Everything You Need to Know About Tofu

31 May 2021

You think you know the silken tofu, think again! This is all you ever wanted to know about the creamy specialty. From its taste to how to cook vegan tofu!

What is Tofu?Photo By Canva

Tofu is becoming increasingly popular; it’s versatile, has a fantastic creamy texture and the most interesting of tastes. Still, the Asian staple is often misunderstood — there’s so much to learn about the unique plant-based protein! Here’s all you wanted to know about the silken tofu. We promise you’ll become a tofu expert in no time. Let’s get started!

What is Tofu?

Not dissimilar to cheese, tofu is also called bean curd, and it’s what you get when you coagulate and press soybean milk. Although you’ll find tofu by different names, including vegan tofu and extra soft tofu, it’s all the same delicious product with subtle differences.

The silken tofu is widely used in Asia in many recipes. Tofu itself has a mild flavor, so it lends itself to both sweet and savory preparations. Fried, stir-fried, baked or smothered over bread; the functional plant-based cheese is incredibly adaptable.

Perhaps tofu is best known for being a popular vegan protein source; soybeans, like other legumes, including beans, lentils and chickpeas, are high in protein and can complement a plant-based diet fabulously.

Types of Tofu

There are basically three main types of tofu, and they all start with soymilk. The most popular types of tofu are unpressed tofu, pressed tofu, and processed tofu.

Unpressed, fresh tofu is curdled soy milk that can be as liquid as cottage cheese or solid but soft, as butter. Like all tofu, the plant-based milk is curdled with nigari or magnesium chloride, a natural compound that binds the protein in the soymilk.

Pressed tofu can be firm or extra-firm, and it’s ideal for cooking diced or sliced. You can even batter and fry it or toss it along with vegetables in a wok for a fantastic stir-fry.

Processed tofu is fermented or pickled, and it can vary in texture. These types of tofu can be quite flavorful and sometimes stinky. Of course, they’re an acquired taste, and chances are you’ll love them!

How to Cook Tofu?

Tofu has many uses in the kitchen. You can add tofu to soups and stews, and it’s a common ingredient in some types of ramen. Firm tofu handles heat well, so it can be breaded and fried for crispy two biters. Tofu can also be grounded and turned into different dishes emulating chicken or fish, and you’ll even find tofu in desserts, including delicious vegan tiramisu. The sky’s the limit!

When cooking tofu, everyone has their preferences, but what all tofu-based dishes have in common is that they’re mild and beautifully textured. Tofu has a place on the table from breakfast to dinner and from starters to dessert.

cooked tofuPhoto By Canva

What does Tofu Taste Like?

Tofu’s taste depends on the preparation. On its own, it has a mild flavor that can be reminiscent of beans, nuts or dairy, and it always has a pleasant earthy aftertaste.

Tofu shines on the palate, not only for its flavor but for its texture. In this department, tofu really shines. Silken tofu is decadently creamy, and firm tofu has an attractive bite to it, not dissimilar to what you’d find in semi-hard cheese.

Tofu is described as having a mild flavor, but some types of tofu, including pickled, marinated and fermented tofu, can be intensely flavorful. Remember, how you cook with tofu is what will ultimately give it personality.

Tofu Substitutes

If you’re looking for alternative plant-based protein sources, then beans, chickpeas, lentils or seitan, a gluten-based protein alternative, will work. If you’re looking for a product with a similar texture, then tempeh is your safest bet — it’s also made with pressed soybean curds, but it has a distinctive taste.

The real question is, why do you want to substitute tofu? If it’s because you don’t have any, then it all depends on if you need a vegan alternative or are okay with dairy. Cream cheese or cottage cheese are substitutes for soft tofu. If you need an alternative vegan protein because you don’t like its taste or texture, go with other legumes! Lentil burgers, anyone?

Tempeh Vs. Tofu

Both tofu and tempeh are soybean products, and they’re both pressed and processed, cooked soybeans (soymilk). Tofu is a Chinese specialty, and it’s known for not having a distinct flavor. Tempeh comes from Indonesia, and it’s often fermented, so it gains a more prominent character.

Tempeh might be made with some other ingredients as well, such as other legumes, nuts and seeds, so it’s naturally nutty and grainier on the palate.

Nutrition-wise, tofu and tempeh and great plant-based protein sources, but tempeh might be better for your gut health — all fermented foods have probiotics that boost your gut bacteria’s health.

How to Store Tofu

Tofu leftovers are expected, as it often comes in large packages, and we use little of it. How to store it? The brief answer: if it’s in its sealed package, you can keep it in the pantry, fridge or freezer until it expires. If it’s opened, store it in the fridge for a few days or freeze it.

Can you freeze tofu? Of course you can! And it doesn’t lose its mild flavor or soft texture once thawed. Store tofu in a freezer bag or a container with a lid for up to three months.

If you want to store tofu for a few days, then keep it in the fridge covered as you would do with any perishable item.

Nutrition and Benefits of Tofu

Yes, tofu is tasty and reliable, but the real question here is, Is Tofu Good for You? Yes, it is! Not only because it is a reliable source of plant-based protein but because it has excellent nutritional values.

One cup of tofu adds:

  • 176 calories to your diet.
  • 10.5 grams of total fat (2.2g saturated fat).
  • 2.3 grams of dietary fiber.
  • 20 grams of high-quality protein.

Tofu also adds impressive levels of calcium and iron to your diet, and it’s high on manganese, selenium, phosphorus, copper, magnesium and zinc! Besides, consuming tofu instead of red meat a few times a month will decimate the risk of heart disease.

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