Types of Tofu & How to Use It

Types of Tofu & How to Use It
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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 Responses to Types of Tofu & How to Use It

  1. Always wanted to try Tofu! Thanks for the info!

  2. San says:

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

  3. Maria Iemma says:

    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. says:

    Love tofu!!!

  5. 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.
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  6. Sarah Chandler says:

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

  7. Iza Baswedan says:

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

  8. Michelle Lee says:

    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!

  9. Connie Ward says:

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

  10. Kyaw Sein says:

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

  11. Laura P. says:

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

  12. Seth says:

    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.

  13. Terry Dickson says:

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

  14. Elle Briarson says:

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

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  16. Tara GAuthier says:

    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 says:

    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 says:

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

  19. Jean F says:

    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 says:

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

  21. Helga says:

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

  22. md kennedy says:

    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.

  23. Nena Sinclair says:

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

  24. Michelle F. says:

    great information. never tried the silky kind before

  25. Judy Lipcsak says:

    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.

  26. Shani F. says:

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

  27. Kayce says:

    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.

  28. krystel says:

    i necer tried tofu but always wanted to try tofu

  29. Rachel N says:

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

  30. marissa lee says:

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

  31. Michael Lambert says:

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

  32. Sherry Compton says:

    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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