There comes a point in every vegan’s life where it’s late, you’re tired, and you’re staring down a package of tofu without any desire to fire up the stove. Sure, you’ve asked yourself: Can I eat tofu raw?
Though a beige block of bean curd may not have as much appeal as crispy cubes or stir-fried triangles, the sheer versatility of tofu presents unlimited opportunities for experimentation. It should stand to reason that there are even more delicious approaches to eating tofu without applying heat… Right?
Before we talk about the risks and benefits of tofu, we need to better understand what it is to begin with. Tofu is made from cooked soybeans that have been blended with water, creating a rich soymilk, then coagulated with nigari, calcium, or magnesium salt. The curds are set into blocks, and in the case of firm, extra-firm, or super firm tofu, pressed to create a denser, more sliceable structure.
Soy-free tofu can be made from chickpeas (sometimes known as Burmese tofu) or pumpkin seeds (AKA “pumfu”), and is made in a similar way. These are less common in mainstream supermarkets and tend to be much more expensive but offer an excellent substitute for those allergic or sensitive to soy products.
The potential danger of raw food stems from bacterial contamination which won’t be neutralized by cooking over high heat. Raw meat is the most common culprit, bearing salmonella, e. coli, listeria, and more.
While tofu is a very popular meat substitute, luckily, it doesn’t share this same pitfall. The soybeans used to make it are fully cooked before being packaged and sealed, killing off any possible microbial threats. As such, when we’re talking about “raw” tofu, we really mean unprepared or unheated tofu, which is perfectly safe to eat.
Do you need to cook tofu to avoid food poisoning? No, but you do need to make sure it’s handled properly once the package is opened. Always handle with clean utensils, on clean surfaces, and with clean hands to prevent cross-contamination.
Just because you wouldn’t necessarily want to take a bite out of a plain block of uncooked tofu doesn’t mean it must be cooked to be delicious. There are lots of raw tofu recipes that can be made with minimal ingredients and little time for truly instant gratification.
Cooked or raw, hot or cold, tofu is a powerful superfood proven to have a positive impact on overall health. A few of the benefits tofu has to offer include:
Neutral and mild, most tofu is rather bland without any added seasoning. Some varieties might have a stronger beany flavor, particularly firmer types of tofu since they’re more concentrated and denser.
Once opened, leftover uncooked tofu can be stored in an airtight container submerged in water. The water prevents it from drying out or allowing mold to grow on the surface. It should keep for up to a week in the fridge.
Freezing tofu creates a uniquely meaty texture in tofu while preserving it for an extended period of time. Once completely thawed and thoroughly drained, it’s perfectly fine to eat it as-is! It’s primed for soaking in all sorts of flavorful marinades, so you’ll probably enjoy it more if you take a moment to season it further, of course.
Tofu is typically made from soymilk, not the other way around. However, if you’re out of non-dairy milk and need a quick fix, you can blend one package of silken tofu with 4 to 5 cups of cold water until smooth to make a workable facsimile. Consider adding a sweetener, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt to round out the more beany flavor.