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.
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?
A typical 14-ounce tub of tofu will cost $3 or less. Marinaded tofu can cost around $4. I love looking for sales, and when that happens, I stock up! Tofu can last a long time – look at the container’s expiration date. You can even freeze tofu but it will change the consistency.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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
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 can contribute nutrients to your diet. For example, tofu contains the following nutrients:
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.
21 Responses to Tofu Buying Guide
I want to make a spinach & cheese quiche which tofu do i use?
Hi Vera! I love this question because I’ve been thinking about adding a vegan quiche recipe and now you’re comment has cinched the deal! 🙂 So, if you want to hold out to January, then I will get you a recipe, but if you want to go ahead and try it on your own, here’s how I plan on doing it: 1) Make my fail-proof pie crust, 2) Cook some mushrooms and onions in a skillet, 3) wring out al the moisture you can from a package of thawed frozen spinach (I do this over the sink), 4) In a food processor combine a package of firm tofu with probably about a cup (or more) of plain plant-based milk. I’d probably add some miso paste to this as well and some nutritional yeast flakes. Then pulse until smooth. 5) Place the pie crust in a pie pan, lay out the mushrooms, onions and spinach over that, and then pour the tofu mixture over all of that. Then top it with some vegan cheese and bake in the oven heated at 350F for about an hour. Oh, and I would probably pre-bake that pie shell for 5 – 10 minutes too, to keep it from getting soggy with the quiche. This is pretty rough draft here, and I haven’t tested it yet, but hopefully this will give you something to go on. If you try it, send me a photo using #namelymarly and let know how it goes!
How can i get some of your recipes i love this post it was very helpful…now tofo is made from soy i though soy was not good for women…i may b very wrong
I have a friend with a child with many food allergies. Is soy the same as tofu. I know little about vegan cooking, but I want to try to make vegan potatoe salad.
Tofu is made from soybeans so you could make vegan potato salad and just leave out the soy. The tricky part would be finding soy-free, dairy-free mayo. Earth Balance makes an Olive Oil Mayo that might work. You should check into it to see if meets your dietary restrictions. I hope this helps!
When buying Silken tofu, keep in mind it has a creamier texture than soft tofu. This can be used to thicken up a smoothie or soup, or as a substitute for mayonnaise. In Japanese culture, silken tofu is typically eaten plain or with a splash of soy sauce.
do you know from where I can buy fresh tofu in Montreal?
Wonderful article! Very quickly and to-the-point, clarified for me exactly what I was confused about. Thank you!
Great! I’m so glad you liked it!
I am very new to the world of vegetarianism. I have recently found out I have really high cholesterol and doc recommends a vegetarian diet along with my pill. I have no clue as to what to look for as far as tofu goes. Or how much to buy, or how to cook it. I am at a complete loss. Can you possibly help me? I might also add that i am on a budget of about $140 a month for groceries.
Welcome to my world, Janie! I’m so impressed with your doctor to talk about your diet in addition to medications. I have lots of great recipes that work great on a budget. Some of my favorites are: Lentil Sloppy Joes, Easy Vegan Chili, and Cajun Inspired Red Beans and Rice. It can seem tough to do a vegan diet on a limited budget, but keeping some rice and beans on hand is a great way to start!
I read about a shop in Montreal that makes fresh tofu once, and have had a desire to try that. Apparently it’s a totally different taste experience, and I can imagine it goes from a rather tasteless cube to something that has hints of nuts and milk in it (according to the article). So that’s my new tofu to try.
I have an idea. Let’s head up to Montreal and give it a try!
Yes! Even though Ryan and I are vegetarians…we don’t eat tofu very much…mostly because I’m kind of intimidated about the variety of options. This was an excellent and informative post. Thank you!
It can be very intimidating. And usually the attendants in a typical grocery store don’t know how to answer questions about tofu. Half of the time I have to tell them what veggie I’m buying so they can ring it up. Tofu really is delicious to cook with. Glad you found the post helpful!
I love all tofu and this is a great post! the silken tofu makes wonderful dips! and desserts! yum
Yes – dips! I knew I was forgetting something. I’ve also added whipped tofu to some soups as a “milky” thickener. It’s very versatile. Glad you liked the post.