Tips for Using Tofu
It was over 23 years ago that I went vegetarian. One of the first new items I brought into my house was a block of tofu. I had no idea what to do with it, but I knew that vegetarians ate it, so I needed to give it a try. Recall that there was no Internet at the time, so I couldn't do a quick google search on how to use tofu or read a blog post like this on tips for using tofu. I was kind of on my own. There were not even many veg cookbooks around at the time. But I was brave and took it on.
I took the tofu out of the package, cut it into pieces, and dropped it into the frying pan that had about a teaspoon of oil in it. I stirred it around, trying to cook it. When it seemed I had done all that I could do, we gave it a try. Nothing. There was absolutely not taste. We still laugh today about my first attempt at using tofu. It was awful. I had no idea what I was doing and there was literally no taste.
Fast forward a couple of decades later and I absolutely love tofu! I eat it regularly and use it in a wide variety of ways. In our house, tofu is used to make tofu scrambles for breakfast, baked tofu, coconut encrusted tofu, tofu kebobs, tofu salad, lasagne, stuffed shells, pumpkin pie, and on and on. Tofu is a staple in our house and everyone likes it. I've also learned that it's so versatile! You can make lots and lots of things with tofu. Tofu is like a sponge, absorbing the flavors that you use in preparing it.
If you are new to using tofu, don't despair! You have to learn how to use it and then there's a good chance you will end up loving it, too.
Here are some tips for using tofu:
- Always buy organic tofu. That way you are not eating gmo soy. A lot of meat eaters will say that vegetarians are eating lots of gmo soy. That's simply not true. The vast majority of gmo soy crops grown are fed to livestock. But I always buy organic tofu.
- Choose the type of tofu that makes sense for your recipe. Tofu comes in soft, firm, extra firm, silken, etc. The type you will use all depends on what you are making. How much firmness do you need? If you are making a pumpkin pie or chocolate mousse, go with silken tofu. If you are making baked tofu cutlets or making tofu kebobs, then opt for extra firm tofu.
- When using firm or extra firm tofu, try freezing it first to see if you like the texture. I freeze it all first. Read more about freezing your tofu here.
- Unless you are using silken tofu, you will want to drain the water out. They sell fancy devices to squeeze the water out, but my method has worked great for decades. I cut a slit on both sides of the top of the package (leaving the two shorter sides in tact. Then I turn the package over, holding it over the sink, and squeeze hard. The water all runs out. If I'm using it to make something where I will be mashing it, then I may twist the container some to get out additional water. If I'm making something like cubes or cutlets, I don't, I just give it an extra squeeze to get out what I can.
- Tofu absorbs the flavors of what you are using with it. Experiment with using marinades, sauces, spices, etc, to find out what what you like it prepared.
- If you are not using the whole package, you can take the excess tofu and put it in a container and cover it with water. That will keep it fresh for several days in the refrigerator.
Tofu is a healthy food that has been consumed for thousands of years. It's a good source of protein, it's versatile, and it's delicious. I recently read that the people who live the longest in the world (the Okinawans) consume a lot of tofu. That has to be worth something!