Is Tofu Vegan? A Easy Guide to all you need to know

Tofu, also known as bean curd, is a versatile and popular food made from soybeans. In recent years, tofu has gained increasing popularity as a vegan protein source.  But the question that lingers on many minds is, “Is Tofu truly vegan?” In this comprehensive exploration of tofu, we’ll delve into its origins, production process, and nutritional value. 

Get ready to discover the wonders of tofu, why it’s a plant-based powerhouse, a great food for the whole family and I’ll answer the question, “Is Tofu Vegan?”

Origins of Tofu

Tofu has a rich history dating back over 2,000 years, originating in China. Since then, it has become a staple in many Asian countries. 

While tofu made its way to the United States in the late 1800s, it truly found its footing in the UK during the 1970s, gradually becoming a star in Western cuisine. Today, you can find tofu in almost every grocery store. It offers a nutrient-dense source of protein and calcium plus many other health benefits. 

Is Tofu Vegan?

Yes, tofu is considered a vegan food as it is made from soya beans. 

Tofu naturally does not contain any animal products or byproducts, making it an excellent source of protein during a vegan or plant-based diet for you and your family. 

However, it’s important to note that not all tofu is made in the same way. Some tofu products on the grocery shelves may contain additives. These may be foods such as egg (egg tofu) or gelatin, which are not vegan. There is also a type of tofu called ‘stinky tofu’ which is fermented and frequently has shrimp brine added, therefore making it non-vegan. 

It’s essential to read the ingredient list carefully when purchasing tofu to make sure that it is free of any animal products. 

Little bit of extra information – Soy beans are a type of legume that belongs to the pea family. They are native to East Asia but are now cultivated worldwide. This is due to their use in various recipes as an amazing source of plant-based protein. Soybeans are highly versatile and can be processed into a wide range of soy-based foods, including our beloved tofu, soy milk, soy sauce, and many more products. 

How is Tofu Made?

The process of making tofu is quite fascinating. It starts with soybeans being soaked, ground, and then cooked. Then, calcium sulphate or magnesium chloride is added to coagulate (make thicker) the mixture into soybean curds, which are then later pressed into blocks. These blocks of tofu come in various forms, each catering to different culinary needs.

The different textures of tofu

You will find that most tofu will come in a solid block but not all tofu is the same. The main difference between the different textures of tofu is the water content. The softer the tofu, the higher the water content. 

Here are the two main types of tofu available at your grocery stores, however, there are other types of tofu you may not have heard of. 

Types of tofu

Silken Tofu: Delicate and Versatile

Silken tofu, sometimes referred to as “soft tofu,” is a unique variety of tofu known for its delicate texture and versatility. This tofu type is characterized by its high water content, which gives it a silky, custard-like consistency. Here are some key points to know about silken tofu:

Texture: Silken tofu is incredibly smooth and soft, making it an ideal choice for tofu dishes where a creamy or silky texture is desired.

Five uses for Silken Tofu

1. Smoothies: Silken tofu can be blended into fruit smoothies to add creaminess and a protein boost without altering the flavor significantly.

2. Desserts: It is often used as a base for vegan desserts, such as vegan cheesecakes, puddings, and mousse.

3. Soups: Silken tofu can be gently stirred into soups to add creaminess without overpowering the flavors.

4. Salads: It can be cubed and added to salads for a protein-rich component.

5. Scrambled Tofu: Silken tofu can be broken into small pieces and used to create a scrambled tofu dish, seasoned with spices and vegetables.

Careful Handling: Due to its delicate nature, silken tofu should be handled with care to avoid breaking it apart. When cooking with it, it’s best to add it towards the end or gently fold it into recipes.

Firm Tofu: Versatility and Resilience in the Kitchen

Firm tofu is often considered the workhorse of the tofu family due to its versatility and ability to withstand various cooking methods. Here’s a closer look at why firm tofu is a popular choice for many dishes:

Texture and Consistency:

  • Firm tofu is characterized by its dense and solid texture. It contains less water than softer tofu varieties, which gives it a robust structure.
  • This texture allows firm tofu to maintain its shape during cooking, making it an excellent choice for recipes where you want the tofu to hold up without breaking apart.
Picture of firm tofu

How to cook firm tofu

One of the key reasons why firm tofu is widely used in cooking is it’s versatility. It can be added to sweet and savoury recipes. 

  • Frying: Firm tofu is perfect for frying because it gives a crispy exterior while remaining tender inside. This makes it a great option for dishes like tofu nuggets, tempura, or crispy tofu tacos.
  • Grilling: Firm tofu can be marinated and grilled to perfection. Its ability to absorb flavors makes it excellent on a bbq. 
  • Roasting: When roasted, firm tofu develops a golden-brown crust and a slightly chewy texture. It is a great source of protein to be then added to salads, stir-fries, and grain bowls.

How to prepare firm tofu

Properly preparing firm tofu is essential to maximize its taste and texture in your recipes. Here are some important steps to help

  • Draining: Firm tofu comes packaged in water. Before using it drain the excess water by placing the tofu between paper towels or using a tofu press. This helps the tofu absorb any marinades and flavors much better. 
  • Pressing: For certain recipes, especially those requiring a firmer texture, you can press you tofu even further to remove even more moisture.  A tofu press is a handy tool for this purpose.

Is extra-firm tofu the same as super-firm tofu?

Extra Firm Tofu

Extra firm tofu is tofu in its most concentrated form. It contains the least amount of water among tofu varieties which gives it a denser more solid texture. This tofu type can be sliced, cubed, or crumbled without breaking apart easily, making it ideal for recipes where you want the tofu to retain its shape and absorb flavors. It’s perfect for marinating, grilling, stir-frying, or baking. 

Vegans and those following a plant-based diet often turn to extra firm tofu as a meat substitute in dishes like tacos, sandwiches, and kebabs.

Super Firm Tofu

Super firm tofu, also known as high-protein tofu, takes tofu’s firmness to the extreme. It contains even less water than firm and extra-firm tofu, giving it a nearly solid texture. Super firm tofu is an excellent choice when you again need tofu to mimic the texture of certain meat products like chicken or pork.

Its dense consistency makes it perfect for slicing, skewering, or even breading and frying. If you’re looking for tofu that can hold up in hearty dishes or mimic the texture of specific meats, super firm tofu is your go-to option.

Five major brands of Tofu

  1. Clearspring
  2. The Tofoo Company 
  3. Cauldron
  4. Yutaka
  5. Mori-Nu

Is Tofu Vegan? Image of tofu curry made with firm tofu

Is Organic Tofu good for you? 

Absolutely! Organic tofu offers a healthy and environmentally friendly choice. It’s made from organic soybeans, grown without synthetic pesticides or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This not only reduces environmental impact but also ensures your tofu is free from potentially harmful residues. 

Nutritionally, organic tofu is just as beneficial as regular tofu, providing ample protein, calcium, iron, and essential amino acids. Choosing organic tofu not only supports your health but also promotes sustainable farming practices that benefit both you and the planet.

Nutritional Value of Tofu

Tofu is not only a versatile ingredient but also a nutritional powerhouse that can benefit the whole family. It is a Complete Protein Source with Essential Amino Acids and Health Benefits Whether you’re an adult or a child, including tofu in your diet can offer a wide array of essential nutrients. Let’s take a closer look at the nutritional content of tofu:

Per 100g, tofu contains approximately:

  • 140kcals: Tofu provides a moderate amount of calories, making it an excellent choice for those looking to maintain a balanced diet.
  • 17g protein: Tofu is renowned for its protein content, making it a complete protein source. It contains all the essential amino acids required for proper growth and overall health. This makes tofu an ideal choice for individuals following a vegan or plant-based diet, as it can help meet their protein needs.
  • 350-500mg calcium: Tofu is an excellent source of calcium, a crucial mineral for maintaining strong bones and teeth. Tofu made with calcium sulfate as a coagulant can provide even higher levels of calcium. 
  • 5.5mg iron: Tofu contains iron, which is essential for carrying oxygen in the blood and preventing iron deficiency anemia, common in women of child-bearing age. 
  • Magnesium, Folate, and Zinc: In addition to the mentioned nutrients, tofu contains essential minerals like magnesium and zinc, along with folate. These nutrients play various roles in overall health, including immune system support and cell function. 

Tofu’s remarkable combination of essential amino acids, complete protein, and diverse nutrients makes it a valuable addition to any diet. Additionally, the health benefits of tofu go beyond its benefits above. Tofu can also support heart health reducing the risk of heart disease and other health concerns such as breast cancer and prostate cancer. It may also help to maintain healthy cholesterol levels. 

Can you eat tofu raw in pregnancy?

Yes, it can be eaten raw as the process used to make tofu means that it doesn’t pose a risk. However, it is important to always check this process prior to eating plus it tastes better cooked! 

Is soya safe for kids? 

Yes soya is safe for kids. 

Soy, including soy-based products like tofu and soy milk, can be a part of a child’s diet and provide essential nutrients, especially for those following a vegan diet. 

Soy is a great source of plant-based protein, making it an excellent alternative to animal-based proteins for infants and children. 

Some concerns have been raised about soy consumption in children due to compounds called phytoestrogens, which are naturally occurring in soy. These compounds can mimic the hormone estrogen in the body. While research is ongoing, current evidence suggests that moderate soy consumption as part of a balanced diet is safe for children. If you are concerned get it touch, however my advice based on the evidence is that soya is safe for kids. 

So, is tofu vegan? 

Yes it is!  Tofu is a nutritionally dense food that works great for vegan families in a variety of dishes. It all starts with those soybeans, getting ground, soaked, and cooked. Tofu is a fantastic source of protein for the whole family and can be added to so many of your favorite recipes; think sizzling stir-fries, creamy smoothies, and tofu scramble. 

Always remember to look out for sneaky additives that might be present in some tofu brands by checking the ingredient list.  

Hannah x

Hannah Whittaker Dietitian Bump2baby Nutrition
Expert Pregnancy & Paediatric Dietitian at | info@bump2babynutrition.com | Website | + posts

Hannah is an Expert Registered Dietitian specialising in Vegan Family Nutrition and Cows Milk Protein Allergy. 

She is a respected figure in the field of nutrition and a captivating speaker and sought after media spokesperson being featured in esteemed publications including the Sunday Times, Independent and Huffington Post.

Credentials

  • Registered Dietitian
  • First Class Degree in Nutrition

Experience

  • Over 15 years experience working in the field of nutrition
  • Respected Media Spokesperson both in the UK & USA; quoted online, TV and in local and international news
  • Writer & Researcher, supporting the BDA and PEN Nutrition

 

 

More Vegan Pregnancy resources:

Elderberry vs Blueberry; What are the health benefits?

Elderberry vs Blueberry; What are the health benefits?

So Elderberry vs Blueberry who wins?! Well elderberries and blueberries are two fruits that have gained a lot of attention for their health benefits, but is there any difference between the two. As an expert Paediatric & Pregnancy Dietitian, I love how these...

Are Candy Canes Dairy Free & Vegan? Let’s find out! 

Are Candy Canes Dairy Free & Vegan? Let’s find out! 

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… and one sweet treat many of us love at this time of year is the tasty red and white peppermint flavor of candy canes. As an Expert Dietitian specialising in supporting plant-based and vegan families, I'm eager to explore a...

Are Pretzels Vegan? Can you eat this soft snack [2024]

Are Pretzels Vegan? Can you eat this soft snack [2024]

As a Dietitian who specializes in vegan and plant-based diets for families, the first questions here would be; what kind of pretzel are we talking about? The crunchy, hard, salty snack or the plaited, warm pretzel with the chewy texture? Does it matter? Let's find out...

11 Best Plant Based Sour Creams [2024]

11 Best Plant Based Sour Creams [2024]

One of the exciting developments in the world of plant-based foods is the variety of delicious alternatives to dairy product. This is especially crucial for families with milk allergies, as well as those who follow a vegan or plant-based lifestyle. In this blog, I'll...

Black Beans vs Black Soya Beans: What’s the difference?

Black Beans vs Black Soya Beans: What’s the difference?

In the world of plant-based nutrition, the debate of black beans vs black soya beans: what's the difference? is a common topic. As a dietitian who specializes in vegan and plant-based diets for families, I get many questions about plant based protein sources. When...

Want more info?

If you have any questions or need some advice, feel free to get in touch!