Home Chef How-To: Work with Tofu

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Ah, tofu. Sometimes, the very word strikes fear in the heart of ardent meat-eaters or evokes images of flavorless vegan dishes. But the reality is that this little protein-packed wonder is beloved by carnivores and veg-heads alike, and is one of the most versatile, nutritious, and cost-effective ingredients to have on-hand.

What Is Tofu?

Think of tofu as non-dairy cheese. The process to create tofu is very similar to that of getting cheese from milk. Tofu, also known as doufu or bean curd, is a food made by coagulating soy milk and pressing the resulting curds into soft white blocks.

Don’t Fear the Tofu

There are many different varieties of tofu, including firm, extra firm, and silken that can be used for different culinary purposes and textures. Tofu has a subtle flavor and easily takes on and soaks in whatever flavors imparted. Moreover, tofu is completely cholesterol-free and loaded with protein (20g in one cup!). And don’t worry about the whole “you’re gonna grow man-boobs” myth associated with soy. You’d have to eat a massive amount for the phyto-estrogen (naturally occurring estrogen in plants) to make any impact in your physiology.

How to Use It:

1. Extra Firm and Firm Tofu: A firm, spongey consistency similar to Indian paneer (cheese)

Preparation Instructions: Remove from pan and drain water. For a very firm, dry result, you can press the tofu by placing a kitchen towel followed by something heavy on top of the tofu (or use a tofu press) to remove any liquid from the block.

What It’s Best In: Cube, marinate, and use in stir-frys, tacos, sandwiches, breaded cutlets, Indian dishes in place of paneer (you won’t notice the difference), or really any savory preparation you’d usually reserve for meat. At Home Chef, you’ll find we use firm tofu in our Singapore Street Noodles, Banh Mi Sandwiches, and BBQ tacos to name a few.


2. Regular Tofu: Slightly softer, more gelatinous texture

Preparation Instructions: Remove from pan and drain water.

What It’s Best In: Soups (like Miso), Mixing with legumes and other ingredients to create meatballs, veggie burgers, and neatloaf.


3. Silken Tofu: Like opaque Jell-O, Usually found in shelf-stable packages

Preparation Instructions: Remove from container – no draining necessary.

What It’s Best In: Creating creamy fillings and sauces without all the extra fat of heavy cream. We love it in our Savory Mini Quiches and Vegan Fettucini Alfredo. Silken tofu also works beautifully in making cream pies like this Jamocha Silk Pie below.


[Photo by Hannah Kaminsky, courtesy of VegKitchen.com]

Try It This Week:

Check out Tofu at its finest, firm and perfectly seasoned, with this week’s Jamaican Jerk Tofu Sandwich with Pineapple-Pepper Slaw and Sriracha Aioli. It’s a great way to get cozy with this protein-packed gem.