What to Do With Tofu: Creative Ways to Prepare Bean Curd
Benefits of Tofu (bean curd)
Tofu is a great source of protein for vegetarians or for those trying to consume less meat in their diets. It also contains a good amount of iron and calcium and is low in calories, fat, carbohydrates, sodium, and cholesterol. Studies have suggested that eating soy-based products may help prevent breast cancer, osteoporosis and cardiovascular diseases.
Save on Your Grocery Bill by Cooking with Tofu
Tofu is an inexpensive food choice for families trying to save money or for those on a tighter budget. At our local Trader Joe's 1lb of organic tofu currently sells for $1.79. I usually use 1-2 lbs of tofu when cooking dinner for our family of four.
How Often Do You Cook With Tofu?
Choosing the Right Type of Tofu (Firm, Extra-Firm, Silken)
If your not familiar with tofu already, you may be confused on which one to buy. Choosing the right type of tofu really depends on the recipe you are planning to create with it.
Firm tofu is the one I use most often. It is great for baking, steaming, and sauteing.
Extra Firm Tofu
Grilling, grilling, grilling! Extra firm tofu is a great choice if you would like to cook it on the grill. It is less likely to crumble and really makes a hearty "tofu steak".
Silken tofu is best used for blending in smoothies, so it is an excellent choice for adding some protein to your breakfast, especially for those that may be allergic or have an aversion to eggs or dairy foods.
How to Prepare Tofu
Plain tofu, or bean curd, is very bland in taste; therefore it is an extremely versatile food to prepare. You can add tofu to almost anything including soups, stews, lasagna, & even smoothies. Or you can serve it as the main course by grilling, baking, or sauteing. Having been a vegetarian for quite some time now, I cook with tofu at least once or twice a week.
Rinse, Drain, & Pat Dry
Before using firm or extra-firm tofu, you should remove it from the package, rinse it gently under cool running water and drain in a colander. It is then best to gently pat dry using paper towels, cheese cloth, or a clean kitchen towel.
Silken tofu, should be drained in a colander before using.
Since tofu alone is very plain, it is highly recommended to marinate in many recipes. It is best to drain and lightly press firm and extra-firm tofu before marinating. Once dried out, tofu acts like a sponge and will soak up your favorite marinade very quickly. I recommend marinating tofu for at least 20 minutes before cooking.
Some of my favorite marinades for tofu are:
- soy sauce, water, & minced garlic
- soy sauce, pineapple juice, & smashed ginger
When baking with tofu, it is best to purchase either firm or extra-firm. I also highly recommend marinating tofu in your favorite sauce before baking.
Follow the steps above for rinsing, draining and drying tofu, then proceed by slicing into the desired shape and size. When I am baking tofu, I either cut it up into 1 inch cubes or I slice the rectangle in thirds the long way and then in quarters to create twelve rectangles.
After marinating for at least 20 minutes, you may choose to dip tofu into either cornmeal or seasoned breadcrumbs or bake in the oven as is.
Tofu slabs should be placed on a cooking sheet and baked in a 400° oven. After 15-20 minutes, flip tofu over and continue to cook until lightly browned.
Mmmmmm, grilled tofu is such a great summer-time treat and is so easy to cook up. Definitely use extra-firm tofu when planning to grill and it is helpful to cook on a sheet of tin foil that has been lightly sprayed with cooking oil to avoid sticking.
There are a lot of options when choosing a marinade for grilled tofu. My favorite is Soyaki, but if you would like to make your own, try a combination of soy sauce, pineapple juice, and smashed ginger.
Grill tofu over medium heat on your grill for 10-15 minutes on each side. Serve with some couscous or rice and grilled vegetables for a full-course vegetarian meal.
At my son's sixth birthday party, I served up grilled tofu along with some other Asian-inspired dishes, you can check out the full menu on my hub, A Birthday Party for Batman.
I would recommend using firm tofu when steaming and following the preparation directions above for rinsing, draining, and drying. When steaming tofu, it is best to cut into 1 inch cubes and place in a steamer for about 10-15 minutes.
I most often choose to use steamed tofu in stir-frys, so the flavor comes later with the addition of a sauce.
Check out my hub, Creating the Perfect Stir-Fry, for more ideas on using steamed tofu.
Steamed tofu is a great source of protein to serve to toddlers or young children, who may have an aversion to strong tastes, such as garlic, ginger or other marinade sauces. When my children were younger, I would set aside some plain steamed tofu before mixing in any additional sauces or seasonings.
Tofu can be mashed with a fork to create soy crumbles and used in a variety of recipes. Usually firm or soft (silken) tofu is best for the following recipes:
Adding silken tofu to your morning smoothie is a great way to add additional protein, iron, and calcium to a vegetarian diet. It is also a great ingredient to sneak into your kids frozen fruit drinks for some added nutrition.
Tofu scrambles are best made with fork mashed, firm tofu. Follow the directions above for preparing your tofu and then mash with a fork and proceed to cook like you would scrambled eggs. I like to add lots of veggies and cheese to my tofu scramble, but you could also add chunks of meat (ham, sausage, etc.), if you would prefer.
Tofu can be added to any lasagna recipe. I usually cut the amount of ricotta cheese in half and then add 1lb of fork mashed firm tofu to the ricotta cheese and other ingredients used to make the lasagna filling.
Even More Tofu Recipes:
- Asian Inspired Tofu, Green Beans & Brown Rice
A healthy & delicious vegetarian dinner that cooks up quick!
- Tofu, Veggie & Rice Noodle Soup
A quick and easy, low-calorie, vegetarian soup made with tofu, rice noodles and vegetables.
- Creating the Perfect Stir-Fry Dinner
Creating a stir-fry dinner is a quick and nutritious choice after a long day and the combinations are endlessly delicious. Just choose some vegetables, protein, rice or noodles, sauce, and enjoy!