Soy does not give you manboobs. Say it with me! Soy does not give you manboobs! Louder! Soy does not give you manboobs!
All right! Now that we’re on the same page (and current with the scientific research on soy since, well, since forever), let’s talk about where to find your new best soy friend in the grocery store, tofu!
Tofu has become one of the most popular meat substitutes in Western countries for health-conscious individuals, and is a staple in the vegan diet and lifestyle. The good news is that you don’t need to go out of your way to find it! Tofu can be found in the refrigerated section of most grocery stores or on shelves near other types of protein like eggs and cheese.
Continue reading to learn where to find tofu in your local grocery store, what the different types of tofu are and how to use them, as well as how to prepare, store, and cook up some delicious tofu recipes.
Table of Contents
- What is Tofu?
- What Tofu Packages Look Like
- Where to Find Tofu in the Grocery Store?
- What Are the Different Types of Tofu?
- How to Store Tofu Properly at Home
- How Much Does Tofu Cost?
- How to Prepare Tofu
- Can You Eat Raw Tofu?
- Want Some Amazing Tofu Recipes to Try Out? Give These a Try
- The Bottom Line: Pick Up Some Tofu Today
What is Tofu?
Tofu is tofu. No matter the brand or method of creation, all tofu has one thing in common: it’s made from soybeans and water.
However, that doesn’t mean tofu has to be boring. There are many different types of tofu available on the market and each type can have their own unique texture and flavor. In fact, tofu can be used in so many ways that some tofu recipes might even surprise you!
Tofu has been consumed in East Asia for centuries, but only became known in America following World War II when American troops encountered it abroad. The word “tofu” comes from the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese term doufu (curd). Tofu can be soft, firm, or extra-firm depending on how much water is pressed out of it during production.
Tofu is a soybean milk curd. It’s made by coagulating soy milk and pressing the resulting curds into solid blocks. Tofu has been consumed in East Asia for centuries, but only became known in America following World War II when American troops encountered it abroad. The word “tofu” comes from the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese term doufu (curd). In Japan tofu is commonly called yuba (soy milk skin). Tofu can be soft, firm or extra-firm depending on how much water is pressed out of it during production.
Tofu contains high-quality protein and is low fat – about 10% per serving – making it an ideal substitute for meat dishes such as tacos or stirfries. It’s also high in vitamins and minerals, making it a nutrient-dense food that packs a powerful nutritional punch.
Tofu is sold all over the United States and can be found in most grocery stores, either on shelves or in the refrigerated section of the store near the other proteins like eggs and cheese.
In this article, I’ll explain where to find tofu in the grocery store, what the different types of tofu are, and how to prepare and store it.
What Tofu Packages Look Like
Tofu is sold in two basic shapes depending on which brand you purchase. Most commonly tofu will be found in either a tub or a box. Tubs will only be found in the refrigerated sections of the store, while boxes may be found on shelves, in refrigerators, or both.
Where to Find Tofu in the Grocery Store?
Tofu can be found in any major supermarket, in a few different sections. Once you’ve found your first tub of tofu, you’ll start to notice them everywhere! Here are the most common areas of the store that you’ll find tofu in.
1. Refrigerators in the Produce Section
First, take a Look at the Produce Section. One of the two main packaging methods, tofu stored in tubs, requires that the product be refrigerated. So, along with the vast majority of the other healthy foods that will make their way into your grocery cart (produce), the refrigerated section in the produce aisle is one of the most common places to find tofu.
2. Refrigerators in the Natural Foods Section
another common section to find cold-storage tofu is in the Natural Foods Section if your grocery store has one. Non-refrigerated tofu can be found in Asian or International sections of grocery stores.
3. Refrigerators in the Asian Section
Tofu is a staple food in Asian cuisine, so this is yet another place to find tofu in your grocery store.
4. The “Meatless” Section of Freezers
The final place that you may find cold-storage tofu is in the “meatless” section of your grocery store. This is where you are going to find most of your soy-based products, so some grocery stores may organize their tofu here.
5. Shelves in the Asian Section
Not all tofu is held in refrigerated sections of your grocery store. Some brands of tofu are packaged in such a way that they don’t need to be refrigerated until the package is first opened. These Tetra Paks and boxes will usually be found on shelves in the Asian section of the store, if the store carries them.
As you can see, there are a ton of locations that you will find tofu in your local grocery store. And most stores are going to have tofu in all of these sections!
Which Type of Tofu Packaging System is Best?
I always purchase tofu in cold storage tubs. The soybeans used to make the tofu that is ultimately packed in shelf-stable tetra packs are almost always GMO, which I prefer to avoid. Tub packaged tofu is usually less processed than tofu in other shapes and sizes, as well. Tofu that has not been packed in a tub but rather shaped into different forms (i.e., squares, sticks) often contains preservatives to keep it from sticking together.
Also, always purchase organic. Soybeans are grown for a lot of different purposes and uses. It is used in animal feed by the meat, dairy, and egg industries, and as an additive to many pet foods and common processed foods we consume. Soybeans are used because they are easy to grow and very cheap. They are also added to a lot of human foods because of the FDA’s endorsement of soy for its cardiovascular protection properties.
However, because so much of the soy that is grown is not intended for human consumption it is one of the most heavily sprayed crops. Non-organic tofu has been found to have concentrated amounts of toxic chemicals like glyphosate, which can wreak havoc on your liver, cause thyroid problems, and disrupt your nervous and endocrine systems. Yikes!
For these reasons, tofu and all soy products should be purchased organic whenever possible. It is not that much more expensive and so worth it!
What Are the Different Types of Tofu?
There are so many tofu variations, it can be hard to decide which one to get!
Tofu can be silken (soft), firm, or extra firm depending on how much water is pressed out of it during production. Silken tofu has the highest water content and firm tofu the lowest. Extra-firm tofu is sometimes called “extra-firm”, “super-firm”, or sometimes even “hard” tofu.
Soft tofu, often called Silken tofu, is usually packaged in shelf-stable aseptic containers. These are convenient because they do not require refrigeration until the package has been opened and the contents are exposed to air.
Because silken tofu is more delicate than other types of tofu, it requires careful handling. If it’s allowed to fall on the floor, that’s it! It’s history. Silken tofu is very sensitive and easily falls apart, so take care when you handle it. While this may sound like something of a nuisance, this sensitivity makes silken tofu an excellent choice for cooling desserts like puddings, mousses, or homemade, high-protein yogurts (yum!), or thickening sauces because it breaks apart in a smooth and creamy texture.
Silken tofu is usually going to have 4-5 grams of protein per serving.
Firm or Extra Firm Tofu (Regular Tofu)
This is my go-to tofu! Rarely do I buy the other types. Firm tofu, often called Regular tofu, is the kind of tofu you’ll want to buy when you are not planning to blend the tofu into a dish, like a soup, dressing, or dessert. Cut the tofu into small blocks, marinate, and eat in stirfries, shish kebobs, or as stand-alone blocks on your plate.
Firm tofu is going to have between 6-8 grams of protein per serving, depending on how “firm” the product is. The firmer the tofu is, the more soybeans it has packed into each serving.
Super Firm Tofu
This tofu is usually used for grilling or baking, it’s very firm and doesn’t absorb any water. It’s perfect on the grill with vegetables for a tofu kebab.
This style of tofu is going to have 9 or more grams of protein per serving! If you are looking to increase your protein intake, this may be the way to go.
How to Store Tofu Properly at Home
Silken tofu can be stored on the shelf of your fridge for up to 2 weeks if unopened. This is because of the high water content of silken tofu.
Firm styles of tofu can be stored, unopened, in the fridge for about one week. Firm tofu is lower in water content than silken so it has a shorter shelf life.
For unopened tofu, simply following the expiration date printed on the package will keep you safe.
Whether we’re talking about silken or firm tofu, shelf-stable or refrigeration required, once you open your tofu you must keep it refrigerated. And, like most foods, opened tofu should be kept stored in the fridge for no more than three days.
For cooked leftovers, store them in an airtight container like you would any other leftovers.
For uncooked, unused portions of tofu, place them in a container (Pyrex is my favorite), fill the container to the top of the tofu with water, cover with a lid, and place in the fridge.
Freezing tofu is not an option if you want tofu that retains its texture and flavor!
How Much Does Tofu Cost?
Prices for tofu are going to vary widely depending on your area, the type of tofu you purchase (silken, firm, super firm), and whether or not you purchase organic. However, especially when considering that tofu will take the place of meat on your plate, tofu is incredibly cheap by comparison!
How to Prepare Tofu
The first step in preparing tofu after opening the package is to press the tofu to get the water out. The more water you remove, the better the product will take on whatever flavors you cook it with.
There are several methods for pressing tofu to get the water out.
Wrap the tofu block in a paper towel and place a heavy object, like a pot or pan, on top of it. I did this for a long time but grew tired of going through bunches of paper towels. So, I switched from using paper towels to using regular old kitchen towels. Same method as with paper towels, but less waste.
This quickly grew old, however. After using that kitchen towel to collect the excess packing water the towel needed to be washed. Not a big deal, but there sure had to be a better way than what I’d been doing.
Enter the Tofu Press! Actually purchasing and using a tofu press is one of the best kitchen moves I’ve made (especially since I eat tofu pretty much daily). They are definitely worth the investment (if you call $27.95 an investment)!
Tofu Presses can be purchased online or even in some grocery stores with a well-stocked tofu supply section. Amazon has several tofu presses that you can choose from, including heavy-duty models for pressing larger tofu blocks, tofu presses that are specially designed for tofu made from soy milk, tofu presses for making tofu at home, or tofu presses in general.
When I bought my first tofu press (actually, my only tofu press! I still have this one years later!) I wanted something inexpensive and easy to use. I read about all the different styles I could find, along with user reviews. ultimately I chose the Tofuture Tofu Press.
Yes, it’s plastic, which I tend to avoid, but this model had the features that fit what I was looking for. It is easily adjustable to the thickness of the tofu you are working with, catches the expelled water in its outer container, and can be stored in the fridge while it’s pressing. It’s easy to press tofu without needing any fussing around or maneuvering the tofu into position, whether it is a block of tofu or slabs.
For silken tofu, I use the first band setting and don’t always lock the plastic handles into place. This works well to get the water out without destroying the block. To be honest, most of the time I don’t press the water out of silken tofu. The recipes that I use silken tofu for, like puddings, yogurts, or mousses, require additional water anyway, so I just drain the tofu and call it good.
For all other types of tofu I set the silicone straps to the second position, lock the handles into place, and let the press do its thing.
I love my tofu press so much that I have bought this version for every friend and family member that has decided to give plant-based eating and tofu a try.
Update: It has been brought to my attention that some cheaper metal tofu presses may have a tendency to rust.
Once the product has been pressed, simply cut the tofu into blocks, strips, or slabs, and then follow your recipe’s instructions. It’s really that simple!
Can You Eat Raw Tofu?
You might think that the tofu you get at the grocery store is raw because it has not been cooked yet. But this is not true. The soybeans go through a cooking process before they are packaged as tofu.
My kids will oftentimes want a little slice off the tofu block right after I drain out the water. While it can be eaten straight out of its package, understand that it comes with some risk of contamination from the manufacturing process.
While I don’t recommend sitting and eating a full block of uncooked tofu, I use raw tofu in a lot of recipes that won’t be cooked or even warmed like homemade mousses or puddings.
While the risk of getting sick from eating uncooked tofu is very slim, special populations like children, the elderly, pregnant women, or those with weakened immune systems may want to practice extra caution when eating tofu without cooking it first.
Want Some Amazing Tofu Recipes to Try Out? Give These a Try
Want to make some delicious tofu fast? Cut your tofu into blocks, throw in a pan, cover with garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, and Coconut Aminos. Cook on medium heat for about 8 minutes and, whala! Amazing! Or, skip the smoked paprika and trade the Coconut Aminos for soy sauce, tamari, or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos. Two super simple ways to make a high protein meal in no time, with very little preparation or cooking expertise needed. I make one of these 3-4 nights a week most weeks!
The Bottom Line: Pick Up Some Tofu Today
Tofu has become one of the most popular meat substitutes in Western countries for health-conscious individuals and is a staple for those following plant-based eating or the vegan lifestyle. With so many different ways to cook with tofu and recipes that will satisfy any craving you might have – from scrambles to baked tofu dishes – there are plenty of reasons why everyone should try out this protein-packed dish.
Tofu may be new territory for you, but don’t fear the unknown by grabbing a few blocks of tofu next time you’re at your local grocery store! You won’t be disappointed.
Want to add a bit more to your plant-based protein arsenal? Load up on some tempeh or seitan! Discover how easy it can be to find these vegan protein sources here: Where to Buy Tempeh and The Best Places to Buy Seitan.