All Types of Tofu and How To Use Them

No doubt, tofu is one of the most popular vegan foods. There are many different types of tofu, and each can be used for a different type of meal. Read on to discover what tofu varieties exist, and the best way to use them.
Beatrice Wairimu, BASc Nutrition and Dietetics

Written by Beatrice Wairimu, BASc Nutrition and Dietetics. Updated on December 7, 2022.

Tofu is a traditional food with its origins in China, and its main ingredient is soybean milk.

Also, soybeans have a high nutritional value: protein, which is rich in all essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.

Most importantly, tofu is cholesterol free. Hence its popularity for vegans, vegetarians, and hypocaloric diets.

Again, tofu is dairy free and ideal for lactose-intolerant people or those with a milk allergy.

According to Food Data Central, 100 grams of a serving of tofu contains:

  • Calories: 144 kcal
  • Protein: 17 grams
  • Carbs: 3 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams
  • Calcium: 53% of the daily requirement for the body
  • Manganese: 42% of the daily value requirement
  • Copper: 42% of the daily value requirement
  • Selenium:32% of the daily value requirement
  • Vitamin A: 18% of the daily value requirement
  • Phosphorous: 15% of the daily value requirement
  • Iron: 15% of the daily value requirement
  • Magnesium: 14% of the daily requirement
  • Zinc: 14% of the daily value requirement

A glance at the above indicates that tofu is rich in key nutrients and is low in calories.

During processing, Nigari, a mineral from seawater, assists to help to solidify tofu and give it form.

Tofu comes in solid white blocks. Modern high-pressure technology and environmentally friendly ingredients increase the shelf life.

Therefore, Tofu comes in different varieties and has many uses, as described in the next section.

Different Types of Tofu and How to Use Them

In far East Asia, tofu has been a basic food for a long time.

However, this soybean-based product is gaining popularity globally among health-conscious people as a significant source of protein.

Unlike seitan which lacks lysine, tofu is a complete protein source.

Even in various forms and textures, tofu can serve as an essential protein in many diets for vegans, dieters, and savers.

Not only is tofu important for its nutritional value, but it also has medical benefits.

Clinical trials and research reveal that the soy component in tofu helps relieve menopausal symptoms and diabetes.

Adding tofu to your diet is beneficial for your well-being. Here is a breakdown of the different types of tofu:

1. Regular Tofu

Depending on the person, regular tofu is also referred to as Chinese-style tofu or bean curd.

Regular tofu has a spongy texture and resembles a firm form of yogurt or soft white cheese. Regular tofu is widely available and comes packaged in blocks or cakes, ready to eat.

Again, this tofu is ideal for stir-frying and does well in recipes that require mashing or crumbling. You are likely to find regular tofu in the refrigerated section of your grocery store.

Again, regular tofu is easy to use in recipes where you want it to keep its form. Notice that regular tofu is soft in consistency but firm enough for you to add to most soups.

2. Silken Tofu

Also known as Japanese-style or soft tofu, this is not as common as regular tofu. It is delicate to handle because you should not press it, as soft tofu tends to crumble.

Producers know of its fragile consistency and store it in aseptic containers to enable the best outcome. Silken tofu does well in these types of containers, increasing its shelf life by one year if left unopened.

It is unavailable in the refrigerated section where regular tofu is found. In most instances, silken tofu is shelved with other canned vegetarian foods.

Most people store their silken tofu in the fridge and eat it cold. It makes a refreshing dish during summer.

Alternatively, you can pop it in the microwave for no more than 30 seconds if you want to eat it at room temperature.

You can enjoy silken tofu as an appetizer, a snack, or a side dish. Sprinkle it with mint or roasted peanuts. Due to its delicate nature, it is best to eat silken tofu with a spoon.

Also, you can try making tofu yogurt by blending silken tofu with water.

3. Fermented Tofu

The term “fermented” may take you by surprise, but this type of tofu is not sinister.

Tofu manufacturers place the tofu with mold, let it stand for a few days, and then pack it with seasoned brine. In truth, its flavor is similar to that of cheese, especially Brie and Blue cheese.

Therefore, like cheese, fermented tofu compliments many dishes.

Fermented tofu has a rich aroma, making it delicious in dipping sauces. Here is an idea worth exploring. Try adding some of this tofu to your porridge to give it a tangy taste.

Fermented tofu comes in a variety of distinct flavors. Therefore, keep your recipe in mind as you decide on your preference.

4. Deep Fried Tofu (Abura-age or Aburaage)

Japanese tofu manufacturers make aburaage by the process of deep-frying. It is a solution to the problem of soft tofu readily crumbling.

They puff it up, hollow it out like making pitta bread, and simmer it in soy and sugar sauce. The process here seems easy to follow.

However, sources reveal that many people prefer to buy it ready-made because it is difficult to make at home.

Inari is another fried tofu variant with a sweet and sour taste and a pouch similar to aburaage.

Both inari and aburaage come in flat-pressed packages, and when you cut them in half, they make pockets. You can stuff them with rice; in the same token, this tofu compliments many soups.

Aburaage is used with miso soup. Experts preparing this soup aim to balance ingredients that sink and others that float. Aburaage floats, whereas regular tofu sinks. Aburaage is a complimentary topping for noodles.

4. Smoked Tofu

Traditionally, the Chinese used tea leaves to smoke this tofu. Then, they did not use any preservatives, nor was there any refrigeration. Smoking tofu adds to the length of days due to heat production.

Today, woods such as beech, birch, hickory, walnut, and even mahogany produces the same preservative qualities. These woods have natural preservatives, enrich the tofu with rich flavor, and create a firm texture similar to cheddar cheese.

You can find smoked tofu in health stores and even supermarkets. Together with peanut butter, ginger, garlic, and satay sauce, you can fix a filling, nutritious meal in minutes.

Alternatively, you can eat it raw. Smoked tofu can serve as an appetizer and does well in salads.

Regarding storage, you can put your smoked tofu in your refrigerator. However, do not freeze it.

5. Firm Tofu

Firm tofu is similar to regular tofu but harder in form and is ideal for cooking in a frying pan. It has an extra firm variation and is denser in consistency than silken or soft tofu.

Therefore, it retains most of its shape, making it perfect for stir-frying and grilling.

Notably, firm and extra-firm tofu contain less water than its counterparts, which increases the concentration of its nutrients.

Variations in the textures of firm tofu are because of the different amounts of water the manufacturer extracts out of the bean curds: the less water, the firmer the tofu.

Firm tofu performs well when packaged in water. You may use it for the barbecue or add it to salads.

6. Extra Firm Tofu

Ideally, this tofu is dry and has a more solid texture than the other types of tofu.

More often, you do not need to cook dry tofu. Its dryness offers a more solid texture than the different forms of tofu. You can chop it up and add it to broth curries.

Its rubber-like and chewy texture works well with soft foods. It is ideal for stir-fries and excellent in marinades.

Similarly, many consumers of extra-firm tofu claim it is an ideal choice for baking, grilling, scrambling, and panfrying.

7. Dried frozen tofu (Koya-dofu or Kori)

Here is another form of firm tofu that, when dehydrated, does not resemble its original form.

Traditionally, the Japanese call it kori tofu, whose main character is that it is hard and sandy in texture.

Kori undergoes cooling, coagulation, cutting, freezing, pressing, drying, and finally, packaged as a dry, frozen product.

However, when kori is cooked, it increases in size but remains soft. Older Japanese enjoy kori because of its texture.

However, the younger generations prefer other forms of tofu. Dried frozen tofu is popular with manufacturers because it has a long shelf life and encourages mass production.

Again, it is easy to transport in its dried form. Kori is an excellent choice for stews, soups, and vegetables.

Take Away

Tofu is a versatile, highly nutritious, and inexpensive alternative to dairy products and a great source of protein and other nutrients for vegans.

The west has adopted this oriental traditional food and transformed it into a wide range of delicious foods. Its different consistencies and forms offer an opportunity to experiment.

Popular recipes include scrambled tofu for breakfast, or many other variations for plant-based lunch and dinner.

You can buy long-life tofu off the shelves. Alternatively, you can buy it frozen or refrigerated. Other storage options include canned, freeze-dried, and dehydrated tofu.

Through ingenious technology and creative marketing, Americans have assimilated tofu into American-styled recipes. Such foods include cheesecakes, burgers, cutlets, rich tofu dressings, and dips.

Because of its bland flavor, tofu blends well into many dishes, including stir-fries, smoothies, and even soups.

Tofu is a widely acceptable food found not only in oriental cuisine but also in the west and other parts of the globe.

As people become more health conscious, so does tofu consumption increase globally.

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