Tofu is one of my all-time favorite plant-based proteins, and with good reason! It's incredibly versatile, exceptionally healthy, and delicious to boot. Read on to find out why I'm totally obsessed with this tasty superfood and some simple tofu recipes to make.
Why Cook With Tofu?
When it comes to the vegan kitchen, tofu is one of the most versatile ingredients around. It can be used for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even dessert recipes!
If you're used to believing that eggs were the most adaptable ingredient in your kitchen arsenal, I'm about to blow your mind with what you can do with tofu instead while still maintaining a completely plant based lifestyle.
You can blend it, bake it, air-fry it, sauté it or grill it. You can scramble it like eggs, or top it off with broth. You can enjoy it soft or crispy, hot or cold, sweet or savory. It. Is. Incredible.
The variety of types of tofu that you can readily purchase at the store is quite astounding. Ranging from silken tofu (which is custardy, smooth and silky as the name implies) to extra firm means you can make everything from pudding to "chik'n" nuggets.
Tofu is King When it Comes to Quick and Cheap Meals!
Since tofu doesn't require cooking, it's a great option for simple and fast meals. I haven't met a single tofu recipe that requires more than 30 minutes of cook time, making it a weeknight savior.
Tofu also doesn't have a ton of flavor on its own. Rather, it acts as a sponge for whatever flavors you add to your dish. That makes it perfect for pairing with everything from chocolate to green curry.
I also love how inexpensive and long-lasting tofu is. At my local grocery, I can get a 14 oz block for around $2. Each block is 4 servings, making it highly economical to keep on hand.
Generally speaking, tofu can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 months past the production date, so long as it is in a sealed package. That means I can easily grab a few packs at a time to keep on hand for those nights when I need to get dinner on the table fast!
Do yourself a favor and grab a block ASAP so you can get around to making some of my favorite simple tofu recipes.
What is a Tofu Bean?
Tofu is most often produced using soy milk that has been fermented and pressed into blocks. The process is actually quite similar to cheesemaking.
As of relatively recently, non-soy tofus have become more commonplace at retailers. That said, non-soy tofu is a bit more of a specialty item and can command a higher price and be a bit more difficult to find.
If you are allergic to soy and are unable to find a non-soy alternative to tofu at your local grocery store, here's a great post on how to make your own tofu from any bean!
Is Tofu Healthy?
If you've yet to hear me wax poetic about the nutritious virtues of tofu, prepare yourself. It isn't one of my favorites without reason!
Aside from being delicious, tofu is also:
- high in calcium & iron
- relatively high in protein
- high in other nutrients including manganese, phosphorous and magnesium
- low in calories and low in fat
If you aren't yet convinced, check out my post on Tofu Nutrition to hear even more reasons why I love this 2,000 year old food.
FAQs About Cooking With Tofu
As with many things that annoyingly stick to the pan when cooking, one of the best ways to ensure a clean release is making sure the pan is good and hot before adding the tofu. This will help to establish a good crust quickly.
Also, be sure that you are choosing the right kind of tofu. Extra firm tofu is my favorite for frying, but you can also get away with using pressed firm tofu in a pinch. Silken tofu is far too delicate for pan frying and will stick every time.
If you love tofu as much as I do, I highly recommend that you invest in a tofu press. That said, you can easily press a block of tofu by placing it on a paper towel-lined plate and weighing it down with a pan and some cans.
Nope! In fact, many recipes that call for silken tofu don't want it cooked at all, as the custardy texture is what you're after.
However, I most often use firm and extra firm versions of tofu, which I find are best for grilling, pan-frying/sautéing, and baking.
Also, since tofu doesn't have much flavor on its own, I recommend that you do some preparation, whether it's blending with other ingredients or marinating to ensure that it is delicious.
Need some easy and simple tofu recipes to get you started? Check out 15 of my favorites!
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Mary Ellen Valverde MS, CNS, LDN is a Licensed Nutritionist and Certified Nutrition Specialist who empowers vegans to feel confident in creating sustainable habits that align with their values and health goals. She shares easy gluten-free plant-powered food to nourish your body + satisfy your tastebuds. Mary Ellen's recipes and nutrition info have been featured on Yahoo News, Parade, VegNews, LIVESTRONG, Dr. Axe, Greatist, LIVEKINDLY, Brit+Co, Well+Good, and more.