Don't Fear The Tofu!
Updated: Aug 16
Is Tofu intimidating you?
Tell that tofu “fear won’t stop us from cooking tofu!!”
Sometimes, as vegans, we forget that we were once new too.
We all had to figure out “The Tofu Thing”.
Which one? Firm? Extra firm? Silken? Do you squeeze it? How do you squeeze it? How long? What do I use for what? What else do I have to do with it to make it actually taste good?
Relax…. All of these questions have crossed our minds at one time or another too.
Tofu is very versatile, high in protein, low in cost, and easy to work with. It can be marinated, frozen, squeezed, not squeezed, cut in small pieces, cut in big pieces, battered/crusted, baked, boiled, pan-fried, stir-fried, deep-fried, glazed. So many different ways to treat it that it’s almost toooo much! “Just give us the directions” we scream! It’s almost like with kids, “someone give us the manual to these kids!”
Ok, we got this!
Here is a quick easy guide to tofu basics:
First things first, always buy organic tofu.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, more than 90 percent of the soybeans churned out on US farms each year are genetically engineered to withstand herbicides, nearly all of them involving one called Roundup.
Silken: This style of tofu works well in creamy and blended foods like smoothies, desserts, puddings, salad dressings, sauces, and dips…. think yogurt-like. The different kinds of silken tofu are pretty much interchangeable.
Press or not to press: Don’t press this one, it’s too delicate to press.
Regular tofu is pressed and has a somewhat spongy texture, and comes in several varieties (firm and extra firm are the most popular) distinguished by how much water is pressed out.
Firm: This tofu absorbs flavors well and can be stir-fried or pan-fried.
This is the workhorse of the tofu family. If you're not sure which tofu to buy, a firm block will get you through most recipes. Its firm body takes on a slightly rubbery texture during cooking, which means you can handle each block with (relatively) little fear. Firm tofu holds up quite well to frying. Press or not to press: Press this one.
Extra firm: This tofu holds its shape well and is excellent for slicing, cubing, and all kinds of frying: pan-frying, stir-frying, deep-frying. It can also be baked, grilled, and crumbled, and used like ground meat in tacos… think sofritas at Chipotle. The more solid the tofu is, the more difficult it can be to infuse with flavor.
Press or not to press: Press this one.
What do I do with it when I get it home from the store?
Open the tofu and pour out the water. Open a package of firm or extra-firm tofu and pour out the water it’s packaged in. Remember… Press the regular tofu but not silken tofu.
How do I press tofu? Simple… Start by wrapping the tofu in a dish towel or paper towels. Take a rimmed baking sheet, place the wrapped tofu block in the rimmed baking sheet.
Add some weight on top of tofu. Now place another flat baking sheet on top, and weigh it down with whatever you have on hand. You could use a heavy bowl, book, or a couple of cans of food on top of it, or a heavy frying pan works well too.
Let sit. Let the tofu sit for 20-30 minutes. In a pinch, even 10-15 minutes will help. It’s fine to leave it longer.
Use the tofu in recipes. Now it’s ready to slice, marinate, cube, or crumble for use in recipes.
Don’t fear the tofu!
Conquer the fear of the tofu and experiment! Tofu is a great option to start to introduce into your diet and a great way to get protein for everyone!
Now go to our free recipes page and make General Tso’s Tofu!
Bonus: Tofu Vegan Secret: Freeze the Tofu! We’ve heard this is an insider tip from Japan. Whole well-drained tofu blocks are completely frozen then left to thaw on a plate lined with paper towels. The excess liquid is released during thawing and the tofu becomes firmer and more absorbent. It is quite normal for the tofu to turn yellow when frozen.
When tofu is frozen then thawed, it has a more chicken or fish texture or consistency. You can actually cook it on a grill in “steaks” and it won’t fall apart. Almost all the moisture will be pulled out, compacting the tofu, leaving behind a spongy product that greedily absorbs sauces and marinades.