A versatile, protein-rich ingredient, tofu can be a vehicle for flavors and a replacement for meat in plant-based recipes, but you need to know which type of tofu is best for each preparation.
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silken regular and firm tofu varieties
Credit: Maria Robledo

Whether you're committed to meatless Mondays or just want to diversify your meals, tofu—the high-protein, low-fat, vitamin-and-mineral-rich food made by curdling soy milk, much as regular milk is curdled to make mozzarella—is a healthy and versatile option. Here's what you need to know about the types of tofu our test kitchen uses on the regular, all of which are widely available in grocery stores.

Silken

Its panna-cotta texture is delicious blended into soups, dips, smoothies, and desserts, adding both creaminess and protein, says Living assistant food editor Riley Wofford. For a quick treat, she serves silken tofu plain with fresh fruit and a drizzle of honey or date syrup.

Medium/Regular

Denser than silken but still delicate, this medium tofu soaks up the other flavors in a dish. It's also excellent in soups and when used in place of ground beef or turkey in chili. Another good idea is to crumble and sauté it for a vegan take on scrambled eggs.

Firm/Extra-Firm

This type of tofu holds up in all kinds of savory dishes, whether stir-fried, pan-fried, deep-fried, seared, grilled, boiled, or baked. "Extra-firm even maintains its integrity through long simmers in stews and curries," Riley says. She also likes to slice or cube extra-firm tofu, then simply sear it to get it nice and crisp. Sometimes, she tosses the tofu with cornstarch before cooking, to help draw out more moisture meaning it crisps up even better.

Before Cooking...

Tofu contains a lot of moisture (water). To get the medium and firm types crispy when cooking, you'll need to drain them before you use them. To do this, just place a raw block between two paper towels, and weigh it down with a heavy item like a pan for at least 30 minutes to squeeze out as much as possible.

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