If you’re not a big tofu eater, allow us to change your mind. This versatile food is delicious, easy to prepare, and packed with health benefits. Even if you’re a meat eater, you should find ways to incorporate tofu into your diet on a regular basis. While it may seem a bit daunting at first if you haven’t cooked with it before, tofu is super easy to prepare and pairs well with so many flavour profiles. Here’s how to cook tofu like a pro, plus the recipes you need to add to your repertoire.
What Is Tofu?
Tofu is a popular food derived from soya. It’s low in calories, but high in protein and fat, and is a staple in vegetarian and plant-based diets. Due to its rich protein content, it’s often used as a substitute for animal-based food, and its bland flavour lends itself to lots of cooking techniques and flavour profiles.
Tofu is made from soybeans that are ground in water, heated, and coagulated with minerals like calcium or magnesium salt. The curds are then pressed into a block and sold as tofu. You can find different densities of tofu, from extra soft tofu, which works well in soups, to medium and extra firm variations that are perfect stir fries.
Tofu has been a staple in Asia for thousands of years, and has made its way to North America, becoming more and more popular, especially with the plant-based movement. It tastes amazing in Asian stir fries, curries, and rice bowls, but you can also use it in non-Asian recipes like tofu shawarma, tofu breakfast scramble, and baked tofu nuggets.
What Are the Health Benefits of Tofu?
- Source of complete plant protein – provides all nine essential amino acids we need for growth, repair, and functions like immunity.
- Nutrient dense – packed with vitamins including calcium, magnesium, iron, and vitamin A.
- Helps alleviate perimenopausal symptoms, such as mood swings and hot flashes.
- May support heart health due to phytochemicals and fibre.
- Reduction in bad cholesterol and total cholesterol due to high levels of isoflavones.
- Builds muscle because it’s a total protein.
- Strengthens bones due to calcium and magnesium. Magnesium is also an important nutrient for healthy nerve and muscle function.
- Helps with weight management – it takes longer and requires more energy for your body to break down protein, making you feel fuller for longer. It’s also low in calories.
How to Cook Tofu
1. Choose the Right Texture
Tofu textures range from soft and silken to extra firm, and using the right texture is key to cooking success. Soft silken tofu is ideal for using in desserts and soups, but if you’re serving tofu as a main dish or adding it on top of bowls, extra firm is the way to go. The heartier, denser texture makes it perfect for frying or baking.
2. Drain and Press the Tofu
Tofu is packed in water, so it’s important to squeeze and press out the water so you can work in new flavours. Consider using a tofu press to do this as it gives the tofu a nice, chewy texture and makes for easy clean up. If you don’t have a press, you can also wrap the tofu in paper towel and press it with a cast iron skillet or cookbooks.
3. Add Some Flavour
Since tofu is inherently bland, it’s the perfect blank canvas for any flavour. Make sure to season it well with a marinade. A blend of vinegar, maple syrup, sesame oil, garlic and ginger is always a crowd pleaser. But the world is your oyster when it comes to tofu – from cilantro lime, to creamy peanut, and spicy teriyaki, add whatever flavour you love most!
4. Crisp It Up
If you want that perfectly crispy tofu you find at restaurants, you need the secret ingredient: cornstarch. If you’re going to be frying or baking your tofu, toss it in cornstarch after marinating. Place your marinated tofu in a big plastic bag, add a half cup of cornstarch, close, and shake well.
5. Bake It in the Oven
Once you’ve pressed the tofu, cut it into one-inch cubes and marinate them if you like. If not, you can skip that step and spread them in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Toss them with your choice of flavours (a simple option is sesame oil, soy sauce, and sriracha). You can also add cornstarch to make them extra crispy. Transfer the baking sheet to a 425 F oven and cook for about 30 minutes, flipping halfway through until the cubes are browned around the edges.
6. Pan Fry It
After it’s pressed, slice the tofu into large cubes and marinate it. Place the tofu in a pan in cold oil, then bring it up to medium heat and cook for 5 to 6 minutes until one side is golden brown. Then flip the tofu and cook the other side for 5 to 6 minutes. If you didn’t marinate it, add sesame oil and soy sauce and cook for another 2 minutes on each side. Voila – you’re all done!
15 Easy Tofu Recipes for Beginners
1. Honey Garlic Tofu with Soy and Sesame | Walder Wellness
2. Crispy Baked Tofu | The Cabin Diary
3. Vegan Bang Bang Tofu | Legally Healthy Blonde
4. Crispy Baked Korean Tofu Bowls | Eat with Clarity
5. One Pan Tofu Coconut Curry | Yay for Food
6. Southwest Tofu Scramble | Short Girl Tall Order
7. Spicy Honey Garlic Tofu Bites | XO and SO
8. Tofu Sofritas | Vegan Heaven
9. Thai Peanut Tofu Bowls | Eat with Clarity
10. One Pan Broccoli Tofu Stir Fry | Build Your Bite
11. Baked Tofu Burrito Bowls | Eat with Clarity
12. Crispy Tofu Lettuce Wraps with Peanut Sauce | Minimalist Baker
13. Easy Vegan Egg Salad | The Plant Based School
14. Black Pepper Tofu and Green Beans | Short Girl Tall Order
15. Tofu Tacos | Build Your Bite
Ready to start cooking with tofu? We hope these tips and recipes inspire you!
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