Your Complete Guide to Tofu

Still haven't tried tofu during your meatless Monday? Or thinking of becoming a vegetarian or vegan? This mysterious and misunderstood ingredient isn't nearly as strange as you think. Often given a bad rap, tofu, a meatless soybean product, is a great source of protein that's functional in all sorts of dishes. Once you understand which type of tofu is best for your dish, preparing and trying it will be easy! Oh My Veggies' Guide to Tofu breaks down the basics of tofu and shows you how easy it is to use and love.

>>Read more: Get Beefy Without the Meat

Soybeans and Tofu
(Photo: Lindsey Johnson)

Tofu is a rather misunderstood ingredient in the culinary world. There are tofu lovers, and there are plenty of tofu haters. But what’s interesting about tofu, versus other foods that divide, is that many haters eventually make leap to lovers. Really! Don’t believe me? Go ask some of your most devoted tofu fans how they felt about it on first taste. For most, myself included, the key to loving your tofu is all in getting to know it – what it is, how to prepare it and how to eat it.

So let’s first talk a bit about what tofu is. At some point around my first tofu experience (you know, the one where I decided I didn’t like it), I was informed that tofu is soy curds. Yeah, not really the type of description that might entice one to fall in love with the stuff. But in essence, tofu is a lot like cheese, and cheese is easy to love.

To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, here’s a brief overview of how tofu is made. Saturate some soybeans with water. Blend until smooth. Strain out the soybean pulp – what you end up with is soymilk. Add a coagulant – i.e., curdling agent, hence “soy curds.” This could be something as simple as lemon juice. The more coagulant you use, the more separation you get, and in turn, the firmer your tofu. Strain out the liquid and keep the solids. Press solids to remove excess liquid and achieve desired firmness. Again, more pressing removes more water to yield a firmer ‘fu.

If you’ve ever made ricotta cheese or paneer, these steps probably sound pretty familiar. After step 3, which results in soy milk, it’s essentially the same process as cheese-making, and just as easy to execute. If you’d like to give this a try, we’ve even got a tofu-making tutorial!

Types of Tofu
(Photo: Lindsey Johnson)

More important than the basic process and ingredients that go into making tofu, are the different types of tofu. Choosing the right type and knowing what to do with it is key.

For more tofu info, head to Oh My Veggies for the full guide to tofu. Give it a try and you may be surprised at how healthy and versatile tofu can be!