Tofu Buying Guide

Do you experience Tofu Confusion? It’s a condition defined by a lack of knowledge about what kinds of tofu to buy in various situations, not knowing where to buy tofu, and even how to pronounce it. A great start is to know the right kinds of tofu to buy. This Tofu Buying Guide will help.

An image of roasted tofu in a bowl with the text "The ultimate guide to tofu"

If you’ve seen recipes like Vegan Breakfast Biscuit Casserole and Vegan Lemon Bars that call for tofu, but you’re not sure how to find tofu in the supermarket, I’ve been there! Or maybe you want to add more plant-based ingredients to your keto diet and you’re wondering, is tofu keto-friendly? (The answer is…yes!).

Before becoming vegetarian, I did most of my cooking from neatly prepared boxes. I might have had to chop an onion, but that didn’t seem too difficult. There’s a yellow one, a white one, and a red one to choose from. Sure they each have their subtle variations in taste, but they’re still onions.

But when I first tried a recipe that called for tofu, it didn’t come with instructions on what kind to buy. So when I headed to the store I went to one of the grocery store attendants and mumbled through what to call it.

I think I asked if he had any Dooku (we had just recently watched Star Wars so the error was understandable). He eventually figured it out and sent me to the correct aisle. And that’s when I learned that there are different varieties of tofu. Tofu comes in all shapes and sizes… and textures from marinated, silken, firm, and extra firm. What was I to do?

I did what I always did in those days. I bought the least expensive one and decided to make do. That recipe didn’t turn out too well, but I learned over the years. And some other things changed since then. For example, I used to have to drive miles away to a health food store to find tofu. But now I can buy it at my local grocery store.

Tofu Buying Guide: Where to Buy Tofu

You can now find tofu at Target, Wal-Mart, most grocery stores (either in the produce section or the health food section), Trader Joe’s, and health food stores like Natural Grocers, Sprouts, and others.

Of course, you may also wonder, what does tofu taste like? The good news is, tofu has a neutral flavor that allows it to take on the flavors of the things it’s cooked with.

Where to Find Tofu in the Grocery Store?

Once you’re in the store, head straight to the produce section. That’s where many grocery stores keep things like firm and extra firm tofu in plastic tubs.

You may also find tofu in the refrigerated health food section. Non-refrigerated tofu (usually silken tofu) can be found in Asian or International sections of some grocery stores.

How Much Does Tofu Cost?

All in all, a tub of tofu will cost anywhere between 2 to 3 dollars. Marinaded tofu can cost around 3 to 5 dollars. I love looking for sales and when that happens, I stock up! Tofu can last for a long time – just look at the box to see the expiration date. You can even freeze tofu but be warned it will change the consistency of the tofu.

The Tofu Buying Guide: Types of Tofu

There are basically three types of tofu: Silken, Regular, and Marinated. Each one works with different recipes. For example, silken tofu is great is puddings, baked goods, and sauces.

Regular tofu is great for making a breakfast scramble or stir fry. Marinated tofu can be sliced, cubed, or served whole over salads, pasta, or with accompanying side dishes.

An image of the silken tofu section of a grocery store
Silken Tofu in the grocery store

Silken Tofu

This is silken tofu. See? It says it right above the word tofu. This kind of tofu is more gelatinous. I use this most frequently as an egg replacer in cakes, pies, and even some breads. I also use it as a substitute for soft cheeses.

For example, add this tofu to your food processor with some garlic, fresh basil, a little bit of olive oil (possibly even a few pine nuts if you have some handy), and some salt to make a great “ricotta cheese” layer for lasagna.

Silken tofu comes in 3 different varieties: Soft, Firm, and Extra Firm. Honestly, I don’t see much of a difference in these, so I typically buy the extra firm.

Some silken tofu will come tightly packed in a box which may mean it doesn’t require refrigeration. If so, it probably has a limited amount of water. You can drain that if you choose before adding it to your recipes.

An image of the tofu section of a grocery store
Pressed tofu in the grocery store

Regular Tofu

The second kind of tofu is what I’ve heard referred to as Asian tofu, but I just call it regular tofu. It is more firm in texture.

This is the kind of tofu you’ll want to buy for things like stir-fries (like my Orange Crispy Tofu), Eggless Egg Salad, or other recipes that will require a more chunky tofu presence. (Yes, tofu can have a presence).

Storing Tofu

Unopened tofu has a long shelf-life. However, once it’s opened, you should be prepared to cook the tofu quickly.

  • Silken Tofu — This usually comes in an aseptic container and therefore has a long shelf life. Unopened packages do not need to be refrigerated. Once it’s opened, it should be used within a few days and should be kept refrigerated.
  • Firm Tofu — Most unopened containers will last for several months in the fridge. Once opened, the tofu should be used within a few days and it should be kept in the fridge.
  • Frozen Tofu — You can freeze tofu to extend it’s life for even longer. It can keep in the freezer for up to six months. However, freezing tofu does change the texture.

Pressing Tofu

Regular tofu comes in variations of firmness. This is something that either a recipe will request or you will have to determine based on your personal preference (or what’s on sale).

This regular tofu usually requires pressing because it’s been stored in water. Why press tofu? Because you want to remove the excess water so you can replace it with flavors from a marinade. Besides, once pressed, the tofu will be firmer.

Most tofu comes packed in water which means you’ll want to drain it and press some of the moisture out before cooking it.

You should also press the tofu before cooking, to remove any excess liquid that is absorbed in the package. There’s nothing wrong with the liquid it was wrapped in, but tofu is relatively flavorless and by pressing it and removing excess liquid, you can replace that liquid with something more flavorful, like a marinade.

To press tofu, remove it from its packaging. You can press tofu by wrapping it in a dishtowel and placing something heavy on it for a few minutes or use a tofu press (paid link). Simply place the tofu in the press and use the bands to tighten the press. Then refrigerate it for 30 minutes up to hours. Sometimes, I’ll put the tofu in the press in the morning so that it’s ready for our evening meal.

A hand holds a knife and is cutting tofu. It's sitting next to a tofu presser gadget.
A tofu press makes squeezing out all the water super easy

Alternatively, you can also wrap it with a kitchen towel and place something heavy on top. Then set it aside for 30 minutes up to an hour.

A stack of tofu has been wrapped in towels and a dish has been placed on top of it.
Placing a heavy weight on top of the tofu with towels to absorb the water

Tofu takes on the flavor of things around it so you’ll either want to marinate the tofu or be sure to cook it with some flavorful spices. We will chop a block of tofu like this into 1″ cubes or rectangles and saute them in olive oil, add some curry and stir fry with other veggies.

Recipes with Tofu

Here are some of my favorite recipes feature, you guessed it, tofu!

Vegan Chocolate Pie

You'll love this sultry Vegan Chocolate Pie with Pecan Crust made with less than 10 ingredients and ready before you know it!
Vegan Chocolate Pie Recipe
A slice of vegan chocolate pie on a doily next to a fork

Marinated Tofu

You'll love this deliciously easy vegan recipe for marinated tofu. Serve tofu on salads, with stir fries, or even on sandwiches.
Marinated Tofu Recipe
Looking down on cooked tofu over noodles.

Sesame Tofu

You'll love this delicious Sesame Tofu served over rice, cauliflower rice, or noodles. It has a sticky sauce but is a nice low-carb option for vegans.
Sesame Tofu Recipe
A chopstick holds a single bite over a bowl of sesame tofu.

Whatever way you slice it, paying between $2–5 is not too bad compared to the cost of meat.

Store-bought Marinated Tofu

Now you can buy marinated tofu at some health food stores. It’s sometimes a little more expensive, but it’s nice to have the marinade so infused into the tofu. I also find the texture of marinated tofu to be much better. Sometimes I’ll slice marinated tofu and serve it on a salad or on tacos, etc.

Tofu Nutrition

Tofu can contribute nutrients to your diet. For example, tofu contains the following nutrients:

  • calcium
  • protein
  • copper
  • selenium
  • iron
  • magnesium
  • zinc.

I hope you’ve found this tofu buying guide helpful. Now, I’m off to the kitchen to make something to eat! Tofu stir-fry sounds good.

19 Responses to Tofu Buying Guide

  1. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyKenny Reply

    Isn’t organic the type to buy, only because most soybeans grown in the US is GMO

  2. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyAriel Reply

    This was extremely helpful! I’ve been living in Vietnam for 2 years and have become addicted to tofu. Now stateside I was lost at what to buy. Thank you! I will be looking at your recipes!

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