How to Choose the Best Tofu
You've gone plant-based, you are in the store, panic starts setting in, and you don't know what to buy. You end up purchasing the first thing with that bright, cheerful green "vegan" label on. Well, shopping for tofu and plant-based food doesn't have to be stressful. Here's a quick guide to choosing the best block of tofu and what to do with it!
Why are there so many types of tofu?
If you have ever looked for a tofu recipe, you will have noticed by now that some call for silken tofu, others are all about the firm to extra-firm tofu. Tofu is like cheese; there are many different kinds of tofu, each with its taste, texture, and use!
Most plain tofu is bland and almost tasteless, a truly blank canvas for you to paint with flavors to create tasty and delicious meals packed with the goodness of plant protein! The texture can vary from cream cheese soft to tough and meaty extra-firm tofu.
Silken tofu: the Vegan cream cheese
Silken tofu has the highest moisture content. Silken tofu is removed from the tofu press earlier than other kinds of tofu. The texture tofu fundies describe the texture as cream cheese, like ricotta cheese consistency. The distinct lack of flavor in plain tofu means that you can use soft silken tofu in sweet and savory dishes. However, you cannot fry silken tofu as it will not hold its shape very well.
Almost any cream-based dish can be made dairy-free by blending silken tofu instead of dairy-based cream. Silken tofu means that you don't have to sacrifice tiramisu!
Here are a few dishes you can make with silken tofu:
- Creamy pasta. This rich, creamy sauce is comforting food at its best.
- Steamed Asian style tofu. This Asian favorite consists of lightly steamed silken tofu coated with soy sauce, topped with sesame seeds.
- Tofu and Mango Verrines - These tropical puddings strike the perfect balance between tangy and creamy!
- Chocolate raspberry tofu pie. Who doesn't love chocolate? If you are a pie fanatic, this is the pie for you!
- Creamy salad dressing. If salads are your go-to meal, try using silken tofu in your low FODMAP dressings for the ultimate protein-packed salad dressing!
Firm tofu: the happy medium
When in doubt, the best tofu to buy is medium to firm tofu to buy. Firm tofu has lower water content, making it a perfect meat replacement in almost any meal. Firm tofu is ideal for frying, boiling, baking, and battering. The firm texture is suitable for a meaty mouthfeel; if need be, you can press it further to make extra-firm tofu.
This versatile tofu is the most adaptable. It only needs to marinate for 15 minutes; cooks recommend to marinate your tofu overnight for optimal flavor. This tofu is perfect for stir-frying and battered deep-frying, such as mock-chicken nuggets.
Here are a few meal ideas for this versatile variety of tofu:
- Crispy tofu poke bowls - a classic Hawaiian bowl packed with fresh vegetables, a protein in this case crispy tofu cubes, on a bed of fluffy rice.
- Spicy Indian Tofu
- Baked Sriracha and soy-glazed tofu with rice noodles. Noodles, spice, and just the right kind of tofu. Medium-firm and extra firm tofu is perfect for this tasty meal as they hold their shape well and don't crumble.
Extra-firm tofu: feels like meat.
Extra-firm tofu, also known as super firm tofu, has the lowest water count. It is harder and denser, requiring longer marination times. This tofu is a hit with anyone struggling to skip meat and or battles to find a meatless Monday meal that hits the spot. The texture resembles that of actual meat and, with the right flavoring and spices, is an excellent replacement for meat products.
If you cannot find super firm tofu in the store, all you need to do is place firm to medium-firm tofu into a tofu press (https://tofubud.com/products/tofu-press) for 30 - 40 minutes. If you don't have a tofu press, place the tofu between two solid chopping boards with some paper towels, play heavyweights on top of the chopping board. You can use tins or a kettlebell if you have one spare. Allow the water to drain for 30-40 minutes.
Extra-firm tofu is the best meat substitute as it is high in protein and low in fat with the most consistent texture. Freezing your tofu before using it will also produce a meatier texture.
Here's some super tofu meal inspiration:
- Sticky tofu ribs with a smokey bbq sauce. These mock ribs are tasty and will convert even the biggest meat-eater. Make extra of these because you will be there for a second helping.
- Tofu steaks with a delicious low FODMAP curry sauce. Nothing beats the comfort of a delicious steak and chips dinner!
- Sliced 'pork' sliders. Smokey, tangy with a bit of a kick, these sliders are fantastic for any weather!
Go green, go organic.
When purchasing tofu, opt for organic, non genetically modified versions for the best quality and taste. Cheaper brands of tofu are made using cheaper coagulants that can make the tofu behave in strange ways. If you have ever witnessed a tofu cube puff up and suddenly deflate, you will understand that sometimes it is worth the few extra bucks grabbing the organic kind.
For the more adventurous foodie, make your tofu to ensure consistent quality every time!
Medically reviewed by Onikepe Adegbola, MD PhD