Is Tofu Plant Based? Clearing Up the Confusion

Is tofu plant based?

Tofu is plant-based, providing an array of vital nutrients. A half-cup serving treated with calcium sulfate supplies quality protein, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, and fiber. The sodium amount is negligible.

Tofu can be included in a vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian, pescatarian, and other plant-based eating patterns. Tofu supplies comparable cost-efficient protein for someone looking for a meat substitute. 

Is tofu vegan?

Tofu fits the bill for anyone limiting meat intake or practicing vegetarian or vegan eating. Some tofu brands do, however, add an animal product in the processing that would, of course, make it unsuitable for someone following a vegan eating pattern. 

Reading the ingredients label on the package will help guide you.

What does tofu taste like?

Tofu casts a mild flavor onto your tastebuds. Its smooth texture melds with and takes on the tastiness of the foods or seasonings it’s cooked with. This pleasing and versatile ingredient can be added to just about any recipe to help meet your protein needs.

different types of tofu infographic

Most common types of plant based tofu

  • Silken or Soft – The most delicate tofu is perfect to use as a substitute for eggs or yogurt in recipes such as pancake batters, smoothies, and mashed potatoes.
  • Medium Firm – Versatile tofu for salads or crumble and heat for a ground beef substitute.
  • Extra or Super Firm – Tofu with the most pressing is best for grilling and sauteing.

Tofu will be firmer if more water has been removed when it’s made. If using medium or extra firm, you will want to press it to remove the excess liquid. 

Can you eat tofu cold?

Tofu can be eaten from the package, cold. You can cube firm tofu and add it to a salad for a plant-based protein.

Can you eat tofu raw?

Yes, tofu can be eaten raw, and you can enjoy this nutrient-dense food right from the package as an ingredient in smoothies, frostings, and salads. Since it is considered a time-and-temperature-control-for-safety (TCS) food, chill tofu at 40 degrees Fahrenheit (F) or below before consuming. 

If tofu is held longer than four hours in the temperature danger zone, 41 to 135 degrees F, it should be discarded to avoid a food-borne illness. 

Can you reheat tofu?

Tofu can be reheated to enjoy as leftovers. Care should be taken to limit the time tofu sits in the temperature danger zone. 

How is tofu made?

Tofu is made by soaking, grinding, and cooking soybeans. The protein concentration increases the more the beans are ground. Cooking modifies the protein, reducing the beany flavor. 

The pulp is strained and removed, leaving behind soy milk. It is the liquid soy milk that eventually becomes tofu. 

Next, the soy milk will have a coagulant such as a salt, enzyme or acid added to it to make the tofu. Calcium sulfate, which doesn’t alter the flavor, frequently coagulates soy milk into tofu. Once coagulated, the final product becomes firm or extra firm as it is pressed.

Tofu packaging

Different coagulants will be used depending on the desired texture, firmness, or taste. For instance, an acid called glucono delta-lactone (GDL) is used to produce silken tofu.  

Soft and silken tofu are packaged before coagulation because they do not require pressing.

Tofu is usually pasteurized for safe consumption

Protein in tofu vs chicken

High-protein tofu compares well to the protein content in chicken and other meats.

According to Food Data Central 100 grams of dark meat chicken provides 23.9 grams of protein and white meat, 32.1 grams. An equal amount of tofu furnishes 17.3 grams. Of note is the 2.3 grams of fiber available from tofu but not found in chicken.

Isoflavones and soy

Soy contains isoflavones. You may be concerned about things you have heard or read about isoflavones. They are known as plant estrogens. A low amount of isoflavones is found in soy foods. 

Issues with isoflavones come from excessive amounts of ingesting too much. You may turn to supplements rich in isoflavones, such as red clover, if you experience menopause-related symptoms. 

These supplements could prove problematic, especially for someone at risk for breast cancer or thyroid issues.


Tofu supplies an economical protein source and is available on our grocery shelves. It’s versatile, making it easy to add to different dishes. Consider picking up a package on your next trip to the market.

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Grace Rivers, RDN, CDCES

Grace is a registered dietitian nutritionist residing in Texas. She has over 30 years of experience in nutrition. Grace loves translating science articles into easy-to-understand information for you.


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Stephanie Turkel is a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Texas. She has 30 plus years of experience in the nutrition field. She now takes her gained knowledge and shares it with you to explain science articles into easy-to-understand information.

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