Nutrition Articles

Tofu 101

Go from Confused to Connoisseur

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So you’ve heard of tofu, maybe you’ve read about it, and perhaps you’ve even seen it at the supermarket or hanging around the appetizer table at a party. But even though you know it won't hurt you—and you might even like to be introduced someday—you’ve refrained because you’re just not sure. Well this mysterious food doesn’t have anything to hide…

Let's start at the very beginning of the tofu story. Tofu was invented over 2,000 years ago in China. Like many great inventions, tofu was an accident. Legend has it that a chef, attempting to flavor soymilk with nigari (a crystallized salt) wound up with curdled soymilk. The adventurous chef then tasted the curdles and fortunately, shared the discovery with everyone. Tofu has evolved over the many years since its discovery, branching off from the original product into a plethora of varieties. All those choices can be confusing for the beginner tofu connoisseur, so here’s a guide to all the species of tofu.

Tofu: Plain and Simple
To describe tofu as soybean curd turns many people off, so try this analogy: Cheese is to cow’s milk as tofu is to soymilk. Although the flavor is not at all the same as cheese, a similar process is used to make it. While you won’t see a product called "plain tofu" on the supermarket shelves, what you will see is basic tofu prepared many different ways. But before we delve into the varieties, let’s get the basics straight. Continued ›

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About The Author

Liza Barnes Liza Barnes
Liza has two bachelor's degrees: one in health promotion and education and a second in nursing. A registered nurse and mother, regular exercise and cooking are top priorities for her. See all of Liza's articles.

Member Comments

  • I think I might actually try tofu now that I understand what it is and how to choose and use it! I like that it will take on the flavor of the dish I use it in. Thanks for the basics!! - 5/24/2016 7:22:53 AM
    I was told to switch to soy products when I refused HRT in my early menopause, 20 years later I find out it is one of the major culprits in whacking out my thyroid along with other gmo products such as wheat, corn etc...Its not the soy itself, its the recent genetically altered varieties that is screwing things up...I have done a great deal of research on this. I am not expert but for myself I just steer clear of it.
    - 3/1/2015 11:47:15 AM
    This nutritional idea is excellent. Try my favorite california dinner Tofu, Miso soup. It's nice for lunch time and helps ease digestion. - 4/28/2014 6:37:45 PM
  • I first tried tofu 30 years ago. Tried it a bazillion different ways. Never liked it. Thought it tasted like tasteless mush no matter how I seasoned/marinate
    d/cooked it. Then I did some research on it and found how it screws up your thyroid and other hormones as well as most of it being genetically modified so farmers could spray more pesticides or herbicides on it without it dying.

    So, finally found good reasons for not eating soy and not feeling guilty about not eating it. - 10/27/2013 9:30:28 PM
    I really love tofu....esp since living in Japan. However, I wanted to add ( sorry if already said I didn't feel like reading 50+ comments lol ) that it is so important that you choose an organic tofu at the grocery. Those that are not organic are most likely made of GMO soy and soooo not good for you. Have fun experimenting if you haven't yet, it's so good in Asian recipes! - 9/17/2013 2:09:32 PM
    This article is very lacking in adequate research. The only soy that is actually decent for you is fermented soy, of which tofu is not. Tempeh, miso, etc.,. Also, people with endocrine issues should NOT use soy regularly and should drastically limit their intake. Soy is not the health food it is being made out to be. Not to mention, 85% (and climbing) is a genetically modified product. - 3/12/2013 9:57:59 PM
  • okay I understand the article, but the comments have me confused. Guess I will give it a try and see how my body reacts to it. - 1/10/2013 8:50:38 PM
  • 1thirty3 is correct - tofu has its own flavor. It tastes like a very mild bean, and the flavor comes out when it's warm. It takes a lot of time to acquire this taste, but it's worth it. You can learn this flavor by adding cubes of soft or medium tofu to broths, or scrambled with eggs. It's just a little bit like cottage cheese or paneer (Indian fresh cheese) or Mexican fresh cheese. The difference is that it tastes like beans, not like milk.

    The texture takes some getting used to as well. The soft or silken type are a soft custard. Eaten Japanese style, with chopped green onion and soy sauce, some of the flavor comes out. If you go with a milder sauce or dressing you like (something savory or sweet), you can really develop a feel for it.

    When you develop the ability to taste the tofu, the differences between types and brands will jump out at you. - 6/29/2012 1:50:21 AM
  • Thank you for the great information about tofu... I needed it! I learned a lot and shared it with my husband who likes to cook! I like tofu and soy products in different ways and don't eat enough to harm my thyroid or hormones. It's something I like, but don't eat everyday. Thanks again!
    Peace, Mysti~ - 5/25/2012 8:03:59 PM
  • whatever! anything is bad for you if not enjoyed in moderation. even fruit and vegetables can be bad for you. every side has their own opinions and each side will change the facts in their favor. meat is bad , tofu is bad. what should i eat!!!!!!!!!!! - 5/18/2012 9:50:55 PM
  • Here's an article I suggest you read also before going "too tofu"...
    lle/soydangers.pdf - 10/19/2011 9:20:17 AM
  • What I'm not understanding is whether or not the tofu is actually a "fermented" process. If it is, it should be okay for me. But since I'm already very heavy, I've noticed over the years that many soy products do not agree with me. Soy has phytoestrogen receptors, and being fat already is too much estrogen of my own. So I started having periomenopause long before it was really "necessary" and my periods straightened up and became more regular when I stopped the straight soy, including tofu. Tofu tastes fine, especially when it absorbs the flavors of whatever sauce, marinade, etc. but I can't always tell that any given tofu has actually been fermented. (Evidently the fermentation process does something to make the estrogen-like receptors less likely to bond with the body's receptors?? something... they didn't teach me this 30 years ago in Home Ec!). - 9/28/2011 12:32:32 PM
  • I hate the old "tofu takes on the taste of whatever you want it to!" No, tofu tastes like tofu just like chicken tastes like chicken. You still want to dress it, but its not a flavorless sponge! Prepared correctly you should taste the tofu! Tofu tastes great. - 9/8/2011 7:58:46 AM
  • I have been eating tofu for a long time. I have lots of recipes. I think the key to enjoying it is to marinate it so it has a "taste." You pick the marinade. It's one of my "staples". Makes a good filler for bean burritos....break
    fast wraps.....try it. - 7/21/2011 7:42:34 PM
  • Thanks for the suggestions on how to use tofu. I like it and want to prepare it so that my kids will eat it. - 4/2/2011 11:25:32 PM

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