Why is it that restaurant tofu always seems to taste better than homemade? If you cut up a block of store-bought tofu and toss it into a curry, it can end up too watery and bland, or the texture may simply be off. But you're not doomed to a lifetime of bad home-cooked tofu. The truth is, you're probably not using the right product for your recipe. Even though tofu is a blank canvas for flavor, there are elements of it that make it good or bad — how watery it is, if the texture is grainy, if it has an overly soy taste, and if it takes on flavors well when cooked.
I've been a vegetarian for many, many years and have made my fair share of excellent and terrible tofu in my kitchen. So, I tried some of the most readily available and popular tofu options on the market to determine the best brands for your kitchen. For this review, I sampled both raw and lightly cooked tofu sold as firm, extra-firm, or super-firm. Silken tofu was not included in this review.Read on if you're looking to upgrade your tofu game -- whether you're a soy lover or a skeptical eater. Pick up one of our recommended brands, read up on some tips for preparing tofu, and watch yourself fall in love with some of our favorite brands.All prices listed are as of the date of publication and may vary based on region.
Read more: 21 Delicious Ways To Use Up Leftover Rice
12. Good & Gather Organic Extra-Firm Tofu
Don't let the convenience of Target's private brand trick you into buying it. The price was higher than we expected from a grocery store at $0.24 per ounce. This brand has 9 grams of protein per serving, which is on par with the others we sampled.
This is the one tofu we tried and couldn't take another bite of. It's way too soft, even though the label claims it's extra firm, and it requires a lot of pressing to remove the excessive water content. There's hardly any chew to it, and the tofu nearly disappears in your mouth when you eat it.
Unfortunately, cooking this tofu block didn't help much. The high water content made it difficult to brown, and it didn't improve the texture. It's possible this block could be blended into soups or smoothies, but we don't recommend grabbing it if you need a tofu that will hold its shape or take on color when it's cooked.
11. 365 Whole Foods Market Organic Firm Tofu
We are surprised by how low the Whole Foods's 365 organic firm tofu ranked on the list because it's a staple in our kitchen. But it didn't perform as well as the other products. It contains a solid 9 grams of protein per serving and costs $0.16 per ounce, making it one of the more affordable options on our list. We also liked that it is available at a nationwide retailer.
The texture is a little softer than the other options, which is to be expected as a firm tofu rather than an extra or super-firm variety. It's much lighter than other brands and quite porous, making it super crumbly in a way we didn't love. It would work sufficiently as a base for plant-based scrambled eggs or as a taco filling, but most definitely wouldn't hold up to a stir-fry or anything where it needs to maintain its shape and integrity.
Overall, we found that the tofu had a weird, unappealing funkiness to it that kicked it down the list. Maybe the soy flavor was too prominent, or something else was happening, but we couldn't focus on anything else. It also browned well when cooked but fell apart a bit in the pan.
10. Trader Joe's Organic Extra Firm Sprouted Tofu
The best part of this tofu is that it's broken up into a twin pack, which is great when you just need a small amount for a recipe or are cooking a meal for one. But, the entire pack falls awkwardly short of a pound, which makes substituting it into recipes difficult. The tofu contains 9 grams of protein per serving and costs $0.19 per ounce, making it one of the more affordable options.
This was the only sprouted tofu we sampled, but we couldn't tell the difference between its taste and texture compared to other tofu varieties. Moreover, although new research suggests sprouted tofu is easier to digest and has the nutritional benefits of extra protein, calcium, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids, the potential pluses didn't compensate for this product's flaws.
We found the tofu watery with a lingering earthy flavor we didn't love. The texture of the block was almost gelatinous, and the tofu itself easily fell apart. It reminded us of silken tofu with a grainy texture, which makes us think it would be a better option blended into a smoothie or soup. Besides, there are better things to buy at Trader Joe's.
9. Franklin Farms Extra Firm Tofu
Franklin Farms is less common in grocery stores than other brands. It's non-GMO, non-organic, and comes out to only 8 grams of protein per serving -- which is less than other brands. It's also priced at $0.25 per ounce, which is more expensive than some of our other favorites. Despite its extra firm label, this block felt a little too squishy, porous, and grainy for our liking. It's packed in water and requires a lot of pressing, which is difficult to do given the soft texture. This made it nearly impossible to soak any extra flavors into the waterlogged block when we attempted to cook it.
The tofu has a super light mouthfeel and the flavor isn't particularly overpowering. We could see this as a good option for blending but not for recipes that require it to crisp up in a pan. Its high price, low protein content, and squishy texture made it fall short on our list.
8. Panda Farms Extra Firm Tofu
Though we found this tofu option to be very firm and hold up well, there were some elements that held us back from giving it a higher ranking. The brand isn't as widely available in supermarkets, isn't organic, and doesn't have a non-GMO certification. Panda Farms also has the lowest protein content of all the tofus we ranked at just 7 grams per serving, and it came out to the high price point at $0.29 per ounce.
Panda Farms had a little bit of an odd, bitter flavor and a very grainy texture that wasn't as smooth as we had expected. The block is packed in a plastic container of water and requires an annoying amount of pressing to prepare. It ultimately didn't end up too watery, which was a pleasant departure from the lower-ranked brands on our list. Though the tofu achieved some color when pan-fried, it didn't take on much flavor at all.
7. Trader Joe's Organic Firm Tofu
Trader Joe's firm tofu is perfectly firm as advertised, so don't expect an extra or super firm texture. It's packed in a plastic container of water, so the block itself is decently spongy. Once pressed and dried, it holds up well enough to be baked or gently mixed into a sauce. But aggressively stir-frying or sautéeing would likely lead to a crumbly consistency. The texture is a little grainy and soft, and the block is relatively flavorless and bland -- which isn't such a bad thing when you're cooking with a strong sauce.
Each serving contains 8 grams of protein, and a package costs $0.14 — which makes it our lowest-priced tofu option. The biggest downside to this tofu was it didn't cook very well. There was hardly any exterior browning or texture change when we pan-fried it, and it didn't seem to soak up any of the olive oil flavors. Ultimately, we felt Trader Joe's has better tofu options for just a few cents more.
6. Nasoya Organic Extra Firm Tofu
Nasoya is a fairly popular store brand, and its package even boasts that it's "America's #1 selling tofu brand." This block of tofu is very middle-ground, hence the ranking, with 9 grams of protein per serving. It retails for $0.29 per ounce, which is slightly more than generic brands like Trader Joe's or Whole Foods 365. The product felt a little bit softer than some of the other options and needed quite a bit of pressing before cooking, but it's definitely not the most watery option on the list. We liked the soy flavor a lot because it was apparent but not overpowering.
When cooked, the tofu firmed up a bit and developed a little bit of color. Though soft, it didn't fall apart as much as some other options and had a nice, tender mouthfeel. We felt this tofu was a great blank canvas for flavor, and we loved that it's widely available in supermarkets nationwide. It may not be our first pick, but it's a solid option for frying, baking, stir-frying, crumbling, or basically anything.
5. Azumaya Extra Firm Tofu
At only 8 grams of protein per serving and $0.25 per ounce, Azumaya has an average price and lower protein content than other brands we reviewed. Generally, we felt this tofu block was not the best, but not the worst. It was a little too soft for an extra firm variety and was quite watery, so it needed much pressing before we could cook with it. We also didn't love the slightly funky soy flavor we noticed when we took a bite of it raw.
Azumaya was still soft and tender when cooked and it didn't get take on color or flavor. On the positive side, it firmed up slightly when it was cooked. We also like that this brand is sold by the pound, which makes replacing it with other proteins in recipes much easier. The tofu is made with non-GMO ingredients, but it isn't organic. Azumaya is also distributed by Nasoya and we found the two blocks to be nearly indistinguishable. So, if organic isn't important to you, the cheaper price of this product makes it a clear winner over Nasoya.
4. Wildwood Organic High Protein Super Firm Tofu
Wildwood is USDA-certified organic, available in most supermarkets, and packs a whopping 14 grams of protein per serving. We love that it's sold by the pound for easy recipe swapping, but not that it's slightly more expensive at $0.37 per ounce. It's definitely super firm in texture and has a somewhat earthy, bitter soy flavor. While some blocks of tofu have a slight funk with the soy flavor, this one was fresh and tasty.
This block is packed in a tight plastic container but does allow for a little extra water. The package claims it's ready to cook without draining or pressing, which is almost true. It doesn't need much pressing before cooking, but a quick towel-dry would help crisp it up. Where Wildwood really shines is in the pan. The dense texture makes it fantastic for frying, baking, sautéeing, or really any culinary application. Plus, it takes on flavors really well and maintains a hearty mouthfeel.
3. Hodo Organic Extra Firm Tofu
This tofu block dominated the taste, texture, and nutrition categories by a long shot, but the price point gave us pause. Each serving packs a whopping 14 grams of protein but costs $0.63 per ounce. The mouthfeel is very rich and creamy, and the block itself is quite toothsome and dense and is without any porous pockets. It's packed in an air-tight plastic, so it's comparatively drier and doesn't require additional pressing.
The block browns very well when cooked and gets even firmer and meatier. It would be an excellent option for frying or baking, especially if battered. The main downside to Hodo is the price and the size -- which we found much flatter than the other products we sampled. If you're willing to pay up every so often or splurge for a special dish, Hodo is worth it. But for the every day, we say skip it.
2. House Foods Extra Firm Tofu
We loved House Foods tofu's very dense, super firm texture --though it was only advertised as extra firm. It's packed in a plastic container with water and requires some pressing before cooking, but it has noticeably less water than other brands. It cuts well into blocks or cubes and is so solid it springs back beautifully. This brand would be great for deep frying, pan frying, sautéeing, or baking.
There's a slight soy flavor to the block that we enjoyed. It also took on the olive oil flavor and browned nicely when cooked. Though it's non-GMO, it isn't certified organic. Each serving has 8 grams of protein, and it's priced moderately at $0.25 per ounce. Overall, we liked the flavor and texture more than other watery brands. We also loved how accessible the brand was in most supermarkets and appreciated how easy it would be to add to our favorite recipes.
1. Trader Joe's High Protein Super Firm Organic Tofu
Trader Joe's super firm tofu brings the best of everything. It's the highest protein option at 14 grams per serving for an excellent price of $0.17 per ounce at a nationwide retail spot. Plus, it's sold by the pound, which makes it much easier to make a plant-based swap in recipes. It would make an excellent replacement for meat, including chicken or steak.
This particular tofu is packed tightly in a bag, with just enough water to keep it moist but not so much that it ends up watery. In fact, it barely needs any pressing at all. The texture is dense, chewy, and super hearty. You can grab it with a fork or tongs, there's no recoil when pressed, and it doesn't fall apart or flop over when picked up. It's very solid without any graininess or porous pockets.
The tofu holds up exceptionally well when cooked in a pan and browns very quickly. Since there's no strong flavor, it absorbs the flavors of whatever ingredients you cook it with. If you want a tofu that can stand up to almost anything — frying, baking, stirring into soups and sauces, or stir-frying with veggies — then this block can do the job.
We chose tofu blocks labeled firm, extra firm, and super firm from relatively available and established brands for this tasting experiment. Not only did we sample the tofu raw, but we also pan-fried it for one minute on each side in olive oil without any additional sauces or seasonings. This allowed us to determine the soy product's base flavor and how well it would taste and look after being cooked.
We recruited another taste-tester and tofu enthusiast to boost our objectivity and account for personal flavor preference. Once we tasted the options, we made the final decisions based on availability, price per ounce, and protein per 3-ounce serving.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.