Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

Are You Afraid of Tofu?

posted in Vegetarian by Kathy Maister

If you opened up a container of tofu and just took a small taste you would be right in calling it unappetizing, mushy, bland and tasteless. BUT…when it is added to other ingredients, it magically transforms into something utterly amazing and healthy to boot!

tofu chocolate pie

When I serve my Chocolate Fudge Pie (shown above) at dinner parties, I never tell my guests that it is made with tofu until after they have finished licking their plates!

The key thing to remember is that tofu is tasteless until it absorbs the flavor of a sauce or seasonings or marinade (or even chocolate!). Best of all, you can eat it raw, which makes it a fantastic addition to salads or smoothies. Or it can be cooked, but even extra firm tofu doesn’t hold up well to long-term heat.

Technically tofu is “produced by curdling soy milk, then pressed to remove much of the liquid. Tofu, also know as soybean curd, is used as a protein source in meals. (Tofu can act as a substitute for meat or fish.) It is available in the refrigerated section of grocery stores or health food stores.”

Tofu has several levels of firmness, each one suitable for different uses. When buying tofu, the firmness is clearly marked on the package.

  • Firm or Extra Firm: Good for stir-fry, soups and even grilling.
  • Soft and Silken: Great for sauces, dressings, dips, whips and spreads. Silken in particular, can imitate pudding or custard, and is perfect for drinking—such as in a fruit shake or smoothie.

The beauty of tofu is that it can be prepared in hundreds of different ways.

Tofu isn’t just a food chameleon; it’s also healthy for you.

  • There’s no cholesterol
  • It’s virtually fat free
  • And it’s high in protein

Storing Tofu

  • Tofu is perishable and should be used by the date stamped on the package.
  • Tofu needs to be refrigerated.
  • Open the package only right before using the tofu.
  • Place leftovers back in the fridge, covered with water, for no more than 1 week.
  • Change the water daily. Fresh water helps to keep the tofu moist, prevents drying out (which leads to spoilage), and prevents the tofu from absorbing the flavors and smells of surrounding foods in the fridge.
  • If your tofu smells or tastes sour, it has gone off and you need to toss it out.

Beginner cooks should not feel nervous about experimenting with tofu. If you own a blender, making a smoothie with tofu is a great way to get started. Macheesmo has a great photo-tutorial on how to make a Tofu Breakfast Smoothie which looks like a great way to begin your day!

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8 Comments

Grace said:

My husband is Japanese and I stayed in Japan for more than 10 years. We love tofu. These are great ideas!

Carey said:

So what exactly is Tofu made of? iF it is tasteless and can be transformed into anything, what is it. To me it doesnt sound very good..something that can me anything, almost like plastic, how it can be molded into anything. Just wondering.

Lisa Freeman said:

Hi Carey! Tofu is not at all plastic, and is all natural. It is made of nothing more than coagulated soybean mill. If you’ve ever seen regular milk coagulate, it simply all starts to stick together. Well, that’s exactly what happens to soybean milk. It’s been used for centuries in China–so it’s not some newfangled product. It’s really only become popular in the USA in the last 15 years.

Tofu is not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you ever make stirfry, it couldn’t hurt to add a little bit and give it a try.

Sarah Burgess said:

I find the mistake most ppl make is poor preparation. You really need to remove as much water as possible by wrapping the block in a clean teacloth or paper towel and squeezing. That way the tofu will absorb as much of your marinade as possible. The marinade is so important to impart flavour, of course.

I’ve had success with baking it, which gives a different result to frying. Also note that you can freeze it (either as a raw ingredient for future use, or as a complete meal), but that the texture changes to something more chewy.

Robyn said:

Hi Kathy,

Tofu is a very wonderful food as it is full of soy beans, which are very rich in nutrients. I enjoy some every day and I sense I am doing my body a favor by eating it.

Your husband Ben introduced me to your new blog so I came to check it out. All the best.

Ben Yoskovitz said:

Robyn – Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I owe you an email still (coming soon!)

But just so you know, Kathy and I aren’t married! She’s married to Mr. David Maister, an uber-consultant and author.

Jennifer said:

GREAT post Kathy! Many people are afraid of tofu, but it can be really versitle ingredient. It’s great thing to add in desserts to keep them creamy and low fat!

Kathy Maister said:

When I served the Chocolate Pie, (photographed above) to non-tofu eaters at a dinner party they were amazed! It was delicious!

The key is to start with a really good recipe!