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Tofu Recipes and Cooking Tips

New to tofu? Here's everything you need to know to prepare and enjoy this versatile food.
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WebMD Expert Column

What happens when you make cheese or "curd" from soymilk instead of cow’s milk? You get tofu (also known as soybean curd). Don’t get me wrong. Tofu isn’t something you want to use as you would cheese -- most of us wouldn’t want to make a grilled tofu sandwich or order a tofu pizza, for example. No, tofu is its own unique food, with huge culinary possibilities. If you're new to tofu, you may be wondering how to choose, store, and cook this nutritious food. Read on for tofu recipes, cooking tips, and facts.

What Is Tofu?

When you look at this beige, gel-like substance, you might wonder how it’s made from soybeans, which many of us picture in their green, unripe state as edamame. Tofu is actually the "curd" from the milky liquid extracted from mature soybeans that is pressed into cakes.

Soybeans are the only plant proteins that contain all 8 essential amino acids, meaning they are "complete" proteins like egg whites or chicken. A slice of firm tofu (2.86 ounces) contains 13 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, 0.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, 55% of the Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) for calcium (when made with calcium sulfate), 12% RDI for iron and magnesium, 20% of the RDI for selenium, 9% for vitamin B1, and 6% for folic acid.

If you're thinking tofu is a relatively new, know that it is actually centuries old to China. According to The Food Encyclopedia, Tofu was "new" to Japan in 1212 when it was introduced by the Chinese, who had been making the soybean curd for more than 2,000 years.

When many Americans first became aware of this chameleon food in the '70s and '80s, it was considered something of a fringe food. But it’s becoming more and more appealing to Americans, including college students, according to a recent study.

What Can I Do With Tofu?

The way I see it, there are two types of tofu recipes:

  • Recipes in which tofu is a mystery ingredient – you might not even know it's in there.
  • Recipes that feature tofu, unapologetically, in all its glory.

I tend to favor the latter types of tofu recipes, but there are times when the gel-like texture of tofu can be blended in to add creaminess and thickness to a dish. There are also times when tofu can act as a filler to extend other, more expensive ingredients, like ground sirloin in a meatloaf.

The tofu recipes below include both kinds of tofu dishes. Try them and see which you prefer.

What Kind of Tofu Should I Buy?

When standing at the refrigerated produce section of your grocery store, you might be surprised to see how many types of tofu there are: "extra firm," "firm," "soft," and "silken." You’ll want to stick with the type your recipe calls for since there is a major texture difference between the two extremes.

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