Tofu is an extremely versatile plant-based protein. Low in calories and fat, and full of clean protein, tofu is an incredibly healthy food to cook with. So why then are both plant-based and non-plant-based eaters scared of it? Is it the white color or jiggly block shape that freaks people out? Or maybe it’s the recent controversy over soy consumption? The health benefits of tofu  are tremendous, ranging from anti-inflammatory properties  to effectiveness towards breast cancer prevention. Drop your soy health quarries and simply make sure to choose organic, non-processed tofu to gain full health effects.

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While making homemade tofu is nutritionally beneficial and an achievement in itself, most grocery stores sell silken, firm, and extra firm tofu. Silken tofu is a Japanese style tofu and is softer, blends well, and is crumbly. Firm and extra firm tofu are often seen in Chinese-style dishes and will maintain their shape well. Both types of tofu are easy to cook with, can be stored frozen until use and can please even the meatiest of eaters. It’s time to stop thinking of tofu as “tof-eww” and relish in this plant-based dream! Here are some tasty and surprising ways to cook with tofu that can satisfy any craving.

1. Desserts

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One of the most surprising ways to use tofu is in desserts. Use silken tofu for rich and creamy pies, cakes, mousses and smoothies. Silken tofu is a great replacement for cream cheeses, dairy puddings and whipped creams as it provides a delicate texture to sweets. Plus, tofu can provide more protein and calcium at a much healthier expense than animal-based dairy products. Since tofu is essentially flavorless, it’s important to use ingredients such as dark chocolate, fresh fruit or nut butters to give your desserts strong flavors. For a go-to healthy, chocolate dessert, try this Silken Tofu Mousse. Instead of heavy cream and eggs, silken tofu gives mousse and puddings a naturally fluffy texture. For a fudgey, nutty treat make this Chocolate Pecan Pie that will be sure to please any dinner party guest. If chocolate isn’t your thing, opt for making a fruity treat like this Peanut Butter Creme and Raspberry Chiffon Pie. Chewy, creamy and silky, tofu transforms this pie into an indulgent, yet healthy masterpiece.

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2. Dips

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Perfect for sharing or to bring to a party, dips are a great addition to plant-based snacking. Often full of sour creams or soft cheeses, tofu makes a great substitute for a velvety, healthy dip.  Good for dipping vegetables or vegan wings, our Low-Fat Tofu Ranch Dip is a beloved classic to give a try. Bursting with guilt-free flavors, this dip is much healthier than typical ranch dressings as there are no preservatives or processed dairy. For a cracker or bread dip, try making one that is hearty and warm. Use soft tofu, vegetables such as spinach, squash or kale, and non-dairy milks to make a buttery delight. A twist on the classic Italian spinach dip, this Baked Spinach With Vegan Ricotta and Nutmeg provides killer nutrients by using tofu, beans, fresh spinach and nutritional yeast.

3. Breakfast

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Scrambles, frittatas, benedicts, omelets. Eggs have taken over Americans’ breakfast menus. Luckily for plant-based eaters, nearly every egg dish can be made egg-free with the help of tofu. Using spices and fresh vegetables, tofu is the perfect egg replacement as it has a similar texture to eggs, contains less fat and cholesterol and steers clear of the unethical egg industry. A delicious, yet non-plant-based, egg dish is a quintessential eggs benedict. Usually layered with poached eggs, ham and hollandaise sauce, this Eggs Benny and Flo is a delectable alternative that uses pan-seared firm tofu. For quick breakfast, try making a tofu scramble. Scrambles can be made any way you like them and pair well with other breakfast sides such as toast or fresh fruit. Seen on nearly every breakfast menu is an omelette. A little trickier than a scramble, making tofu omelets is still easy enough for any type of eater. Using silken tofu for a fluffy texture, this Low-Fat Vegan Silken Tofu Omelet  will be sure to jump start your day.

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4. Cheeses

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Feelin’ cheesy? Eat tofu! Nuts are famous for being used in vegan cheeses, however tofu is climbing its way to the top. Since tofu has a crumbly texture, it makes a lovely alternative to soft cheeses such as ricotta, feta or goat cheese. This Butternut Squash Lasagna uses tofu instead of ricotta cheese and makes a terrific addition to a warm sauce and noodles. Tofu is also a great addition to Indian dishes, most of which are already vegetarian. Cubed paneer, a classic Indian cottage cheese, is easy to replace with firm tofu. Make this Vegan Paneer Tikka Masala for a global treat where North Indian spices and a creamy, plant-based yogurt sauce flavor this tofu paneer magnificently. If you’re feeling bold, make tofu the star of a cheesy dish. This Herb and Nut Encrusted Cheese Log is vegan, gluten free and can be flavored any way you like it. Whether silken or firm, cooking with tofu can make you forget all about its cheesy counterpoint.

5. Marinades 

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What’s so amazing about tofu is that is tastes like what you cook it in, giving you so many global flavors to choose from. Tofu should marinate for at least an hour to keep flavor when cooking, and it’s preferable to marinate it overnight for even better effects. For firm tofu, drain out excess water by pressing the tofu in between clothes or paper towels. This will help marinades absorb better. Soy sauce, hot sauce, maple syrup, balsamic vinegar and garlic are all staples for a typical tofu marinade. This Seared Tamari Maple Tofu is easy and uses a marinade that take just minutes to whip up. For a spicier marinade, try this Tandoori Tofu, or a Chinese classic Vegan General Tso’s Tofu. Simply marinating your tofu in olive oil with mild spices is also a great option for salad toppings or for simple snacking. Your options for marinades are endless. Go international with flavors, or stick to American classics such as buffalo or a zesty BBQ sauce.

Lead Image Source: Eggs Benny and Flo

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