You’ve heard of tofu. Maybe you tried it but didn’t like it? You’re looking to go vegan or veganish but tofu… Tofu for beginners is YOUR resource if you’ve ever wondered how to cook tofu. Get the low down on exactly what it is with simple tofu recipes to get you started.
Read on to find out what it is, how healthy it is and what to do with it!
What is Tofu?
Simply put, tofu or bean curd is made from using a coagulant to thicken soy milk. The resulting curds are then pressed into soft white blocks.
Mmmm sounds yum…. NOT! OK OK stay with me a little longer…
Is Tofu a bean or a vegetable?
Soy milk is made from the highly nutritious soya bean which makes it a bean! Whilst its true processed foods are generally best avoided since processing strips out nutrients, when you are talking about a food SO HIGH in nutritional value that even if you reduce it by half it is still a powerhouse of nutrients then you have soya milk and tofu!
Big on nutrients low on price, tofu is a very affordable option! Great for eating healthily on a budget! We’re a bit late to the party in the West, its been a staple of Asian cooking for hundreds of years and you will even find restaurants in Asia that only serve tofu!
OK I get it, its good for me but still….
It looks so Bland… What on earth do I do with it?
Fresh out the package it does look a bit bland. Because it is. Would you cook up rice, pasta or pretty much anything and expect it to taste good without any seasoning or sauce? Of course not! Give the tofu some seasoning, try marinading and maybe even baking or frying so its crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside and
Doesn’t that look better?
But wait theres more….
Did you know Tofu is full of protein, calcium, fibre and other good stuff?
Thats right! Its is a great source of complete protein, fibre, calcium, magnesium and iron. A very low fat, calorie and carbohydrate food with ZERO cholesterol. Its going to leave you feeling full of beans! Literally!
OK that does sound better but where do I start?
In the beginning it can be a bit confusing since tofu comes in many different varieties. Theres silken, firm, braised and smoked tofu to name a few. You may even see extra firm but generally unless you live in Asia or have a good Asian grocer store nearby you probably won’t see more varieties than that.
Which one you start with depends on what you want to do with it. There are a lot of recipes out there, find one that appeals to you and start there or keep reading… I’m going to break down the common varieties below, link to brands I use and share some nice easy starter recipes. The recipes will tell you which tofu you’re going to need.
Lets look at a few different varieties of Tofu for Beginners:
and drool worthy pics of what you can make with it!
Silken tofu has a slightly thinner texture, usually comes in a carton, you might find it on an ambient shelf rather than in the fridge section. Great for using in smoothies, as an egg replacement in baking, stir fries (think egg fried rice), soups and dressings.
Smoked tofu comes ready to eat cold or cooked, straight from the package. Great in sandwiches, wraps and salads but my personal fave way to eat smoked tofu is to grill/air fry it crispy and use it as vegan bacon. Think vegan ham and use it in any way you would previously have used ham or bacon.
Braised tofu comes ready to eat heated or cold, straight from a can. I love this roasted/air fried slightly crispy on the outside, tender on the inside. The possibilities for this are endless!
Firm tofu, is usually in the fridge section. In its raw state its pretty tasteless and the texture isn’t too appealing to most of us that haven’t grown up on it. Theres a couple of simple steps to take to get it good and tasty.
- Press the tofu. Either by using a tofu press or by wrapping in kitchen paper, putting a board on top and placing something heavy on it for 15-30 minutes. Pressing it takes care of the texture. The more water you press out, the firmer and more pleasingly chewy it becomes. Some people like to throw the packaged tofu straight in the freezer, supposedly freezing it also gives a firmer texture, just thaw it out and then use it as per the recipe when you’re ready, it doesn’t take long to defrost.
- Marinate or season.
Once you have completed steps 1 and 2 you can go ahead and fry, bake or grill your tofu as per the recipe instructions.
With a little practise you can achieve the texture you prefer and change it up depending what the recipe is. The secret of the ‘Fu is all in the preparation.
Soon you will be making quiche, cheesecake, bolognese, stir fries, curries, soups, satays, cheese and no end of delicious nutritious meals.
OK I’m in! Show me the recipes!
Simple Tofu Scramble
The simplest and best recipe to start with is a simple scramble. It looks like scrambled eggs and can even taste a bit like eggs if you use black salt (otherwise known as kala namak) which gives it a sulphurous eggy flavour but if you leave out the salt you can add any spices you like to create a mediterranean, indian, mexican or whatever flavour you’re in the mood for.
Throw in some veggies and grains, a slice of wholemeal toast will do it, and you have a complete meal in minutes!
My favourite scramble recipe at the moment is this one for Chipotle Tofu Chilaquiles. No I didn’t know what chilaquiles were until I found this recipe either!
Salt & Pepper Tofu
Another delicious and VERY quick and easy tofu recipe. Salt & Pepper Tofu a.k.a. Crispy Cubes of Happiness! Crispy on the outside, perfect chewy texture on the inside. So so good! These are going to make you feel like a tofu boss!
Easy Vegan Bacon
Buy tofu smoked and ready to eat. I find mine at the local health food shop but you might see it in the supermarket or be able to order it online. Slice it, grill or air fry it crispy and theres your bacon! It doesn’t get much simpler than that!
I LOVE smoked tofu sliced in sandwiches with tomato and mustard, cubed in wraps with rice, salad and beans cubed in lardons, fried in vegan butter and thrown in with my lentil shepherds pie or cabbage mmmmmm.
BUT my absolute fave way to use it is as a crispy bacon substitute. Think VBLT, vegan scrambled eggs and bacon, vegan caesar salad or throw it on pasta/risotto dishes as a bacon/ham substitute adding extra nutrients to your meals very simply and easily.
I recently discovered braised tofu in a can. This is another oh so easy way to eat tofu. Ready prepared, it can be eaten cold straight from the can, in a sandwich or salad. Add to stir fries, stews, curries, salads or soups. Try it roasted, for a crispy meat alternative,
Once you’ve mastered these simple ways to use tofu you will be ready to find other recipes to try. Have a look in the tofu recipes section, on pinterest or just google your favourite vegan food blogger and see what they’re doing with it.
Remember tofu is a powerhouse of nutrients!
Its well worth taking the time to introduce into your diet and help you on your way to being a happy healthy vegan.