I’m Vegan But I don’t Like Tofu – Do I Really Need it?

First of all, if you don’t like tofu, don’t worry, you don’t have to eat it just because you’re vegan! There are plenty of vegan alternatives which you can include in your diet.

But if I’m honest, I love tofu so much, I’d kinda like to help you to like it.

So if you’d actually like to like it, then this post is for you.

What can you do if you want to eat tofu but don’t actually like it (yet!)?

First of All, What is Tofu?

Tofu is basically the solids or curds of soya bean milk which are separated from the whey by curdling with the help of a coagulant. The tofu is then pressed into blocks.

Bear in mind that it can often be made from genetically modified soybeans, so if you prefer not to ingest GMO foods, choose natural organic, GMO-free tofu brands.

I'm vegan but I don't like tofu - raw tofu cubes
Tofu is made by separating the curds from the whey of soybean milk, similar to the way cheese is made from cow’s milk.

Can You Eat Tofu Raw?

Yes you can. Once you’ve developed a taste for tofu you may find yourself chopping it into salads, slicing it into sandwiches and cutting it into buddha bowls.

In fact one of my top 5 favourite tofu snacks is a simple tricolore salad with tofu, avocado and tomato.

But while I love raw tofu, it isn’t the best way to start out eating tofu if you aren’t yet a fan.

Is Tofu Gluten Free and Vegan?

Tofu is almost always vegan.

It isn’t always gluten free however. Pure, natural tofu is both vegan and gluten free but if you choose smoked varieties (or other flavoured versions) they quite often contain gluten.

If you’re buying a tofu product of processed food such as tofu sausages for example, they may also contain wheat (which is gluten), or have flavourings or preservatives added that aren’t vegan.

So if you’re going gluten free (or maybe you already are gluten free), make sure to be vigilant with the ingredients list.

Normally even tofu sausages are vegan because they’re intended for the vegan market, but it’s best to check the ingredients to be sure.

Conclusion: choose pure organic tofu or check the label for non-vegan ingredients to be sure that you’re buying a 100% vegan, gluten free product.

Is Tofu Healthy?

Tofu is a healthy part of a vegan diet. It offers a quality protein source of plant based protein which is relatively low in calories when comparing to animal protein sources.

It’s cholesterol free and low in saturated fats which makes is a great food for controlling blood-sugar levels and a heart-friendly food when eaten as part of a WFPB (whole foods plant based) diet to prevent or reverse heart disease or type 2 diabetes.

There are people who believe that tofu isn’t healthy and the reason for that is that tofu contains isoflavones, which may increase oestrogen levels in certain people.

But the concerns that this could be linked to health issues remain unproven and the general consensus is that tofu is a health-promoting food.

Tofu has been eaten by healthy people in China for around 2000 years.

Do I Have to Eat Tofu to be Vegan?

You don’t have to eat tofu to be vegan at all.

There’s so many food choices you can choose from.

However, tofu is one of my favourite ingredients in so many vegan meals that I think it would be a shame not to incorporate it into your food. I mean just imagine that delicious, mouth-watering, vegan buddha bowl only without the tofu blocks . . . could almost make me cry!

No, seriously, if you don’t like tofu just yet, don’t worry.

Take your time and experiment slowly. You’ll be surprised by just how much your taste buds will evolve over the period of a few months eating only whole foods, if that’s the way you decide to go.

Air fried sweet potato and tofu snack
Tofu tapas snack with sweet potato and cilantro sauce

If you eat vegan processed foods, then your taste buds won’t really change so much, but by the same token, if you eat vegan processed foods, then you don’t need tofu because you’re already eating all types of vegan burgers, sausages etc.

I recommend adopting a whole foods plant based vegan diet to really get the best out of your vegan journey and to benefit from all it has to offer health-wise.

And when you live from vegan whole foods, it becomes so easy to start cooking without recipes and still getting amazing results.

I Don’t Like Tofu, But I Want to. What Can I do?

It’s not surprising that you don’t like tofu.

I mean tofu isn’t a food which we fall in love with instantly like that. It’s a food that grows on you.

It doesn’t have much flavour, the texture is alien and it isn’t exactly beautiful to look at. So why would you expect to fall in love with it immediately?

I spent years just occasionally eating tofu and on those occasions I just tolerated it rather than actively loving it. In fact the first time I tried it I hated it!

I remember back in the 80’s I was served tofu in a Chinese stir fry. I remember it as crispy, deep-fried, oily and totally, completely, horrible.

Yet here I am now, and I would happily eat tofu in any meal at any time of day, cooked, raw, in any way you choose.

I’m an official fan now.

So what happened?

Well (apart from the fact that I don’t eat tofu deep-fried), the real change that took place was within my taste buds.

My buds changed. And yours can too.

I’m not guaranteeing that you’ll end up liking tofu, but I’m definitely saying that there’s a very good chance of it happening if you have an open mind towards it.

How have you tried it? Straight from the packet? Sliced into salad or cubed into a sauce? Have you eaten baked tofu straight from the oven, scrambled with mushrooms or cooked in a stir fry?

However you’ve tried it, chances are there are still many more ways to give it a go.

So give it time.

Don’t believe that your taste buds are set in stone because they aren’t.

Be patient and try tofu in many of its glorious ways. Eat whole foods and cut out processed foods and added sugars. Let your taste buds slowly and naturally grow to like new foods.

With time, you might surprise yourself by liking (and even loving – gasp!), tofu.

Tofu snack with sweet potato

How to Start Eating Tofu if You Don’t Like it

The fact is that everybody’s different, so whatever I say might be the best way to start eating tofu could be different for you.

But I’m going to take my best guess and you can play with it and change it around to suit you.

#1 Press Your Tofu

Alot of people prefer to press their tofu to remove the excess liquid and then marinate the tofu so that it absorbs the chosen flavours.

I admit that I don’t do this anymore because as I said, I love tofu straight from the packet. But this could be a good way to start out.

Buy an organic, non GMO, firm block of tofu and remove it from its packet. Next, place it on a plate with several pieces of kitchen paper under it and put a heavy weight on top of the tofu block.

The heavy weight can be a small plate with a big tin or jar of food on top.

Anything to gently squash the tofu down.

After about 30 minutes, pour away any excess liquid and mop up the rest with the kitchen paper.

Pat the tofu dry.

#2 Cut the Tofu into Small Cubes

Take the block and cut it into about 6 strips. Then turn it on its side and cut the strips in half. Turn the block again and cut x4 along the strips so that you’re left with small cubes of tofu.

Keep it small until you’ve decided you like it better, then the cubes can get bigger!!

Use your small cubes of tofu in dishes like nasi style rice or bami style noodles and serve with a spicy peanut sauce.

#3 Add Flavour

So tofu doesn’t have any flavour, I hear you say.

What’s the problem with something not having flavour?

I would have thought it would be more difficult if something had a pungent flavour that you absolutely hated, rather than worrying that it doesn’t taste very much.

Perfect, if you ask me!

If it has no flavour I can use it in everything!

The trick is to start eating tofu so the tofu’s just a little part of the meal which you eat and you enjoy the overall flavours and textures.

Don’t pick out the tofu as the main ingredient just yet, instead add it to something that you like the flavour of, like a sweet potato and chickpeas in a coconut sauce for example.

The tofu will absorb the flavour of the sauce and form a small part of the whole (yummy) dish.

Easy sweet potato and chickpeas in a coconut sauce
Add tofu to one of your favourite meals to give it flavour

The tofu in these dishes can be cut into small cubes and eaten almost without recognition. And once you fall in love with the dishes with tofu in them, then subconsciously you’re one step closer to ‘liking’ tofu.

At this stage, choose between making the tofu chewy (you’ll notice it more in the dish) or less chewy so that it just blends in.

When you like eating the tofu in a spicy flavoursome dish, then there are other things you can do to give it more flavour and eat it more in its own right . . .

#4 Marinate the Tofu

Put your small tofu cubes into a bowl and pour on some Tamari and Ketjap manis so that each cube of tofu has been rolled in the soy sauce. Add some chilli power or spices if you like.

You can make a different marinade to suit your preferences but this is a simple one to get the great-tofu-habits going.

Leave the tofu to marinade for a few hours before coming back to cook it.

Now me, personally, I don’t do this anymore.

But that’s because I love tofu so much, I can eat it in any way, shape or form and I don’t need to marinate it first.

But many people swear by this method and find that it gives the tofu much more flavour.

#5 Put Tofu into a Sauce Instead of Marinating

You can put tofu into a sauce and let it absorb the flavour from the sauce.

Instead of marinating it, add the tofu, either cooked or raw, to a chilli tomato sauce for example and let it absorb the flavours for a few hours before heating and serving with the meal.

#6 What About the Texture of Tofu?

If you don’t like the texture of tofu you’re a bit limited but I still think that if you find one way to eat it, you’ll gradually start to like it in more other ways.

It takes time, but your perception and expectations will change and that alters your taste experience.

There are various ways to try different textures of tofu:

  • Frozen – if you first freeze and then defrost tofu, it becomes dryer and chewier – less soggy – than fresh tofu. This can be a great solution if you don’t like soft tofu or you’re looking for a more meaty replacement (see below for more on freezing tofu).
  • Heavily air fried small cubes of tofu that become almost hard and crunchy are completely different in texture to the softer, less cooked variety.
  • Less heavily air fired to result in a softer, less chewy texture.
  • Baked tofu – similar to air fried.
  • Scrambled tofu with lots of other veggies. You can break the tofu up into larger scrambled bits, or crumble it tiny so that the tofu becomes integrated into the meal.
  • Tofu broken up into the pan of chilli to make chilli-sin-carne.
  • Raw tofu cubed into salad and marinaded in the dressing
  • Raw tofu slices served with tomato in place of mozzarella for example.
  • Fried tofu – I don’t like fried tofu personally because well, I don’t eat oil, but even when I did, tofu tends to soak it up and I prefer it oil-free. But it has to be said, a lot of people seem to like to fry it.
Baked tofu with vegetables, chick peas, lime juice and garlic sauce
Baked tofu with chickpeas, zucchini and cherry tomatoes

#7 Freeze Your Tofu First

For the all-time chewy experience, freeze your tofu and then defrost it.

Once defrosted, squeeze out all the liquid. You’ll find you can squeeze out loads of water, leaving a much drier version of tofu which has a completely different texture than it did before.

Alternatives to Tofu

Tofu’s so handy if you’re vegan because it provides a great source of plant protein, something which many vegans want to make sure they eat enough of on their vegan journey.

While I absolutely believe that our taste buds change and that you can experiment with tofu to find ways that you will actually enjoy it, in the meantime there are some alternatives which you can eat instead of or as well as tofu.

Many of the meat alternatives such as quorn and seitan are pure gluten, so we won’t be including them here.

Vegan Non Gluten Plant-Protein Sources

Tempeh Can Be GF

Tempeh is made from fermented soy beans and has a great nutritional profile. You’ll need to check the ingredients for gluten though as many brands of tempeh contain gluten. Also look out for any flavoured varieties and they can also be a source of gluten.

Beans

Beans offer a great source of protein and are a tasty part of so many dishes. Choose from black beans, kidney beans, red beans, borlotti beas, fava beans and white beans among others.

Nuts

Nuts are super healthy and high protein but like so many things, it’s better not to overeat nuts. They’re high in oils and calories and naturally suited to eating no more than a small handful a day.

Lentils

One of the classic health-bombs of the vegan diet. Lentils can be enjoyed as a pasta sauce, a Tarka dahl, an easy to make plain dahl, delicious lentil soup, Spanish lentil stew, a lentil curry or as lentil flatbreads.

You can buy green lentils, red lentils, black lentils and more, and each one has its own characteristics.

Chickpeas

I love chickpeas. If I had to choose one legume it would be the chickpea. Eat them as a classic hummus or make an oil free avocado hummus, enjoy them straight from the jar, in a curry or as part of this delicious sweet potato and chickpeas in a coconut sauce, in a king salad or as a scrumptious chickpea snack and the list goes on.

The humble chickpea offers a healthy, high protein ingredient to add to all your vegan favourites.

Best Ways to Cook Tofu

Once you like tofu, it can be eaten raw in salads or sandwiches. Think avocado, tomato and tofu on wholemeal homemade gluten free bread with cilantro pesto. OMG yum.

Tofu can be cooked in the air fryer. A big slab of tofu can replace an instant burger for a summer BBQ so that you don’t have your food on the meat BBQ but still have a burger to eat with the party.

Or why not try cubes sweet potato and tofu cooked in the air fryer and served with cilantro pesto? That’s one of my all time favourites.

Otherwise, add your raw tofu cubes to a sauce and let them absorb the flavour while cooking.

You can also fry tofu, but I prefer not to fry and I don’t like fried tofu. It’s the least favourite way of eating tofu in my opinion.

In short, the ways you can eat tofu are unlimited:

  • Raw – in sandwiches, salads, buddha bowls
  • Cooked in the air fryer – as tapas, on skewers, in curries, in tomato sauce, on rice, noodles etc.
  • On the grill / BBQ – to replace a burger, with grilled mushrooms, summer vegetables . . .
  • In a sauce – chilli sin carne, tomato sauce, coconut sauce, curry sauce . . .
  • Fried – same as in the air fryer but higher fat content

I hope this post helps you to start eating and liking tofu.

Who knows, maybe you’ll fall in love with it after all!

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