Tofu, the replacement of meat for vegetarians and vegans. And it can also be a source of protein even for meat-eaters. I will say as a meat-eater myself I’ve eaten tofu a handful of times before and if prepared right, it gets the job done!
This protein food is a traditional component of East Asian and Southeast Asian cuisines, and has been consumed in China for over 2,000 years. Funny enough, tofu is said to have been developed by accident. Potentially prior to AD 600, someone theoretically seasoned a pureed soybean soup with unrefined sea salt containing natural nigari, noticing that curds formed. Low and behold, the tofu was born!
While there’s the mystery of how tofu came about or exactly where its whereabouts began, we know for sure that it’s made its mark in America. In the late 1960s, tofu began to explode in the American mainstream, as the US soybean industry was booming and the rise of counterculture ignited an interest in vegetarianism.
Even though it’s been around for quite some time now, not everyone knows enough about the tofu life. While you may have heard about it, you may not know enough about it to incorporate it into your diet.
So, let’s start with the main question; what does tofu taste like? Well, tofu can be a little sweet with a slightly nutty taste but will absorb flavors very well when cooked.
Read on to learn everything you should know about the different varieties of tofu, their taste, texture, and how you should use them.
What is Tofu Made From?
I know, the way it’s described does not sound appetizing, but you can really do a lot with these little curds. And yes, tofu is typically vegan friendly and naturally gluten-free!
Types of Tofu
How can soybean curds create so many different types of tofu? Well, you’ll be surprised at the various sorts and you may just find your tofu calling.
A more compact, yet soft form, regular tofu easily soaks up the flavors of sauces and broths, often used in noodle soups. It can also be used as spreads or scrambles (in substitution of scrambled eggs).
Also known as Japanese-style tofu, silken tofu is silky, creamy, and contains the highest water content. Even holding it will cause it to fall into pieces. It resembles burrata and can be used as a thick cream, fresh cream cheese, or ricotta-alternative.
Firm, Extra-Firm, and Super-Firm Tofu
Firm tofu is the most widely available in supermarkets and is quite compact, often packaged in soaked liquid, comparable to feta cheese, and can be pan, stir, or deep-fried.
Extra firm tofu has less water than firm, but very similar to it. The main difference is that extra-firm cannot absorb marinades as well.
Super-firm actually gets mistaken for meat for its density, making it a great meat substitute, and can be cooked the same way as the other firms.
You can also find pre-seasoned tofu that’s easy to prepare once you open the packet. Flavors include tamari and tomato-basil.
This extra-term tofu has a smoky flavor. Today, smoking is generally an artisanal process done over beech wood, giving off a great aroma. Smoked tofu is actually best eaten raw.
Other Types of Tofu
These other types are not as popular and are harder to find. They’re typically found in Asian supermarkets.
However, we want to pay tribute to them because there are just so many we can’t ignore!
Some other varieties are tofu a la minute, pressed tofu, fermented tofu, tofu skin, tofu sticks, fried tofu, tofu pockets, and tofu puffs.
What’s the Flavor of Tofu Like?
I remember first trying tofu, thinking I’d branch out from my normal protein sources. When trying it, I remember saying, “it tastes like nothing.” It was bland and squishy compared to actual meat.
Tofu is said to be a little sweet with a slightly nutty taste, having a mild taste. However, its spongy quality can absorb the flavors or whatever it’s cooked into, which is why people like using it in their dishes.
I did eventually get the hang of it and how to eat it, so I will say I enjoy it much more now!
How to Improve the Flavor of Tofu
If you don’t like the generic taste of tofu but want to try to add it into your diet more, then there are ways to improve the taste. Here are some suggestions:
- Add some spices and let your tofu marinate in them.
- Add it to chili or red sauce to soak up any liquids from the sauce.
- Scramble it so the texture becomes similar to that of an egg.
- Throw it into soups so the texture gets lost with all the good liquids and cream.
- Blend it into a smoothie so you don’t taste the tofu but you get the nutrients
What’s the Texture of Tofu Like?
The texture of tofu goes hand-in-hand with its taste. Since there’s not much taste, people tend to base their liking to tofu with its texture.
Plain tofu is usually firm in texture, even though there are many different types of tofu that vary in its firmness (as stated above). Depending on the type of tofu, texture can go from soft and spongy to firm and dense.
If you want to freeze the tofu before using it, it will become denser yet chewy once defrosted. Make sure you read the type of tofu before you purchase it. If you’re buying a firm piece, you can’t expect it to have the same quality as silken.
What Tastes Similar to Tofu?
If you’re tired of having tofu as your steady meatless option, there are other alternatives worth trying.
Tempeh is related to tofu as it’s also made from soy and comes in a block form. Tempeh is made from whole, fermented soybeans that are then pressed into a mold, creating a more dense and nutty flavor.
What Are the Benefits of Eating Tofu?
Tofu is an important source of protein for many vegetarians and vegans as you can obtain 8 grams per one 3.5 ounce serving, so that in itself is a great reason to eat it. Tofu also contains 1 gram of fiber, 31% of the recommended daily intake for Manganese, 20% for Calcium, 14% for Selenium, 12% for Phosphorus, 11% for copper, 9% of Magnesium, 9% of Iron, and 6% of Zinc.
Who knew a small cube could have so many nutrients?
Eating plant-based foods such as tofu also helps to contribute to the overall health and wellbeing and lower the risk of conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
What it can also do is enhance your skin and hair, boost your energy, and help maintain a healthy weight.
Soy isoflavones have been found to help reduce levels of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. A daily consumption of soy may also decrease markers for cardiovascular disease risk, including weight, BMI, and total cholesterol.
It can also potentially reduce the risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer
Tofu can also help relieve symptoms in menopause in women due to the phytoestrogen content of soya.
Other potential benefits because of the high isoflavone content of tofu include bone health, brain function, and skin elasticity.
Can You Eat Tofu Raw?
Yes, you can safely eat raw tofu. Although tofu comes in a variety of textures, any of them can technically be eaten raw.
Before enjoying raw tofu, it’ll be in your best interest to drain off any excess liquid from the packaging. It’s also important to store tofu properly to prevent germs from growing on any unused portions.
Uses for Tofu
Since we keep saying how tofu is a sponge and will soak up other flavors, there’s an abundance of possibilities on how to use it. Similar to how to make tofu taste better, these dishes will help enhance tofu’s flavors and become a great addition to the dish.
Adding it to stir-fries and adding your tofu to Asian flavors is a great starting point if you’re still getting used to cooking it.
Try adding your tofu in places where you’d usually use meat. Although the flavor will be different, you still get the protein. For example, tacos or wings.
Turn Tofu Into Sauces
Blended tofu can replace heavy cream, cream cheese, sour cream, and other dairy-based ingredients. Try fettuccine, spicy cream sauce, or vegan mayo.
Baking tofu will create a firm, chewy texture, and you can treat it like you’ve grilled or baked meat with a bunch of marinades such as barbecue, Italian herb, or sweet chili.