Tofu 101: Your Guide To All Things Tofu!

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Readers, meet tofu. Tofu, meet readers.

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Welcome to Tofu 101: a guide to the what, why and how of all things tofu. Class is now in session!

What

Tofu is made similar to cheese, and starts with extracting soy milk from ground, cooked soybeans. The soy milk is heated and salt is added to separate it into curds and whey. After the whey is drained from the curds, the curds are pressed together and presto – you’ve got tofu!

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The more the tofu is pressed, the firmer it becomes. The most common varieties you’ll see in your grocery store include soft or silken, firm and extra firm.

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Silken tofu is great for adding to smoothies or scrambling like eggs, while firm or extra firm (my fave) is best for using in everyday dishes.

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Why

Tofu is a great source of protein for those looking for a meat alternative, and it’s also high in calcium, iron and contains no cholesterol. Furthermore, it’s inexpensive (I generally pay $2 a block, which yields 4-5 servings) which means it plays nice with a budget.

Plus, it’s so versatile! Cooking tofu is very similar to cooking chicken, and there are a number of different ways you can use it. Try tofu:

The nutrition and versatility is great, but the TASTE is what I really love. Tofu is like a sponge – it soaks up all the flavors you cook it with. You can quickly toss it with a sauce just before cooking, or let it soak up all the flavors of the dish you’re using it in.

I also really like eating tofu raw, adding it to cold salads and such. It’s got this mild, almost plant-like flavor. I know that sounds weird – but it’s good!

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What I’m sure you really want to know though is, what’s the texture like? Well, if you’re using extra firm tofu, I’d say it’s like…hmmm…really, really thick & firm jello?! It doesn’t disintegrate like jello, but I suppose it’s the same firmness.

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Now, I use a tofu press to press out even more of the water my extra firm tofu comes packed in, just to get it that much more firm, but it’s totally not necessary. You can eat it right out of the package.

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How

Like I said, cooking tofu is not at all unlike cooking chicken, or really any other meat for that matter. Here’s how I made tonight’s dinner of Sautéed Asian Broccoli Tofu!

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Ingredients:

1/2 block extra firm tofu, pressed

2 cups broccoli, steamed

2 servings rice sticks, cooked & drained

Wok oil

Chopped peanuts

Sauce:

Soy sauce, water, rice vinegar, ~1 Tablespoon peanut butter, ~2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce, sesame oil, agave nectar, ground ginger and garlic powder. Microwave for 20 seconds, taste and adjust seasonings accordingly. (Sorry, I didn’t measure!)

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Directions:

1. Press tofu block in tofu press for 30 minutes, or up to 12 hours.

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2. Drain water from the top of the press and lay tofu block on a cutting board.

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3. Cut tofu block into 6 slabs. Separate into 2 sets of 3 slabs and make 3 more vertical cuts to make 9 sticks (18 sticks total.)

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3. Cut across the sticks to make 1 inch cubes.

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4. Heat ~2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

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5. Sauté tofu cubes until lightly browned, ~3-4 minutes.

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6. Add steamed broccoli, cooked rice noodles and sauce into the skillet, then toss to coat.

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7. Top with chopped peanuts and enjoy!

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See? Not hard or scary at all!

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The tofu gets a wonderful, golden brown crust from the quick sauté, and blends so well with the chewy rice sticks. Plus that sauce totally drenches the broccoli, so you get a burst of flavor whenever you bite down. Love that!!

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I know you want to know if husband’s eat tofu too. The answer is…sometimes.

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Ben will eat tofu when he can’t tell it’s tofu, such as crumbled on top of Thai Tofu Pizza or when combined with baked beans in BBQ Tofu Nachos. I think it’s all in his head…I think he’d agree. ;)

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Honestly, I can’t tell you what possessed me to try tofu for the first time. I was just as skeptical as some of you may be. It looks weird, I thought. It probably tastes even weirder, I’d say to myself. I’m so glad I gave it a shot though, because it’s become an IGE kitchen staple and I just adore it!

A click on any of the links under “Why” up top will lead you to a tofu recipe, but here are some more of my faves!

Class dismissed! ;)

~~~~~

Do you like tofu? What are some of your favorite ways to enjoy it?

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Comments

  1. Teresa Kolcow 09.28.2010

    We like tofu – especially the way you make it roasted – tossing it with some soy sauce first – then baked – then yum. – although the 18 year old likes to think “all this tofu is MINE”! lol

  2. Sarah 09.28.2010

    I just started eating tofu this past summer. Here is one of my favorite recipes with it. Its really delicious.

    http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/browse-all-recipes/vegetarian-tacos-spinach-corn-goat-cheese-00000000029612/index.html

  3. Becky Jo 09.28.2010

    I love tofu (being a newbie vegetarian). My father-in-law is a die-hard carnivore… he and his wife came over for dinner and I made vegetarian lasagna with the extra firm tofu crumbled up and blended in with the cottage cheese ‘mix’ and he told me “This is fantastic lasagna!”… I waited until AFTER we were all done to tell him what was in it, and yes, he was a-ok with it. ;)

    LOVE your blog, btw. :) Thanks for all the great ideas!

  4. Lauren 09.28.2010

    That tofu press changed my life! :) Well then, so did tofu, but the press makes prepping a breeze!

  5. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post! I have recently learned the joys of vegetarian cooking. I like tofu, but have never cooked it myself. I printed this post and hoep to try tofu next week! Thank you!

  6. I Love tofu. For the times I’m craving strong textures and extra protein it is perfect.

  7. erica 09.28.2010

    ooh, thanks for this post! i’ve grown up w/tofu (being asian and all…ha!) but only ever eat it w/shoyu or in asian style meals. i really want to try it in scrambled egg style or even in smoothies :)

  8. i do like tofu but only when prepared well. once i had it in a cold pasta salad (a dish my friend prepared in HS… about 8 yrs ago) and i almost threw up it was so gross. it turned me off to tofu til recently. i just bought it last week at trader joes so i’ll have to try your method of preparing it soon! where did you get your tofu press? it looks neat!

  9. Looks delish! I LOVE tofu, and my tofu press is a godsend!

  10. dmcgirl 09.28.2010

    Yes, I love the way you roast it. I need to find a sugar free method, but I still love the way you do it! ;-) BEST!

  11. Susie 09.28.2010

    if you don’t have a press just put the block between two plates and then put some heavy bowls or books on top of the top plate. drain the water off periodically.

  12. Erin Leigh 09.28.2010

    I love tofu, but I am always looking for more ways to prepare it. I tend to pigeon-hole myself into one or two recipes per ingredient and boredom is definitely the enemy of eating healthy.

    I freeze my tofu and then marinate it as it thaws…works similarly to a tofu press. Living alone also has its challenges, so I buy freezer packs of veggies I love (frozen veggies tend to retain nutrients!) and can add them immediately to the pan as I stir fry. Cook up in just minutes.

    Have you seen this site? I love it, makes it easier for me to visualize nutrition, yay graphs!

  13. Liz @ LBBakes 09.28.2010

    Wow – thank you for this post! I need to quit being terrified of tofu and just try it!

  14. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kristin, Phil James. Phil James said: RT @iowagirleats: Tofu 101: Your Guide To All Things Tofu! http://tinyurl.com/39jlrb7 […]

  15. AnneWF 09.28.2010

    I enjoy the extra firm tofu in all ways but especially lightly sprayed with olive oil then sprinkled with pepper and a touch of garlic. I then cook it on top of the stove either cubed or cut in slabs. I have some marinating in the fridge with some bbq sauce right now. I will cook that and then pour more sauce over the top on a hamburger bun. I crumble it and cook for tacos. Sometimes I will scramble it with veggies and eggs. The ways are endless. I wish I had a tofu press though. Right now I use my cast iron pans and towels. I went to the tofu press website and they are $35.00! Yikes! Guess the cast iron pans will have to do for now.

    • dmcgirl 09.28.2010

      YUMMMM… have to check out the BBQ! GREAT Idea!

  16. Lea 09.28.2010

    I agree…husband’s only eat the ‘fu sometimes. But it’s delish, I love it!

  17. Kim 09.28.2010

    I’m so glad you did this post! I have been debating picking up tofu at the grocery store for the last 2 weeks and haven’t quite gotten up the nerve to do it. I’m getting some this weekend! Thanks!

  18. This was very helpful! Thanks for sharing!

  19. girliefriend 09.28.2010

    omg I swear I just liked my monitor!

    Thanks for the tutorial Kristin. I’m adding tofu to this weeks grocery list. I don’t have a press, but I’ll work my way around it. As I told you, I’ve had it at restaurants, but I want to try using it myself. Thanks for making it less scary. :D

  20. love this! I’ve bought tofu before but never knew really what to do with it. I like the step by step pics and the recipe looks fantastic! I’m gonna go out and get some tofu tonight!

  21. Jennie 09.28.2010

    First off, I just want to say I LOVE your blog. I’m just wondering if your husband eats healthy like this. My husband wouldn’t touch tofu with a 50-foot pole.

  22. I always have been so impressed with how versatile tofu is. I love it raw too, but I never see it mentioned uncooked around the blogworld. Great to see this post on one of the billion possibilities!

  23. Alexa @ Sohdalex 09.29.2010

    Thanks! This is so informative. I love tofu and thoroughly enjoyed reading through this post. I definitely don’t eat enough as I’d like. Now I have tofu on the brain. ;)

  24. Juani 09.29.2010

    I really,really want to try out tofu,since I’m not a big meat eater and would love a healthy (and cheap) alternative,but I live in South Africa,and at the risk of sounding really behind the times – I don’t think tofu is sold here at all.

    I’ve never seen it in any grocery stores I’ve been in,and trust me,I’ve been looking.Guess we are way behind,it makes me sad,since your photos make tofu look really yummy!

  25. Sara 09.29.2010

    I do like tofu! My family does not understand it though – my mom gives me such a hard time! I’m pretty sure she thinks it has no sound nutritional value or something. Anyways, I like using your roasting/baking method to make tofu!

  26. Ashlee 09.29.2010

    Thank you so much. We love trying new things and have had tofu in the past and enjoyed it but have never been able to make it good myself. I look forward to taking your ideas and giving it a try. Congrats on being the readers choice!!!
    Ashlee
    http://ashandlewplus2.com/2010/09/24/lasagna-and-cheesecake/

  27. […] Comments « Tofu 101: Your Guide To All Things Tofu! […]

  28. I so want to like tofu and I just don’t!!!! :( You always make it look SO good, though!

  29. yayy this was awesome!! i love this!! my favorite is in any type of asian stir fry, but after i wated sabrina’s videos on nasoya.com, i want to try scrambled “eggs” SO badly!

  30. Just have to let you know I tried your award winning Thai Tofu Pizza. My family is big on the thai, not so big on the tofu. Well THEY LOVED IT! My dad said it was one of the best pizzas he’d ever had and my mom is passing the recipe around! GREAT JOB!

  31. jen 09.29.2010

    I really love this tofu dish at a restaurant here in town…but it’s fried tofu..I know!
    I’ve tried making it at home, but didn’t really care for it. You really make me want to like it though!

  32. Erin 09.29.2010

    So, if your husband only eats tofu if he doesn’t know it’s there, what does he eat on nights like this? Do you fix him something separate?

  33. […] winner of the oh-so-fabulous TofuXpress Tofu Press […]

  34. […] poor, meat-and-potatoes husband puts up with my crazy tofu, vegetarian recipe, fake ice cream shenanigans day after day without a complaint, so sometimes I […]

  35. Amanda 04.13.2011

    I have to admit that I have never tried using tofu in my own cooking. For a short period in my life, I worked for a weight-loss company that supplied its clients with food. Some of the food dishes contained tofu and I ate them and never could tell that there was something “different” in the dinner. You have really taken the “scariness” out of tofu and broken it down in a way that something like me can feel comfortable attempting to use tofu for the first time. Thanks!

  36. […] Where did you get your tofu press? I have a TofuXPress tofu press. You can order one online […]

  37. black ops bundle 07.04.2011

    I absolutely love Tofu but I find myself getting bored with it lately! It’s going to take a new recipe book to break me of the mind. Either that or its time to start frying it. Woot!

  38. Thanks for “all things tofu”! I am a recent vegan-style eating lover, and really got a lot out of this post!

  39. Samantha 07.28.2011

    I adore tofu but every time i attempt to make it, something goes terribly wrong! I assumed I wasn’t getting enough of the water out of it by just using paper towels so I may get a press for it! Hopefully then my tofu will come out better… I had no idea they made those! Thank you :)

  40. […] get started I highly recommend this Tofu 101 post by Iowa Girl Eats. It is very lovely and organized and […]

  41. Madelyn 09.09.2011

    I just got my tofu press today and was searching for new things to do with it when I came across your blog – love it!

  42. Andrew M-C 01.06.2012

    My favorite way to prepare tofu is to first freeze it. When it thaws, the texture fundamentally changes. You can press even more water out and then use it in any dish that calls for beef or chicken. I crumble a couple of blocks into my chile con tofu, for example.

    Another nice way, best for a medium tofu, is to just open the package, drain the block, slice it into 4ths or 8ths and serve with grated ginger, (quality, ideally Japanese) soy sauce and cut spring onion.

  43. […] Tofu 101: Your Guide To All Things Tofu! | Iowa Girl Eats: “The nutrition and versatility is great, but the TASTE is what I really love. Tofu is like a sponge – it soaks up all the flavors you cook it with. You can quickly toss it with a sauce just before cooking, or let it soak up all the flavors of the dish you’re using it in. “ […]

  44. amy 01.16.2012

    Me and my husband love tofu! So versitile. Love your website. Yesturday we made a homemade cream of mushroom soup and we added cubed extrafirm tofu to the soup it was super delishious. Thanks again, we are always on the search for new tofu recipes

  45. Lesley 01.19.2012

    I am so hungry for tofu right now after reading your great recipe! YUM

  46. Marie 01.20.2012

    I have been eating tofu for many years, atleast twice a week in some meal. Why on earth I never knew nor thought of something I can buy to press it is beyond me. This will save me loads of time and cold hands. :D thanks a bunch!

  47. […] Tofu 101: Your Guide To All Things Tofu! | Iowa Girl Eats Directions: […]

  48. Joanna Ossont 02.01.2012

    Great piece! I’ve been thinking about trying a press…you’ve convinced me!

  49. Kim Yohe 02.18.2012

    I love the tofu ideas and I am thinking that I should invest in a tofu press.

  50. […] Tofu 101: Your Guide To All Things Tofu! | Iowa Girl Eats. […]

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