Is tofu vegan? It's a question asked by many people embarking on a vegan lifestyle. We all know that tofu is vegetarian, but are there hidden ingredients that make it not suitable for vegans? In this article we'll take a deep dive into everything you need to know about tofu!
What Is Tofu?
Tofu, sometimes known as bean curd, is simply coagulated soy milk that has been pressed to remove the liquid. The result is a dense block of pressed soy bean curd, know as tofu. The longer it's pressed, the firmer the consistency will be.
Tofu is a versatile ingredient that can be prepared in a variety of ways, including frying, baking, grilling, or blending into smoothies. In fact, you can evan make tofu ground beef. It's a good source of protein, iron, and calcium, and is also low in saturated fat and calories.
Tofu can be produced in a variety of ways. The following chart illustrates the kinds of tofu you're most likely to find at the grocery store, and the typical uses for each kind.
|Soft vegan cheeses, dips, scrambles and sauces.
|Vegan spreads, curries, stir fry. Not good for deep frying.
|Can be pan fried, stir fried, and can also be used in spreads. Doesn't crumble when cut.
|Pan fry, stir fry, deep fry. Does not absord other flavors well.
|Super Firm Tofu
|Very dense. Use as a meat substitute.
|Stir fries and curries.
|Frequently found in Chinese and Japanese cuisine to add umami flavor.
|Eat raw in salads.
|Very similar to extra firm tofu.
Is Tofu Vegan?
The answer is a simple YES! Tofu is not made with any animal derived ingredients, so standard varieties of tofu are suitable for a vegan diet.
There are a few uncommon varieties of tofu that are not vegan that are worth noting here, just in case you happen to run into them. These are:
❌Egg Tofu: It's obvious from the name that this tofu isn't vegan. Egg tofu, as the name implies, is made with eggs and soymilk. It's usually packaged in a long cylindrical package and is much more yellow than standard tofu. Egg tofu is popular in Japan, but is harder to come by in the West.
❌Stinky Tofu: Stinky tofu is one of Taiwan's most famous dishes, and it's not always vegan. It's essentially tofu that has been fermented in a brine that's sometimes shrimp or milk.
❌Fish Tofu: As the name implies, fish tofu contains...you guessed it..fish. Fish tofu, isn't actually real tofu, despite the name. It's made from fish paste, and it resembles tofu, hence the name.
Is Tofu Healthy?
Tofu is a fantastic source of protein for vegans. It also contains all nine essential amino acids, meaning it's a "complete protein." In addition to its excellent protein profile, tofu is rich in calcium, iron and B vitamins. It also contains fiber, potassium, magnesium, iron, copper and manganese. Tofu is a vegan powerhouse of nutrition!
5 ounces of firm silken tofu contains:
- 88 Calories
- 9.78 grams of protein
- 3.83 grams of fat
- 3.4 grams of carbs
Possible health benefits of eating tofu:
✅Tofu has been shown to lower bad cholesterol, and modestly increase good cholesterol. See this study for detailed information about tofu's impact on cholesterol. That means that tofu could help maintain heart health. This is especially true if it's used as a substitute for meat.
✅Some studies have shown that the isoflavins in tofu can help maintain bone density as we age, meaning that it could be a helpful in preventing osteoporosis.
✅Tofu may help manage blood sugar levels. One study of postmenopausal women confirmed that supplementing with soy isoflavins reduced fasting insulin levels.
✅The calcium and magnesium in soy may help lessen symptoms of PMS
I recommend buying organic tofu, so as to avoid any potentially genetically modified soybeans that may have been used in its production.
My Favorite Tofu Recipes For Vegans
What Does Tofu Taste Like?
Raw, unseasoned and unsmoked tofu is slightly sweet with a mild nutty flavor. The taste is subtle; some might even say it's tasteless. However, tofu has the unique ability to absorb the flavors around it, making it the perfect candidate for a marinade. Check out my vegan orange chicken if you want to see this principle in action. The tofu perfectly absorbs the orange flavor of the vegan chicken. You could also try these 15 Tofu Marinades to level up your tofu.
I love to soak tofu in a simple marinade of soy sauce, rice vinegar, maple syrup and fresh ginger. All you need to do is put the ingredients in a bowl, cut your tofu into cubes, and soak it in the marinade for 30 minutes - overnight. Now you have teriyaki tofu!
The texture of tofu can also easily be changed. Tofu can magically turn from soft and squishy to crispy and flavorful, depending on the cooking method you use. Have a look at my popular vegan pad Thai to see how I've used crunchy tofu cubes to complement the noodles and veggies in this iconic dish. Another way to get tofu that's crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle is by cooking it in an air fryer. See how to make perfect air fryer tofu here.
While tofu might be bland on it's own, there's a lot of creative ways to make it taste fantastic, which is why it's such a popular meat substitute for vegans. Think of it as a blank canvas, ready for you to transform with your culinary creativity!
Who Can't Eat Tofu?
While tofu is generally considered safe and healthy for most people, there are some individuals who may need to avoid or limit their consumption of tofu for various reasons. Here's a few examples:
- Soy allergies: Tofu is made from soybeans, which can cause allergic reactions in some individuals. If you have a soy allergy, you should avoid tofu and other soy products.
- Kidney stones: Some research suggests that consuming tofu and other soy products in large amounts may increase the risk of developing kidney stones in individuals who are already prone to them.
- Thyroid problems: Soy products contain compounds called goitrogens, which can interfere with thyroid function in individuals with an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) or those who are taking thyroid medication. However, the evidence is not clear and more research is needed.
- Medication interactions: Some medications, such as certain blood-thinning medications, may interact with soy products like tofu, so it's important to check with your healthcare provider before consuming tofu or other soy products if you are taking medications.
So, is tofu vegan? The good news is that almost all standard varieties of tofu are suitable for a vegan diet. There are a few exceptions, which are varieties of tofu not commonly found in the West.
Tofu is a protein and calcium rich food - these are nutrients that some vegans might find difficult to get in healthy amounts, so tofu can play an integral role in vegans getting all the nutrients they need to maintain optimal health.
Frequently Asked Questions
The number of carbs in tofu can vary depending on the type of tofu and the brand. Generally, tofu is relatively low in carbohydrates and is considered a good source of protein.
Here are some examples of the approximate number of carbs in tofu:
Firm tofu (100g): 1.8g of carbohydrates
Soft/silken tofu (100g): 2.0g of carbohydrates
Flavored tofu (100g): 4-6g of carbohydrates
Keep in mind that the carb count may vary depending on the brand and the specific ingredients used in the flavored tofu. It's always a good idea to check the nutrition label of the specific type of tofu you are buying to get an accurate carb count.
Tofu is relatively low in carbohydrates and is considered a good source of protein, which makes it a suitable food for a ketogenic diet. However, it's important to keep in mind that the ketogenic diet involves consuming a high amount of healthy fats, moderate protein, and very low carbohydrates. So while tofu can be a part of a ketogenic diet, it should be consumed in moderation, especially if it is flavored or marinated, as some flavorings may contain added sugars and carbohydrates.
Yes, tofu is packed with protein. The protein content of tofu can vary depending on the type of tofu, but on average, 100 grams of tofu contains approximately 8-10 grams of protein. This makes tofu a good protein source for a variety of diets, including vegetarian, vegan, and plant-based diets.
Yes, tofu is typically gluten-free, as it is made from soybeans and a coagulant such as calcium sulfate or magnesium chloride, which do not contain gluten. However, it's important to note that some tofu products may be flavored or processed with ingredients that contain gluten, such as soy sauce or wheat-based flavorings. It's always a good idea to check the ingredient label of the specific type of tofu you are buying to make sure that it's gluten-free.