What to do with tofu?

One of the most intimidating foods from the grocery store shelf is that 14 oz. block of white food called “tofu”.  Many people searching for a meat alternative to their diet may find it easier than expected to become acquainted with tofu.  Let’s take a look at what tofu is and how it can be best prepared into a variety of offerings.

Tofu is packed soybean curd, made through extracted liquid/soy milk from ground, cooked soybeans.  Tofu is primarily water and soy, with the addition of a coagulant such as magnesium chloride or calcium sulfate to help firm the tofu.  Tofu is low in saturated fat, sodium, and sugar; is cholesterol-free (being a plant), and is a good source of complete protein.

There are essentially four types of tofu: silken, soft, firm and extra-firm, and each are used for different purposes.  These differences are related to firmness, and vary according to how much or how little of coagulant is used to curdle the soybeans and how much water is added.

Some helpful hints and guidance might be all the motivation you need to get started.  Tofu is commonly packed in water to help sustain moisture, yet should be drained and pressed to release the excess water upon putting in a recipe.  Tofu can be frozen (for up to two months) drained or in its original packaging.  If a recipe calls for freezing tofu then re-thawing, this is to help the texture become more chewy or “meaty”.   Keep in mind that tofu has quite a bland flavor by itself, but manages to highlight dishes well by taking on the flavor of that particular dish’s ingredients.  

Silken tofu is great in preparing puddings and cheesecakes, and can even be blended with water to make your own soy milk or you may add in cut-up fruit to create a smoothie.  Also, a half cup silken tofu can be substituted for one egg in pies and some baked goods.  Soft tofu can be also used in place of mayonnaise or cream cheese in recipes, while you can trade in ricotta cheese for crumbled firm tofu, one-for-one.  Other quick ways to prepare firm or extra-firm tofu include slicing a tofu block width-wise into half-inch sections and sautéing with canola or olive oil to be used on sandwiches, cutting in chunks and marinating in reduced sodium soy sauce for stir-fry’s, or adding to a food processor with tomato paste and bread crumbs to create a burger patty.

Add some tofu to your life: it’s not just for vegetarians or vegans anymore!

By Molly McBride, RD, LD

Sources:

Soy: How to Add More to Your Diet. (2012, December 13). Retrieved from Nutrition411: http://www.nutrition411.com/component/k2/item/1413-soy-how-to-add-more-to-your-diet

What is Tofu? (2012, December 13). Retrieved from Nasoya: www.nasoya.com/how-to/what-is-tofu.html

Why Tofu? (2012, December 13). Retrieved from Nasoya: http://www.nasoya.com/healthy-living/tofu-vs-meat.html

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