If you’re a vegetarian or just curious about tofu, here’s the scoop on this healthy food.
What exactly is tofu?
Tofu is also known as soybean curd or bean curd. It’s a low cost, easy to find, versatile and protein-rich plant-based food that can be part of a nutritious diet.
How is tofu made?
Tofu is made from fresh or dried soybeans. The soybeans are soaked, boiled and strained to make a liquid. Either calcium or magnesium is usually added to curdle or “set” the liquid, similar to how cottage cheese is curdled from cow’s milk. The curds are pressed into white blocks. The firmness of the tofu depends on how much liquid has been pressed out of the curds.
What are the different types of tofu?
Generally, tofu can be bought fresh, dried or fried.
- Soft or silken tofu – has the most amount of moisture. It has a custard-like texture and is best used for shakes, smoothies, dips and dressings. Dessert tofu is typically made from soft or silken tofu.
- Firm tofu – has less moisture than soft or silken tofu. It can be scrambled or crumbled and used in casseroles.
- Extra firm tofu – has the least amount of moisture. It holds its shape the best, and is wonderful in stir-fry dishes and on the grill.
Dried tofu is available as bean curd sticks or bean curd sheets. These need to be soaked in water before using. Dried tofu is often used in soups and casseroles.
Thin slices or blocks of tofu that have been deep fried. They can be used in soups, stir-fry or sushi.
What does tofu taste like?
Tofu has very little flavour. It absorbs whatever flavours or spices you add to it. That’s what makes tofu such a versatile ingredient! Try marinating tofu in low sodium soy sauce with minced garlic and grated ginger. Or use your favourite meat marinade on tofu.
What are the nutrition benefits of tofu?
For more information, read The Scoop on Soy.
Tofu contains other important nutrients such as calcium, iron and zinc. Firm or extra firm tofu is an excellent source of calcium if it has been set with calcium sulphate. Check the ingredients list for calcium sulphate, and read the Nutrition Facts table to see how much calcium is in the tofu. Different brands may have different amounts of calcium.
How do I buy and store tofu?
Many supermarkets, grocery stores and health food stores sell tofu in the refrigerated section. You can find tofu in vacuum-packed packages, plain or flavoured. Tofu is also sold in tubs and tins, where the tofu is covered with water.
Keep tofu in the refrigerator and use it by the best before date. If you buy tofu in a tub or tin, you should pour out the water every day, and replace with cold water to keep the tofu fresh.
If you buy tofu in a package and don’t use it all, cover the leftovers with cold water in an airtight container. Keep it in the refrigerator for a couple of days and change the water daily.
You can also freeze firm tofu for up to three months. Press out any liquid from the firm tofu and then put it in a freezer bag or wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Unopened packages of tofu can be frozen too. Defrosted tofu will have a yellow-caramel colour and a chewier texture.
Soft or silken tofu should not be frozen.
Tofu is spoiled if it tastes or smells sour, or if the liquid in the tub or tin is cloudy.
Can I eat raw or uncooked tofu?
To be on the safe side, it’s better to boil uncooked tofu for five minutes first before eating it. If you are going to use uncooked silken tofu in a smoothie or beverage, make sure you drink it right away or refrigerate.
How do I use tofu?
Gently rinse tofu before you use it. Then slice it, dice it, crumble it or grill it! There are many ways to use tofu, so give it a try. You might be surprised by how much you like it! Here are some great recipes to get you started.
Sweet Chili Tofu Stir-fry
Curried Cream of Parsnip and Carrot Soup
Tofu Vegetable Sou
How can a dietitian help?
A dietitian can suggest ways to incorporate more plant-based proteins into your diet. They can work with you to make sure you are getting enough protein to meet your unique needs and goals. Dietitians consider your lifestyle, culture, health conditions, food skills, budget and preferences to give you a personalized plan. Most employee benefit plans cover dietitian services. Connect with a dietitian today!
Tofu is a good way to add more plant-based proteins to your diet. It is nutritious, versatile and low in cost. It can be used to replace meat in most recipes. Plan your next meal with tofu!
For more information
The Scoop on Soy
What are the Health Benefits of Soy?
What are the Benefits of Eating More Plant-Based Foods
This article was written and reviewed by dietitians from Dietitians of Canada.
Last Update – May 6, 2022