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Tofu 101: Everything You Need to Know About Tofu

Tofu is an incredibly versatile food that’s eaten all over the world. It’s easy to cook with, healthy, and perfect for absorbing lots and lots of flavor. 

A bowl of sauce being poured over raw tofu cubes on a baking sheet

People often underestimate tofu. A lot of people assume that it’s a boring and bland ingredient that vegetarians and vegans use in place of meat. And while it’s true that it's an excellent plant-based protein to use as a meat substitute, it’s so much more than that. 

Tofu has an amazing texture that ranges from soft and silky to firm and dense, depending on what type you’re using. It can be heavily seasoned and fried or baked, added to soups, or blended with other ingredients to create sauces or cheese substitutes. It has a mild enough taste that it can really take on a lot of flavors from whatever meal you’re making. It also has a long shelf life, and is super affordable. If you’re not already using tofu in your kitchen, I recommend you start doing so immediately … and I’ve got some recipes for you to try! 

A bowl of quinoa, avocado, tofu, tomatoes, and greens, with a slice of lime and a form

What Does it Taste Like? 

Similar to an unseasoned piece of chicken, tofu doesn’t have much of a flavor on its own. It tastes a little bit like soybeans, a little bit like rice, and a little bit like water. But it will absorb any flavors you put on it, and can quickly become a flavor-packed protein. 

What is Tofu Made of? 

Tofu is made out of soybeans. Soybean milk is curdled and pressed into a block until it sets. It’s that simple! 

Is it Vegan and Keto Friendly? 

Absolutely! Tofu is made up entirely out of soybeans, so it’s vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and keto-friendly. However, be aware that some of what's sold in the store is seasoned, and might have ingredients like wheat added to it. Always check the labels before purchasing any. 

Three crispy tofu tacos with red cabbage, avocado, and a crema, next to half an avocado

What Cuisines Use Tofu? 

Tofu has become popular all over the globe, especially as more people move to plant-based diets. However, it’s still most popular in many Asian cuisines. You’ll find lots of it on the menu at Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Thai restaurants, and usually at Vietnamese and Indian restaurants as well. 

Is it Good for You? 

Yes, it is very good for you! Tofu is very high in protein, and also in essential amino acids. It’s packed full of vitamins and minerals, while also having some carbs and healthy fats. 

A plate of tofu and kimchi with two slices of avocado toast

Is it Healthier than Meat? 

Tofu is generally considered healthier than meat. Because it is low in calories and high in proteins, vitamins, and minerals, it offers most of the health benefits of meat, with not nearly as many negative effects. Unlike red meat, for instance, tofu doesn’t have a negative impact on your heart health. 

Is it Good for Weight Loss? 

Weight loss is all about finding the right diet and lifestyle for you. That said, tofu can be a big part of that diet. Since it is high in protein but low in calories, you can get full on it fairly easily without consuming many calories. If you’re trying to find foods to eat that leave you satisfied and full, while limiting calories, it’s a great option.

Two slices of tofu crusted in herbs, on a plate with green beans and potatoes

Tips for Cooking Tofu

Here are a few tips to use around the kitchen if you’re new to tofu.

  • Press it. Tofu has a very high water content, which can prevent it from crisping up. If you want to add texture to your dish, you’ll want to get as much of the water out as possible before cooking it. You can purchase a press specifically for this task, or put a heavy object on top of it. Just make sure you leave it somewhere where it won’t make a mess as it drains!
  • Use the right kind: There are four main categories of tofu: silken, firm, extra firm, and super firm. The textures are more different than you might think, so make sure to use the type that your recipe calls for. 
  • Baking is a great way to use it. I’m a big fan of baking tofu. I think it gets the best results in terms of crispiness, but it’s also great if you’re new to this ingredient. It’s very hard to overbake it, so you have a lot of wiggle room, and it’s easier to make it crisp on the outside. If you notice that water is pooling in your pan as the recipe bakes, just drain it and return it to the oven.

Tofu Recipes You Have to Try

Now that we've talked about tofu, it's time to cook it! Here are some of my favorite recipes.

Herb Crusted Tofu Recipe

Herb Crusted Baked Tofu

Tofu really takes on the herby flavors in this recipe. The breading is similar to a meat cutlet, giving the tofu an excellent texture.
Check out this recipe
Bowl full of crispy tofu cubes

How to Make Crispy Baked Tofu

This is a tremendous starting point for anyone just getting into cooking with tofu. Once you learn how to make crispy baked tofu, you can start adding any seasonings and sauces you want. You’ll never get tired of tofu!
Check out this recipe
Baked Coconut Tofu Tenders

Baked Coconut Tofu Tenders

Coconut and tofu is a match made in heaven. The subtle flavors go so well together, and create a crispy, crunchy, plant-based tender that’s perfect for dipping in your favorite sauce.
Check out this recipe
This Kimchi Tofu Scramble uses just 5 INGREDIENTS and takes only 5 minutes to make! [312 calories, 27g protein]

5-Minute Kimchi Tofu Scramble

Tofu isn’t just a great meat substitute … it’s also a great egg substitute! But it’s not just vegans who will love this recipe, as it is jam packed with flavor and nutrition.
Tofu Quinoa Bowls for Meal Prep

Meal Prep Chipotle Quinoa Tofu Bowls

Bowls are one of my favorite things to do with tofu, as you’ll see in a minute by all the different recipes! I’m also a huge fan of chipotle and tofu as a flavor combination.
Check out this recipe
vegan meal prep recipe tofu quinoa bowls

Meal Prep Sesame Tofu Quinoa Bowls

Sesame and tofu is a match made in heaven. These bowls also have broccoli and green beans, two of my favorite vegetables to pair with tofu.
Check out this recipe
bowl of pesto quinoa with grilled tofu, tomatoes, grilled zucchini and kale

Pesto Quinoa Salad Bowls with Grilled Tofu

Grilling tofu is a great way to prepare it. A slice of grilled tofu will pick up a mild hint of smoke flavor, and is the perfect addition to any healthy bowl or salad.
Check out this recipe

Asian Quinoa Bowls with Peanut Baked Tofu

These bowls are packed with fresh foods, like cabbage and carrots. The tofu is the perfect carrier for a strong sauce made of tamari, ginger, and sriracha.
Check out this recipe
overhead of teriyaki quinoa bowls with mango, tofu and sesame dressing

Teriyaki Quinoa Bowls

Like I said, tofu goes well with pretty much any seasoning or sauce that you like. And that includes a sweet and sticky teriyaki sauce!
Check out this recipe
Quinoa Sushi Bowls! Made with tons of veggies, spicy tofu and a ginger miso dressing!

Vegan Quinoa Sushi Bowls

Tofu is a common ingredient in Japanese cooking, and a lot of those flavors are worked into this dish. With miso, ginger, nori, cucumber, and sesame seeds, you’ll feel like you’re in your favorite Japanese restaurant!
Check out this recipe
This RAINBOW Vegetable Quinoa Stir Fry is made in just one pan, 10 ingredients and ready in under 20 minutes!

Rainbow Vegetable Quinoa Stir Fry

This is one of the prettiest dishes I’ve ever made. Tofu may look fairly simple, but it’s gorgeous when added to vibrant vegetables like kale, cabbage, bell peppers, and carrots.
Check out this recipe
CRISPY TOFU TACOS! made with quinoa crusted baked tofu and served with a vegan lime crema!

Crispy Tofu Tacos with Vegan Lime Crema

These are some of the most delicious tacos you’ll ever have, and I promise you even your meat-eating friends will agree. The tofu is crisp and crunchy, and it’s paired with rich avocado, and a tangy crema.
Check out this recipe
Buffalo Tofu Mason Jar Salad Recipe

Buffalo Tofu Mason Jar Salads

I’m a big fan of mason jar salads. They’re convenient and fun. And a buffalo tofu salad? Well, that’s just doubling down on the “fun” part!
Check out this recipe
How to make Curry Noodles

30-Minute Vegan Red Curry Noodle Bowls

One of the best and most popular ways to eat tofu is in a curry. These curry noodle bowls, with coconut milk, broccoli, carrots, and ginger, are a perfect way to have healthy, flavorful tofu.
Check out this recipe

Butternut Squash Vegan Lasagna

This recipe really shows off the versatility of tofu. You use tofu to make a vegan ricotta cheese, then use that vegan cheese in a squash lasagna. It’s amazing!
Check out this recipe
platter of kebabs with bbq sauce, tofu and pinepple

Grilled Pineapple and Tofu Kebabs

Who doesn’t love a good kebab?! This is such a fun pairing, as the tofu really balances out the sweetness of the grilled pineapple. There are also bell peppers, mushrooms, and onions to tie the dish together.
Check out this recipe
VEGAN MANICOTTI with a creamy tofu ricotta filling! And easy weeknight meal or a special plant-based addition to your holiday table!

Easy Vegan Manicotti with Tofu Ricotta

Don’t worry, that vegan ricotta you made earlier is getting put back to use! The tofu ricotta is the star of this stuffed pasta dish, which is every bit as good as the traditional version.
Check out this recipe
pressure cooker fried quinoa with tofu and eggs

Pressure Cooker Fried Quinoa with Tofu

You’ll be blown away by how much flavor the tofu in this recipe can hold. The dish is full of veggies, seasonings, and aromatics, and the tofu absorbs all of the flavors.

Rate and review this recipe!

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