Thursday, October 04, 2012

What Kind Of Tofu Should I Buy?

One of the most common questions that new vegans or vegetarians ask me is "What kind of tofu should I buy?" and it's a legitimate question, but has a wide variety of answers...
If you've been following along the last few days, you now know my first preference would be homemade (if I could hire my own private tofu-maker) and second would be fresh, locally-made tofu.

Store bought, I prefer Thanh Son Tofu made in Seattle. Yes, you're probably rolling your eyes and saying "I don't live in Seattle, how does that help me!!"
OK, it still may not be helpful, but if you live in an area with a significant Asian population, there's probably a similar small factory right under your nose. It's well worth your time to seek them out. You'll be supporting a local business and eating the freshest, tastiest tofu you can buy.

That said, please don't feel bad if you have neither of these options available. I didn't always either, and even now, have to plan ahead, and drive a long ways to hit up the Asian market and their fresh, local product. If, like most of us, you can't find a local product, your best bet is buying a package with the latest expiration date from a store that turns over a lot of tofu. If you can see through the top plastic, look for signs of yellowing or excessive mealiness as indications that it isn't as fresh as it could be.
Tofu is not all created equal - it shouldn't smell or taste "sour" but have a mild, sweet beany flavor and a smooth consistency. It may take a few taste tests to find a brand that YOU like.

Yes, there are many times I still run to the corner supermarket at the last minute, and pick up a package of whatever's available. There ARE some very decent brands of packaged tofu out there. I'll talk about those in a minute.
The next part of the answer though, is a question: What do you plan to use the tofu for?
Basically, there are two types of tofu: REGULAR and SILKEN. Each has specific uses. I'll explain below.


1.) If you're planning to make a tofu cubes, fried or baked tofu, stir-fry or anything where it needs to hold it's shape, you will want Super-Firm or Extra Firm REGULAR (sometimes called "water packed") tofu.
It's best if you can actually find the extra-dense tofu that's not packed in water, but shrink-wrapped in a solid, plastic-wrapped tofu brick. Does that make sense? This type of tofu is usually found in the produce section or dairy cooler in your typical supermarket. (See pictures).

My top three Super Firm Regular Tofu favorites -  that I HOPE are available outside the greater Seattle area (Sorry, this is of NO help if you're outside the US, I realize) are:

High Protein
Super Firm
"O" Organics
(Safeway store brand)
Trader Joe's
High Protein
Super Firm

2.) If you're making a tofu scramble or "egg-salad" or other sandwich spreads and such: Firm, REGULAR (water-packed) tofu is fine. It is found in a white plastic tub, with some liquid/water in it, also in the produce or refrigerated section of your store.

My favorite widely available regular/water-packed Firm brands are:
Woodstock Farms
Organic Firm

Trader Joe's
Whole Foods
Organic Firm


3.) If you're planning on making tofu "cheesecake", pumpkin pie or other baked type desserts, you'll want Extra-firm or Firm SILKEN tofu (unless the recipe calls for something else).

Silken tofu is VERY DIFFERENT from "regular" tofu and while it can sometimes (rarely!) be used interchangeably, usually your recipe will not turn out as you expected.
The only brand of silken
tofu I'm familiar with
is Mori-Nu.
Silken tofu is packaged in an aseptic (shelf-stable) little white carton, and while some stores still sell it refrigerated, it is perfectly OK to keep it on the shelf too -  so you may find it with the Asian foods or in some totally random part of the supermarket.
The only brand I know of is "Mori-Nu".

4.) If you're planning to blend the tofu for a smoothie, dip or sauce, you'll want the softest silken (also Mori-Nu) tofu you can find.


And, in closing, since we're talking brands, my favorite, LOCALLY available prepackaged tofu brands are the following: If you live in the Puget Sound area, be sure and try these and support local businesses!!

Tacoma Tofu
Island Spring:
From Vashon Island

Small Planet Tofu
from Vashon Island


toocheapforpinenuts said...

Excellent overview. I never even thought of seeking out local tofu... my husband has made it before a couple times and it was quite tasty so fresh!