Tofu, the polarizing vegan protein, is now everywhere from chain restaurant menus to the shelves of your local grocery store. Made from mashed soybeans that are pressed into a block, giving it its distinctive cubed shape, tofu is a staple in many kitchens.
The tofu-making process isn’t too different from cheesemaking; it includes a coagulation step that drains the soybean curds of excess liquid. It’s 100% plant-based and comes in varying degrees of firmness and texture, which makes it a perfect, universal ingredient in so many different dishes across a range of cuisines. That being said, tofu originated in China and has been consumed there for over 2,000 years. It made its way to other Asian countries over the centuries -- through trade as well as occupation -- and has seeped its way into curries, soups, and stir fries.
But there isn't just one type of tofu. They differ depending on how much liquid is extracted from the soybeans during their coagulation process. Firmer tofus have less water, whereas soft and silken tofu are bloated with liquid, giving it its soft, jiggly texture. Then there are tofus that have been fried or baked or smoked to make them extra delicious. So which kind should you buy? Consult our handy guide below.