What is tofu? What is it made of? How do you cook it? What are the different variations? All your tofu questions can be answered here!
What is tofu?
Most people know that tofu is a soy-based something, and until recently, I fell into this category. Not really sure what this mystery block of white mush actually was.
But it’s actually really neat! The making of tofu parallels the making of cheese. With cheese, you take milk and add rennet or an acid, causing the casein proteins in the milk to aggregate into clumps.
With tofu, you take soymilk and add calcium sulfate, causing similar clumping. Then you just take these coagulated clumps and press them together into the classic tofu cube! The amount of water pressed from the cube determines the firmness of the tofu.
Where to buy tofu
Look for tofu in the produce, refrigerator, or vegetarian section of most groceries. Pro tip: You can often find cheaper, fresher tofu at Asian groceries!
Variations of tofu
There are two main varieties of tofu: silken and regular. Silken tofu has a much silkier texture and originated in Japan. Original tofu is more common and was first made in China. Each of these tofu varieties can vary in firmness:
- Soft Tofu: Very versatile, is often substituted for dairy and eggs in desserts.
- Firm Tofu: Firm enough to pan fry, but can also be crumbled (like to replace scrambled eggs).
- Extra Firm Tofu: The most dense variety, well suited for cutting into cubes and baking or frying, but the high density means less flavors are absorbed.
There is also a variety called “sprouted” tofu. While most tofu is made with the whole soybean, sprouted tofu is made with a sprouting bean. It has more protein, but can be pretty hard to find.
How to Store Tofu
Tofu can either be stored in the refrigerator or the freezer. To store in the fridge, keep fresh tofu in the water it comes in. Every few days, replace the water with fresh water.
To store fresh tofu in the freezer, place entire (unopened) container in freezer. When you’re ready to use it, let it thaw in the fridge for a few hours, then drain the water and squeeze additional water from the tofu. Freezing adds texture and creates a more durable, less crumbly tofu (though I’d only suggest freezing the firm tofu).
Our favorite tofu recipes
We have tons of healthy tofu recipes here on the site, but here are a few of our favorites!
- Ridiculously Crispy Tofu, which uses an air fryer to achieve that perfect texture.
- Tofu Scramble Breakfast Tacos, which crumbles tofu into scrambled “eggs”.
- Tofu Nuggets, one of my favorites for weeknight dinners!
- Tofu Chocolate Mousse Pie, a sneaky way to work silken tofu into dessert.
- Tofu Ranch Dressing, another sneaky way of working tofu into a vegan recipe.
- Tofu Curry is a quick way to work tofu into your diet (it’s better than takeout!)
Tofu Health Benefits
Tofu is a nutritious ingredient perfect for vegan, vegetarian, and even meat-containing diets! Here is the nutrition information for 100 grams of tofu (about ¼ of brick, a little less than ½ cup).
Calories in Tofu: 145
Tofu is relatively low in calories, making it a good choice for weight loss.
Carbohydrates in Tofu: 4g
Tofu is also low in carbs! It’s a great choice for keto and low carb diets.
Fiber in Tofu: 2g
Tofu contains some fiver, and has 9% Daily Value (DV). This means that tofu can can make you to feel full, helping you to eat less and lose weight.
Protein in Tofu: 16g
Tofu is high in plant-based protein, making it a great protein source for vegans and vegetarians.
Fat in Tofu: 9g
Tofu contains 9 grams of fat, and most of it is polyunsaturated fat (the best kind of fat).
68% DV Calcium
The most abundant mineral in the body! 0.1% of the calcium in your body plays a vital role in vascular contraction/dilation and nerve transmission and signaling. The other 99% supports teeth and bone structure and function.
15% DV Iron
For a vegetarian diet, any plant source with this much iron is a huge win! Tofu is high in iron, which is a major component of hemoglobin, the protein that makes up red blood cells and carry oxygen around the body.
11% DV Thiamin
A water-soluble vitamin that turns your food (carbohydrates) into fuel (glucose). People at risk for deficiency include those with Crohn’s Disease, alcoholics, and those undergoing kidney dialysis.
10% DV Zinc
Tofu also contains zinc, the mineral important in strengthening your immune system, healing wounds, and maintaining your sense of taste and smell.
Yes, tofu is a healthy addition to most diets! It is low in calories, high in protein, and contains numerous vitamins and minerals.
Yes, tofu is vegan and vegetarian friendly. It is made entirely of plant-based ingredients, and contains no animal sourced ingredients.
Tofu is gluten-free and is suitable for those on gluten-free diets.