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What Does Tofu Taste Like? Our Guide to tofu.


In today’s food guide, you’ll learn all you need about tofu. And you will find the answer to the vital question: what does tofu taste like?

Tofu is one of those rare foods in the supermarket that can instantly change your life. While it’s been a long staple among vegans, tofu is usually an uncommon sight on the dinner table. 

cutting board with sliced tofu

What Is Tofu?

Tofu is a Chinese word that means “bean curd.” Its name is an accurate description of the ingredient. In specific terms, tofu is an after-product of the fermentation process of soy milk.

At first glance, tofu looks like a block of cheese. However, its flavor and texture are far from it. Tofu has an almost white color, and its texture varies from soft to porous. Its flavor is mild and subtle, and it’s considered a staple in Asian cuisine.

Although making tofu isn’t complicated, there are many steps involved. The first step is turning soybeans into condensed soy milk. After that, the soy milk undergoes a coagulation process. And lastly, you place the soy milk into a mold and a tofu press.

What Does Tofu Taste Like?

The tofu taste is very mild and subtle. On its own, tofu is actually quite bland. This is because you should cook the ingredient with other spices or dishes. However, that isn’t to say that tofu doesn’t have an aftertaste. Despite its blandness, it has a hint of nuttiness from the soy milk.

Regarding the texture, it varies depending on the firmness. Silken and soft tofu is highly wet and squishy. On the other hand, firm and extra-firm tofu are more solid and porous. All types of tofu have a relatively smooth surface and no overwhelming smell.

Types Of Tofu

Tofu is sold in varying degrees of softness. These include silken tofu, soft tofu, medium tofu, firm tofu, and extra firm tofu.

Often you will find tofu sold seasoned or marinated. Aside from the usual categories, there are other variations of the ingredient. This includes specialty tofu like shredded tofu and tofu skins.

Most of the time, vendors sell tofu in big square blocks.

History Of Tofu

Tofu first emerged during the Han Dynasty in China. There are many theories about who and how the curd came to be. However, one of the most popular theories states that it was an accident. This happened when boiled soybeans were mistakenly added to impure sea salt. This created the bean curd we know today.

In Chinese culture, tofu is often used as an offering to spirits. This is because tofu is the only food soft enough for the spirits to eat. Before the invention of the modern fridge, tofu was only made during the winter.

Soon enough, the Chinese introduced tofu to the Japanese during the Nara period. In Japan, they created another variation now known as “firm tofu.” The popularity of this ingredient quickly spread from East Asia to Southeast Asia.

In Southeast Asian countries like the Philippines, the locals refer to tofu as “tokwa.” The most popular variations are silken tofu and soft tofu. They use this tofu as the main ingredient in their breakfast delicacy called “taho.”

In many parts of Asia, tofu is a staple in cuisines. It’s cheap, easy to cook, and versatile across many recipes. It’s mainly used as a meat substitute for vegetarian dishes but can stand as a dish on its own. Despite the heavy commercial production of tofu, you can make a batch at home.

How Is Tofu Made?

There are three stages to making tofu. The first stage is the preparation of the soy milk. The second stage is the curdling of soy milk. And the third and last stage is pressing the curds into tofu cakes.

To make tofu at home, you only need three things: soybeans, water, and a coagulant. A coagulant is an ingredient you add to encourage the curdling process. In the traditional tofu-making process, there are two common coagulants used. 

It’s either nigari or magnesium chloride, gypsum, or calcium sulfate. If you have neither, you can use either vinegar or lemon juice. 

Step-by-step process on how you can make homemade tofu:

You’ll need:

  • 3 cups soybeans
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 75 ml vinegar or lemon juice (coagulant)
  • Tofu mold lined with cheesecloth
  • Cheesecloth
  • Fine mesh strainer
  • A pot with a lid
  • Blender
  • 2 1/2 lbs weights (for pressing) or tofu press

Directions:

  1. Place 3 cups of soybeans in a bowl. Fill with enough water to cover the beans and let soak for 24 hours.
  2. After 24 hours, drain the beans and add them to your blender. Pour 8 cups of water and blend until creamy.
  3. Transfer the blended and creamy beans into a pot on medium heat. Let it simmer and continue to stir, but don’t let it boil. Ensure that you remove any foam at the top. 
  4. Pour the milk into a large pot. Place over medium heat.
  5. When steam starts rising, and the top of the liquid is foamy, turn off the heat.
  6. Place a cheesecloth on your fine mesh strainer and pour the cooked soy milk.
  7. Let the soy milk strain and cool for at least 1 hour.
  8. Close the cheesecloth around the soy milk and squeeze the remaining milk from the solids.
  9. Place the discarded soy milk back in the pot and cook over medium heat. Remember to stir to prevent the bottom from burning.
  10. When the steam starts to rise again, lower the heat and let it simmer for at least 5 minutes.
  11. Add 1/4 of the vinegar or lemon juice and 1/2 cup of water. 
  12. Continue stirring vigorously for 10 seconds.
  13. Add another 1/4 of the coagulant and then cover the pot. Let it simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. 
  14. Open the pot, stir lightly, and add the next 1/4 of the coagulant.
  15. Let it simmer again for at least 3 minutes. 
  16. Open the pot, stir lightly, and then add the final 1/4 of the coagulant.
  17. Let it simmer for another 3 minutes.
  18. After the last 3 minutes, remove from the heat and transfer the liquid into your strainer.
  19. Squeeze the liquid out of the curds. Continue squeezing until the curds feel firm.
  20. Transfer the curds to your mold or tofu press. Cover with a cheesecloth, and then add your weights to press it down.
  21. Let the tofu sit in your tofu press for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on your desired firmness. 

How Is Tofu Cooked?

Cooking tofu is tricky because of its high water content. Before cooking, it’s recommended to first press and drain any excess water from the tofu. This way, it can absorb the flavors better and create a savory and crispy texture.

After draining, fry the tofu on high heat. Contrary to popular belief, raw tofu doesn’t absorb flavors that well. First, you must fry the tofu to be firm and porous, and then coat it in spices or flavoring.

Best Uses for Tofu

One of the reasons why tofu is so popular is because it’s incredibly versatile. Due to its subtle and bland flavors, you can use tofu in almost any dish. Here are some of the best ways to incorporate tofu into your diet:

Stir-Fry

Tofu tastes best when it’s stir-fried. Frying the tofu helps it absorb the seasoning later on. Its crispy and crunchy texture completes the sweet and savory sauce of stir-fry. It’s best paired with broccoli, carrots, rice, or noodles. If you’re eating plain tofu, we recommend pairing it with soy sauce.

Baked Tofu

If you’re a big fan of stir-frying, you can opt for baked tofu. This is a healthier alternative because baked tofu doesn’t contain as much oil. You’ll still be able to achieve crispy edges and retain the moistness of the tofu. When making baked tofu, we recommend adding spices and herbs for extra flavor.

Egg Substitute

Another widespread use for tofu is to use it as an egg substitute. This is good news for vegans who want an alternative to animal products. Tofu works well as an alternative because their textures are similar. There’s also no significant difference when it comes to taste.

You can even replace scrambled eggs with tofu. To do this, simply break down the tofu into pieces to make them look like scrambled eggs. Fry them in a pan and add seasoning, just like how you would cook regular eggs.

Stew

In Asian countries like Japan and Korea, tofu is often used in hearty and spicy stews. Due to its high water content, tofu can easily absorb the soup or stew’s flavors. They also add another layer of texture and chewiness to the meal and will help fill you up faster.

Grilled Tofu

Since tofu is a well-known meat alternative, you can cook it on the grill too. It will cook splendidly on the grill and have that smoky and meaty flavor. Grilling will also give you nice crisp edges on the tofu.

Desserts

In case you didn’t know, you can also use tofu to get creative with your desserts. Many people like to use tofu as an alternative to eggs. They also use tofu to give their baked goods more structure and a hint of nuttiness. The best part about using tofu in desserts is that there’s no chance of ruining the taste.

How Is Tofu Stored?

The best way to store tofu is to keep it immersed in water even when unopened. If you can keep it in an airtight container, your tofu will last longer. Changing the water every day will also extend your tofu’s shelf life. The important thing is to keep it refrigerated. This will help your tofu last until 3 days.

When storing cooked tofu, it’s also recommended to keep it in a sealed container. Keeping it in the fridge will help extend your leftovers’ life by at least 4 days. If you’re planning on storing tofu for the long term, you can do so by freezing them.

When freezing tofu, we recommend keeping them in a tight, labeled container. Firm tofu is the best type to freeze since it has high water content. Tofu can last up to 3 months in the freezer.

In Asian countries, they prepare tofu before winter because it’s easier to store. This was the traditional way of storing food. However, due to the invention of the fridge, you can keep tofu any time of the year.

Despite the tofu’s longer shelf life, it still gets spoiled. To know if your tofu is bad, look out for these signs. The first one is the smell. It shouldn’t have any smell at all. If it smells sour or tangy, throw it right away.

The next sign is discoloration. Fresh tofu is milky white. However, they turn yellow over time. But if your tofu is golden yellow, green, black, or anything but white or cream, it’s spoiled. And lastly, if it tastes sour or has signs of mold, dispose of the tofu immediately.

Does Tofu Taste Like Cheese?

No, tofu doesn’t taste like cheese. On the contrary, it’s actually very bland. However, some people liken tofu to feta cheese.

Does Tofu Taste Like Chicken?

No. Unfortunately, the tofu taste isn’t like chicken. However, the texture of cooked tofu may be similar to chicken. It can be crispy and savory like other types of meat.

Can You Make Tofu Taste Like Meat?

Yes, you can make tofu taste like meat. In fact, tofu is the best substitute for meat. You can fry them, grill them, or even break them into crumbles like scrambled eggs. The best way to make them taste like meat is to cook them how you would typically cook beef or chicken.

What Are the Health Benefits of Tofu?

There are many health benefits of implementing tofu into your diet. The best thing about tofu is that it’s an excellent meat alternative. This is because tofu is a complete source of protein. 

You’ll still get the protein source you need by eating tofu without worrying about meat. Tofu also has lower calories and is gluten-free. It can also help regulate cholesterol for better heart health.

Nutritional Facts of Tofu

Tofu is extremely rich in protein, iron, and calcium. It’s also rich in fiber which helps aid our digestive system. Plus, it has various vitamins and minerals like manganese, copper, and magnesium.

Understanding the Types of Tofu

There are many types of tofu available on the market. Their definition depends on the degree of firmness during the production process. Each type of tofu is also built for specific recipes. It’s up to you to match the tofu to the needs of the dish. For your guide, here are 6 of the most common tofu available:

Silken Tofu

Silken tofu is the softest of all tofu. It also has the highest water content on this list. This type of tofu is not pressed, so it has a custard-like consistency. It’s soft, bouncy, and easy to squish. 

Silken tofu is the best option to replace eggs in a recipe. You can use it for smoothies, baked goods, or sauces. We don’t recommend pressing this tofu because it’s too watery, and it’ll break down. It’s also not a good idea to fry silken tofu because it will turn into mush quickly. 

Soft Tofu

Soft tofu is similar to silken tofu, except that it’s one degree higher in firmness. It has more structure and can handle pan-frying. Although it can manage cooking better, it’s still not recommended to press soft tofu.

Soft block tofu is regularly used for baking needs as an egg substitute. It’s also the main ingredient in the Filipino breakfast delicacy called “taho”. You can also use soft tofu in making vegan scrambled eggs. The texture greatly resembles actual eggs, and there’s no difference in taste. 

Medium Tofu

Medium tofu is denser than silken and soft tofu. This is because there’s an additional step in the process where they press the curds. Despite its firmness, medium tofu crumbles easily. It can handle high heat but not for long periods.

The best uses for medium-block tofu are soups and stews. It can handle the heat during the simmering process. It also gives the liquid more structure. Medium tofu absorbs the flavors well and provides a crunchy addition to a hearty soup.

Firm Tofu

Firm tofu is the most common tofu available in the market. It has the perfect firmness that won’t break down under high heat. Regarding texture, firm tofu is more porous than soft or medium tofu.

Firm tofu is the best meat substitute for recipes. Many people use it as an option for steaks, stir-fry, or grilling. You can also marinate firm tofu as you would with meat. You can press firm tofu for a denser texture than soft tofu. Firm tofu also holds well in stews, soups, or salads.

Extra-Firm Tofu

Extra-firm tofu is denser than firm tofu, hence the name. Due to its thickness and firmness, this tofu is best used for cutting and slicing. This is because it holds its shape well. You can press this type of tofu if you want it to be extra firm.

You can use extra-firm tofu for grilling, kebabs, or as an alternative to ground meat. It’s a delicious addition if you cook vegan spaghetti or vegan burgers. Extra-firm tofu lasts longer in the fridge because it’s more solid in form.

Fermented Tofu

Fermented tofu is tofu that’s been left to ferment for more than a month. After fermentation, they brine the tofu in spices, sauces, or seasonings. These include rice wine, vinegar, or chili, among others.

Fermented tofu also goes by the term “Chao”. It’s served as a side dish, dip, or rice topping. It has a solid tangy flavor and sometimes has a spicy kick to it. You can buy fermented tofu at most grocery stores or make your own version at home.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Does Tofu Taste Like When Cooked?

If you cook tofu plainly, it will have a crispy and crunchy exterior and a chewy interior. It tastes bland on its own, but it will still have that savory goodness. Tofu is best eaten with other dishes.

Does Stinky Tofu Taste Good?

We’ve answered the question, “what does tofu taste like?” Now let’s talk about the flavors of stinky tofu. The answer: it depends on your preference. Others prefer not to eat stinky tofu, but for other people, it’s a beloved delicacy. Stinky tofu has mild earthy and nutty flavors. It also has a solid tangy kick with every bite.

Is Tofu Healthy?

Yes, tofu is exceptionally healthy. It’s low in calories, gluten-free, and a great source of protein. It’s a popular choice for meat substitutes in vegan cuisines.

How Do You Enhance Tofu’s Flavor?

To enhance the tofu’s flavor, we recommend pan-frying it first. This makes the tofu become more solid and absorb the flavor better. However, fried tofu on its own already tastes good.

Is It Okay To Eat Raw Tofu?

Yes, it’s safe to eat raw tofu because it’s technically a “cooked” food. This happens during the cooking process, where you boil the tofu repeatedly. Eating raw tofu has fewer health risks compared to eating raw eggs.

How Long Does Tofu Last?

Raw tofu lasts three days in the fridge. If you change the water daily, then it can last up to a week. On the other hand, frozen tofu can last up to 3 months.

Final Thoughts

Tofu taste depends on the state when you’re eating it. Raw tofu tastes different from cooked and fried tofu. The textures vary as well. In general, tofu has a mild and subtle flavor. It’s considered bland, but it does have a nutty aftertaste from the soy milk.

Regarding tofu texture, most types are smooth, especially silken and soft tofu. Firm and extra-firm have a more porous surface. They usually sold tofu in big blocks like cheese.

When it comes to flavor, raw tofu tastes like wet milk. It comes off as bland, but it does have the nuttiness of soy milk. Eating raw tofu is safe, and it has fewer health risks than eating raw eggs. 

On the other hand, cooked tofu has a crumbly texture on the mouth. Cooked tofu taste depends on the cooking process. If you boil it, it’ll taste very mild and bland. Meanwhile, the fried tofu taste is savory. It also has crispy edges that give an extra crunch. You can eat it plain or pair it with condiments like soy sauce.

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Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!

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