Tofu has been part of the Asian diet for thousands of years and it has found popularity in the West as an option for vegetarians and vegans. However, is tofu truly vegan? Some will say, that depends on how the tofu is produced.
But, for the most part, pure tofu is 100% plant-based. Here we will run you through how tofu is made, the different types of tofu, what vegans should look out for when purchasing tofu, and different ways you can use this awesome product.
Before we begin,let us put one thing to rest: tofu is vegan. Let’s see why.
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How is tofu made?
Tofu is purely a soy product and the way it is made is similar to the process of making cheese.
Soybeans are soaked for several hours and then they are pounded into a mass. This sludge is then boiled for no more than 10 minutes at temperatures that range between 100°C -110°C. This boiling process aids in the digestion process.
The next step is to extract the milk from the mass by pressing the pulp. Then it is pumped into vatswhere coagulating agents (either calcium sulfate, magnesium chloride, or nigari) are added. This allows the tofu to solidify into more of a cheese-like texture.
The coagulated tofu then is placed into boxes that allow the whey to drain off. The final step is to cut the tofu into squares.
- A good source of complete protein.
- A protein alternative for grilling, stir frying & sautéing.
- A velvety smooth and creamy tofu that contains no preservatives and is free of saturated fat.
Different types of tofu
You might think that tofu is tofu. However, you will find that there are different types that are created by altering the manufacturing process. Here we introduce the tofu family and show you what each one has to offer for your cooking preference. Of course, you can have tofu raw.
This tofu is the one that has a minimal amount of pressing done to it. That means it has a softness to it yet retains the tofu texture.
Soft tofu is ideal forsavory dishes. It can also be used in stews or sauces. If a recipe requires egg or yogurt, then you can replace those with this tofu.
This is the second most popular tofu in the family. The silken texture of the tofu is achieved by not pressing the cake which helps it keep its moisture.
A popular ingredient in many Asian dishes, regular tofu is great at absorbing the flavors of the sauces you use in your cooking. Add it to your stew, soup, or broth. Scrambled tofu makes an excellent alternative to scrambled eggs.
Don’t pan-fry or deep-fry regular tofu as it is likely to crumble.
Firm tofu is the one you will come across in most supermarkets. It is packaged with water to keep it from spoiling.
This is an all-rounder tofu that can be stir-fried, pan-fried, used in stews or broths, and deep-fried. Additionally, it makes an incredible filling or spread.
This is similar to the firm tofu, yet contains less water. It won’t absorb sauces or marinades as well as the from tofu.
You can pan-fry, stir-fry, or deep fry extra-firm tofu, so let your culinary desire run wild.
Super-firm tofu is a little harder to come across in shops, but if you are wanting something that could be mistaken as meat, then this is the tofu for you.
It had very little water content, so the texture is denser. You can deep-fry it, add it into a stir fry or pan-fry the tofu.
This is how umami, or savory tofu, is made. Pickle the tofu in a mixture of rice wine and water, add some salt. You may come across different recipes for the fermentation solution as Asian countries have their own ideas. Try out the different styles and see which one you love the most.
Typically fermented tofu is used to add flavor to a dish.
Place your tofu in the freezer. The ice that forms means there is less water in your tofu and it can better absorb flavors. It’s a great idea if you want your tofu to be one of the main stars in your meal.
The nutritional value of tofu
When you go vegan, you are eliminating animal-based products such as meat, eggs, and dairy which deprives you of the protein that these food groups provide. Tofu is an excellent way to get some protein back in your system.
Also, tofu gives you all the essential nine amino acids that you need (histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine).
On top of giving you protein and your amino acids, tofu also contains zinc, selenium, manganese, phosphorous, iron, calcium, vitamin B1, and copper.
According to Healthline, 100 grams of tofu contains:
- Protein: 8 grams
- Carbs: 2 grams
- Fiber: 1 gram
- Fat: 4 grams
- Manganese: 31% of the RDI
- Calcium: 20% of the RDI
- Selenium: 14% of the RDI
- Phosphorus: 12% of the RDI
- Copper: 11% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 9% of the RDI
- Iron: 9% of the RDI
- Zinc: 6% of the RDI
That makes tofu one of the best sources for your nutritional needs. Your cholesterol levels are also lowered thanks to tofu helping with reducing the amount of LDL (bad cholesterol) in your body.
Though tofu does pack a nutritional-packed punch, you need to be aware of one health risk.
Allergic to tofu
As we have seen, tofu is made purely from soy. That is an issue for vegans who suffer from soy allergies. But, there is a work-around for those of you that are allergic to soy, yet want to have more of a tofu-based diet.
Chick-pea flour-based tofu is one such alternative. You can find plenty of recipes online that teach you how to make your own.
If you are dining out, ask the restaurant what the tofu is made from.
Enjoy the tofu life
Tofu has been part of the Asian diet for several thousands of years and, in the West, it is gaining popularity as a dietary substitute. Being purely plant-based makes it ideal for vegans and it provides an alternative to meat without you losing out on protein.
It is packed with a wide range of the recommended intake of nutrients, as well as containing all of the essential nine amino acids that we all need. However, if you are allergic to soy, then soy-based tofu is off the menu.
Tofu can be eaten raw, stir-fried, deep-fried, pan-fried, used in stews, sauces, and broths. Whatever your culinary desires are, tofu will serve you well. Enjoy your tofu!