What Is Tofu and Does It Go Bad?

What is tofu? It’s pretty amazing stuff and there’s not much it can’t do. Read on to find out everything you need to know about tofu, from its basic ingredients to how it’s made to what it tastes like.

I am often so fascinated by how people have evolved along with food. Our collective ancestors looked at a deer and were like, “yes, kill and eat, meat is good.” They considered the blueberry and said, “yes, sweet and handheld, put them in our pockets and snack on them throughout the day.” But then they also looked at the soybean and said, “yes, let’s grind these up and shape them into a white brick.” People are amazing. But we’re not here to talk about anthropology. We’re talking tofu! What is tofu? How is tofu made? Can tofu go bad? We have all the answers, you just need to bring your plant-based appetite. 

What is tofu?

Tofu is processed soybean curd available in a few different textural forms: firm, extra firm, soft, and silken. Originating in China some 2000 years ago, tofu’s popularity spread through Japan and other Southeast Asian countries throughout the centuries. And tofu wasn’t the only thing they made with soybeans; tempeh, bean paste, and soy sauce are all soy-based products originating from these countries.

How is tofu made?

The process for making basic tofu is actually quite similar to making cheese. Much like cheese, you need to start with milk. But, in the case of tofu, that means soy milk. To make soy milk, you first harvest and dry soybeans. Then, you soak the dried soybeans in water, then blend it all together. You cook this soy pulp and strain out the solids. The liquid left behind is soy milk. 

Now that you have your soy milk, it’s time to make solid tofu. To do that, you warm the soy milk and add a coagulant such as calcium sulfate. You’ll see curds start to form. Strain these curds from the liquid, press them, and form them into a brick. The varieties of tofu, from soft to firm, refer to how much water has been pressed out of the curds during formation. The less water left over, the firmer it is.

What does tofu taste like?

Tofu tastes a bit vegetal and bean-y, but it’s primarily known for having a neutral flavor, which makes it the perfect vehicle for soaking up other flavors. This stuff is a flavor sponge! 

Does tofu have protein?

It does! Compared to meat, it’s relatively low; 100 grams of tofu has about 8 grams of protein, whereas the same amount of chicken has 30 grams of protein. But compared to vegetables, it packs a punch.

Can you eat raw tofu?

You can crack open any container of tofu and eat it like an apple. It might not be the most appetizing way to consume it, but it is perfectly safe.

Is tofu gluten-free? Keto? Vegan?

Yes, yes, and yes! With commercial soy products, wheat is often added, but in the case of plain tofu, you’re good to go.

Can tofu go bad?

Yes. Unopened, tofu can be kept in the fridge for around two to three months. Once it’s opened, though, and exposed to bacteria, it will probably be good for three to five days. Your best bet is to keep it refrigerated and if it starts to go brown, don’t eat it.

About the Author

Luke Field

Luke Field is a writer and actor originally from Philadelphia. He was the former Head Writer of branded content at CollegeHumor and was also a contributing writer and actor to the CollegeHumor Originals cast. He has extensive improv and sketch stage experience, performing both at The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater and with their Touring Company. In addition to writing, he also works as a Story Producer, most recently on season 4 of Accident, Suicide, or Murder on Oxygen. Keep your eyes peeled for his brief but impactful appearance as Kevin, the screaming security guard, in the upcoming feature The Disruptors, directed by Adam Frucci.

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