With all the possible ways to cook tofu, this versatile ingredient is a staple in many vegetarian and vegan diets.
Why Vegetarians Eat Tofu
Along with tofu's versatility, it provides substantial nutritional benefits. Tofu is not only a great source for high-quality vegetarian protein, but it also provides a supply of B-vitamins. This makes it the perfect substitute for meat.
In many ways, tofu is better for you than meat:
- Source of calcium to the vegetarian diet
- Easy to digest
- Lowers cholesterol
- Great source of isoflavones
While tofu can be purchased at any health food store, it can also be found at your local grocer in the produce section. It is available in water-filled packs or cartons and can be stored in your refrigerator until you use it. Once you open it, if you don't use the entire package, be sure drain the water each day and add fresh water to make the tofu stay fresh longer. If you take these steps, your open tofu should last for about a week in the refrigerator.
If you find a great deal on tofu and what to buy a supply, you can store it in your freezer for as long as three months. However, freezing the tofu changes the texture making it a little chewier because it becomes more porous. This can be a good thing as it allows the tofu to soak up marinades, liquids and flavors even more quickly, and gives the tofu a more meat-like texture.
Popular Ways to Cook Tofu
While some people initially think tofu's bland flavor is a drawback, in actuality it's this very feature that makes it so versatile. Tofu absorbs the flavors from other ingredients and can be prepared in a number of ways.
One way to add flavor to tofu before cooking it is to marinate it. If your recipe doesn't tell you which firmness to use in a tofu marinade, choose a firm or extra firm tofu. If the recipe calls for marinating less than an hour, this can be done at room temperature in a covered bowl. However, if the recipe requires the tofu to marinate for longer, it should be done in the refrigerator to prevent spoiling.
Because of the absorbent quality of tofu, especially if it has been frozen and thawed, thin marinades soak in quickly. Often all you need to do is dip the tofu in the marinade on each side for it to be absorbed. Thicker marinades require more time.
Tofu makes a great addition to soups like Asian Hot and Sour Soup. How long you boil tofu should depend on the desired texture you're looking for in your recipe. For example, if you want a more meat-like texture, let the tofu boil a little longer so the outside edges become tougher. An average boiling time is about 20 minutes, though letting it boil for longer won't hurt it.
Freeze extra firm tofu for 48 hours or more for the right texture for grilling. The longer you have it in the freezer the tougher it becomes. Slice and grill using marinades, barbecue and other sauces for flavor. This makes a great meal with grilled vegetables and rice or whole-grain bread.
Tofu is used in baking to replace dairy ingredients like:
- Sour cream
- Soy milk
- Cow's milk
Puréed tofu can be prepared in your blender or food processor and is used to make dressings, dips, sauces, desserts and soups. Other ways to cook tofu that's been pureed or blended include using it as:
- Substitute for eggs or milk in making bread
- Egg replacement in cookie dough
- Substitute for yogurt in smoothies
- Alternative for milk when making pudding
- Cream alternative when making puréed soups
- Used instead of cream in sauces
- Replaces sour cream (or oil) in homemade salad dressings
- Replaces mayonnaise or sour cream in dips
- Milk substitute in mashed potatoes
Tofu Transforms Your Old Recipes
Tofu can transform many of your favorite recipes making them low-fat, lower in calories, better for you nutritionally, and meat-free. As you learn to work with tofu, you'll soon see that you don't have to sacrifice many of your traditional favorites. You just need to tweak them. Before you know it, you'll have a list of new "old" favorites.