Tofu Is a Versatile, Blank Canvas of Taste Upon Which Culinary Exploration Flourishes

Tofu is typically the result of curdled soy, but recent innovation has led to alternative ingredients made into tofu blocks.

Jamie Bichelman - Author

Mar. 4 2024, Published 4:24 p.m. ET

A block of tofu sits atop a cutting board beside soy sauce, soybeans, and oil.
Source: iStock

You may have passed it in the grocery store and seen countless inspired vegan dishes containing it, but you've always wondered: What does tofu taste like?

Unfortunately, all it takes is one lazily made tofu-based dish to incite the common refrain from veg-curious diners — that tofu tastes bland — which means they're missing out on a versatile, protein-packed powerhouse and excellent addition to any plant-based meal.

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Strap in, prepare your spices, your air fryer, and your cutting board, and get ready to explore the amazing world of tofu and how easily its flavor can be orchestrated to complement any dish.

A Chinese tofu-based stir fry dish is served in a red broth with green onions garnished on top.
Source: iStock
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What does tofu taste like?

As Tasting Table notes, tofu is "a food with limitless potential for flavor and adaptability." It's also affordable, readily available in many U.S. grocery stores, odorless and relatively bland on its own.

So, the answer to what tofu tastes like is simple: tofu tastes like what the person cooking it adds to the dish.

Draining the water from the package and pressing the tofu will help it absorb the flavor from whatever liquid you choose to marinade it with, per the Tasting Table. Pairing it with savory dishes will help the tofu take on a savory flavor, and pairing it with sweeter condiments and spices will make the tofu taste sweeter.

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Additionally, per Serious Eats, there are many ways in which the texture of the tofu will affect how it feels (which also impacts how it cooks) based on the firmness of the block that you purchase.

From soft and silken to non-silken extra firm and other variations, tofu can be purchased at an affordable price and with a texture that lends itself to whatever animal-free recipe you have in mind.

A block of tofu is cut into smaller chunks on a cutting board.
Source: iStock
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YouTubers Make It Dairy Free have tried pumpkin tofu and chickpea tofu, to name a few, which are excellent options for those who may have a soy allergy but still wish to explore animal-free dishes and enjoy the versatility of traditional tofu.

For those who keep kosher, and especially those who identify at the compatible intersection of Judaism and vegan values, tofu-based schmear is a popular alternative that many Jewish individuals enjoy.

What does uncooked tofu taste like?

From experience, tofu tastes wet and spongy straight out of the package, a reminder of its blandness and the potential transformation that awaits if combined with other veggies and condiments.

And as it turns out, consuming "raw tofu" straight out of the package is a bit of a misnomer.

Per Food Republic, tofu is inherently an already-cooked product, as the soybeans have been cooked and manipulated into the tofu blocks in the grocery store. That said, it is safe to consume straight out of the package, and according to Food Republic, it is commonly eaten in some Asian countries.

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