Is Tofu Vegan? Benefits Plus 5 Awesome Recipes To Try

block and cubes of tofu on cutting board

If you’re a vegan or vegetarian we’ve got good news for you! Tofu is 100% vegan! That means it’s free from any animal products and is suitable for a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Tofu is also an awesome source of vegan protein which makes tofu a great addition to any plant-based diet.

In this article, we’ll explain:

  • what tofu is
  • the different types of tofu
  • the benefits of adding tofu to your diet
  • 5 Yummy recipes to get you started with tofu

Prefer to listen? Check out episode 419 of The Vegetarian Zen podcast where we talk tofu. You can also read on for a summary of everything we discuss.

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What is Tofu?

Before I became a vegetarian in 2013, I had no idea what tofu was made of. Tofu production is very similar to the cheese-making process. 

  • Dried, unfermented soybeans are crushed, boiled, and drained. This drained liquid is soy milk. 
  • Salt or acid coagulants are added to the soy milk to separate the curds from the whey.
  • The soy milk is poured into molds to allow the whey to drain off. 
  • The resultant soft cakes are cut into squares and stored under water until sold.

Types of Tofu

There are several different tofu varieties, each best for certain kinds of recipes. These types are distinguished by their texture, which is determined by the amount of water they contain. 

Tofu that doesn’t contain very much water is called “extra firm,” “super firm,” “firm,” or “hard.” Tofu that contains more water is softer and is called “silken.” 

Since silken tofu is very soft and has a creamy texture, it’s mainly used in baked goods, smoothies, and soups. Firm tofu holds its shape and can be cut into cubes, planks, or strips and can be fried, grilled, or baked, making it a suitable alternative to meat in many main dishes.

Benefits of Tofu

Tofu is one of the most popular meat substitutes in vegan food recipes. It can be used in place of meat in many recipes including stir-fry, soups, salads, pasta dishes, and casseroles. If you have a meat craving or just miss having meat in certain dishes, tofu is a great way to satisfy your craving.

What’s amazing about tofu is that it is so versatile! It easily takes on the flavor of whatever seasonings you’re preparing it with. Marinating tofu before cooking it is the best way to accomplish this, and the marinade flavor options are endless.

Because animal protein tends to be high in saturated fat, substituting plant-based foods such as tofu for meat is a great way to help reduce the risk of heart disease. Tofu is low in calories and is an excellent source of protein, iron, calcium, and magnesium. It contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein, and in its plain, unflavored form it’s typically gluten-free. Just be sure to check the food labels if this is important to you.

5 of Our FAVORITE Vegan Tofu Recipes

Since we eat tofu pretty regularly we definitely have some favorite ways to prepare it. Here are five “Vegetarian Zen approved” recipes to get you started. 

1. Vegan Tofu Ricotta 

If batch cooking’s your thing, whipping up a big pan of vegetable lasagna will give you several hearty, healthy meals. Because there are just two of us, we have nearly a whole pan left over that will last us most of the week. 

Lasagna ingredients typically include pasta, marinara, meat, and several types of cheese, including ricotta. We skip the meat, of course, and load our lasagna up with zucchini, mushrooms, grated carrots, and spinach. 

Traditional ricotta cheese is made from dairy milk, but tofu can be used instead to create something that is very similar in texture to dairy ricotta.  Use this plus plant-based mozzarella shreds and you’ve got yourself a delicious vegan lasagna. 

2. Crispy Air-Fried Tofu by Nora Cooks 

We’ve had our air fryer for a couple of years now and we use it to make THE BEST crispy tofu! Before the air fryer, crispy meant cooking in oil (yuck!). Now we use this recipe from Nora Cooks. The tofu comes out golden brown and crispy. 

Use these bits of tofu in salad, stir fry, or even pasta. You can easily adjust the marinade ingredients to suit the flavors of the meal you’re creating. You can also just eat them as-is or dipped in your favorite sauce (I love sweet chili sauce, of course!) for a quick snack.

3. Grilled Tofu by Love and Lemons 

No matter which seasoning option you use (fajita seasoning, chili powder, curry powder, or anything else you want), this recipe for grilled tofu from Love and Lemons is packed with flavor. With so many options you’ll likely find yourself making this recipe over and over so you can try them all.

4. Blueberry Tofu Smoothie by Cook for Your Life

This recipe calls for almond milk but I usually use soy instead. Also has blueberry and flax

blueberry smoothie in tall glass with blueberries scattered around

5. Creamy Vegan Chocolate Pudding by Connoisseurus Veg

We couldn’t close out our list without a dessert! This recipe calls for soft tofu (silken) to add a creamy texture. 

Not sure how to press and marinate tofu? We get it! Check out this video to learn how…it’s really easy!

We hope we’ve provided you with some reasons to include this plant-based protein into your diet. Substituting tofu for meat and dairy products is a great way to help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease without missing out on flavor (or protein).  

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