Cooking With Tofu

You don’t have to be a vegetarian to cook with tofu.

Tofu is a low-fat, low-cholesterol, low-calorie food made out of steamed and compressed soy beans. Not only is it a great source of protein but it is also heart-healthy and has been linked to a decreased risk in cancer.

Tofu itself doesn’t really have much of a taste. It picks up the flavors of the foods and spices you cook it with. You can find it just about everywhere in the produce section of grocery stores. It comes in many different types which describe its texture – such as firm, soft or silk.

If you aren’t a vegetarian now and haven’t been one in the past, you probably also haven’t eaten tofu many times. In fact, the only time most people hear about tofu it is in jokes aimed at vegetarians.

So why is it that vegetarians eat this stuff all the time? Is is it simply because they have no other choice?

The answer is both yes and no.

As long as they research and create meal plans, vegetarians can maintain a healthy diet eating traditional meals or ethnic dishes. Tofu is often cited as something exclusively vegetarian because it is a versatile, highly-nutritional, and can be used to replace meat dishes.

Being a vegetarian doesn’t mean you have to eat tofu. In fact, there are many vegetarians who never eat tofu or any popular meat-replacement dishes such as "veggie burgers" or "tofurkey". However, these products are made of soy protein isolate which is the residue left over after soybeans are pressed for their oil. The residue is highly process to make it palatable and resold as meat substitutes. Tofu is much more natural and a food that has been produced and eaten for centuries.

Not only can it be created in textures, consistencies, and flavors that simulate a range of meats–from turkey to hamburger, but it can also actually replace and far exceed the nutritional value of similar meat dishes.

While vegetarians do not actually need to consume tofu, doing so is often a wise dietary choice and also the next best thing to eating similar meat products (for those who enjoyed meat dishes before they became vegetarians).

In addition to being served as a meat alternative, tofu is also served in a number of spicy and ethnic dishes, which were never intended to contain meat. Many ethnic Indian dishes contain large amounts of tofu cooked and spiced in different ways.

So here is my suggestion to you: If you aren’t already a vegetarian, but want to become one, don’t let tofu get in your way. You can maintain a healthy vegetarian diet without ever eating it. However, if you already are a vegetarian, but haven’t tried tofu, I highly suggest you do. It is both nutritional and versatile – and it might not taste as bad as you think.


  1. tami says

    THANK YOU for making that so clear. I have only recently made the decision to remove meat from my life – although I don’t consider myself a vegetarian (i am struggling with eggs and cheese but haven’t had any issues eliminating the other crap!!) I never really cooked vegetable dishes before and this has become a challenge (you can only eat so much salad….) and it seems like every recipe I find has tofu in it. I have yet to try it but it’s nice to hear that its not really a requirement!!!!

  2. Carolyn says

    Learning to prepare vegetarian meals can be a bit difficult at first. Salads certainly aren’t the only source of food for you!

    Beans and legumes make a good base to start from especially when combined with brown rice and other whole grains. You don’t need to stop eggs and dairy unless you’re looking to go vegan. I buy organic cage-free eggs and organic milk (which tastes sooo much better).

    The reasons people become vegetarians are complex and varied. Some just don’t want any kind of animal-based food. Some people who aren’t true vegetarians will stop all meat but eat fish. Don’t let a label of ‘vegetarian’ put you in a slot. Follow your conscience and do what’s best for you.