How to Tofu: Different Types of Tofu Explained

Soft, Firm, Silken, oh my! Here's some insight into this soy-based protein.

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The gelatinous block of white soy curd is emblematic among vegetarian and vegan diners, and despite still facing stark opposition from many, tofu has accelerated in popularity as a versatile meatless protein option. A closer look at the tofu section of the grocery store reveals that that not all of those white soy blocks are alike; the plastic wrappers describe their contents with words like silken, firm, and extra-firm, leaving many rookies scratching their heads. But hang in there! Here’s some clarification for your future tofu endeavors:

"Regular" or “Block” Tofu

The most common type of tofu used in cooking is physically pressed into blocks; the amount of pressure and duration of pressing time coincide with the density of the tofu. Soft blocks lend luxurious texture to desserts and pureed sauces, but break easily when stir-fried and have too high a water content for safe deep-frying. Medium and Firm blocks are more versatile as they can stand up to a rigorous sauté or deep fryer dip, while Extra-Firm tofu, with its low water content, is especially suited to be baked or fried to ideal crispness.

“Silken” Tofu

This Japanese-style tofu is neither pressed nor drained, leaving it with a much higher water content than block tofu and a more delicate texture. The density of silken tofu depends on its composition of soy protein, and described in the same way to block tofu as Soft, Firm and Extra-Firm. Soft silken tofu has a particularly creamy texture, similar to yogurt or soft-cooked egg, and is best suited for sauces and smoothies. Firm and Extra-Firm silken tofu, while still soft and velvety, is more apt to retain its shape when boiled or lightly fried.

Seasoned or Smoked Tofu

All tofu can be eaten right out of the package, but plain, uncooked tofu is pretty bland. If you don't have time to marinate and cook your tofu at home, no worries - many stores carry pre-seasoned and smoked tofu varieties that already flavorful with little to no preparation at home. Visit your store or look online for the flavor options available to you - they can range from a simple soy marinade to spicy Szechwan-style.

Bruleed Tofu with Coconut Ginger Greens and Turmeric Rice

Pumped to try this pressed protein? Try these recipes:

BRÛLÉED TOFU WITH COCONUT-GINGER GREENS & TURMERIC RICE

SWEET GARLIC TOFU SAUTÉ WITH BULGUR, CASHEWS & EGGPLANT

SUPERFOOD TOFU BOWL WITH CARROTS, GREENS & SRIRACHA NUTS

SEARED BALSAMIC TOFU OVER PEARL COUSCOUS WITH SWEET PEPPER, CUCUMBER & TOMATO SALAD

MISO SOUP WITH SHIITAKE, TOFU & EDAMAME

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