What Is Tofu, and Is it Healthy?
Everything you need to know about this fiber-packed plant protein, plus 10 delicious ways to use it.
Tofu has been getting some serious spotlight as plant-based eating becomes more mainstream. While it may look intimidating (or worse, bland), this plant protein is easy to work with and versatile enough to take on the flavors of whatever you’re cooking—whether it’s a tofu scramble or stir-fry.
Here, you’ll find everything you need to know about tofu, plus some delicious ways to use it in a variety of dishes, from fast weeknight dinners to lazy Sunday brunches.
What Is Tofu?
Tofu is made of soybeans that are curdled and pressed into blocks, kind of like making cheese! Tofu also contains nigari, which is the liquid left over after extracting salt from sea water, which is what you will find tofu lounging in upon opening. Nigari helps give tofu its iconic shape and texture, and is also rich in minerals.
Depending on which type you buy, tofu may also be fortified with vitamins or minerals, such as calcium or Vitamin B12—nutrients vegetarians and vegans often don’t get enough of. We suggest buying organic tofu—as soybean crops are often contaminated with chemicals and fertilizers, and most crops are genetically modified. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods both make their own organic tofu at great price points.
Below you will find the nutrition information for a three-ounce serving of Nasoya Organic Firm Tofu:
- Calories: 70
- Total Fat: 3.5g
- Saturated Fat: 0g
- Poly Fat: 2g
- Mono Fat: 1g
- Cholesterol: 0mg
- Sodium: 15 mg
- Total Carbohydrates: 2g
- Dietary Fiber: <1g< strong>1g<>
- Protein: 8g
- Calcium: 10% DV
Tofu is a pretty low-calorie protein source, but nutritional information will differ slightly based on how pressed your tofu is. Silken tofu will have slightly lower caloric values, while super-firm tofu will be slightly higher.
Is Tofu Healthy?
Not only is tofu a great source of protein, it is also packed with calcium, selenium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. What it lacks in fiber it makes up for in mineral content.
Unlike many animal sources of protein, tofu is low in saturated fat and is a good source of heart-healthy unsaturated fats. It’s also a great low-carb protein option for vegetarians or vegans wanting to watch their intake.
But Isn’t Soy Bad for You?
Soy often gets a bad rap for containing phytoestrogens—the plant form of estrogen—which some believe can negatively impact hormone function and increase risk for certain types of cancer. However, many studies show the opposite to be true.
Consuming unprocessed forms of soy—plus the minimally processed tofu—is actually linked to a reduced risk for heart disease, diabetes, and several types of cancer. It can even alleviate symptoms of menopause and help lower cholesterol levels!
Soy is also void of saturated fat, which is linked to an increased risk for obesity, diabetes, cancer, and other chronic conditions when consumed in excess. Replacing some animal proteins with plant versions like tofu and other soy products could do wonders for your overall health!
How to Cook With Tofu
Tofu is pretty flavorless on its own, which makes it extremely versatile for whatever flavors you are also cooking with. Tofu is delicious steamed, grilled, baked, pan-cooked, and of course, fried—it’s amazing in the air fryer!
Before cooking, you’ll want to press the excess liquid out of your tofu to give it a sturdier, less slimy bite. You can use a handy-dandy tofu pressing tool or just employ some dish towels and cookbooks to press and expel water.
Simply wrap your tofu in a dish towel, put it on a plate, and place a few cookbooks on top, pressing down for a few seconds and waiting at least 10 minutes before cooking. Nowadays, you can actually find pre-pressed tofu in some grocery stores to help you skip that first step.
Tofu absorbs whatever sauce, marinade, and spices you add, so you don’t need to worry about letting your tofu sit for too long while cooking. An easy way to cook tofu while still maintaining a firm texture is to cut it into bite-size pieces, toss in some soy sauce and cornstarch and then bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes before tossing it in with the rest of your meal.
Interested in learning more about plant-based proteins?
- What Is Tempeh—And How Do You Use It?
- Are Lentils Healthy, and Can You Eat Them Raw?
- We Tried 3 “Bleeding” Veggie Burgers—Here's What We Thought
Our 10 Best Tofu Recipes
Now that we know tofu is healthy, versatile, and easy to cook, it’s time to start adding it to our weekly menus! From savory breakfasts to creamy desserts, we have plenty of tofu-packed recipes to boost your plant protein intake.
Szechuan Tofu With Cauliflower
This 25-minute meal features golden, crisp tofu in a seriously delicious sweet, savory, and spicy sauce.
Veggie Bowl With Tofu Scramble
This hearty breakfast is a meal prepper’s dream. Paired with last night’s lentil soup, your morning will be 10 times easier and tastier with this recipe.
Vegetarian Bahn Mi With Crispy Tofu
Vegetarians don’t have to miss out on the amazing flavors of this popular Vietnamese sandwich, thanks to some crispy tofu.
Greek Eggplant Skillet Dinner
Tofu has a place in all types of cuisine, and we absolutely love pairing tofu with meaty eggplant in this hearty Mediterranean-inspired dish.
Coconut-Curry Soup With Cauliflower and Tofu
This gorgeous meal comes together in 15 minutes, making it perfect for busy weeknights and lazy weekends.
These breakfast tacos could make any omnivore a tofu lover. This 350-calorie dish is packed with flavor to where you won’t miss the eggs at all.
Yes, tofu does have a rightful place in your morning smoothie! It adds the perfect amount of creaminess and a nice protein boost, too.
Gluten-Free Vegan Lasagna
Tofu is one of the stars of this dish, and acts as the foundation for a rich and creamy vegan ricotta. So good!
Sheet Pan Curried Tofu With Vegetables
Who doesn’t love a delicious sheet-pan dinner? Roasted tofu is the perfect protein boost to this delicious 25-minute dish.
Orange, Tofu, and Bell Pepper Stir-Fry
Chewy tofu is perfectly accented with crisp, crunchy veggies in this stir-fry. Orange juice also gives it a nice hint of acidity.
This delicious main dish is the perfect replacement for chicken tenders in a vegetarian diet. But don’t get us wrong—omnivores will love this recipe, too.