Tofu is one of those ingredients that until you've cooked with it a few times and figured out how you like it, it seems really scary. Not to worry! Once you've got the hang of cooking tofu to your liking it'll feel like a breeze to make delicious tofu dishes. If you've never cooked with tofu before, the first thing you'll notice at the grocery store is that there are a lot of different types of tofu. Even in stores with very little selection of vegan specialty products will have at least a few varieties of tofu.
Figuring out which tofu you need to use for your desired outcome is important, there's different types of tofu meant for different uses. Here's a look at some of the more common varieties of tofu available in North America.
Silken or Soft Tofu
Has a soft, delicate texture and flavour. It won't stand up to cooking methods such as stir frying or sauteing. Silken tofu is best used in recipes that call for blending such as smoothies, soups, dips, dressings, and desserts.
Dessert tofu is a light, custard-like dessert with a silky texture and light sweetness. It's made by sweetening and flavouring the soy milk used to make tofu before coagulation. Dessert tofu is available in a variety of flavours, Sunrise-Soya, a Canadian brand makes dessert tofu in Original, Almond, Banana, Custard, Coconut, Peach-Mango, Lychee, and Maple Caramel. This light dessert makes a useful substitution for yogurt - it's great in parfaits and smoothies or topped with granola, nuts, seeds, dried and/or fresh fruit. Dessert tofu is good as part of breakfast, as a snack, or light dessert.
Right in between soft and firm tofu, it has the silkiness of soft tofu, but is a little sturdier and has visible curds like firm tofu. It doesn't have the chewy texture of firm tofu. It's good cubed in miso or broth soups, or pureed in sauces, creamy soups, dips, and cheesecakes.
Firm and Extra-Firm
Firm, Extra-Firm, and other pressed tofu varieties have a sturdy, meaty texture. After being pressed, firm tofu contains much less water than softer varieties making it ideal for absorbing flavours are marinating, Many people feel it's necessary to drain and press the tofu before marinating. I rarely press my tofu and I find that it usually absorbs flavours very well. For flavourful marinades such as those with a base of soy sauce, pressing isn't necessary. For more delicately flavoured marinades you may find it necessary to press the tofu and marinade for at least a few hours. Firm, Extra-firm, and pressed tofu are ideal for use in soups, chilies, sandwiches, wraps, pitas, stir-fries, pasta dishes, salads, tofu scramble, crumbled in sauces, and more!
There are many varieties of specialty tofu products. Deep-fried tofu puffs, smoked tofu, herb tofu, marinated tofu, tofu and sauce stir-fry packs, and baked ready-to-eat tofu.[hr]