe was developed by our Education and Outreach Specialist, Madison Suoja, and the demonstration was done by our staff member Rheanna Smith. Rheanna has a background in nutrition and food science, and along with working in many departments here at the Davis Food Co-op, she actively runs a food blog containing healthy recipes and nutrition tips. Keep an eye on our Co-op blog to see some of her recipes and give her Instagram account a follow for additional health tips and ideas, @rheannnabanana.