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Glossary of Foods: Tofu

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The world of vegetarian and vegan cuisine is a mysterious place for many omnivores, and tofu is one of the more misunderstood foods common to vegetarian cuisine. Although you may not have ventured into unknown tofu food lands just yet, tofu is a nutritious, protein-packed ingredient that's versatile and easy to cook.

Soybeans and Tofu
(Photo: Lindsey Johnson)

Tofu is actually a plant-based protein product. It is made from soybeans, a legume native to East Asia. Soybeans produce much more protein per acre than most other crops. Soybeans are used for non-fermented food products, such as soy milk, and fermented food products, such as tofu. Tofu is made from soy milk which has been coagulated to form curds, strained, then pressed into blocks or cubes. More pressing removes more liquid and yields a firmer tofu. All textures of tofu, from soft silken tofu to extra firm, have many different culinary uses.

>> Read more: Vegan Alternatives for Dairy and Meat

There is some speculation regarding the health benefits of soy products, including tofu. Tofu, when made with minimally processed and modified ingredients, is still a healthy meatless protein option for you to consume and enjoy. Tofu is low in calories and high in protein and plant-based fats. One half-cup serving of raw firm tofu yields about 10 grams of protein and 94 calories. Tofu also contains a healthy amount of iron and calcium. Some brands of tofu are produced organically. You may also see non-GMO varieties available. Tofu is typically available in the natural foods or vegetarian section of any grocery store.


The taste of tofu can be hard to describe. It is very mild and smooth with a light soy flavor, almost like lettuce. However, tofu absorbs the flavor of whatever it is cooked with or added to, making it easy to add flavors your family will enjoy. Silken tofu is a popular dairy substitute in baked goods and smoothies. Firm or extra firm tofu can be mixed into stir fry or marinated and grilled. Experiment with different tofu recipes to find one that you love!

>> Read more: Your Complete Guide to Tofu