Types of Tofu (And How To Use Them)

Wondering what is tofu, exactly? In this guide, you'll be introduced to different types of tofu as well as the countless ways this versatile ingredient can elevate your cooking!
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Tofu cut and cubed on a wooden cutting board.
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Have you ever wondered about the different types of tofu out there? We’re thrilled to introduce you to the magic of bean curd and maybe even capture your heart. Our guide not only delves into the various types of tofu but also addresses the question: What is tofu? This vegan staple is a nutritional powerhouse that offers countless ways to prepare and use it.

Tofu is not only delicious in recipes, but also a great addition to a healthy diet. It’s high in protein and calcium, along with a good amount of fiber and essential amino acids. It’s also well-known for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory phytochemicals, and iron content.

When it comes to tofu and its diverse types, you might fall into one of two camps: the YUM! I love tofu! crew or the Ew, gross! skeptics. Give us a chance. We’re confident we can sway you toward giving it a try. With endless ways to prepare this versatile plant-based food, there’s bound to be one type of tofu that will beguile you!

An illustration of a block of tofu with the phrase "Tofu: The Better White Meat".

What Is Tofu?

Can you believe that these wiggly white squares actually come from a bunch of green soybeans? Tofu is a versatile and plant-based food that’s like a chameleon in the culinary world. Also known as “bean curd,” it frequently appears on Asian restaurant menus.

A plate with shelled soybeans and soybeans in the pod.

Bean curd shouldn’t be confused with cheese curds (which are made with dairy) and are completely plant-based. We love tofu and you should too, because it can so easily take on various flavors and offer an array of textures. Use it to make both sweet and savory dishes. That sounds pretty perfect, doesn’t it?

Tofu is made by curdling soybean milk. It comes in different types, such as soft tofu, which is, you guessed it, quite soft and delicate. Other types of tofu include firm, extra firm, and silken.

Soft tofu is a bit like the vegan Jell-O of the tofu family. It’s wobbly and delicate, making it great for blending into smoothies or using in soups.

Firm and extra-firm tofu, on the other hand, are the strong and sturdy members of the tofu gang. They hold their shape well and are perfect for grilling, stir-frying, or even making tofu nuggets.

Silken tofu is super smooth and creamy, almost like a custard. Use it in desserts and creamy sauces for a velvety texture.

Tofu: A Super-Versatile Ingredient!

In this article, we’re going to go on a tofu-tally awesome culinary adventure and learn all about the different types of tofu out there. We’re going to learn how they can be used in dishes, where to find them, and some great recipes you can really sink your teeth into. Let’s go!

In a nutshell, tofu is a soybean-based food that comes in many different types, each with its own unique texture and culinary superpowers. It’s a fantastic ingredient to experiment with in the kitchen and can be a delicious addition to your meals, no matter what type of cuisine you’re cooking!

Types Of Tofu: Most Common Types Explained

You may be asking yourself how many types of tofu are there? We’ll go over the most common types of tofu and the best way to use them. They each have different levels of firmness and are used in a recipe for their particular texture. Choosing the right consistency will make or break your recipe, so it’s best to get familiar with each one.

When choosing tofu, make sure to buy organic when possible so that you can limit your exposure to genetically modified soybeans and the hexane used to produce these GMO beans.

Silken Tofu vs Soft Tofu

Silken tofu and soft tofu are similar in that they both have a smooth and creamy texture, but they are not exactly the same. The main difference between them lies in their firmness and how they are processed. Let’s take a closer look!

Silken Tofu: Silken tofu is the softest and creamiest type of tofu available. It has a very delicate and silky texture, almost like custard. A slightly different production process is used to make silken tofu, allowing it to retain more moisture and achieve a smoother consistency. It finds frequent use in recipes that require a smooth and creamy texture, such as desserts, sauces, smoothies, and soups.

Soft Tofu: Soft tofu is also relatively soft but is slightly firmer than silken tofu. It maintains its shape well when handled and is a common choice in dishes where you aim to preserve some tofu texture, such as stir-fries, hot pots, or tofu scrambles. You can slice or cube it without it breaking apart as easily as silken tofu.

So, while both silken and soft tofu are more delicate compared to other types like firm or extra-firm tofu, they serve slightly different culinary purposes due to their varying textures.

This type of tofu is creamy, silky, and best for blending into creams, fillings, sauces, smoothies, and desserts. This type has the highest water content and may also be referred to as Japanese-style tofu.

Overhead view of a block of silken tofu.

Medium-Firm Tofu

Medium-firm tofu has a more solid and dense texture than silken and holds its shape well. Slice, dice, or cube it without the tofu falling apart easily.

This type of tofu is very versatile and can be used in a wide range of savory vegan dishes, including:

Stir-Fries: It works well in stir-fries because it holds its shape (just be gentle when handling it) and can absorb the flavors of sauces and seasonings.

Grilled or Pan-Fried: Marinate, grill, or pan-fry it to create a crispy exterior while maintaining a tender interior.

Soups: Add it to soups and stews for added protein and texture.

Tofu Scrambles: Crumble and season it to make delicious vegan scrambles, similar to scrambled eggs.

Tofu Nuggets: Bread, bake, or fry to make tofu nuggets or cutlets.

You can typically find medium-firm tofu in the refrigerated section of most grocery stores, usually near other plant-based or dairy products.

It’s often packaged in water-filled containers or vacuum-sealed plastic. It may also be available in different sizes, from small blocks to larger packages, depending on your needs.

A block of regular tofu, one of the common types of tofu, on a plate.

Firm Tofu

Firm tofu is one of the most popular types of tofu because of its versatility in the kitchen. Its ability to adapt to various cooking methods and flavors makes it a go-to choice for both seasoned cooks and those new to tofu. Don’t be intimidated by this versatile ingredient—it’s a tofu beginner’s best friend!

If you’re new to tofu, firm tofu is an excellent place to start your tofu adventure. Its solid and dense texture is easy to work with, and it won’t crumble on you like some of its softer counterparts. Imagine it as a culinary chameleon, ready to absorb the delicious flavors of marinades, sauces, and seasonings you throw its way.

Firm tofu’s popularity extends to vegan and vegetarian diets, where it shines as a versatile source of plant-based protein. It’s like a blank canvas waiting for your culinary masterpiece. Whether you’re sautéing it in a savory stir-fry, a comforting stew, turning it into patties like these wild garlic tofu patties, or crumbling it into a hearty tofu scramble, this tofu type can do it all.

If you’re looking to explore what the world of tofu has to offer, firm tofu is your trusty sidekick. You’ll find it in the refrigerated section of your local grocery store, ready to be transformed into a delicious and nutritious addition to your meals. It’s an ingredient that welcomes newcomers with open arms and endless possibilities in the kitchen.

Tofu on a cutting board with a knife, partially sliced into cubes.

Extra-Firm Tofu

Extra-firm tofu is tofu’s tough sibling, and it’s different from softer tofu types in a few key ways. It’s super solid and dense, so it won’t break apart when you cook with it. Soft tofu can be delicate, but extra-firm tofu can handle some heat!

In the tofu-making process, extra-firm tofu is made by pressing regular tofu for a more extended period. This removes even more moisture, making it denser and sturdier.

When it comes to using extra-firm tofu, think of it as your protein-packed partner in the kitchen. It’s fantastic for grilling, pan-frying, baking, and air frying because it can get a crispy exterior while staying firm inside. It’s also excellent for slicing or cubing in stir-fries or salads.

Specifically, you can use it in dishes like tofu skewers, bowls, or crispy tofu nuggets. Extra-firm tofu is also perfect for making spicy Szechuan Tofu and vegan Tikka Masala! It’s like the superhero of tofu types, ready to save the day in your savory creations. So, next time you’re cooking up a tofu storm, grab some extra-firm tofu and let its sturdy nature shine!

A block of extra tofu on a cutting board.

Super-Firm Tofu

Super-firm tofu is tofu’s robust relative! It’s firmer than extra-firm tofu, making it a tofu powerhouse. You can find it at well-stocked grocery stores, often in the refrigerated section alongside other tofu varieties.

What sets super-firm tofu apart is its extreme density and minimal moisture content. It’s like tofu with a solid core! (Sometimes it can be referred to as “hard tofu”.) This means it maintains its shape brilliantly during cooking and can even be sliced into thin strips without falling apart.

Super-firm tofu shines in dishes that benefit from a substantial and meaty texture. It’s perfect for grilling, broiling, deep-frying, and even pressing in a waffle iron! Experiment with it in recipes like tofu steaks, kebabs, tofu bacon, or as a hearty meat substitute in sandwiches and wraps. It’s tofu with muscle, ready to elevate your culinary creations!

A block of super-firm tofu, one of the common types of tofu, on a white countertop.

How To Prep Tofu

Now that you’ve got the type of tofu basics down, let’s dive into how to use tofu like a pro. Here are some additional tips and ideas to make the most of your tofu adventures:

Pressing Tofu

Before using tofu, it’s essential to press it to remove excess moisture. This helps it absorb flavors better and achieve a firmer texture. Use a tofu press (this one is nice and it’s made of bamboo!) or wrap the tofu in paper towels. Place a heavy object on top for at least 30 minutes to expel some of its moisture.

This works best for firmer tofus such as medium-firm, firm, and extra firm. Silken and soft may fall apart when trying to press them. Instead, they can simply be drained and blended or chopped.

Freezing Trick

Want a unique tofu texture? Some people find that freezing their tofu overnight helps with the pressing process. Take your tofu out of its container and drain. Place into a freezer safe container and place in the freezer.

In the morning, take out your tofu and let it defrost for a few hours or until ready to use. When defrosted, hold the tofu in your hands and squeeze out the excess liquid. The theory is that the freezing process creates ice crystals to form that make the tofu firmer, chewier and spongier.

Crispy Tofu

For extra-firm and super-firm tofu, achieve a crispy exterior by coating it in cornstarch or your preferred breading before frying or baking. It’ll be deliciously crunchy on the outside while staying tender inside.

Marinating Magic

Tofu is a flavor sponge, so marinating it is key. For extra flavor, let it soak in your favorite marinade for at least 30 minutes, or even longer for a tastier result. Try different marinades for variety.

Tofu cubes marinating in plastic food-safe bag.

How To Use Tofu

Scramble It: Create a tofu scramble by crumbling firm or extra-firm tofu and sautéing it with veggies and your choice of seasonings. It’s a fantastic breakfast or brunch option.

Blend Silken Tofu: Silken tofu is a secret weapon for creamy dishes. Blend it into protein-packed tofu smoothie, add it into soups, or mix to desserts for added creaminess without dairy.

Tofu Desserts: Don’t forget, tofu is a star in desserts! Try making tofu-based chocolate mousse, cheesecake, or pudding for a healthier twist on your favorite sweets.

Tofu Bowls: Create satisfying tofu bowls by combining cooked tofu (shredding it is also a great option!)with grains, veggies, and your favorite sauce or dressing. It’s a nutritious and customizable meal.

Tofu Skewers: Thread tofu cubes onto skewers and grill them with your choice of veggies and marinades for flavorful and protein-packed kebabs.

These are just a few ways to use tofu. Check out our tofu recipes archive and best vegan tofu recipes for more great ideas!

Remember, tofu is incredibly versatile, so don’t be afraid to get creative. Try different tofu varieties and preparation methods to discover your favorite tofu dishes. Whether you’re cooking up a savory stir-fry, a sweet dessert, or anything in between, tofu can be your trusty sidekick in the kitchen!

Tofu satay skewers on a serving platter with peanut dipping sauce and lime wedges.

There are many brands of tofu to choose from! When searching for tofu, be sure to check your local grocery stores, health food stores, Asian markets, and online retailers for availability. Since tofu is such a versatile and healthy ingredient that can be used in a wide variety of dishes, you’ll likely find these brands in many places. Enjoy experimenting with these different tofu brands in your recipes!

Holding a package of Hodo's extra firm tofu near the tofu waffles.

The Health Benefits Of Tofu

In a nutshell, tofu is soy-tainly awesome, and it’s not your average bean! Now that we’ve gone over tofu types and ways to use them, let’s go over some of the amazing health benefits tofu has to offer!

  • Heart Healthy. Tofu plays a key role in heart health. Tofu is low in saturated fat and cholesterol, making it a heart-healthy choice. It can help reduce bad cholesterol levels, which in turn lowers your risk of heart disease. Plus, tofu is low in sodium, which is great for maintaining healthy blood pressure.
  • Strong Bones. Next up, tofu is like a secret agent for your bones. It’s a fantastic source of calcium and contains essential minerals like magnesium and phosphorus. These nutrients team up to keep your bones strong and healthy.
  • Pumping Iron. Tofu is also rich in iron, making it a friend to those with iron-deficiency anemia. Iron helps carry oxygen in your blood, keeping you energized and alert. Tofu’s plant-based iron is easily absorbed by your body, making it an excellent choice for vegetarians and vegans.
  • Antioxidants, anyone? Tofu is full of ’em! Packed with anti-inflammatory compounds that help your body combat harmful free radicals, these little warriors can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases and keep you feeling your best.
  • Protein-packed. Last but not least, tofu is a protein powerhouse. It’s an excellent source of plant-based protein, making it perfect for vegetarians and vegans. Plus, it’s got all the essential amino acids your body needs to thrive.

So, there you have it—tofu, the friendly and nutritious ingredient that can do wonders for your health. It’s heart-smart, bone-boosting, energy-boosting, and full of antioxidants and protein. Incorporating tofu into your diet can be a tasty way to nourish your body.

Small bowl full of raw tofu cubes with some cubes scattered around the bowl.

Tofu FAQs

Is tofu suitable for vegans and vegetarians?

Yes, tofu is an excellent source of plant-based protein and is completely suitable for both vegans and vegetarians. It’s a versatile ingredient that can replace animal-based proteins in various dishes.

How do I store tofu?

Tofu should be stored in the refrigerator. Keep it in its original packaging or transfer it to an airtight container filled with water. Change the water every day to keep the tofu fresh. Once opened, use it within a few days.

Can I freeze tofu?

Yes, you can freeze tofu! Freezing changes the texture, making it firmer and chewier. To freeze tofu, drain it, cut it into cubes, and store it in an airtight container in the freezer. Thaw it before use, and you’ll have a different tofu texture to work with.

Is tofu gluten-free?

Tofu is naturally gluten-free since it’s made from soybeans. However, be cautious with flavored or marinated tofu products, as they may contain gluten-containing ingredients in their seasonings or sauces. Always check the label if you have gluten sensitivities.

What are some common tofu recipes for beginners?

If you’re new to tofu, there are plenty of beginner-friendly recipes to try. Some popular options include tofu stir-fries, tofu scrambles (a vegan alternative to scrambled eggs), and tofu in soups. You can also explore dessert recipes like tofu-based chocolate mousse or pudding for a sweet treat.

Are there soy-free versions of tofu?

Chickpea tofu is a soy-free, plant-based protein source that originates from South Asian cuisine. It’s made from chickpea flour (besan) and water, and it offers a unique flavor and texture compared to traditional soy-based tofu.

It has a firmer and slightly grainy texture compared to soy-based tofu. It holds its shape well, making it suitable for grilling, pan-frying, or baking. Chickpea tofu is also a good source of protein and can be used as a versatile ingredient in both savory and sweet dishes.

Chickpea tofu is a fantastic soy-free alternative for those with soy allergies or dietary preferences, offering a tasty and protein-rich option for plant-based cooking.

This Tofu Guide is not sponsored by any of the brands or companies mentioned, and we only share products and companies we sincerely adore.

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  1. thats a huge information..love that …

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