Types of Tofu & How to Use It

Posted on Apr 6 2013 - 11:30am by Demelza Young

It’s natural, when first learning to cook with tofu, to be a little overwhelmed by all the different varieties available at the supermarket.  If your recipe doesn’t specify what kind of tofu to buy, you may find yourself wondering whether to purchase a silken, firm, or extra firm package of tofu.  While they are similar and are often interchangeable in recipes, there are also some key differences between them.  There are two main types of tofu, silken and regular, and each variety can be found in soft, firm and extra-firm consistencies. While made from the same ingredients, they are processed slightly differently.

Silken tofu.

Silken tofu is very soft and crumbles easily.  If you’re preparing a soup, salad dressing (tofu can be used as a thickener), sauce or cream, or a dessert, this is the best type of tofu to use. As mentioned previously, silken tofu is available in several different consistencies, but honestly I’ve found that there is little difference between the different kinds of silken tofu; for most purposes, they seem interchangeable.

Silken tofu is most often packaged in containers that require no refrigeration before opening.  Because it is shelf-stable, it is sometimes located in a different part of the store from regular tofu (usually in the Asian or health food aisles).  Silken tofu, when pureed, has a texture much like that of pudding and is also great for using in cream pies, smoothies, cheesecakes, and milkshakes.  This is the one type of tofu that you can’t press to dry out.  You generally cannot substitute silken tofu for firm or extra-firm tofu in recipes.

Regular tofu.

Regular tofu is more common than silken tofu; it’s the kind that comes in the plastic containers you’ve likely seen in the refrigerated or produce section of your grocery store.  If you’re preparing a dish where you want the tofu to retain some of its shape when cooked (such as in dishes that call for crumbling or mashing the tofu), then firm is your best bet.  Its texture makes a great replacement for eggs either in egg salad or in egg scrambles.  It can also replace ricotta cheese in vegetarian lasagna.  In a pinch, you could use firm instead of silken tofu in a recipe.  Just run the firm tofu through your blender a few times (you may need to add a little liquid, such as your favorite kind of milk) before making the recipe so that it resembles the texture of silken tofu.  Your recipe likely won’t turn out as creamy as usual, but it should still work.
When you want tofu to hold its shape, its best to choose extra-firm tofu.  This type of tofu works well for stir-fries (or sukiyaki), and is great for when you’re grilling, baking, or frying tofu slices.  In addition, while many people use silken tofu when making soups, depending on the recipe you might like to try extra-firm (such as when cooking miso soup) instead because it holds together better than the other varieties of tofu.

If you or someone in your household doesn't like the regular texture of tofu, you might try freezing it. This makes the tofu a bit chewier (I’ve heard the texture compared more to that of regular meat).  You should note that the color will also change when you freeze it, but it should return to its off-white shade after thawing.


Demelza Young is a recent graduate of Northern Kentucky University. Her current plans are to attend graduate school and to study clinical psychology in the hopes of one day working with eating disordered patients.

35 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Elle Briarson April 6, 2013 at 11:52 pm -

    Always wanted to try Tofu! Thanks for the info!

  2. San April 8, 2013 at 5:18 am -

    I love tofu, but freezing tofu is something new to me, thanks for the info.

  3. Maria Iemma April 8, 2013 at 9:10 am -

    I do not use tofu for myself but my daughter has expressed an interest in trying it and now thanks to you I know more about the different kinds.  Thanks.

  4. Krystal V. April 8, 2013 at 8:55 pm -

    Love tofu!!!

  5. Sherryl Wilson April 10, 2013 at 2:28 pm -

    This is one thing that I haven't learned to enjoy. Your post does make me wonder if I just haven't had it prepared properly.. I will have to give it another try.
    Sherryl Wilson recently posted..$100 Paypal or AmazonMy Profile

  6. Susan Bewley April 10, 2013 at 2:33 pm -

    Mushrooms can be really good or really really bad. My personal treat are portabello mushrooms cooked in a wok with a bit of butter and garlic.

  7. Sarah Chandler April 10, 2013 at 4:19 pm -

    Great post!! I love tofu!!!  Thanks for the info!! :) God bless!

  8. Iza Baswedan April 10, 2013 at 4:28 pm -

    We always have tofu in our fridge but I don't know that if we can freeze too. Good info! Thank you.

  9. Michelle Lee April 10, 2013 at 5:18 pm -

    I had no idea you could freeze tofu, so that is an interesting tidbit of info!  We use extra-firm tofu all the time at our house, mostly in stir-frys and in crockpot Tofu Bouillabaisse.  Yum!

  10. Connie Ward April 11, 2013 at 12:41 pm -

    Good advice about freezing the tofu!  Also, the more ways a person can use a specific product, the better!  Thanks!

  11. Kyaw Sein April 12, 2013 at 1:13 am -

    tofu has great taste if you know how to cook it in different wqy

  12. Laura P. April 12, 2013 at 11:41 am -

    The freezing tip is an awesome one. Tofu gets a bad rap sometimes but really it is a wonderful addition to many meals.

  13. Seth April 13, 2013 at 8:38 pm -

    I use extra firm tofu for my homemade fried rice. It's great! And I haven't done so yet, but I plan to try silken tofu in smoothies.

  14. Terry Dickson April 13, 2013 at 9:47 pm -

    Tofu goes with so many dishes because it does not taste like anything.

  15. Elle Briarson April 14, 2013 at 11:46 pm -

    Mmm now I gotta try some Tofu! Thanks for this post!

  16. Tara GAuthier April 16, 2013 at 1:44 am -

    I just learned a bunch about tofu that I had no clue about. Used to use it when my son was younger as it was one of the things he liked to eat as would not eat meat.

  17. veronica lee April 16, 2013 at 7:57 am -

    Tofu runs deep in my veins and yet there is so little I know about it!!  Thanks for posting this!  Very helpful advice you shared!

  18. shawna scott April 16, 2013 at 11:19 am -

    i've never really thought much about it befor but i would like to make tofu deserts. thanks for the advise!

  19. Jean F April 16, 2013 at 9:58 pm -

    I use firm or extra firm tofu, usually cubed in stir frys. It's important to include a flavorful sauce because tofu itself has almost no taste.

  20. charj April 18, 2013 at 10:39 pm -

    I want to try super firm regular tofu, which is supposed to hold its shape much better  that extra firm tofu.

  21. Susan Bewley April 19, 2013 at 11:49 am -

    I have heard the same but haven’t found it anywhere. I’m hoping that one of the specialty stores in Cincinnati have it.

  22. Helga April 23, 2013 at 9:56 am -

    Thanks, i grew up eating tofu and I love its versatility!

  23. md kennedy April 25, 2013 at 9:38 am -

    I actually love tofu, and firm is my favorite.  I will use silken as a substitute for yoghurt in some recipes, however.  I make sure to soak firm tofu in VERY salty water for an hour before I use it – this helps draw out any excess moisture which is particuarly important if I am going to be frying it.

  24. Nena Sinclair April 30, 2013 at 11:35 pm -

    Thanks for the info! I've often wondered what the differences were!

  25. Michelle F. May 1, 2013 at 4:32 pm -

    great information. never tried the silky kind before

  26. Judy Lipcsak May 3, 2013 at 12:22 am -

    I have used tofu in smoothies but didn't know how to incorporate it into other recipes.  Now that I know the difference I may try actually cooking with tofu.

  27. Shani F. May 3, 2013 at 10:13 am -

    I appreciate the way you described the different types of tofu. I was always confused about what to do with the different types.

  28. Kayce May 5, 2013 at 11:06 am -

    to be honest I actually haven't tried eating tofu. I only heard about it when a friend of mine who is a vegetarian told me about this kind of food. I'm quite curious how it tastes like. Maybe one day I'm going to try this.

  29. Susan Bewley May 5, 2013 at 12:53 pm -

    Tofu really doesn’t have much of any taste. It has a texture almost like cheese and a bit watery.

  30. krystel May 30, 2013 at 8:36 pm -

    i necer tried tofu but always wanted to try tofu

  31. Rachel N June 5, 2013 at 4:16 pm -

    I haven't cooked with tofu before, it's always seemed a bit intimidating to me.

  32. marissa lee June 5, 2013 at 11:35 pm -

    i actually tried tofu before on my homemade pizza..it wasn't bad.

  33. Michael Lambert June 6, 2013 at 6:02 am -

    I have never cooked with Tofu, would like to find some good recipes.

  34. Sherry Compton September 11, 2013 at 6:52 pm -

    It's amazing how one product has several uses.  Extra-firm to cook like you would meat for your meal to silken in smoothies and baked goods.  

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