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Tofu for Beginners (with 50+ recipes)

Are you new to a plant-based diet and fearing tofu? You’ve heard that it’s bland and think you won’t like it? Perhaps you’ve tried it a couple of times and really didn’t like it. BUT you’d be willing to give it a try if you just knew what to do with it!

This is a question that I’ve seen come up time and time again in vegan social media groups. Those new to veganism want to incorporate tofu into their diets but are unsure about how to prepare tofu, how to cook tofu, or what the difference is between all those different types of tofu!

Tofu for beginners: a quick and easy guide to cooking tofu and more than 50 recipes to try!

So I wrote Tofu For Beginners to give you a brief introduction to the different types of tofu and its preparation. I’ve also compiled a list of more than 50 recipes for your perusal, starting with super easy ones to get you started through to amazing tofu wizardry that will hopefully inspire you to continue experimenting with this versatile ingredient.

You needn’t be nervous about cooking with tofu; a good recipe will tell you which type to buy and how to prepare it. It was really hard impossible to choose just 50 recipes to include in this roundup as there’s so much you can do with tofu!

I’ve tried to include a variety of recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even dessert; recipes for appetizers, main dishes, condiments, sauces, sides and snacks; and recipes from a variety of cuisines. These 50+ recipes are very much just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cooking with tofu, if you need even more inspiration, let Google be your guide!

Tofu 101

Silken and regular: these are the two basic categories of tofu. Silken is Japanese style and is usually sold in boxes that do no need to be refrigerated. Regular is Chinese style and is often sold in plastic containers or wrapped in plastic in the refrigerated section of your supermarket.

Silken tofu is the creamiest type of tofu because it is unpressed and it is labeled with different consistencies depending on how much soy protein it contains. Silken tofu is best for blending into sauces, creams, smoothies, baking, mayo and dressings, or in miso soup. You do not press or fry silken tofu.

Regular tofu is also labeled with different consistencies from soft through to extra firm depending on how much water has been pressed out of it. Regular Chinese soft tofu is similar to Japanese silken tofu but not quite as smooth and creamy. You can often use it in the same way as silken tofu.

Medium through extra firm regular tofu are progressively more compact with a lower water content. These types of tofu can be pressed to remove even more of the water. Firm and extra firm are the most common types called for in recipes that involve frying or baking the tofu. Regular extra firm tofu is my personal preference and the type I use most often in my kitchen.

Keep in mind that different brands of tofu can be different in terms of consistency. One brand’s medium tofu might be similar in consistency to another brand’s soft tofu. If your recipes doesn’t seem to work out correctly, it could be because of a difference in brand between you and the recipe developer. Don’t despair! Try a couple of different brands to find one that you like and performs the best for the recipes you want to make.

To Freeze Or Not To Freeze?

Firstly, you don’t want to freeze silken or soft tofu. Medium through extra firm tofu can be frozen if you choose to do so, but it’s not necessary. You can use your tofu straight out of the box if you don’t have time to freeze it; however, freezing, thawing and pressing tofu draws out moisture and creates a more spongy texture that will suck up more of your sauce.

Personally, I freeze tofu for convenience because I buy it in bulk at an Asian supermarket downtown for $1.28 for 600 grams. Once home, I cut it into smaller blocks and freeze it in Tupperware containers filled with water. If you buy smaller blocks, just toss them packaged into the freezer, no need to drain or cut. When I want to use it, I thaw it overnight in the refrigerator then cut it into slices to press.

How To Press Tofu

Medium through extra-firm regular tofu can be pressed if you choose (don’t try pressing silken or soft tofu). Pressing tofu is very easy and you don’t need a fancy tofu press. You can press a whole block of tofu, but I find that cutting it into slices first helps to press out even more moisture.

First, drain the tofu of its packing water and slice it (how thick will depend on what you’re using it for). Then, find the most absorbent dish towels (or even bath towels) you have. Sandwich the tofu slices between paper towels to avoid any fuzz, and then the dish towels. Place something heavy on top; I use biology textbooks but cans and pots also work well.

15 minutes is usually long enough to get most of the water out of sliced tofu. If you’re pressing a whole block, give it at least 30 minutes. If your recipe calls for diced or cubed tofu, it’s easier to dice it after you’ve pressed the slices rather than trying to press all the little cubes.

What To Do With Leftover Tofu

You can refrigerate or freeze leftover tofu for later. If you’re going to use it within a week, simply place it in a container, cover it with water and refrigerate. Change the water daily.

Freezing silken tofu is a bit dodgy and you may find the thawed texture unpleasant (or not, give it a try!) Freeze leftover medium through extra-firm regular tofu by slicing it at placing it on a pan in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer it to a freezer bag. Use within three months.

Recipes For Tofu Newbies

  1. How to make crispy baked tofu – Cookie and Kate
  2. Quick & easy crispy tofu – Minimalist Baker
  3. How to make easy vegan mayonnaise – The Kitchn
  4. Creamy vegan herb salad dressing – Joy the Baker
  5. Vegan tofu sour cream – The Blender Girl (pictured)
  6. Tofu, kale & cherry tomatoes in white wine sauce – Food & Wine
  7. Vegan macaroni and cheese – VegKitchen
  8. Strawberry banana tofu smoothie – Well Vegan
  9. Simple tofu miso noodle soup – The Veganista (pictured)
  10. Buffalo tofu wings with creamy ranch dip – Oh My Veggies
  11. Everyday pad Thai – Isa Chandra
  12. Quick and easy tofu sandwich – Vegangela
  13. Orange and ginger glazed tofu – Cilantro and Citronella (pictured) 
  14. 5-minute vegan chocolate pudding – Spoon University
  15. Nutella – The Vegan Corner
  16. Vegan tofu feta cheese – Green Evi
  17. 5-minute tofu egg salad sandwich – Vegan Richa
  18. Blender silken tofu pancakes – Connoisseurus Veg (pictured)
  19. 12-minute scrambled tofu fried rice – Kitchen Treaty
  20. Easy vegan tofu tacos – Carrots and Flowers
  21. Crispy baked garlic tofu – Kirbie’s Cravings (pictured)

Taking Off The Tofu Training Wheels

  1. How to grill tofu – The Spruce
  2. Sesame ginger tofu and veggie stir fry – Little Spice Jar
  3. Scrambled tofu breakfast bowl – I Love Vegan (pictured)
  4. Tofu waffles with baked banana sauce – Sweet Cannela
  5. Fresh vegetable crunchy rolls with sriracha & soy sauce tofu and peanut sauce – I Love Vegan
  6. Crispy tofu tacos with vegan lime crema – Simply Quinoa (pictured)
  7. Pineapple & smoky baked tofu pizza with spicy hoisin barbecue sauce – Connoisseurus Veg
  8. Sweet potato & kale green curry with tofu – In Pursuit of More
  9. Vegan lunch sandwich with sizzling skillet tofu, avocado and sprouts – Healthy Happy Life
  10. Ramen with grilled vegetables and tofu – Lazy Cat Kitchen (pictured)
  11. Black pepper tofu – Cilantro and Citronella
  12. Simple tofu quiche – Minimalist Baker
  13. Golden chocolate tofu brownies – Pickled Plum (pictured) 
  14. Mini vegan frittatas – Dietitian Debbie Dishes
  15. Vegan satay with peanut sauce – Cilantro and Citronella
  16. Tofu “chicken” noodle soup – Making Thyme for Health (pictured) 
  17. Lime and vanilla vegan cheesecake – Quite Good Food
  18. Vegan palak paneer – The Wanderlust Kitchen
  19. Spicy braised tofu tostadas – Oh My Veggies (pictured) 

Tofu Wizardry

  1. Seaweed tofu beignets with jalepeno and shikuwasa jam paste – Olives for Dinner
  2. Vegan lasagna with spinach and tofu ricotta – The Viet Vegan (pictured) 
  3. Super comforting vegan “fish & chips” – The Debrief
  4. Glazed tofu with fiery sriracha pearls – Olives for Dinner (pictured) 
  5. Sushi burrito – Cilantro and Citronella
  6. Tofu bolognese – The Veg Life
  7. Tofu banh mi vegan sliders – The Stingy Vegan (pictured) These tofu banh mi vegan sliders are packed with flavour and a fun twist on the classic banh mi sandwich. They’re great as finger food or appetizers for a party, or as a delicious dinner served with fries or a salad.
  8. Ginger glazed tofu meatballs – Connoisseurus Veg
  9. Mexican-inspired tofu tacos with chili-lime slaw and cilantro pepita-cream – Vanilla and Bean
  10. French Silk Pie – Unconventional Baker (pictured) 
  11. Vegan chocolate cake – The Spruce
  12. Mozzarella – The Vegan Corner
  13. Tofu po boy sandwich – Brewing Happiness 

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Nia Garcia
    April 18, 2017 at 3:45 pm

    Terrific article 🙂

  • Reply
    Ellen Jepsen
    August 7, 2017 at 6:36 pm

    Good morning. I am new to a plant based diet and looking for some tofu ideas. I will be trying some of your recipes as soon as I get some money for a few ingredients. The miso soup looks delicious. Thank you for helping out us newbies!!

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