Everything You Need to Know About
How to Cook Tofu

How-to-Cook-Tofu-A-Definitive-Guide-for-Beginners

For the newbie, tofu is a food that seems like it wouldn’t be that hard to cook. Just throw it in an oven, a skillet, or any other tool that can heat it up, and cook it, right? It’s just a bean curd right, and when you get it in a restaurant, it’s so seamlessly created that you think it’s just that, and nothing more. You’ve probably been inspired by restaurants and want to cook tofu for yourself. After all, the experts do it, so how hard could it be?

Then you try to cook it, and you realize it’s more complex than you might think. You’ll end up with tofu that’s too runny, too hard, and with as much flavor as an old carboard box. That’s not the tofu we know! I’ve been there before, and it’s frustrating to put in all that hard work, cooking tofu, only to have it turn into a lumpy mess.

Cooking tofu isn’t as easy as grilling a burger. Tofu is quite versatile. It comes in different shapes and types, and it can be cooked in different ways. If you’re new to the tofu scene, here are just a few ways you can cook it. I learned it does take some practice to do so, but this guide will highlight the exact ways to cook tofu, and the best tips to make it the best it can be.

Chapter 1:
Tofu of Many Types

If you think there’s just one type of tofu, you couldn’t be more wrong. What’s amazing about tofu is the fact that it comes in all sorts of types, and these types are good for different situations.

Tofu of Many Types
Silky Smooth

Silky Smooth

Silken tofu is not pressed, meaning that it hasn't had its water removed. Because of that, silken tofu tends to be soft and custardy.

Because of its texture, silken tofu is best for blending and for foods that are creamy. You can use it in smoothies, sauces, dressing, pudding, dips, and so on. Its silky texture works for pretty much any of those situations, and it can even be used to substitute eggs. You no longer have to crack open an egg when baking a cake.

Silken tofu is usually available in a handful of consistencies too, such as soft or firm. These consistencies can make all the difference depending on what you're cooking.

Regular, But Not Boring

Regular, But Not Boring

Regular tofu is tofu that has had its water pressed, thus giving it a spongy feel. It also comes in different consistencies as well, from soft to firm. The firmer the tofu is, the less water content it will have, making it drier and harder.

Chapter 2:
The Right Tofu for You

So, as you can see, there are a lot of tofu types for you to choose from, and these types can apply to all sorts of situations. When you’re shopping at the store, you should pay mind to the types they have. Is it silken or regular? How soft or firm is it?

Here are some uses for all variations of tofu.

Silken Tofu

As mentioned before, silken tofu is great for when you need to mix it with something, or when you need a food that is soft. A few examples include:

  • Dips. You can flavor your tofu and make an excellent chip dip.
  • Smoothies. It makes a great yogurt substitute whenever you're trying to make a smoothie.
  • Desserts. You can make tofu that tastes like whip and top your dessert with it.
  • Sauces. Make a hearty tofu sauce to top all your foods with.
  • Egg substitute. When you bake, you'll no longer need an egg to do so. Add an egg substitute to your breads or cakes, and it'll come out just as good as an egg would.

Regular Tofu Variations

Regular tofu comes in different variations of softness and firmness.

  • Soft - Soft regular tofu is considered to be silken in China. This is very similar to silken, but isn't at smooth. Because of its similarities, you can use it like a silken tofu, but it's recommended you just stick to silken in this case. These are great for thicker whips and creams, or if you like meat that isn't as chewy.
  • Medium - This is the nice medium between soft and firm, being hard enough to hold its shape but still soft enough for you to use it in different ways. You can use it in soups and serve it cold. Good for miso soup.
  • Firm - Firm tofu holds together quite well, and because of this, you can stir or pan fry it and it will be able to hold its shape quite well. It can absorb flavors, making it ideal for advanced cooking. You can crumble it, making it a good cheese substitute.
  • Extra Firm - This is even firmer, making it better for more aggressive cooking. Besides pan and stir frying, you can deep fry this tofu as well. Extra firm tofu is great for meat substitutes, and it can be sliced and cubed too. Bake, grill, simmer, whatever it takes. The only downside to extra firm tofu is that it's harder to flavor.
  • Super Firm - This is the firmest you can get. It dries out pretty fast, so it's not recommended for high heat cooking, but due to its denseness, it has a high amount of protein. It's also a good tofu for beginners. It's usually vacuum sealed, making newcomers be able to see it and even touch it before buying. These are good to crumble and use as toppings, such as cheeses.

Chapter 3:
Boxed, Tubbed, or Frozen Tofu?

You can find tofu typically in a tub, in the refrigerated section, but you can also find it in a tub, usually sitting around room temperature. But, which one is best suited for cooking?

Tubbed tofu typically tastes better, and boxed tofu should be used for traveling or for emergencies. So it depends on your situation. You should usually go with tubbed tofu though. But we recommend trying both and seeing which is better.

Silken Tofu Recipes
(Via: www.onegreenplanet.org)

You can drain tofu and store it in the freezer, making it good for five months. This won’t change the flavor, but it can affect the texture. Now, some people do enjoy the frozen tofu texture better, so we believe that it’s up to you to see which one you like the best.

Chapter 4:
Tofu is Good for You!

Tofu, as you probably know, is highly nutritious, and it makes a good substitute for plenty of meat and dairy products. However, you may not realize just how nutritious it is. Here’s a quick guide to explain the many health benefits tofu has to provide.

  • Tofu contains plenty of vitamins and minerals that can help you have a healthy lifestyle. It contains eight essential amino acids. It's a good source of calcium, making it a great milk substitute, as well as iron. It contains magnesium, B1, zinc, copper, manganese, phosphorous, and selenium.
  • Tofu is also low in fat and carbs. One average serving only has 70 calories and 3.5 grams of fat, while containing 1.5 carbs. Then, it contains 8.2 grams of protein and about a gram of fiber. This makes it quite a powerhouse.
  • Tofu can help you lower LDL, or bad cholesterol, levels. This is due to its soy protein content.
How-Long-Does-Tofu-Last-and-Ways-to-Make-it-Last-Longer
  • Tofu can help reduce the risk of breast cancer, potentially. This is due to the fact that tofu can mimic estrogen, and thus bind to your breast cells, keeping them healthy and possibly reducing the risk of breast cancer.
  • The estrogen can also help alleviate symptoms of menopause. More estrogen in your body can help reduce the hot flashes you may experience and keep your menopause as easy as possible.
  • Talk to your doctor about the benefits tofu can have, and to make sure tofu falls in line with your nutritional needs. While tofu is extremely healthy in most cases, there are some cases where having an extra talk about your nutrition can benefit you.

Chapter 5:
Trade Up With Tofu

What makes tofu so amazing is how many foods it can replace. Most animal products have a tofu substitute, and when prepared right, it can taste just as good as the real thing, if not better.

A few examples include:

Pork

Pork

Just 3 ounces of extra firm tofu equates to 3 ounces of ground pork in terms of nutrients, vitamins, and protein.

Ground Beef

Ground Beef

The same goes for ground beef, 3 ounces of extra firm tofu equates to 3 ounces of ground beef.

Chicken

Chicken

Tofu can also act as a poultry substitute because it's got enough protein. 3 ounces of extra firm tofu actually equates to 3 ounces of a roasted chicken breast.

Eggs

Eggs

Tofu can substitute eggs in plenty of baking mixes. Its high protein count makes it great for breakfast, too. Just 4.4 ounces of silken tofu equates to one large egg, and it's probably way more filling.

Milk

Milk

With tofu, you can actually replace dairy in your diet with it. With just one cup of silken tofu, it equates to one cup of whole milk.

Yogurt

Yogurt

One cup of silken tofu equates to 1 cup of plain yogurt that's whole.

Cheese

Cheese

Tofu can be used as a cheese substitute as well, giving you a lot of protein, and also it also provides the fat needed to keep you full without the preservatives. 1 cup of firm tofu blended does equate to a cup of ricotta cheese.

The list goes on, and there are so many benefits to tofu that you won’t believe it. Tofu is a great substitute for many foods out there, and a way to attain a balanced diet. I’d recommend trying a substitute for everything and seeing what’s best for you.

Chapter 6:
How to Prepare Tofu Like a Master

Whenever you prepare your tofu, there are a few steps you may need to take before you do it. Let’s look at pressing tofu first.

How to Prepare Tofu Like a Master

Hard-Pressed Tofu

Whenever you buy tofu, it’s typically found in a package that still contains a lot of moisture. This moisture keeps it fresh, but it can be a bit annoying if your recipe wants your tofu to keep its shape. Have you ever tried cooking tofu right out of the container, and it ends up being sloppy? It wasn’t drained properly.

The firmer the tofu is, the less water it contains, making it hold its shape. But even firmer tofu may still have moisture that you can remove in order to make it even better suited for cooking.

Pressing tofu only really applies to regular tofu. If you’re trying to press silken tofu, it usually doesn’t end well, since it wasn’t designed to hold its shape.

So how do you press tofu in order to keep it firm? You can buy a tofu press, a tool designed to extract as much water out of your tofu as possible. The tofu press is quite affordable, too.

However, if you don’t want to use a tofu press, you can also press it with ingredients you have at home. It’s super simple, and way cheaper than buying a tofu press if you’re looking to save a little bit of money.

Homemade Press

Put the tofu over some paper towels.

Put a layer of paper towels on top of the tofu.

Put a bowl on it.

Then put a weight in the bowl. This way is a bit crude, but it does allow for you to get the water out without a tofu press. how to press tofu

(Via: brendajwiley.com)

The Best Way to Marinate Tofu to Perfection

How to Marinate Tofu

Tofu is delicious when prepared, but it can seem bland when unmarinated. Unlike meats, which do have a flavor already, you’ll need to properly season and marinate your tofu in order to get the flavor out.

To marinate it, you’ll want a firm tofu, but you don’t want to go so firm that it’ll be hard for the tofu to absorb it. If you’re putting tofu in broths or soups, you can let the tofu sit in there for a bit in order to absorb the marinade and make it taste great. However, you can also marinate the tofu beforehand if you want to cook it in another way.

Find the marinade of your choice. It can be made from any ingredient imaginable, so marinate away. I personally love to use spices, dressing, and fish sauce together. I put all of the ingredients together, and then put the tofu in there to marinade for at least a half hour or so.

Afterwards, cut the tofu into cubes, or any piece you desire, really. Put it in a basking dish and put the marinade in it, making sure it covers every part of the tofu.

Once you do that, put it in the fridge. Minimally, it should marinate for 30 minutes, but the longer, the more flavorful it can be. If you want to, prepare it in advance to get the most flavor possible.

Speaking of cutting…

How to Cut Tofu Like a Samurai

When you cut tofu, you’ll usually want to make it into the cubes. The size of the cubes will depend on the situation, but cubes in general are good due to their sides. The sides can stand in the frying pan easily, and are good for browning. Browning tofu can improve the flavor by quite a bit.

Cubing tofu is pretty easy due to it already being shaped like a block. To make cubes, cut the block in two horizontally, and then cut the two sides in half. You can cut them in half again if you want smaller blocks. Afterwards, rotate the block and repeat the process. Use both your hands and then move the knife through the center of the tofu block in order to finish the job and chop the tofu into many pieces.

Chapter 7:
Can you Freeze Tofu?

We mentioned freezing tofu before, but we’ll go into more detail this time. Freezing tofu can make it last a good while, and it can change the texture. Some like the chewier texture of frozen tofu, and it can be better at absorbing marinade, so it’s at least worth a try.

To freeze tofu, press, cut into cubes, and then store it in a freezer-safe container. Put it in the freezer, and it should be good for up to five months or so, depending on how well it’s stored.

Chapter 8:
Storing Fresh Tofu

Storing Fresh Tofu

If you have an entire block of tofu, and you don’t want to freeze it, you can store it for about three to five days if you follow proper instructions. Storing tofu is a great way for meal prep for the next few days.

To store tofu, put it in an airtight container and cover it in water. Then, put it in the fridge. Every day, change the water in the container to ensure maximum freshness. The more times a day you change it, the fresher it will be.

If it smells or tastes funny, it’s gone bad, and you need to throw it away.

Chapter 9:
Other Tips and Tricks

Tofu Tips & Tricks

A few other tips for mastering the art of cooking tofu are:

  • When marinating, try marinating in pieces of different sizes. The smaller the size, the more it can absorb, but the amount of margination is different for everyone.
  • Cut tofu into smaller pieces and bake them. It turns them into a chewy texture, which you can make into a snack, or pieces in a burrito. You can even mix it in a salad.
  • Try searing tofu like you would with meat. The result is quite heavenly.
  • Just remember to experiment. Try cutting up tofu into different shapes and sizes. With tofu, my experience has been different each time I tried cutting it. It's quite the challenging experience!

Chapter 10:
Yummy Tofu Recipes

If you’ve been reading up to this point, you now have some general knowledge on how to cook tofu. With that said, here are a few recipes for you to try, all with their respective levels of skill attached.

Yummy Tofu Recipes

Strawberry Smoothie

By adding some tofu to a smoothie, you can make it a protein powerhouse. Great for after a workout, or just when you want a healthy treat. It also satisfies your sweet tooth without compromising your diet. Plus, it's full of many vitamins, minerals, and protein too, which can help build muscles and other bodily structures.

Skill Level: Beginner.

What You Need:

Tofu-Strawberry-Smoothie
  • 1 cup of frozen strawberries, not fresh.
  • 1 cup of ice.
  • 1 cup of ice cold water.
  • ½ cup of heavy cream (or heavy cream substitute. You can use water too).
  • ¼ cup of sugar substitute.
  • 3.5 ounces of silken tofu.
  • ½ tsp of vanilla extract.
  • 4 strawberries, fresh.
  • 4 sprigs of fresh mint.

Directions

  1. Set aside the fresh strawberries and mint.
  2. Put all other ingredients into a blender, using the pulse option. Once everything is chopped, switch to the high option and blend until it's nice and smooth.
  3. Serve and use the mint and fresh strawberries as a garnish. This can serve four.

Tofu Tacos

Whether it's Taco Tuesday, or Taco Any Day, these tofu tacos will satisfy anyone. They're a great alternative to meat tacos if you're looking to possibly go vegetarian, vegan, or just want to cut meat out of your diet. You won't even be able to tell the difference once you get a taste of these savory tacos!

Skill Level: Intermediate.

What You Need:

Tofu-Tacos
  • 14 oz of extra firm tofu, cubed in 1 inch pieces.
  • 3 tbsp. of chili powder, Korean style.
  • 1 tbsp. of pepper paste, Korean style.
  • 1 tbsp. of grated garlic.
  • 1 tbsp. of grated ginger.
  • 1 tbsp. of sesame oil, toasted.
  • 1/16 teaspoon salt, more for taste.
  • 1 cup of cornstarch.
  • 2 cups of frying oil.
  • 12 warmed tortillas, 5 inches.
  • Chopped honey roasted peanuts, scallions, Asian Pair, Hoisin sauce, kimchi, and anything else you want to serve.

Directions

  1. First, you should drain the tofu.
  2. While it's draining, mix a third of the chili powder with the garlic, ginger, pepper paste, and sesame oil. Add salt to taste.
  3. In another bowl, combine the test of the chili powder with cornstarch, adding about 1 tbsp. of salt to taste.
  4. Heat the oil in a deep skillet, about medium-high.
  5. In another bowl stir the tofu with the chili sauce until the tofu is well-coated. Then, add to the cornstarch mixture, tossing the tofu until it's coated evenly with the mixture.
  6. Remove any cornstarch that may be excessive, and then put it in the skillet. Fry up the tofu until browned and crunchy. This should take about 3 minutes and may require you to stir. Put the tofu into a paper towel-lined plate and salt it.
  7. Afterwards, put the tofu on the tortillas and add the remaining ingredients too. Now you have some killer tofu tacos.

Tofu Frittatas

Frittatas are a delicious egg-based dish, popular in Italy, and make for a creative breakfast. This is a vegan-friendly version that's quite yummy and it will totally satiate your taste buds. It's a great breakfast item, but you can totally have it for lunch as well, and it's a personal favorite of mine.

Skill Level: Advanced.

What You Need:

Tofu-Frittatas
(Via: dietitiandebbie.com)
  • 1 pound of firm tofu.
  • 1/3 cup of soy milk.
  • 1 tsp of turmeric.
  • 1bsp of olive oil.
  • 1 cup of chopped zucchini.
  • 2 tbsp. of green onion, chopped.
  • 1 ear, or ¾ cup of corn.
  • 2 minced garlic cloves.
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved.
  • 2 cups of chopped spinach leaves, fresh.
  • 2 tbsp. of vegan basil pesto.
  • 1/16 teaspoon salt and pepper, more to taste.

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 350. As it's preheating, use a food processor and blend the soymilk, tofu, and turmeric until it's a smooth mixture.
  2. Brown the zucchini in a saucepan with the oil heated in it. This should take about 7 minutes. I usually like to use a little bit of olive oil or coconut oil to brown everything since it's healthier.
  3. Combine the corn, garlic, and green onion, and add another 3 minutes of cooking time.
  4. Add the cherry tomatoes, then the spinach. When the spinach starts to wilt, it's time for the next step.
  5. Remove from heat and combine the tofu mix, veggies, salt, pepper, and pesto into a bowl. Use some muffin liners and put them in a muffin pan. Pour this batter into the pan, and you should have about 10.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the frittatas are slightly brown and puffy.

Tofu Chocolate Mousse

Let's finish off by giving you a little treat. This mousse is vegan and delicious, so enjoy it without any guilt. It's super simple to prepare too, so you don't have to be a master chef in order to create it.

Skill Level: Beginner.

What You Need:

silken-tofu-chocolate-mousse
(Via: aseasyasapplepie.com)
  • 3.5 oz of dark chocolate. You'll want it chopped roughly.
  • 12 oz of silken tofu. Drain it and keep it at room temperature.
  • 2 tbsp. of maple syrup.

Directions

  1. You'll begin by melting the chocolate. The most convenient way to do this is through the microwave. Microwave it 30 seconds, stir, and then microwave again until everything is melted completely. Move the chocolate to cool.
  2. Process the syrup and tofu, making sure it's smooth. When that's finished, add the chocolate and blend again, this time making sure everything is combined well.
  3. Put the mixture into 3 containers such as glasses. Cool it in a refrigerator for about 30 minutes. Top it with whatever you want, serve, and enjoy!
  4. You can keep this in the fridge for about three days, so eat up!

Now It’s Your Turn

As you can see, cooking tofu is not hard. Like any food, it takes research, practice, and a little bit of creativity. When people think of tofu, they imagine this bland bean curd. It’s only bland when it’s cooked in the wrong hands. When it’s marinated, or combined with other ingredients, you can make mouth watering meat substitutes with it, or a cool treat. It’s healthy, it’s free from any animal products, and best of all, it’s versatile.

Cooking tofu is an adventure! Everyone loves adventures, right? Well, now you can have the adventure you desire with yummy and savory tofu recipes. With each of these, you’ll be able to create different, healthy dishes, and when you know how to cook and prepare tofu, you’ll be able to do so much more with this tasty and healthy bean curd.

So find a tofu recipe you like, get some tofu, and see just how much you’ll love it. You’ll soon be making tofu so good, you won’t need to go to any restaurant to get your fix. Happy cooking!