Everything You Need to Know to Take On Tofu, Plus 7 Recipes

We may tend to associate tofu with health-savvy dieters and vegetarians, but the ingredient has many more easy and practical applications in the kitchen than you might think! Tofu, also known as soybean curd, is made from dried soybeans that are ground up with water to form a milky substance, reports The Kitchn. This substance is then curdled and processed into blocks in a method of preparation that has been a staple of Asian cuisine for thousands of years. Firm tofu is formed by draining out the excess liquid whey from these blocks, while silken tofu retains the fluid, thus offering a creamier consistency than its counterpart.

Firm tofu’s “meatier” texture suits a variety of typically savory dishes, while custard-like silken tofu can be enjoyed on its own or substituted for egg in certain creamy sauces and even desserts. Both types of tofu are versatile, protein-rich, and low calorie, with each ½ cup of the substance containing 105 calories and 10 grams of satisfying protein, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Experiment with tofu using these seven recipes to learn the ins and outs of the dynamic ingredient. It’s simpler to cook with than you might think!

Source: iStock

1. Pan-Fried Tofu With Chili Sesame Sauce

Tofu amateurs and experts alike should keep a classic fried tofu dish in their recipe arsenal to satisfy any last-minute cravings for Asian cuisine. Beyond Kimchee’s Pan-Fried Tofu With Chili Sesame Sauce is a classic tofu “steak,” pan-frying firm tofu until it reaches a rich golden-brown hue. Each bite of the dish delivers a mouthwatering crisp, accented with a sweet and spicy sauce that’s good enough to eat even by itself.

Visit Beyond Kimchee for the recipe.

Source: iStock

2. Tofu Fried Rice

It’s rare that any of us will order Chinese takeout without tacking a side of fried rice onto the order. Now you can save yourself both time and money by throwing together a variation of this low-maintenance dish at home. Tofu is one of the more popular accoutrements to classic fried rice, offering a kick of protein — and a welcome bit of textural variation — to the mass of oils, seasonings, veggies, and grains in this dish. Using firm tofu, On Sugar Mountain illustrates an easy way to whip up a fresh batch. We promise you it’ll be good enough to rival your favorite restaurant’s!

Visit On Sugar Mountain for the recipe.

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3. Miso Soup With Tofu and Salmon

Classic Japanese Miso Soup is a cozy, warming dish that is always a welcome precursor to a platter full of sushi, or as a soothing snack on its own. You may be surprised to learn just how few ingredients this dish requires to make in your own home. Chopped firm tofu, cabbage, salmon, shiitake mushrooms, and scallions are incorporated into the light and savory broth for a taste of traditional Japanese culture. This recipe yields 3 to 4 servings.

Visit The Seasoned Traveler for the recipe.

Source: iStock

4. Creamy Tofu-Basil Pesto Sauce

One of silken tofu’s more handy uses in the kitchen is as a base for creamy sauces of all kinds. These smooth sauces and spreads can be used on meats and pastas, or even as veggie or chip dips, depending on their consistencies. This particular recipe yields a Creamy Tofu-Basil Pesto Sauce, perfect for topping a hearty spaghetti dish. It’s vegan-friendly, but it’s also an excellent alternative for lactose-sensitive individuals, those looking to cut calories, or any cook simply looking for a change in their culinary repertoire. Even the most ardent cream sauce enthusiasts will agree that this dish is delish!

Visit Once Upon A Cutting Board for the recipe.

Source: iStock

5Sweet and Sour Tofu Stir-Fry

Vegetarian or not, you won’t be able to resist the sweet and sour taste profile of this Chinese-influenced tofu stir-fry. You’ll fry up a mix of firm tofu, broccoli, onions, and seasonings in a zesty, thick soy- and vinegar-based sauce, culminating in a culinary experience that your taste buds won’t forget. This is a great way to cook tofu for beginners, as it is a very forgiving (read: foolproof) preparation. Serve your tofu and veggies atop a bed of hot rice and dig in for a truly satiating meal!

Visit Omnivore’s Cookbook for the recipe.

Source: iStock

6. Dairy-Free Chocolate Pie

Tofu isn’t just for savory dishes any more! Silken tofu’s texture lends itself exceptionally well to smooth and creamy desserts such as mousses and creamy pies. Alton Brown’s Moo-less Chocolate Pie is one such shining example of a brilliant tofu-based sweet — just read the glowing reviews on the Food Network site to find out for yourself! Chocolate lovers will go crazy for the smooth cocoa-coffee filling and its crispy cocoa wafer crust. If you’d like to try your hand at another variety of silken tofu-based mousse, we highly recommend Chocolate and Carrots’ Peanut Butter Mousse Cups.

Visit Food Network for the recipe.

Source: iStock

7. Kimchi Soft Tofu Stew (Soondubu Jjigae)

This traditional Korean stew has a zesty broth that melds the soft texture of custard-like silken tofu with the intense flavors of Korean chili paste (kochujang) and soy sauce, while vegetables and rice lend a pleasing textural element to the dish. Chow notes that this stew is traditionally served boiling hot in its serving vessel. An egg is cracked in the middle, culminating in a truly dazzling presentation. The stew makes a wonderful comfort food to serve friends and family, and can be whipped up with ease using ingredients from your local grocery store or Asian market.

Visit Chow for the recipe.

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