Tofu is a versatile ingredient for more than just Asian recipes. Its subtle taste will perfectly absorb the flavors of anything you cook with it. Just make sure to choose the right kind for your recipe: silken, soft, firm, or extra-firm.
What Is Tofu?
Tofu is a popular Asian ingredient sold in small blocks. Its taste is mild, delicate, and slightly tangy. With 4 different consistencies, each one is perfect for different cooking techniques. Silken, soft, firm, or extra-firm can be used for smoothies, dips, baking, stir-frying, deep-frying, and more.
With the right kind of tofu and seasonings, you can even make it taste like meat. As a result, tofu is a great vegetarian and vegan meat-substitute. It also happens to be healthy, being high in protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Thrown into some of our favorite recipes like kebabs, crispy tofu fries, and BBQ tofu, you won’t be putting this silky white block down any time soon.
What Is Tofu Made Out Of?
Tofu is made from soy milk or soy beans that are pressed together and boiled. The curds are then compressed into blocks using a mold. The more water that’s removed, the firmer the consistency.
Different Types of Tofu
Different types of tofu work for different cooking methods. Figuring out which one is the right one for your recipe can save lots of time and prevent a kitchen disaster:
- Silken – This is the softest kind of tofu there is. It’s so delicate and jiggly that it’s almost like Jell-O. It’s perfect for blending and incorporating into desserts, ice cream, smoothies, and drinks. It falls apart very easily, so make sure your recipe doesn’t involve lots of tossing and stirring. Silken tofu’s consistency is very silky and creamy because of its high water content.
- Soft – This one is a little bit denser but it’s still soft enough to be used for spreads or scrambling. It’s not good for pan-frying or deep-frying because it’ll fall to pieces. However, it’s perfect for noodles and soups where the mixing is kept to a minimum.
- Firm – Firm tofu is the second most compact kind. It has less water content, so it’s very dense and even a little bit porous because of the lack of hydration. It’s a lot like queso fresco and even feta before it’s crumbled. Due to its consistency, it’s easy to slice and chop. You can use it for spreads, pan-frying, stir-frying, and more.
- Extra-firm – Like the same suggests, it’s the firmest kind of tofu there is. It’s perfect for stir frying, deep-frying, and even crumbling because it holds its shape extremely well. Despite its more robust consistency, it’s still creamy when bitten into.
What Does Tofu Taste Like?
Tofu has such a subtle flavor that sometimes it’s hard to pick up on. It’s milky, silky, lightly sour, and delicately tangy at the end. The creaminess is a bit like ricotta or buffalo mozzarella, but the tang is reminiscent of a ferment.
Does Tofu Taste Like Meat?
No. On its own, tofu doesn’t taste anything like meat. In fact, some people describe its taste as bland. Only the sauces and seasonings added to some types of tofu can make it taste like meat.
Is Tofu Healthy?
Extremely! Tofu is gluten-free, low in calories, high in protein, and packed with fiber. Additionally, it has plenty of vitamins and minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron. If that’s not enough, it helps reduce the risk of cancer, promotes brain and memory health, and protects against heart disease and diabetes.
Ways to Use Tofu
Tofu can be used for hot and cold preparations in all sorts of recipes. Here are some of our favorite cooking methods:
- Spreads and dips – Use silken tofu for the smoothest spreads and dips.
- Smoothies – Silken tofu dissolves well into drinks.
- Baking – It depends but you can use any type of tofu depending on the recipe. Use it for sweet or savory, hot or cold preparations. For example, cheesecake and crispy baked tofu fries.
- Stir-fries – Choose firm or extra-firm tofu so that it keeps its shape.
- Deep frying – Firm or extra-firm. The other kinds have too much moisture.
- Grilling – Firm or extra-firm only. Silken and soft will fall apart and stick to the grill.
Tofu Recipes to Try
Here are a couple recipes to try out when you’re in the mood for tofu. They’re not all Asian-inspired, but that just makes things more interesting. For more tofu recipes, head to our Recipe Finder.
Grilled Pineapple & Tofu Kebabs
These pineapple and tofu kebabs are a fun, tropical twist on traditional kebabs. Mushrooms, bell peppers, and onions are also used for texture and crunch. Grilled with a homemade vegan BBQ sauce, they’re perfect for gatherings.
Crispy Teriyaki Tofu
Served over a bowl of rice with your favorite veggies, this teriyaki tofu is irresistibly crispy and delicious. Since the sauce is made from scratch, you can adjust how sweet or savory you want it to be. It’s an Asian-inspired recipe taken to new heights with simple ingredients.
Maple Tofu with Rice & Greens
Garlicky spinach greens and a bowl of white rice are the perfect backdrop for this sticky, sweet, and tangy maple tofu to shine through. The sauce is made with maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, and garlic. It’s an unconventional mixture but you’ll find yourself licking the spoon (or chopsticks) clean.
Crispy Buffalo Tofu Fries
These tofu fries get their crispiness from the oven, so there’s no oil involved. Seasoned with parsley, dill, and onion powder, the crunchy panko topping combines beautifully with buffalo sauce and ranch dressing. It’s vegan “junk” food!
BBQ Tofu (Southern Style)
Not all tofu recipes need to be Asian-inspired. This smoky southern BBQ is meat-free and goes with a large serving of creamy mashed potatoes and corn bread. It’s so good you won’t miss beef or pork for a second!