Are you trying to figure out what does tofu taste like before giving it a try? Does it taste like chicken? Cheese? Soy?
Truth is, tofu on its own it’s pretty bland and will essentially taste like whatever you want it to taste like, depending on how you prepare it.
Since it is still somewhat of a mysterious food in the west, this creates the potential for it to be made into something delicious and life-changing…or something you won’t want to eat ever again.
But don’t worry, in this article we are going to fig a little deeper into all-things-tofu and learn exactly what it is and how it can go from bland to downright mouth-watering.
What is tofu?
Also known as bean curd, tofu is a creamy, high-protein, low-fat soy product, native to East Asia and commonly used in Asian cuisine
It is prepared by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting curds into solid white blocks in a process quite similar to cheesemaking. The result is similar to a white sponge, which can be the reason some people don’t it too appealing.
There is no exact data about tofu’s origins, but it does seem widely thought that it originated in China around or before 200 BC. Rumor has it that a Chinese cook discovered tofu by accidentally mixing a batch of fresh soy milk with nigari seaweed.
What does tofu really taste like?
People seem a bit incredulous when they hear tofu has no actual flavor. It is like they are looking for a real answer and that one won’t do.
If you are one of those persons, nutty, beany, sweet, earthy or salty are some words commonly used to describe tofu’s taste that might give you some peace of mind.
Or if you want to get a closer description, try thinking of soy milk flavor, which is what it is made of after all.
In reality, most people don’t really buy or use tofu for its flavor but as something to add to a meal for additional protein and as a meat supplement in our meals.
This means tofu’s bland taste and flavor absorbing properties make it perfect so you can prepare it the way, texture and flavor best suited to your taste.
Is Tofu Healthy?
Tofu sometimes gets a bad reputation since it comes from soy and there is a lot of misinformation about it, (caused mostly by the media under the interests of meat and dairy brands, if you ask me).
But there is nothing to fear about this naturally healthy food. In fact, tofu has a lot of potential health benefits.
This soy-based food contains no cholesterol and is an excellent source of iron and calcium. It is also it is naturally gluten-free and low in calories.
Especially for vegans, tofu is an important source of complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids. These come packed with calcium, selenium, manganese, iron, and magnesium.
Tofu contains phytoestrogens, the plant form of estrogen. For many years, people thought adding too much estrogen to your body could lead to breast cancer in women. However, many studies show the opposite to be true for the case of plant-derived estrogen.
Furthermore, unlike animal-derived sources of protein, tofu is low in saturated fat and is a good source of heart-healthy unsaturated fats, especially omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid.
If you want to know even more about the health benefits of tofu make sure to check this article.
Tofu Nutritional Facts
One block of hard tofu, weighing 122 grams (g) contains:
- 177 calories
- 5.36 g of carbohydrate
- 12.19 g of fat
- 15.57 g of protein
- 421 mg of calcium
- 65 of magnesium
- 3.35 mg of iron
- 282 mg of phosphorus
- 178 mg of potassium
- 2 mg of zinc
- 27 micrograms (mcg) of folate, DFE
It also provides small amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6, choline, manganese, and selenium.
The calcium and magnesium in soy may help strengthen bones, lessen symptoms of PMS, regulate blood sugar, and prevent migraine headaches.
Types of Tofu
If this comes as a surprise to you, yes, there is more than one type of tofu out there. The two primary types of tofu are silken and regular.
Both silken and regular tofu can be found in soft, medium, firm, and extra-firm consistencies. They are made with the same ingredients, but they are processed slightly differently and are not interchangeable in a recipe.
Silken tofu also called soft, silk, or Japanese-style tofu has a softer consistency than regular tofu and will fall apart if not handled carefully. Silken tofu is pretty much undrained and unpressed tofu curd. Consequently, it has the highest water content of all the types of tofu.
Silken tofu crumbles very easily so it is not recommended that you press it. Only regular or firm tofu needs to be pressed. Be very gentle when slicing silken tofu, as it may otherwise fall apart.
Silken tofu works best in foods that are more creamy in nature such as smoothies or desserts, but also can be used in puddings, sauces, dips, dressings, and spreads.
Blended up, silken tofu makes a suitable substitute for dairy in many vegan dessert recipes. Because of its more watery properties, it’s going to integrate more with whatever it’s mixed with allowing the flavors of what it’s blended with to dominate.
Silken can be labeled as soft, firm, or extra firm but for most purposes, the different kinds of are interchangeable, so don’t worry if you can only find one of them.
Regular tofu, also called Chinese-style tofu is more common than silken tofu. It needs to be and usually comes in a plastic container with some of its own water.
Regular tofu has been pressed and has a sponge-like texture. Depending on how much water has been pressed out of it, it comes in different varieties: soft, medium, firm, extra-firm, and super firm. (from less water pressed out to more water pressed out)
For dishes where you want to tofu to retain its shape, firm or extra-firm regular tofu is best.
On the contrary, for recipes that call for crumbled or mashed tofu, medium or soft tofu will have a smoother consistency.
- Soft regular tofu: Soft tofu is the Chinese-style equivalent of silken tofu. It is slightly less smooth but can be used in the same way as silken tofu.
- Medium regular tofu: It is still quite soft but has enough hold that it can be picked up with chopsticks carefully. It can work well in gently simmered soups like miso here it can absorb the taste of the broth.
- Firm tofu: is quite common when it comes to cooking and Asian stir fry. This tofu absorbs flavors well and can be stir-fried and pan-fried. It’s also great crumbled and used in tofu scramble and as a substitute for ricotta cheese.
- Extra-firm tofu: As the name suggests, this tofu holds its shape well and is great for slicing, cubing, and all kinds of frying. It is also commonly baked, grilled and crumbled to be used as ground meat in lasagna or spaghetti sauces. Keep in mind that the more solid the tofu is, the more difficult it can be to infuse with flavor.
- Super-firm tofu: This tofu is the densest and also highest in protein. It can be good for those new to cooking with it because it is so easy to handle and cook with but it can also dry out more quickly and end up dry and flavorless which can turn you off if you’re trying tofu for the first time.
How to make delicious tofu?
Tofu can be cooked in a big variety of ways but most of them will include the same preparatory steps:
1. Get the right type of tofu
Depending on what you are going to be making, make sure to buy the tofu the recipe calls for or check out the previous section if you are unsure.
2. Press the tofu
No matter what variety you’re working with, tofu contains a fair amount of liquid, and it’s helpful to remove as much as possible before cooking.
Achieving the right texture is a key component of making tofu taste good. It makes a big difference in the finished result (think: soft and chewy, rather than soggy).
There are two methods that can be used to press it:
Use a tofu press.
Placing a towel underneath slide your drained tofu inside the press and tighten the screws down to release the liquid.
Let it press for about 10-30 minutes and keep tightening the screws until it causes the sides to bulge slightly.
Use a heavy object
If you don’t own a tofu press (very understandable) you can wrap your drained tofu in a towel and set something heavy on top. Let it press for about 10-30 minutes, or even longer for firmer tofu.
Note: You can press your tofu up to 2 days in advance and keep it covered in the fridge to save time.
3. Marinate for desired taste
As we have established, tofu on its own is very bland and mildly flavored. This paired with its sponge-like ability to soak up spices and marinades make it the perfect canvas to take on any flavors YOU want it to taste like.
After pressing your tofu, soak in marinade of choice for at least 30 minutes before cooking. Firm and extra-firm tofu are the best for marinating since they can be trusted to keep their shape.
You can marinate your tofu in your favorite spices or even use a store-bought marinade but here are some ideas if you are looking for inspiration:
Sweet Chili Marinade:
Thai Peanut Marinade:
- 3 tablespoons peanut butter
- 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice
- 2 teaspoon agave or maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
Coconut Curry Marinade:
- 2 tablespoons vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 tablespoon agave or maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Each recipe makes enough to marinate 1 block of tofu.. To prepare simply add all of the ingredients to a resealable bag or airtight container, mix, then add your sliced or cubed tofu. Let marinate for a minimum of 15 minutes or up to 4 days.
4. Cooking time!
Your tofu is now ready to be cooked and (as it’s been a theme with tofu) there are also multiple ways of doing it! Here are some of the most common:
Pan-frying is one of the easiest ways to cook your tofu. After pressing and draining as much liquid from the block as possible, cut the tofu into cubes, sticks, or wedges.
You can also coat it in some cornstarch for extra crispiness. Pan-fried tofu is best served shortly after prepared so if you are looking for something to be done in advance this might no be your best option.
As with any stir-fry, you can expect stir-fried tofu to come together in just a couple of minutes resulting in super-crisp pieces, golden edges, and a soft, chewy center.
It is best to cook tofu in its own — otherwise, it tends to crumble too much. But once out of the wok, you can pair it with all sorts of foods. You can also add it back to the pan after cooking the other ingredients so all the flavors come together.
For the best results, start with extra-firm or firm tofu, and press out as much water as possible before cooking.
Baked tofu is by far my favorite! Especially right out of the oven when it is super crispy on the outside and a creamy and soft in the middle. It eventually loses its crispness but it then becomes firm and chewy.
The key to achieving this texture and an intense flavor is to make sure it’s well pressed and marinated for plenty of time.
Baked tofu slices can be eaten as side dish, use them to make sandwiches, wraps, bowl, noodle dishes, salads, etc.
Other ways to eat tofu
While most recipes out there call for some sort of press > marinate > slice > cook, tofu is super versatile and can be consumed in multiple other ways.
Some of my favorites include:
I had to admit I postponed eating scrambled tofu for almost 5 years because I was very skeptic something that was not eggs could taste like eggs. I surprised myself again!
Now I absolutely love it! It is also super healthy and easy to make. All it takes is you crumbling the tofu, adding some spices and cooking it in the pan for a couple of minutes.
You can add spice to taste but if you are looking for some guidance, start with
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 tsp nutritional yeast
I don’t press the tofu because you can decide how dry you want it while cooking it and if you use a non-stick pan you don’t need to add any oil.
You can also add any veggies to the pan, I like mine with mushroom, peppers, and spinach!
No matter what your reasons are for being vegan, hating cheese is probably not one of them. In fact, most vegans miss and
If that’ you case, this flavor-packed vegan tofu ricotta cheese will satisfy most of your cheese cravings and it only takes 7 ingredients and a few minutes to make.
- 14 oz. firm tofu
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- Juice of 1/2 small lemon
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1–2 teaspoons dried basil, oregano, parsley or Italian seasoning (optional)
- 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- Black pepper, to taste
- Drain any excess liquid out from the tofu (but do not press). Break the tofu up into small pieces with your hands and add it to a food processor. Add all of the remaining ingredients and process until smooth and creamy, stopping to scrape the sides of the food processor as needed.
- If the ricotta is too thick, you can add 1-2 tablespoons of water as needed to reach desired consistency.
I love using this ricotta to make lasagna or to spread it on toast (or even eating on its own), but you can use it for any pasta, salad or dip as well.
You can also add tofu to your smoothies, bowls or sauces for some extra thickness and protein!
- Tofu will taste however you want it to taste so don’t get scared by its looks, give it a try and reap the benefits of this awesome healthy food.
- Contrary to rumors, tofu and soy products have a lot of health benefits including a reduced risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
- Tofu comes in different varieties so make sure to get the one which is best for what you are trying to prepare.
- Learning to prepare food that is completely new to you might seem a bit hard at the beginning but after you get used to the basics, tofu is really easy and convenient to prepare and it’ll be a great addition to your diet!