Many people avoid tofu because of its reputation for being bland and tasteless, however, this is completely untrue! Yes, it has no flavor, but when it’s prepared and cooked correctly, it can be delicious!
To help change your mind about tofu, we’ve created this guide that tells you everything you need to know about tofu, including the different ways you can cook it and how you can season it to perfection.
If you want to expand your horizons and incorporate this healthy protein into your diet, then this guide is for you!
What Is Tofu?
Tofu is made from condensed soy milk that comes from soybeans. It is made by pressing the condensed soy milk into solid blocks, similar to the cheese-making process.
As vegan and vegetarian diets have become more widespread, tofu is often used as a meat substitute and is widely available in most grocery stores.
It can be used in both savory and sweet dishes, making it an extremely versatile food that can be incorporated into many different meals.
How Does Tofu Taste?
Tofu that hasn’t been prepared in any way has a rather bland flavor. This may be the reason why most people dislike it, but the blandness is exactly what we should love about it!
The tasteless nature of tofu means that it can be used in any dish and take on any flavor you want it to! It can soak up any seasoning or marinade easily, so you can experiment with it to suit your tastes and preferences.
Where Does Tofu Come From?
Nobody is entirely certain how or when tofu was created, but it has Chinese origins.
There are a few different theories out there, but one is that whoever invented it did so while attempting to turn soy milk into cheese because manufacturing tofu is very similar to the cheese-making process.
Tofu is not a food that is only eaten by vegans and vegetarians, despite this common belief. In fact, for centuries, tofu has been a prominent ingredient in Asian cuisines!
Types Of Tofu
One thing you should know about tofu is that the texture is important when using it in a recipe. There are many different kinds of tofu that all have different textures. These are the most popular:
The type of tofu that is most frequently found in supermarkets and eateries is block tofu. Due to the fluffy nature of the curds, it is occasionally referred to as “cotton tofu.”
Block tofu is marketed in plastic trays filled with water; a commercially efficient storage technique that was created in 1966.
Soft Block Tofu
Of all the types of block tofu, soft tofu is pressed for the shortest length of time, allowing the curds to meld into the leftover whey.
When broken apart, as it frequently does with a light touch, this smooth block still retains texture. It tastes mildly milky and has a delicate body similar to Jell-O.
Soft tofu is a fantastic neutral ground for a sweet element because of its resemblance to soft desserts, but it also functions well in savory meals. It works best in a dish when it is raw, boiled, puréed, or battered and deep-fried.
Medium Block Tofu
With visible curds and a coarser texture than soft tofu, medium-firm tofu still cracks when handled.
Due to its modest moisture level, it might have a sagging appearance and is an excellent option for recipes that don’t require a lot of handling.
Medium-firm tofu may crumble during intense stir-frying because it contains more whey, but it still cooks beautifully with proper technique. It also tastes fantastic when baked, fermented, or deep-fried in a batter.
Firm Block Tofu
The most versatile kind of tofu available is firm tofu, which is excellent for people who are unfamiliar with the protein. The majority of savory recipes can be made with a firm block of tofu if you’re not sure which type to buy.
A firm block has curds that are visible and tightly packed; it should feel hard and have little give. During cooking, the tofu’s hard body develops a slightly rubbery feel that makes each block pretty manageable.
Firm tofu can be battered, crusted, roasted, boiled, pan-fried, stir-fried, deep-fried, or glazed with success. It also withstands frying and stuffing rather well.
Extra-Firm Block Tofu
This block tofu is the most compact and can be adapted to most recipes. The block is considerably tighter than all the others, and the curds are compact.
This tofu is best suited for heartier meals because it has the most toughness to it. In Indian dishes, it works perfectly as a dairy-free substitute for paneer, and it also produces excellent, crispy tofu.
Additionally, it can be boiled, baked, stir-fried, deep-fried, pan-fried, battered, crusted, glazed, or fried.
Another popular tofu variety is silken tofu. Similar to block tofu, it is manufactured by a similar procedure, except soy milk is coagulated instead of curdled.
Every piece maintains all of its moisture while cooling because it is not pressed.
The tofu, whether it is soft, firm, or extra firm, looks smooth and silky because curds never develop in it. Silken tofus, which are more delicate than block tofus, also need to be handled carefully to avoid breaking.
Fresh Silken Or Custard Tofu
For the most delicate dishes, fresh silken tofu, often referred to as “custard tofu,” is recommended. It is best eaten raw because it is so delicate and the quality shouldn’t be diminished by complex preparation.
Your best option is to buy fresh silken tofu from a local producer; it should be bought before you need it because it spoils quickly.
Toss it when the surface starts to take on a pink or orange tinge (this could happen as soon as the next day!).
Soft Silken Tofu
Soft silken tofu is delicate and dense, and its inherent water weight causes it to slip between your fingers. It must be handled carefully, much like a poached egg, and will break if overworked.
It is best eaten fresh and is especially well-suited to recipes like sauces, smoothies, and egg or yogurt substitutes.
Firm Silken Tofu
Firm block tofu should never be confused with firm silken tofu or used in place of it.
Additionally, it must not be confused with soft silken tofu since firm silken is prepared from denser soy milk, which requires less water to be added during the milk’s manufacturing.
Firm silken tofu is more robust and can withstand handling better. It is perfect for recipes where the silken tofu will be chopped into pieces and/or immersed in sauces while keeping its shape.
Additionally, when it is fermented, cooked, lightly fried, or battered, it performs well.
How To Press And Drain Tofu
By pressing your tofu, you can get rid of all that liquid and give it more room to absorb the flavors of your marinade and seasonings.
In fact, if you leave it in a marinade overnight without pressing it, odds are that the tofu won’t have taken in any of the marinade because it can’t absorb it.
Typically, pressing tofu should take 30 minutes or less. This will ensure that the maximum amount of liquid is drained.
There are two ways you can press tofu. Firstly, you can use a tofu press, a mechanism that screws your piece of tofu in place to press out the liquid.
It can be adjusted to press at any level you choose, allowing you to continue preparing your meal without having to manually press it.
You can also press tofu by stacking heavy objects on top of it. To press out the liquid this way, you need to remove the tofu from the packaging and wrap it in a kitchen towel.
Then, place a heavy pot or stack of books on top of it and leave the tofu to press for around 30 minutes at least.
In some recipes, you don’t need to press the tofu as much, if you’re using silken tofu, for instance. To drain excess liquid from your tofu in this situation, simply wrap it in a kitchen towel or paper towel.
How To Season Tofu
The number one rule of cooking tofu is seasoning; you have to season tofu for it to taste good because, without it, it will be flavorless and bland.
Tofu is a base for you to do as you please with. It’s like a blank canvas that can be manipulated to be exactly what you want.
But it takes more than just a pinch of salt; it needs to be seasoned, marinated, and cooked the right way so it can replace any type of protein.
You can use anything to season your tofu. Whether it’s pre-mixed seasoning or your own creation, tofu will absorb the flavor of anything you put on it. Once it’s seasoned, you can infuse it with even more flavor by marinating it.
Tofu can be marinated for as little as 15 minutes or overnight, depending on what kind of tofu you’re using. More often than not, the more firm the tofu is, the longer you’ll want to marinate it.
Furthermore, adding cornstarch to your marinade can give your tofu some extra crispness when baking or frying.
Now that you know more about tofu and how to prepare it, here are some different ways you can cook it. These are the basic methods that will show you how to cook it for your own home recipes.
How To Bake Tofu
Baking tofu is extremely easy and is a great way to cook firm and extra-firm block tofu. Cooking tofu this way will leave you with crispy pieces that work great in salads, stir fry, curries, and fried rice.
Start by preheating your oven to 350F and marinating your drained tofu in the marinade and seasoning of your choice for around 30 minutes. Next, transfer the tofu pieces to a lined baking tray and bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes.
Turn your tofu halfway through cooking, then allow the tofu to cool once baked. Remember to use cornstarch or oil for crispier tofu.
How To Grill Tofu
To grill tofu, begin by cutting the pressed firm tofu into rectangle pieces. Put those in your chosen marinade and let them sit for several hours or even overnight.
When you’re ready to cook, heat your grill to a high temperature, around 400F, and when it’s hot, put the tofu on it to cook for about 10 minutes on each side.
How To Pan Fry Tofu
It’s incredibly simple to pan fry tofu. Start by putting a large skillet over medium heat and adding enough oil to cover the bottom by about 1/4 inch.
When the oil is hot, add the tofu and cook it in the pan for 15 minutes total, 3-4 minutes on each side. Make sure to keep an eye on it to prevent overcooking on either side.
Place the fried tofu on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb any extra moisture, then sprinkle with salt and serve.
How To Air Fry Tofu
Air fryers are popular right now, and they can be used to cook delicious tofu. Start by seasoning your tofu and marinating it for around 15 minutes, using cornstarch in your marinade.
Once your air fryer is preheated to 370F, add the marinated tofu to the fryer and cook it for 15 to 20 minutes, until the edges are crispy. Be sure to turn your tofu halfway through cooking so both sides are evenly cooked.
Tofu might not be for everyone, but when it’s prepared and cooked correctly, it can be an amazing addition to whatever dish you decide to make!
With this guide, you’ll be able to do just that and discover everything that tofu has to offer.