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Your Guide to Tofu: It’s More Versatile Than You Think

Not a tofu lover? We’ve got 7 recipes that’ll change your mind.

If you think of tofu as bland diet food, think again. Tofu is a protein powerhouse that plays well with virtually any flavor profile, making it an ace up your sleeve in the kitchen.  If this plant-powered star is a new addition to your cooking routine, check out our quick tofu-torial. These easy, tasty recipes inspired by a range of international cuisines prove whatever you’re craving, tofu CAN do that. 

So, what is tofu, anyway? 

Tofu is a plant-based protein with an extremely mild, barely detectable flavor. It’s made from dried soybeans that are soaked in water, crushed, and boiled to produce soy milk. The soy milk is then coagulated to produce curds (like the process of making cheese) and pressed into solid blocks. The result, depending on the amount of moisture pressed out, is fresh tofu in one of five textural varieties. 

Super-Firm

Super-firm tofu, the sturdiest, most solid type, contains the least amount of water and bears the closest resemblance to the texture of meat. Hearty blocks of super-firm tofu are easy to slice and dice, so it’s a great choice for stir frying, baking, and grilling. Super-firm tofu can stand up to high heat, which turns the naturally moist, slightly spongey texture light and crispy. The air fryer is a quick and easy way to achieve that craveable crispness without adding oil and calories, like in these Spicy Air Fryer Crispy Tofu Bowls. Note: This recipe calls for extra-firm tofu, but super-firm works for a heartier, meatier texture. 

Get the recipe: Spicy Air Fryer Crispy Tofu Bowl

Extra-Firm

Extra-firm tofu has a solid texture similar to a block of feta. Extra-firm tofu slices easily and holds its shape when grilled, baked, steamed, or broiled, and it can also be crumbled and scrambled. Mild mannered tofu of all varieties works well with marinades, quickly absorbing any ingredients in which it’s soaked. A marinade made with fish sauce and fresh citrus gives extra-firm tofu Vietnamese-inspired flavor in this riff on banh mi sandwiches.

 Get the recipe: Tofu Banh Mi Wraps

A touch of char from the grill pan or backyard barbecue helps to make extra-firm tofu a satisfying stand-in for meat. Bottled sesame-ginger dressing and soy sauce make the quick marinade for this grilled recipe served with another store-bought shortcut, nutrient-rich squash noodles.

Get the recipe: Grilled Tofu Over Summer Squash Salad

Firm

In the middle of the tofu spectrum you’ll find firm, a safe go-to when you’re not sure which type of tofu to use. Like its more solid cousins, firm tofu is a block that slices and crumbles easily, but the higher moisture content gives it a slightly softer texture. Many tofu recipes call for pressing out excess liquid prior to cooking, which is especially important with firm tofu to avoid any watery taste or texture.  Baked, broiled, pan fried, air fried, or even deep fried, there’s little firm tofu can’t do. Here, it’s sauteed in a skillet along with lean ground chicken for extra protein in Korean-inspired lettuce wraps with crunchy carrots and tangy kimchi. 

Get the recipe: Korean-Inspired Chicken and Tofu Wraps 

Medium or Regular 

This more delicate type of block tofu tends to crumble and crack rather than slice clean. Skip grilling or stir frying when got medium tofu on hand, as it’s likely to fall apart. Instead, try mashing and stirring it into stews and dips for instant thickening power. Tender medium tofu is also a great choice for scrambles, like this plant-powered breakfast with pan-seared tomatoes on toast. It produces a softer scramble with lighter,

If you prefer a chewier texture.

Scrambled Tofu with Tomatoes
Get the recipe: Scrambled Tofu with Tomatoes

Silken

Rounding out the tofu family is silken, the softest form with the highest water content. There’s a reason the name sounds like “silky;” the custard-like consistency of silken tofu adds dairy-free creaminess to all kinds of dishes. Use it to achieve velvety texture with an extra dose of protein in soups, smoothies, and even desserts, like this vegan-friendly chocolate pudding.
Get the recipe: Vegan Dark Chocolate Pudding

Though it has a softer, wetter texture, silken tofu also readily absorbs flavorful marinades. Soy sauce, rice vinegar, and green onions add layers of Asian-inspired flavor to this melt-in-your mouth vegan dish with microwave-ready broccoli and brown rice.
Get the recipe: Soy Sauce-Marinated Silken Tofu with Rice 

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