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Is Tofu Vegan-Friendly Food?

Jason Hughes
Published by Jason Hughes
Fact checked by Markus Oliver, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: November 23, 2021

Tofu is one of those really controversial foods.

It is a very good source of protein, which comes from soy, and has many nutrients.
It is very versatile, cheap, and can be a good meat replacement on a plant-based diet.

In fact, it’s one of the oldest vegetarian protein sources available.

But tofu can also be heavily processed, and it sometimes doesn’t have the best of reputations. If you’re on a vegan diet you might want to know if tofu is really vegan-friendly? And is tofu really that healthy?

In this post, we tell you if tofu is in fact vegan-friendly and so much more so that tofu has no more secrets for you!

What Is Tofu?

First of all, what is tofu exactly? It’s apparently been there for over 2,000 years old and comes from China.

Tofu consists of little blocks of ‘cheese’, that’s made from condensed soy milk. You can make it through a process similar to cheese making, but without involving any animals.

It usually comes in a block or in little cubes, and you can get different textures, as you can see in the section below. Tofu doesn’t taste like anything in particular, so it’s very versatile and you can use it in pretty much anything, desserts included.

So yes, tofu is vegetarian and vegan, since it doesn’t contain any animals or animal by-products. Soy milk comes from soya beans, which are legumes, and are vegan and vegetarian-friendly.

In fact, tofu is generally associated with anyone who is on a plant-based diet, and this stereotype is not a new one.

Types Of Tofu

There are a lot of different tofu types, so if you think you don’t like tofu, it’s because you didn’t try them all!

These are all vegan-friendly types, but there is actually one type that isn’t listed here, which is not vegan: egg tofu. Check the sections below to find out more.

There are different textures you can get, which include:

Firm

This is fresh tofu that is pressed to have a firm texture. It’s usually coagulated with calcium sulfate or seawater. It’s great in curries, soups, or in stir-fries. It’s also works well when glazed and deep-fried. If you want a crispy tofu texture, that’s the one to go for.

This is personally my favorite type of tofu because it’s so versatile, and you can make it adapt to different flavors.

Extra-firm

If you want your tofu to taste a bit like the Indian cheese paneer, but keep it vegan-friendly, try extra-firm tofu.

It’s the same thing as the firm tofu, but more moisture is removed from this one. This is the chewiest tofu you can get. You can even crumble extra-firm tofu when you slice it thinly.

Not everyone likes this type of tofu, and many people think that this is tofu is the only tofu type available.

Silken

If you like to bake or have a sweet tooth, try out silken tofu. It works great in vegan desserts as an egg or dairy substitute. It makes the texture silkier, creamier, and thicker. You won’t even notice you’re eating tofu!

It’s coagulated in its package so that it doesn’t have any curds. It’s also undrained, and uncut to keep the moisture in.

Extra-soft

Extra-soft tofu can also work as an egg substitute and can even replace dairy yogurt. It’s also great in stews or soups.

It’s usually coagulated with seawater or nigari (which is calcium salts and magnesium).

Frozen

You can also get frozen tofu, which, surprisingly, allows the tofu to absorb the flavor of your savory dish and has less water in it.

You can freeze firm or soft tofu, depending on what you want to use it for.

Fermented

The last type of tofu you can get is fermented tofu. This is more unusual to find in Western countries, but you can easily find it in China or Japan. It’s either pickled, fermented, or dried.

You can use it in many different dishes in the Asian cuisine.

Tofu Ingredients

There are usually three ingredients in tofu: soybeans, water, and coagulants. This can vary a bit depending on where you buy it from. It can also have some seasoning in it. So let’s examine these three main ingredients:

Soybeans
The first ingredient of tofu is soybeans. These are transformed into soy milk and are cooked.

Water
The amount of water can depend on what kind of tofu you get. Soy milk is made with soybeans and water, so that’s an essential ingredient.

Coagulants
After you eat soy milk, you cool it down and add some coagulants to give the tofu its desired texture. This can be calcium, magnesium salts, lemon juice, acetic acid, or any other type of coagulant.

Coagulation takes approximately 20 minutes, and then the curds are compacted for another 20 minutes. This then produces blocks of tofu.

Can Vegans Eat Tofu?

Since vegan food is not made with any animals or animal by-products, yes, vegans can eat tofu.

If you’re on a vegan diet, you can eat all kinds of tofu, except egg tofu. As you can guess from the name, egg tofu does contain egg, which excludes it from the vegan category.

Also, some people don’t even think that egg tofu is, in fact, tofu, as it isn’t made from soy. Instead, it’s made from a mix of beaten eggs and Daishi, which can contain fish. It’s also known as the ‘Japanese tofu’, but it’s not vegetarian or vegan-friendly at all.

Also, make sure you know what kind of tofu you get in restaurants (Asian restaurants in particular) and from street vendors, as it’s sometimes not vegan. But generally, in Western countries, all tofu is vegan.

Health Benefits Of Tofu: Why Eat Tofu?

Tofu has a lot of health benefits. Since it’s made from soybeans, it has beneficial isoflavones. In fact, 3.5 ounces of tofu (100g) has 20.2 to 24.7mg of isoflavones.

These are phytoestrogens, which means that they are estrogens that come from plants, in this case, soybeans.

They can activate the estrogen receptors in your body and can have several health benefits. Isoflavones can increase bone density, reduce muscle soreness, lower cholesterol, and improve mental functions.

Eating soy can also help with breast cancer, prostate cancer, uterine cancer, Alzheimer’s, IBS, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, diarrhea in children, osteoporosis, and menopausal symptoms.

Tofu could also improve skin elasticity and help you to lose weight. There are so many more medical conditions that tofu can help with, and you can look it all up.

However, you shouldn’t eat too much tofu or foods rich in isoflavones, as they can also have some side effects. But the same goes for any food.

Is Tofu Good For You?

Yes, tofu is really good for you. Not only is it a good source of protein, but it’s also full of nutrients. In fact, it has all the amino acids your body needs!

So you can imagine how many nutrients it has.Let’s examine the nutrition of 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of tofu, for example .

This100 gram block has 8 grams of protein, 4 grams of fat, 1 gram of fiber, and 2 grams of carbs. Also, it only has 70 calories, so it’s great if you want a low-fat source of protein or if you’re on a low-fat diet in general.

And if that’s not impressive enough, it contains 20% of your calcium Reference Daily Intake (RDI), 31% of your manganese RDI, 12% of your phosphorus RDI, 11% of your copper RDI, 14% of your selenium RDI, 9% of your iron and copper RDI, and 6% of your zinc RDI.

As you can see, tofu is a nutrient-dense food, full of different minerals and vitamins. It’s low in calories but high in healthy fat and protein. So if you want to bulk up, you can eat tofu to help you with that. It can also help you keep full for longer.

Is Tofu Bad For You?

Most of the soybeans grow in the U.S, and a lot of them are genetically modified (GMO). There aren’t any studies that prove that GMOs are bad for your health, but we wouldn’t advise you to eat tofu too often.
Especially if you don’t know how it’s produced and where it comes from. What you can do to make sure it has no GMOs is to purchase organic tofu.

Tofu can also have a negative environmental impact, as mass farming of soy can lead to deforestation. So always make sure you know where your tofu comes from and if it has any negative environmental impact.

Healthwise, tofu has some antinutrients, unfortunately. It has phytates, which can reduce the proper absorption of nutrients like iron, zinc, and calcium. It also contains trypsins inhibitors, which block trypsin, which is an enzyme that allows you to digest protein.

Fermented tofu tends to be lower in proteins and has more trypsins inhibitors. So ideally, don’t get that one.

You’ll be fine as long as you have a balanced and varied diet, and you don’t just rely on tofu for your protein, iron, zinc, and calcium intake.

Why Do Vegans Love Tofu?

Vegans and vegetarians tend to love tofu because it’s very versatile, and its different types can be added to any recipe.

It’s also a great source of protein and calcium, which can be hard to get on a vegan diet. For more advantages, read the sections above.

How To Prepare Vegan Tofu For Any Recipe

Usually, when you prepare any recipe that involves tofu, you should press the water out as much as you can so you don’t have a soggy dish.

It doesn’t matter if you want to bake it, fry it, or cook it; you need to remove all excess water. The longer you press it, the more firm it will get. So check what kind of texture your recipe needs first, and make sure you don’t overpress.

Then, you can get tofu however you want: in cubes, triangles etc.

Steps To Prepare Tofu

You can prepare tofu in different ways, and how you prepare it will depend on what you want to use it for and if it’s a savory or sweet recipe.

For extra firm tofu, you should pan-fry it or bake it. Firm tofu is good to add, just like that in soups or stews.

If you want to make creamy desserts, you can use silken tofu. In this case, you have to blend it.

Here’s how you pan-fry tofu: press the tofu for about 30 minutes by hand or with a tofu press. Then, cut it up in small cubes and fry it in a non-stick pan with a bit of oil for about 15 minutes, and brown each side by stirring regularly.

You can then add some sauce if you want, like soy sauce or coconut aminos. Cook the tofu until the sauce is absorbed and all the cubes are caramelized and crispy. And that’s it! You can add that to soups, stews, grains, salads, and to whatever more you want.

Final Verdict: Do Vegans Eat Tofu?

Yes, we can safely say that vegans eat tofu, as long as it isn’t egg tofu.

It’s a great source of protein, calcium, and other vitamins and minerals. The soy in tofu can also help with several health concerns, improve your skin’s elasticity and even help you lose weight.

Vegans eat tofu, and there are so many tofu types out there. They can easily be integrated into any kind of dish.

Conclusion

Tofu is vegan-friendly and has different types you can choose from, which you can incorporate in both savory and sweet dishes.

There are so many health benefits to tofu, and it can really step up your plant-based diet in terms of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. It will give your body all the amino acids it needs.

However, tofu can be bad for you and the environment if you can’t trace its origins and if it has GMOs. Otherwise, it’s safe to eat, and vegans tend to love tofu!


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