Around the world, more individuals are placing an increased significance on not only their own personal health and wellness but environmental wellness, too. Growing numbers of people consider it essential to cultivate sustainable foods and support healthy eating while still enjoying delicious meals packed with flavour.
Tofu is one of the most diverse plant-based ingredients on the planet. It works in a variety of cuisines, soaking up flavour from the food it’s cooked with.
On its own, tofu has a rich nutty flavour and comes in a variety of textures. It’s used as a substitute for dairy in products such as:
- Ice cream
- Salad dressing
- Gravy thickener
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, tofu is cholesterol-free, a good source of polyunsaturated fats, and low in less healthy, saturated fats. This makes it a wonderful protein-rich meat alternative.
Tofu can be chopped, blended, or crumbled to use in main dishes, desserts, drinks, and snacks. It comes in several consistencies, such as:
Here, we’ll take a look at the different types of tofu to cook with, common uses, flavour profiles, and more.
1. Extra-firm tofu
Extra-firm tofu is the crumbliest of the tofu textures. It makes an excellent addition to salads and pizza (think feta, but betta’). The firmness of this tofu type also best resembles meat products.
To prepare extra-firm tofu, you should first drain, then press it. Pressing removes moisture from the tofu before it’s cooked. The less liquid left in the tofu, the meatier it becomes.
To press tofu, follow these simple steps:
- Fold a clean dish towel in half lengthwise and lay it on the counter.
- Place the tofu on one half of the dishtowel.
- Fold the other half of the dishtowel up over the tofu.
- Place a glass mixing bowl on top of the towel-wrapped tofu.
- Let it rest for 30 minutes.
- Unwrap the tofu, and dice or crumble it as preferred.
You can use a paper towel in place of a dishtowel. For the mixing bowl, be careful it isn’t too heavy or it will squish the tofu. From here, you can cook the tofu however you like.
A few recipes using extra-firm tofu include:
- Vegetarian Pad-Thai with Tofu
- Vegan Pumpkin Ricotta Stuffed Shells
- Kung Pao Tofu
Extra-firm tofu is especially tasty when fried, grilled, battered, or deep fried. It also works amazingly well with glazes and sauces. Try it in different recipes to find your favourite way of cooking it.
2. Medium-firm tofu
Medium-firm tofu is softer than extra-firm tofu due to an excess of liquid. To prepare medium-firm tofu, it also needs to be drained and pressed. Once moisture is removed, this type of tofu is best suited to:
Medium-firm tofu makes an excellent ground meat alternative for:
- Bolognese sauce
- Potsticker filling
You can use medium-firm tofu in place of extra-firm tofu in a variety of recipes, such as:
- Tofu Katsu With Curry
- Honey Sesame Pan-Fried Tofu
- Tofu and Veggie Stir Fry in Sweet Ginger Sauce
Medium-firm tofu is also an excellent addition to soups, including miso soup.
Also read: Gut-Changing Fitness & Nutrition Trends
3. Silken tofu
Silken tofu is the hidden gem of the tofu world. It’s the best tofu to use in desserts, sauces, and salad dressings. It makes a creamy cheesecake, a light mayo, and a beautiful dairy-free yogurt.
Silken tofu isn’t pressed before use, and it doesn’t freeze well. It also needs to be handled carefully because it crumbles easily. To use silken tofu, you must first drain it. It’s also important to purchase the desired firmness. Silken tofu can be:
Think of silken tofu like whole milk—it’s thick, creamy, and rich. It’s perfect in sweet or savoury flavour combinations. Silken tofu is unique in that there are several silken tofu recipes that don’t require any cooking at all.
Here’s a fun and simple silken tofu recipe to try at home.
Silken Tofu in Onion Garlic Sauce
- Firm silken tofu (one block)
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 sweet onion
- 4 stalks of green onion
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp canola oil (for frying)
- 1 tbsp each of dark and light soy sauce
- Finely dice the onions and garlic.
- Peel back the plastic on the tofu and drain excess liquid.
- Place a plate over the tofu and flip it carefully so it is sitting on the plate.
- Remove the container from the downturned tofu.
- In a pan on medium heat, add canola oil and diced sweet onion.
- Add garlic to the pan.
- Cook the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent and the garlic is golden.
- Reduce the heat and add sugar, sesame oil, and soy sauce.
- Cook for one minute.
- Pour the contents of the pan over the tofu.
Finally, garnish your dish with green onions and enjoy! You can eat this with other dishes, over rice, or on its own. It’s a great meal for a hot day when you want to cool down.
4. Fried tofu
Like many ingredients, tofu just tastes better fried. Golden brown, crispy, and light, fried tofu adds a delightful bite to any meal.
To prepare fried tofu, it must be thoroughly drained and pressed. The less liquid in your tofu, the more evenly it will fry.
Fried tofu is prepared by frying cubed tofu in hot oil until the tiny morsels go golden brown all over. You can add fried tofu to the tops of salads, stir-frys, or as a main ingredient. A few of the more popular dishes using fried tofu are:
- Chicken Fried Tofu Sandwiches
- Fried Tofu with Garlic Sauce
- Pan-Fried Crispy Tofu
A few tips to remember when making fried tofu:
- Ensure the pan and oil are hot before adding your tofu.
- Scoop the fried tofu out of the oil and drain it over a paper towel to remove excess oil.
- Toss it in a sauce just before serving or the tofu will get soggy waiting to be served.
Fried tofu is one of the less healthy ways to eat tofu, but it’s still a healthier junk food alternative to some other fried foods.
5. Seasoned tofu
Tofu can be seasoned in a variety of ways based on your meal plan and palette. You can also purchase pre-seasoned tofu packages.
Seasoned tofu comes pre-marinated. It’s often soaked in delicious soy or garlic-based sauce. Some of the top seasoned tofu flavours you’ll find in grocery stores include:
Seasoned tofu takes the work out of dinner while pumping up the flavour of this generally neutral ingredient. Most pre-seasoned tofu brands require you to drain but not pat or press the tofu. It’s best to check the packaging for individual instructions.
Seasoned tofu works in a range of savoury dishes, especially those requiring a pop of flavour, such as:
- Rice bowls
Try spicing up any of the meals to which you usually add tofu with seasoned tofu. You might be surprised at how much it brings to your favourite dishes.
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What makes tofu special?
Tofu is a unique ingredient made from dried soybeans. The crushed beans are boiled and separated (think of the way we separate milk and cream to make butter, etc.). The soybean pulp is called okara, and the liquid is called milk.
To completely separate the products of the boiled soybeans, calcium and other ingredients are added to cause coagulation. This is how soy curds begin to form. Each element is then used individually to create different types of tofu and other soy products.
Tofu offers many health benefits to those who consume it. According to the Government of Canada, 70% of the average adult’s required amount of soy protein to lower cholesterol can be found in 150 grams of tofu. It’s also rich in iron, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus.
HelloFresh works hard to provide Canadians with a variety of vegetarian and vegan options. Tofu is one of our favourite ingredients to work with. It’s easy to prepare, and provides a range of textures and tastes to play with.
At HelloFresh we use only the most sustainable ingredients in our meal kits, including tofu. It’s important to us that our brand leaves as small a carbon footprint as possible on our ever-changing planet. This includes the cultivation and handling of our tofu-based meal kits.
Wrapping Up With Tofu
Tofu is one of the most enjoyable ingredients to work with as a foodie. If you love to cook, and want to try something new, there are always innovative new recipes popping up with tofu at their center.
Whether you’re new to cooking, or a pro, you’ll find plenty of recipes to try at varying degrees of difficulty. Tofu has quickly grown into one of the most popular ingredients in modern cooking. It offers some surprising uses, including pairing tofu and meat for different textures in classic cuisines.
As we wrap up our tofu blog, we hope you’ll try some new tofu recipes of your own. Or, check out a few tofu faves like:
- Baked Jerk Tofu
- Agedashi Tofu
- Panang Tofu Curry
Speaking of wrapping up, try adding tofu to your favourite spring or summer roll recipe. You won’t be disappointed!