Is Tofu Vegan?

Tofu is a popular choice for those on a plant-based diet. In this post we’ll be addressing all, or almost all, your questions and concerns about whether tofu is suitable for vegans or not. We’ll also help you both find tofu and find great ways to use it in your kitchen. And we’ll attempt to answer some of the more common FAQs about tofu and whether or not it is healthy. (Spoiler alert: It is.)

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A question peope often ask on many of our tofu recipe posts is “Are all tofu products vegan?” or “I heard tofu is bad for you. Is that true?”

A staple of vegetarian and vegan diet cuisine, tofu and other soy-based foods are often maligned and surrounded with misunderstanding and misinformation. In this post, we’ll try to clear up some of that confusion for you.

Is Tofu Vegan?

Yes. For the most part, store-bought varieties of regular, unflavored tofu are vegan. At its base, tofu is just soy beans cooked and pressed into a solid block. (Unless it’s silken or very soft tofu.) 

However, some prepared, packaged tofu dishes contain some non-vegan ingredients like fish sauce, shrimp brine, egg, et cetera. The types containing animal products  are usually recognizable by their names like “stinky tofu” and “egg tofu”. Make sure to read food labels if you are at all in doubt.

Health Benefits of Tofu

There are numerous health benefits to eating tofu. It’s a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids. Besides being an excellent source of protein, is also high in calcium, manganese, copper, vitamin A, selenium, iron, and zinc.

There have been claims in the past that eating soy products like tofu would cause breast cancer in women. It was also erroneously believed the phytoestrogens in soy and tofu would create feminine qualities in men, even causing the growth of breasts. 

These claims were mostly made by representatives of the meat and dairy industries in the 1980s and 90s when vegetarian diets were gaining momentum in the U.S. In recent years, reputable sources have debunked these myths with modern studies. 

Fun fact: Dairy milk contains more actual estrogen than soy milk. “Soy Connection” from U.S. Soy has a great page addressing the myths surrounding soy in easy to read language.

The American Heart Association and The New York Times both offer good articles citing a fairly recent Harvard study showing the health benefits of tofu and addressing some of the more common misconceptions.

Marie Oser also wrote a very informative book called The Skinny on Soy. This book addresses a lot of common questions about tofu and soy products.

Overhead photo of a pile of breaded and sauced vegan buffalo tofu wings with a bite taken out of the center wing to show the meaty texture inside.

Where to Buy Tofu

Once only found in Asian markets and health food stores dotting major cities, tofu now graces supermarkets and grocery stores almost everywhere in the United States.

You can usually find packaged tofu in the refrigerated portion of the produce section. 

There are some brands of shelf-stable tofu that don’t require refrigeration. You can usually find these in the “international foods” aisle.

Tofu FAQs

Is tofu good or bad for you? 

Tofu is not bad for you. Tofu has numerous health benefits including being a great source of plant-based protein, calcium, manganese, copper, and selenium. 

What is tofu made of? 

Tofu is made from coagulated soy milk and the resulting curds are then pressed into block form. The texture of tofu ranges from silken to extra-firm and even a super-firm block of tofu.

What does tofu taste like? 

On its own tofu is rather bland and has a very mild flavor. But this spongy soy block absorbs flavors and marinades incredibly well.

Can raw vegans eat tofu? 

Tofu is not considered a “raw food” because of the manner in which the soy milk is cooked to make the tofu.

Is tofu “vegan cheese”? 

Tofu is not “vegan cheese”. Though the methods of making tofu and making cheese are similar, the two items are not the same.

Is tofu keto? 

Yes, tofu is keto. It’s nutrient dense, high-protein, and low carb.

Is tofu dairy free? 

Yes, tofu is a dairy free food. Coagulated soy milk is the main ingredient.

Is tofu a vegetable or protein? 

Yes. Tofu is both a vegetable and a protein. Containing all nine essential amino acids, it’s considered a “complete protein.”

Is tofu fattening? 

Tofu is low in calories and fats. Most of the fats in tofu are polyunsaturated – the healthy kind.

Is tofu processed? 

Though minimally so, tofu is considered a “processed food” the same way cottage cheese is considered a “processed food.”

Is it healthy to eat tofu every day? 

Yes, it is okay to eat tofu every day. Studies show there are numerous health benefits to including a daily dose of tofu in your diet.

Our Favorite Tofu Recipes

Tofu is such a versatile ingredient and is a staple for those following a vegan lifestyle. We’ve highlighted a few of our favorite recipes using different types of tofu as both a main ingredient or as a part of a larger recipe. It’s amazing how you can use the different textures in such a variety of ways.

Overhead close up shot of a round white plate with a pile of vegan shells and cheese sprinkled with bright green herbs

Silken Tofu Recipes

Silken tofu is great for creams, sauces, mousses, and so much more. Note: Silken tofu is not good for deep frying.

  • Silken Tofu Mac & Cheese –  Kid-friendly and omnivore approved, packs a plant protein punch, and has a dreamy creamy texture that is the real deal. You won’t believe you made this creamy sauce with tofu!
  • Vegan Chicken Tetrazzini – This creamy dairy free noodle casserole with soy curls and mushrooms is just as comforting as a traditional chicken or turkey tetrazzini recipe!
  • Tofu Queso – This vegan queso is creamy and flavorful and perfect for pouring (slow-mo-style) over all your nachos, tacos, and basically your entire life.
  • 5-Minute Vegan Pizza Mozzarella – This easy Vegan Mozzarella Sauce is the perfect dairy free cheese topping for plant based pizza and pasta bakes. Just blend up 9 simple ingredients, pour on the liquid mozzarella, and watch it get thick and gooey as it bakes in the oven.
  • Vegan Garlic Sauce – This creamy vegan garlic sauce is completely dairy-free! It’s also nut-free, gluten-free, and includes an oil-free option. Pour over pasta, pizza, or garlic bread!
Overhead photo of a hand stirring pasta into a tofu feta sauce with cherry tomatoes in a cast iron pan

Firm Tofu Recipes

Some call this “regular tofu”, this type is the standard tofu cooks use in a variety of dishes and vegan recipes. Depending on the brand and country where you buy your tofu, Firm tofu may be more like extra firm tofu. The firm tofu in the US usually has a slightly higher water content than those outside the US.

  • Baked Vegan Mac & Cheese – This classic baked vegan mac and cheese, made with a high protein tofu cheese sauce, tastes like the Stouffer’s version you grew up eating! It’s easy to make, contains no cashews, and is the perfect side for a BBQ, party, holiday dinner, or make-ahead lunch to take to work or school.
  • Baked Vegan Feta Pasta – A Mediterranean-inspired, veganized version of the viral TikTok pasta recipe  In our version, we take it to the next level with flavors like tahini, kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, and a luxurious homemade vegan feta cheese sauce.
  • Tofu Quiche – We make this eggless quiche filling with a perfectly seasoned tofu base and stuff it with mushrooms, onions, and vegetarian ham and encased in the most heavenly dairy free puff pastry crust.
  • Whipped Vegan Feta Dip – This vegan whipped feta dip recipe with tahini is quick, uncomplicated, incredibly flavorful, and the perfect plant based party appetizer. 
Close up overhead photo of a sliced pineapple glazed tofu cutlet on a plate

Extra Firm Tofu Recipes

This type of tofu is great as a meat substitute. It’s also great for frying.

  • Vegan Chicken Parm – This is the BEST vegan chicken parmesan recipe! Make your own vegan chicken cutlets with frozen and thawed tofu, marinate them in a garlic and chickeny flavor bath, then bread and bake them with a peppery crust. Melt some dairy free mozzarella on top and serve it over pasta or as a vegan chicken parm sandwich with plenty of marinara! 
  • Vegan Cheeseball – You will not believe how easy this vegan cheese ball recipe is! It uses simple methods and ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen. Perfect for brunches, family gatherings, and holiday parties.
  • Baked Greek Tofu – We loaded this vegan Greek tofu recipe with Mediterranean-inspired flavors. It has a crispy outside and tender inside. Frozen and thawed extra firm tofu is bathed in a Mediterranean tofu marinade and slow-baked for the meatiest results.
  • Sticky Pineapple Tofu Cutlet – This crispy tofu with a pineapple glaze is one of our favorite hands-off meal prep recipes. Serve it over rice with chopped red onion, grilled pineapple chunks, and a spicy teriyaki mayo sauce.

More Helpful Tofu Guides

  • How to Turn Tofu Into Cheese – Tofu is a great base for all kinds of vegan cheese recipes, and it’s especially perfect if you have a cashew or other nut allergy. Even if you are just looking for a less-expensive cashew alternative, tofu helps to make a more affordable vegan cheese as well! We use this tofu cheese method to make everything from dairy-free cream cheese to vegan cheese sauce to cheesecake.
  • How to Make Tofu Taste Like Chicken – Freezing tofu gives it a meaty, chewy texture that beautifully mimics the texture of chicken. In this post, we’re sharing all our best tofu tips, tricks, and marinades to create THE most mind-blowing vegan chicken – from lemon pepper tofu cutlets to the BEST EVER vegan chicken parmesan recipe. We call this process “the tofu freezer trick” and it is one plant-based cooking hack that will change your life.

I do hope we’ve answered at least some of your questions about this versatile plant-based food today! 

If you have any other questions about tofu, or if you found this post a valuable source for information, please leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!

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