What Is Tofu?

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We've all heard of it, but what exactly is tofu? Read on to learn what this meat replacement is made of and how to cook it.

Whether you’re a new vegetarian or someone who’s just interested in eating less meat, say hello to tofu! This versatile, easy-to-use ingredient is a plant-based meat substitute that’s a great source of protein. Here’s everything you need to know about tofu.

What Is Tofu? 

Tofu, also known as bean curd, is a vegetarian meat substitute made from soy. It’s available in several different varieties, ranging from silken to super firm. Compared to other soy-based meat replacements, like tempeh, tofu is nice and smooth. It has a soft texture, with a slight chew and mild flavor, making it a versatile addition to many dishes.

Tofu originated in China and has long been used in many other Asian countries, too. In the U.S., tofu’s popularity is growing with the rise of plant-based diets. You’ll often find tofu on the menu in stir-fries, soups or paired with your favorite sauce.

If you’re cooking tofu at home, take care to avoid these common tofu mistakes.

Is Tofu Good for Your Health?

Generally speaking, yes. Tofu is a nutrient-rich staple in diets around the world. It’s a great source of protein, fiber, iron and calcium, as well as being low in fat and cholesterol-free. It’s thought that tofu can also help protect against certain cancers and benefit your heart.

But soy (especially genetically modified soy) doesn’t have the greatest reputation—no matter how it’s being consumed. While there is no solid conclusion regarding the health drawbacks of soy or GMOs, we suggest opting for organic, non-GMO tofu whenever possible and chatting with your doctor or a nutritionist if you’re concerned.

What’s the Nutritional Breakdown?

According to our sister site The Healthy, a single serving of tofu (1.2 cups) contains:

Calories: 94

Total fat: 5.9 g

Saturated fat: 0.9 g

Cholesterol: 0 mg

Carbohydrate: 2.3 g

Dietary fiber: 0.4

Protein: 10 g

Sodium: 8.7 mg

How to Cook with Tofu

In cooking, think of tofu as a sponge. It’s a blank canvas that soaks up sauces and spices, making it extremely versatile. Use softer tofus in desserts and smoothies. Firmer types can be marinated, tossed into stir-fries or scrambled. If you’re just getting started, check out our guide to cooking tofu several different ways.

Tofu Recipes to Try:

Find more tasty tofu recipes.

Where to Buy Tofu

You can find tofu in most grocery stores—but you might have to look for it. Tofu is often shelved in the produce section or in a special natural foods section of the store. It’s typically refrigerated, but there are a few shelf-stable varieties as well.

When buying tofu, check that the package is heavy. Refrigerated tofu is stored in water, so if your container feels light, it’s likely been damaged during transport. You’ll also want to check the date to ensure your tofu is fresh. Here are some of our favorite brands to look for:

  • Nasoya: A go-to name brand, Nasoya tofu is both organic and verified non-GMO.
  • Trader Joe’s: Your local TJ’s carries a wide variety of tofu, including organic and high protein.
  • Simple Soyman: Handmade in Milwaukee, you can rest easy knowing this brand’s tofu is, well, simple.
  • A local favorite: For the best (and oftentimes freshest) selection, check out an Asian market near you.

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Jacqueline Weiss
Jacqueline is a blogger and writer, passionate about sharing the latest in helpful tips and trends in food and cooking. In her spare time, you’ll find her trying new restaurants and experimenting in the kitchen.
Katie Bandurski
Katie is an Associate Editor for Taste of Home, specializing in writing and email newsletters. When she’s out of the office, you’ll find her exploring Wisconsin, trying out new vegetarian recipes and combing through antique shops.