Let’s Talk Tofu

TOFU is one of the most versatile protein foods in the world.  But since becoming vegan, I get a LOT of questions about tofu. I find it surprisingly that many people are shocked when I tell them I eat tofu and am a breast cancer survivor. Oh how powerful the media is to try to redirect the real problems to an innocent bystander (that being tofu!)

Tofu gets a bad rap because it is soy-based. Check out my other blog that talks about the “soy debate” if you want to understand those facts. This is Blog is going to focus on the types of Tofu and what you need to know to get ready to cook it.

First, what is Tofu? Also known as bean curd, tofu is made by curdling soy milk (from ground soybeans) and then pressing the resulting curds into soft, white blocks. There are many theories surrounding its creation, but we do know that it originated in Asia hundreds of years ago.

Tofu is rich in high-quality protein and relatively low in calories, fat, carbohydrates, and sodium. Like all plant-based foods, it contains no cholesterol.

There are several types of tofu with different textures & consistencies.

Silken tofu is the softest, most delicate form of tofu that comes in a shelf stable carton or in a water-filled tub. Silken tofu is made differently than traditional tofu and won’t hold shape if you try to slice or cube it. Use it in recipes that will be blended to make creamy dips, desserts, and dressings or condiments.

Firm tofu may be sliced, cubed, grated, or crumbled. I like this in my tofu breakfast scramble.

Extra firm tofu is a very dense, hard-pressed block that may also be sliced, cubed, or crumbled and works well in stir fries, as a salad topper or on sandwiches. It also comes in a tub filled with water, but you may also find it in a sealed package without the water.

Either way, it is best to press your firm or extra firm tofu to remove the moisture so that the texture is superb and the tofu takes on the flavors of the marinade or seasoning that you are using. If you have a tofu press (you can get these under $25 on Amazon!), you simply take the tofu out of the package and put it between the blocks or follow the directions on the type of press you have. The whole point is to get as much moisture out of the tofu as possible to allow it to absorb the flavors you want. Pressing it helps to get out the excess moisture so that the texture is chewier and the flavors of your marinade or sauce are intensified. Tofu doesn’t have much flavor alone, but it will absorb whatever flavors you want. If you don’t have a tofu press, just use 2 cutting boards and place something heavy on top.

Once opened, tofu will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator. All opened tofu should be kept submerged in cold water in the fridge and the water should be changed daily to keep it fresh and moist. If at any time it starts to look pink or gets a funny smell, throw it out!

You can also find flavored tofu that is ready to eat that has been grilled, smoked, marinated or baked. This is convenient but you will pay extra for this convenience. Just look closely at the ingredients and watch the sodium content! This kind of tofu doesn’t need to be pressed and you can just slice it and eat it cold or heat in a skillet. This is an easy addition to a salad or a sandwich.

Fermented soy such as tempeh and miso are healthier choices. They have a probiotic effect and are the easiest forms for your body to digest and absorb. The fermentation process also helps to neutralize the levels of phytic acids (which may block the absorption of some minerals).

You can find traditional tofu, flavored/ready-to-eat tofu, tempeh and miso in the refrigerated dairy-free section at the supermarket.

Hopefully that takes away some of the “fear” of buying tofu. I don’t think it is a necessary ingredient for a vegan diet (trust me, you can get enough protein from plants/beans!) but it may make a good substitute if you are used to having “meatier” type of dishes.

One last thing, in case you didn’t read my “soy debate” blog – ALWAYS be sure you are buying Organic (or at a minimum, non-GMO) tofu because soybeans are one of the most genetically modified crops out there. And we really don’t need to put the SH$T in our body! 😊

Leave me your comments for your favorite kind of tofu!