The Ultimate Guide to Eating Tofu — The Healthiest Meat Alternative

The thing I like most about tofu is its impeccable versatility. This fantastic dish can absorb the taste of whatever you’re cooking with it. And even if you cook it on its own, it’ll be one of the richest sources of proteins that both vegans and meat lovers can enjoy.

Sadly, because it’s based on soy milk, some people claim that it increases the likelihood of developing cancers. But lucky for us, recent research has proven that these claims aren’t but void slander.

Let’s not dwell on the past, shall we? In this post, I’m giving my ultimate guide to eating tofu. You’ll learn how it’s made, how you should store it, plus some of the most delicious recipes to savour it. Let’s get going!

Before We Start, How Is Tofu Made?

Although tofu has been becoming more popular recently, some people still don’t know how it’s made. Why should you care? Well, this information will help you decide whether tofu would be nutritious enough for you.

To begin making tofu, factories soak huge amounts of soybeans in water to soften their pulp. After the beans double in size, they pass down a crushing machine, which transforms them into a grainy paste. Strainers then separate that paste into solid pulp and milk.

The pulp, aka okara, partakes in various purposes, such as making cattle and pet food. The milk is what proceeds to be our beloved tofu.

But how does the liquid milk thickens into firm curds? Factories do this by adding special minerals, namely calcium and magnesium salts. Afterward, the tofu curds pass through a couple of press machines that wring the excess moisture and mould the tofu into the final shape.

Can You Eat Raw Tofu?

Technically, yes. If you think about it, tofu isn’t really “raw” since it passes through several heating steps during the manufacturing process. As a result, you can be almost certain that tofu doesn’t have the same harmful bacteria that might be present in raw beef and poultry.

Does this mean you should eat it straight out of its package? Well, I wouldn’t do that. See, you can never know who touched your tofu before packaging. If the factory workers were sick, you can get infected through tofu.

Even if the factory maintains a strict sanitisation regime, you can still contract diseases if you accidentally store your tofu in contaminated water.

So it’s better to err on the side of caution by cooking the tofu. The heat will kill any lurking microorganisms, allowing you to enjoy the best taste with little to no risks.

Tofu vs. Chicken: Which Is Better

In 2011, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shocked the world by declaring that commercial chicken meat contains arsenic — a substance notorious for causing cancers!

From that day, many people have been searching for alternatives to poultry proteins — and that’s when tofu came in handy. To help you choose between the two, I’ve prepared a quick comparison that details the nutritional differences. Let’s see!

Comparison Point Tofu

(per every 3 ounces)

Chicken

(per every 3 ounces)

Calories 80 kcal 130 kcal
Proteins 18% 46%
Fats 5 g 3.5 g
Calcium 15% 1%
Iron 9% 5%
Magnesium 12% 5%
Phosphorous 12% 19%
Vitamin B3 2% 45%
Cholesterol 0% 21%
Folate 4% <1%

As you saw in the previous table, chicken meat is way richer than tofu in terms of protein. However, chickens pack more calories and fewer minerals than tofu, making the latter the perfect choice for health-conscious individuals.

The only thing I truly miss in tofu is vitamin B3, aka niacin. If you’re unfamiliar, this vitamin lowers cholesterol levels, increasing your chances of fighting heart diseases. But even though chicken meat provides a high amount of that vitamin, it’s also high in cholesterol, which defies the whole point!

How to Select the Best Tofu Consistency?

During the manufacturing process, factories vary the amount of water they add to tofu, which, in turn, alters the tofu’s consistency.

Silken tofu, aka Japanese-style tofu, has the highest water content, rendering a smooth consistency similar to that of the young white cheese. You can use this type to make creamy sauces, dips, desserts, etc.

Regular or light-firm tofu is slightly denser than the silken type, but it’s still quite soft. Many of my friends incorporate that type in noodle soups, spreads, and salads.

With a consistency similar to feta, firm tofu is the most common type. You can pan-fry, stir-fry, or even deep-fry this type since it doesn’t crumble that easily. However, you may want to fully wring its water first to make space for the flavourful marinades.

If you don’t think you can live without the heavenly meat texture, the extra-firm tofu will give you a pretty similar chewy experience. It’s mainly intended for frying purposes, so you won’t need to squeeze the moisture beforehand.

Recipes Using Tofu

As I said earlier, tofu is one of the most versatile dishes you could ever try. Personally, I like to cook it with dozens of recipes. But to keep things short, I’ll only share my most favourite ones.

Curry Tofu

The curry tofu is one of the most famous dishes in East Asia, especially in India. Although it’s fairly simple to prepare, it tastes absolutely flavourful.

Preparing the Tofu

The extra-firm tofu is the ideal type for this recipe since we’ll need to fry it. But if you already have firm tofu, you can use it after squeezing its moisture.

Whichever consistency you pick, you should cut the tofu into small cubes, and then saute them in a cast-iron skillet with a little bit of oil. Keep stirring the tofu cubes until they become lightly browned. Now remove them from the skillet and store in a warm place.

Preparing the Sauce

Inside the same skillet from earlier, saute three minced garlic cloves with one chopped onion for about three minutes over medium-high heat. Once the onion becomes translucent, add:

  • 1/2 cup of coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup of minced cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

Once the mixture boils, reduce the heat to medium-low, and let it simmer uncovered for five minutes. Afterward, add the tofu, and let it simmer for another five minutes.
Serve with rice or noodles.

Crispy Peanut Tofu

If you miss the good old chicken wings, I’m sure you’ll love the crispy peanut tofu.

Preparing the Sauce

In a large bowl, mix:

  • 1/4 cup of peanut butter
  • 1/8 cup of water
  • one tablespoon of tamari
  • two tablespoons of rice vinegar
  • one tablespoon of miso paste
  • 1/2 tablespoon of red pepper flakes

Whisk all ingredients until they become smooth, or use a blender to save time.

Preparing the Tofu

After pressing and cutting the tofu into small cubes, throw them in the sauce bowl and let them marinate overnight. If you’re tight on time, one hour will do, but the tofu won’t turn out as flavourful.

On a large baking sheet, spritz some cooking spray, and arrange the marinated tofu on top. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 °F for about 40 minutes. After the first 15 minutes, flip the tofu cubes with a spatula to achieve a thorough bake.

After removing the tofu from the oven, serve hot with rice, veggies, and some Sriracha sauce.

Tofu Dessert Recipe

Yep, you read that right! The tofu is versatile enough to make both sour and sweet dishes. My most favourite dessert is the tofu chocolate and peanut butter mousse.

In a blender, add:

  • 15 ounces of silken tofu
  • 1/2 cup of smooth peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup of maple syrup (or a smaller amount of honey)
  • Few drops of vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons of liquid dark chocolate

Puree these ingredients well until you get a uniform colour. Then divide the mixture over 2–3 cups and chill inside the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Serve with whip cream, chopped peanuts, and shaved chocolate.

How Long Is Tofu Good For?

Now that you’ve known the best ways to cook tofu, I hope you’re tempted enough to purchase a couple of tofu products. But a couple of questions beg themselves — how can you store tofu? And how long will it stay fresh?

Ideally, you shouldn’t open the tofu’s package before you’re ready to cook it. Inside its sealed packaging, tofu should last for three months after the manufacturing date.

If any leftovers remain after cooking, put them in a large plastic container, and pour enough water to fully submerge them. Place that container in the refrigerator, and change the water every day. In moderate weather, refrigerated tofu will stay fresh for three days, and it’ll go bad after seven days.

How to Tell if Tofu Is Bad?

Trust me, you’ll know it yourself!

After about ten days, mould spores will find their way into the tiny spaces present inside the tofu. As these spores multiply, they’ll ferment the tofu, producing an awful, sour smell.

If you missed the smell, you can’t miss the appearance. After about two weeks, the tofu will curdle into yellow or green pieces.

There You Have It!

I’ve shared everything I know about tofu in this detailed guide. Remember, tofu will stay fresh for the longest time inside its intact package. You can store any leftovers inside a small plastic container filled with water to the brim. Plan on using the tofu within three days before it rots.

Bon appétit!

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Pauline is a mother of four, when she isn't cooking up new dishes for her family and friends, she likes to dine out at newly-opened restaurants (especially tapas!) and review them in her blog posts.
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