How to Cook Tofu: The Ultimate Guide

From marinating to different ways to cook it – welcome to tofu 101

Stir fry tofu with sesame seeds and herbs close-up. horizontal t
Image Credit: AdobeStock

Although tofu has been around for thousands of years, many people don’t discover it until they’ve replaced meat in their diet. Like seitan and tempeh, tofu is seen as an obscure vegan ingredient.

If you’re unsure how to cook tofu, what it’s made from or whether it’s healthy, we’ve created the ultimate beginner’s guide to this versatile vegan staple.

What is tofu made from?

Tofu is made from processed soybean curd. After the soya milk has been curdled, the curds are pressed into a solid block. When cooled and solidified, it forms a block of tofu.

It originated in China around 2,000 years ago and is a popular cooking staple worldwide thanks to its ability to absorb flavours and its soft, spongy texture.

You can find both firm and silken tofu in supermarkets in the UK, both of which have different qualities for cooking and baking.

Soy Bean curd tofu in clay bowl and in hemp sack on white wooden
Image Credit: AdobeStock

Is tofu healthy?

Tofu is a nutrient-rich food that contains several vitamins and minerals and is a great source of plant-based protein. It’s low in calories and fat too.

There is a common misconception that tofu (and other soya foods) are unsafe to eat because they contain phytoestrogens which can activate estrogen receptors and behave in a similar way to estrogen.

However, studies show that soya consumption does not lead to health complications. It’s perfectly safe to eat tofu and soya products and they make a great addition to a plant-based diet.

Tofu nutrition

100g of tofu provides:

  • 8.1g protein
  • 4.2g fat
  • 0.5g saturated fat
  • 0.7g carbohydrate
Homemade Tofu Stir Fry
Image Credit: AdobeStock

Silken vs Firm Tofu

When it comes to cooking with tofu, the type you choose makes all the difference. You’ll see two types of tofu in the supermarkets, firm and silken, both of which have different consistencies.

Firm or extra-firm has less water in it, while silken tofu is more water-dense.

How to cook firm tofu

If you’re looking for a high-protein, healthy meat alternative in your cooking, firm tofu is the one you want.

  • Press and drain tofu to get any moisture out (you can usually skip this for extra-firm tofu).
  • Freeze it (optional) – When you freeze tofu before using it, you’ll end up with an extra-firm texture that absorbs flavour even better.
  • Marinate before cooking The spongy texture means it absorbs flavour well and the longer you leave it, the better. Use these marinade recipes as a starting point.
  • Pan-fry – If you’re making a quick dish like a stir fry or curry, you can cook tofu in a frying pan or wok. Coat it in cornflour before cooking to make a crispy batter.
  • Bake – When you want to achieve a deliciously crispy, meat-like texture, bake marinated tofu in the oven on a high heat for about 20 minutes. This is ideal for salads and Buddha bowls, as well as noodle dishes and burritos. Try this baked marinaded tofu.
  • Grill or BBQ – Yes, grilled tofu is a thing! Chop the block of tofu into cubes or slices, add the marinade and grill for 10-15 minutes, turning it often. This method is great for skewers.
  • Air fry – You can also get the best crispy tofu by air frying it. Toss your marinated tofu in the air fryer for 10 minutes and you’ll be amazed!
Chocolate & raspberry mousse
Mousse made with silken tofu

How to cook with silken tofu

Silken tofu is more water-dense and will crumble when handled. This is why it’s more suitable for mousse, tiramisu, yoghurts and mayonnaise as well as replacing eggs in baking.

  • Scramble – Recreate scrambled eggs by mashing tofu in a pan with a fork (this also works with firm tofu). Here’s a tofu scramble recipe to try.
  • Blend – Thanks to its soft texture, silken tofu is perfect for a fluffy mousse or egg-free mayo. Try this raspberry chocolate mousse and this tofu mayo.
  • Add to soups – When you want to thicken a soup and add extra protein, silken tofu is a go-to cupboard staple. Try this cream of broccoli soup.
  • Make sauces – You can make the creamiest pasta sauces thanks to silken tofu. Try this easy recipe.
Vegan Tofu Benedict
Image Credit: Mighty Pea

Tofu recipes

Feeling inspired now you know how to cook with tofu? Here are even more tasty recipes to experiment with this plant-powered staple.

Thinking of trying vegan?

Veganuary inspires and supports people all over the world to try vegan for January and beyond. Millions of people have already taken part. Will you join them?