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Meatless Monday: Don't be troubled by tofu

Patricia Conte has a background in marketing communications and works as an independent writer. In 2010, she was given the opportunity to combine her love of writing and food when she started as a contributing writer for the Food channel...

Break free from the mystery of tofu!

The good word is out about tofu! What was once a mystery to many (and maybe even the butt of a few jokes) is now, fortunately, no longer under wraps.

Tofu

Served straight from its container, tofu is a bit bland. It has a similar appearance to cheese and generally has a whitish color. Doesn't sound all that appealing, does it? But...toss it together with other ingredients and seasonings and you have a special ingredient that can easily absorb other flavors and provide a great texture to your dish.

Tofu is purely plant-based and made from soybeans, water and a curdling agent. Basically, the soybeans are pureed, cooked and filtered. After filtering, the soymilk is made to curdle with a thickening agent and the curds (solid parts) are pressed into cakes. The whey (liquid) is drained off.

Tofu types

There are two types, silken or soft, and regular or firm. At the grocery you'll also find other tofu options including pre-cooked, marinated or other flavored options. These are great added to salads, sandwiches or as a snack with crackers.

Silken and regular tofu are made from the same ingredients but processed differently. Silken tofu is considered Japanese-style tofu and is sometimes stored in packaging without water, in a non-refrigerated section at the grocery store. It has a long shelf life, but once opened, it should be stored in a container with water, refrigerated and used within about a week. Silken tofu is often used in recipes that require a creamy and smooth texture -- like sauces.

Regular tofu is often called Chinese-style tofu. You'll find it at the grocery store in a plastic container filled with water, usually in the produce or refrigerated sections. This type of tofu is good to use in general recipes that call for baking or stir frying (firm or extra firm options are best).

tofu the terrific

According to the Meatless Monday organization, one of the many benefits of going meatless, even once a week, includes curbing obesity. People on low-meat or vegetarian diets have significantly lower body weights and body mass indexes. A recent study from Imperial College London also found that reducing overall meat consumption can prevent long-term weight gain.

If you haven't given tofu a chance, consider its versatility along with its nutritional benefits:

  • It's an excellent source of protein
  • It's low in calories and sodium
  • It's a cholesterol-free food
  • It's a great source of calcium and iron

Going meatless, at least once a week is not only good for your health but good for the environment, too. Consider that an estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water are used to produce a single pound of beef. That's something to think about the next time you plan to bite into a burger.

Tofu is a great option when you're trying to decide what meatless meal to make for dinner!

Tasty tofu recipes

Tofu Reuben sandwich

Seared tofu with baby Asian greens salad

Curried tofu wraps

Noodles with smoked tofu and vegetables

Creamy tofu and avocado dip

Grilled tofu steaks with fresh salsa

More Meatless Monday ideas

Meatless Monday Mediterranean style

Start the week with a pizza party

Go green (and meatless) with green beans

Salad sensations

Six days beyond

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