A staple in plant-based diets, tofu is one of the best - and cheapest - protein sources to use in cooking. However, if you’re new to it, it can be a bit confusing to understand how to prepare it. It also can have a very bland and flavorless taste to many. But that’s only if you don’t know how to cook it. If you’re not a tofu fan, it’s likely because it wasn’t prepared well. Think of it this way: Tofu on its own is like a salad with no dressing. It just needs the right “dressing" to be a delicious meal.
How to love it: Think of tofu as a blank canvas for flavor. It’s so versatile that it will take on the flavor of whatever you want it to! Start thinking of some of your favorite marinades, spices, dressings, and then get the tofu involved. You can leave it marinating for hours, toss it in some corn starch and fry it up nice and crispy, or you can even turn it into a cheesy dressing! The possibilities are endless!
So what is tofu? Simply put, tofu is made from curdled soy milk pressed into blocks. *A fun fact is that the process of making tofu is very similar to the process of making traditional cheese.
Why is it a “health food”? Tofu is a very nutrient-dense food! Meaning that it’s packed with nutrients and is low in calories. Not only is tofu a protein powerhouse but it’s also a great source of calcium and iron, and contains minerals such as manganese, copper, zinc, magnesium, and phosphorus. It also contains no cholesterol or saturated fat compared to meat products. Now that’s one good reason to love it right there!
It can be eaten fresh or cooked in various ways. There are a lot of different varieties on the market too! Each variety serves a different purpose depending on what you’re making it for! We’ve broken it down for you below.
Types and uses of tofu:
- Extra-firm tofu: Frying, roasting, grilling, or marinating * best for a crispy or harder texture
- Firm tofu: Stir-frying, boiling, or for use as a filling (think cheesy ricotta)
- Medium & Soft tofu: Pureeing *denser than silken tofu, but not as good at retaining shape like firm and extra firm (Think of miso soup tofu)
- Silken tofu: Pureeing, simmering, egg substitution, for use as a mayo, best for use in plant-based desserts (think whipped “cream”) and smoothies *the softest of all the tofus hence the name (it is never pressed)
- Smoked or seasoned tofu: Commonly, these are pre-seasoned or pre-cooked by smoking to add a unique flavor *Great for sautéeing or eating as is, depending on the brand
So now that you’ve selected the right tofu for your recipe you will most likely need to remove the moisture (unless you’ve selected silken tofu) and press it first. If you don’t have a kitchen product labeled “tofu press”, no need to fret! Here's a quick step by step guide on how to do so without one:
- Remove the tofu from the packaging
- Wrap the tofu with a clean cloth and leave on a cutting board or plate
- Press it! Put a heavy object on top of the wrapped tofu (a heavy book or pan both work great)
- Leave for it 30 minutes *not all the liquid will be removed but that’s ok! It’s enough to make a difference
- You’re ready to rock
You can crumble it, cut it into blocks, blend, puree, fry it, marinade it, heck you could even do all of the above if you really wanted to get crazy. Tofu can be whatever you want it to be, so make it work for you by finding the right flavor combos and turning that blank canvas into a masterpiece. Check out our Tofu Feta recipe, and our blog on how to make your own tofu at home.