Tofu is a staple of vegan and vegetarian cooking and it has become a regular fixture in our Test Kitchen. The beauty of tofu lies in its versatility: it can be firm or silky-soft; used in salads, pan-fried in crispy cubes or stirred into velvety soups. Best of all, it happily absorbs the flavour of any sauce or marinade, and is of course loaded with healthy protein.

If you’ve never cooked with tofu before, let this be your welcome guide to this powerhouse ingredient:

  • Tofu is made by coagulating soy milk, then pressing the resulting curds into solid white
  • Silken tofu has a custard-like texture and is undrained and unpressed, giving it a softer consistency than other types of tofu. It can be found in different consistencies depending on how much soy protein it contains. Its softer texture works well in smoothies, desserts, puddings, salad dressings, sauces and dips. It can also be used as an egg substitute in baking.
  • Soft tofu can be used in the same ways, however it has a slightly lumpier texture.
  • Medium tofu has a lower water content and has been lightly pressed, giving it a firmer  but still fairly delicate texture. It work well in soups and stews like miso or sundubu-jjigae.
  • Extra-firm tofu holds its shape well and is excellent for slicing, cubing into smaller pieces as a meat substitute in fried, baked or grilled recipes. Firm tofu absorbs flavours well and can be crumbled to the consistency of scrambled egg and mince.
  • Super-firm tofu has the highest protein content and is easier to slice as it won’t fall apart; it’s great for quick, mid-week meals like stir-fries, but can dry out easily when baked.

Some recipes will call for tofu to be pressed; this is a technique used to remove some of the moisture from firm tofu, making it easier to cook with as it is less likely to break up. Specialised tofu presses can be difficult to find, so here’s our favourite way to press it yourself at using equipment you already have at home:

1. Fold a piece of kitchen towel into quarters, or use a clean tea towel.

2. Place on a plate, then place the block of tofu on top.

3. Place another layer of folded kitchen towel on top of the tofu.

4. Place a heavy, flat object on top, like a wooden cutting block or a book.

5. Place a weight on top of the cutting board, such as tins of beans or a cast iron pan (if it looks like a game of Jenga, you’re doing it right!)

6. Let the tofu sit for at least 30 minutes. The weight will squeeze the moisture out of the tofu. If the paper becomes soaked, you may need to replace it with fresh sheets and continue pressing until the paper stops absorbing moisture.

7. Continue with your tofu recipe.

There are a hundred different ways to cook tofu, but here are our five favourites so far…