Tofu is one of those foods that many meat eaters carefully avoid… until their curiosity gets the better of them.
With lots of lean protein, a cheap price tag, and the ability to soak up flavor like a sponge, tofu is among the most popular meat replacement options for vegans and vegetarians – many of whom swear it tastes exactly like steak.
Hype aside, if you haven’t tried tofu that is prepared and flavored properly, you really haven’t tried tofu. It might not taste exactly like meat, but it does taste fantastic in the right dishes.
In this article, we’ll look at tofu, a healthy protein without any flavor to call its own.
What Is Tofu?
Tofu is essentially a kind of cheese that is made from soy milk, which is made from soybeans.
The soy milk is extracted from the beans and then coagulated, strained, and pressed into a block. The amount of water contained in the tofu determines its firmness.
The densest and heaviest tofu is extra-firm – this is suitable to replace meat in recipes and is great for frying. The most watery and least pressed form of tofu is silken tofu, which is intended to be blended into soups and desserts.
Is Tofu Flavor Considered Different?
This is a matter of opinion, but I side with many cooks when I say it tastes like… nothing.
Technically, there is some flavor there – a blank, mild, slightly sour soybean flavor – however, any flavor in tofu is quickly erased when you expose it to other flavors.
If you cook your tofu with even a bit of soya sauce, it will taste more like soya sauce than it does tofu.
People who really hate tofu when they try it aren’t usually put off by the taste. There isn’t much of a taste to be upset by. Instead, they are bothered by the texture, which is very different from anything else you are used to eating.
You can criticize the flavor of tofu if you want to, but there just isn’t that much of it there, to begin with. Regardless, any tofu flavor that is there in the raw block will be quickly erased in the cooking process.
Try using your favorite meat marinades with tofu to sample the way this versatile protein source can absorb flavors.
What Does Tofu Look Like?
Tofu looks like a white block.
When you find tofu stocked in the grocery store, it will probably come packaged in water. This is to help preserve the tofu by keeping it wet and moist.
Silken tofu usually looks very soft and smooth on the outside, while extra-firm tofu is bumpier and will even show the pattern of the cheesecloth that was used to strain and press it.
However, all tofu is sold in white blocks.
What Texture Does Tofu Have?
The texture of tofu is hard to describe to someone who has never tried it because there isn’t much you can compare it to.
Tofu might be soybean cheese, but it doesn’t have the texture of cheese or soybeans. Instead, it has a spongy, cardboard texture that is chewy and almost meaty but crumbles more in your mouth.
The texture of silken tofu is very smooth and creamy, almost like jello. The texture of very firm tofu is like a chewy, meaty, sponge.
If you are expecting the texture of meat, it could take a while before tofu seems appealing. It’s a texture that is similar, but different. Once you’ve acquired the taste for yourself, it’s just as good as meat but in a different way.
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Types Of Tofu?
You can get tofu according to how firm it is, including:
- Silken tofu
- Medium Tofu
- Firm Tofu
- Extra firm tofu
There are also different ways of preparing tofu, giving it different flavors.
- “Stinky tofu” is fermented, and is a delicacy in China and Taiwan
- Smoked tofu is prepared in a smoker, giving it layers of smoky flavor
Where Does Tofu Come From?
Tofu has been a major part of Chinese cuisine and culture for thousands of years, dating back to the Han dynasty.
The use of tofu as an ingredient spread across Asia, where it was incorporated into everything from soups to vegetable dishes to sweet desserts.
Today, soybeans are grown commercially around the world and make up the basis for tofu production. Vegans and vegetarians globally support a growing tofu industry that delivers blocks of tofu to healthy grocers as well as big-box grocery store chains.
Is Tofu Healthy?
Tofu is a very healthy ingredient to add to your diet, especially if you are using it to replace a fattier protein source like pork or beef.
Tofu is high in protein but very low in fat. This makes it ideal for people who want the energy to exercise and the protein to build muscle, but who are simultaneously trying to lose weight.
Replacing red meat with tofu a couple of times a week can decrease your blood pressure and cholesterol, reducing your risk of heart disease.
For vegans and vegetarians, tofu is especially helpful, because it provides all nine amino acids that your body can’t make by itself.
That means vegetarians who regularly eat tofu don’t need to supplement it with other proteins – tofu contains everything they need.
There are also tons of important nutrients in tofu, including iron, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, manganese, and potassium.
Tofu lives up to its reputation as a healthy food.
What Are The Dangers Of Eating Tofu?
Tofu could potentially be unsafe for you if you are taking MAOI drugs for Parkinson’s disease or mood disorders.
This is because tofu contains an amino acid called tyramine that helps regulate your blood pressure.
MAOI drugs inhibit a regulator that breaks down tyramine, so combining MAOI drugs with tofu consumption can lead to dangerous rises in blood pressure.
If you are not taking these drugs, tofu is very safe and rarely causes allergic reactions or issues for people.
Every once in a while there is a suggestion that tofu (and other soy products) contain phytoestrogens that can interfere with hormones.
Although tofu indeed contains compounds called isoflavones that are similar to human estrogen but with much weaker effects, there is no evidence that these compounds cause hormonal issues in humans.
Phytoestrogens are not only weaker than human estrogen – they block the uptake of estrogen by binding to receptors. You can eat as much tofu as you want without worrying about your hormone levels.
How Do You Eat Tofu?
There are many great ways to cook and eat tofu – from blending silken tofu into baked goods and smoothies to simmering it in sauces and soups.
If you are trying to introduce someone to tofu and you want them to like it right away, it’s a good idea to start with fried tofu. Pan-frying or deep frying tofu helps to remove more of the moisture, leading to a meatier texture while crisping up the outside and making each bite more delicious.
How Can I Store Tofu?
Tofu is stored in water to preserve its freshness. If you open a package of tofu and don’t use all of it, put it in a sealed container filled with water in the refrigerator.
Your tofu will last up to 3 days, but to maintain freshness it’s a good idea to swap the water out every day.
Cooked tofu should be stored in a sealed container in your refrigerator and will last for up to 7 days.
Can You Freeze Tofu?
Yes, you can freeze tofu, but you will change it just as much as you are preserving it.
Freezing tofu changes its texture and composition, turning it from something like cheddar cheese into Swiss cheese.
The pores in the tofu expand as the water inside them freezes, opening more internal space in the tofu that can eventually absorb flavor.
Freezing tofu will help you preserve it for up to 6 months, but the tofu you bring out of the freezer will be different than the tofu you put in.
The good news? It will probably be better. Pre-frozen tofu has a coarser, meatier texture that is also capable of absorbing more flavor.
Tofu Nutritional Information
|Per 3.5oz, 100g serving of firm tofu, according to Healthline.com|
|Calcium||53% of the Daily Value|
|Manganese||51% of the DV|
|Copper||42% of the DV|
|Selenium||32% of the DV|
|Vitamin A||18% of the DV|
|Phosphorus||15% of the DV|
|Iron||15% of the DV|
|Magnesium||14% of the DV|
|Zinc||14% of the DV|
Quick Table: 3 Tofu Taste Recipes
|Vegan Caesar Salad With Crispy Baked Tofu||90||25 Minutes|
|Coconut Bubble Tea||60||40 Minutes|
|Birthday Cake Bubble Tea||80||30 Minutes|
This recipe for vegan Caesar salad is all about the tofu, which is baked to perfection and offers a flavor-filled crunch in every bite.
If you are a fan of the chicken Caesar salad and are looking for a way to decrease the fat and make it a lot healthier without decreasing the flavor, this is a great recipe to try.
Calories Per Serving: 90
Preparation Time: 25 Minutes
Arguably the best thing about tofu is its incredible ability to soak up the flavor. In this recipe, the hot and tangy taste of chili and lime fill the tofu and create a powerful punch that is offset by the gentle and delicate coconut rice.
You’ll love the flavors on offer here, and the way that tofu carries the entire show.
Calories Per Serving: 60
Preparation Time: 40 Minutes
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These are nothing like beef sliders, and they’re not supposed to be. The crispy fried tofu is both light and packed with flavor, and the miso aioli on top makes this an elegant and elevated take on an average appetizer.
Calories Per Serving: 80
Preparation Time: 30 Minutes
Frequently Asked Questions
What Does Tofu Taste Similar To?
There isn’t anything else like tofu to compare it to. The very mild taste is of soybeans or soy milk. When tofu is flavored and grilled or fried, the closest thing you could compare the taste to is meat, even though they are very different.
Does Tofu Taste Like Meat?
No – no matter what anyone tells you, tofu doesn’t taste like meat. It doesn’t have a texture like meat either.
However, if you want to replace meat in a meal, adding strong flavors and fatty oils to tofu is a great way to simulate the taste and texture experience.
Is Tofu Good For Weight Loss?
Yes! Tofu is much lower in both calories and total fat than most meats. If you are trying to decrease your caloric intake, substituting tofu for your normal portion of red meat, chicken, or fish will decrease your total calories and fat for the day.
Tofu also contains a ton of protein and will keep you full for longer so you don’t need to keep snacking throughout the day.
If you’re on a reduced-fat or reduced-calorie diet, tofu is a great option. Just make sure to prepare your tofu without a lot of additional fat, or sugary sauces and marinades.
There are plenty of ways to get big flavors out of tofu without adding a lot of calories and fat.
What Are The Benefits Of Eating Tofu?
Regularly eating tofu can decrease your blood pressure, lower your cholesterol, and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Can You Eat Tofu Raw?
There is nothing to keep you from eating tofu raw, and it is perfectly healthy to eat tofu without cooking it. You can add silken tofu to smoothies, or eat slices of tofu raw.
However, this isn’t very appetizing. Tofu requires some cooking heat to absorb the best flavors, and raw tofu retains the same mild, bean flavor that isn’t very appealing.
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