Tofu is soybean curd, usually pressed into a brick shape.
Many people notice that the words we often use to describe tofu and other soy products, like “curd,” “milk,” “creamy,” and so forth, are the same words used to describe dairy products.
In that case, is tofu a cheese?
Tofu is not a cheese, but there are similarities in the production processes of both. Tofu, also known as bean curd, is made from coagulated soy milk. The process involves soaking, grinding, and boiling soybeans to produce soy milk. Then, a coagulant (like calcium sulfate or magnesium chloride) is added to the soy milk, causing it to curdle. The curds are then pressed into blocks, similar to the way cheese is made from coagulated dairy milk.
While tofu shares this coagulation step with cheese production, it’s derived from plant-based soy rather than animal milk. So, while tofu can sometimes be used in recipes as a cheese substitute due to its texture, it’s not technically a cheese.
Read on to learn more.
Is Tofu A Type of Cheese?
Tofu is made by coagulating soy milk into curds, then pressing those curds into a brick, very much like the process when animal milk is made into cheese.
So in that sense, tofu is a type of vegan cheese. However, most people would not consider tofu a kind of cheese like cheddar, Colby, Havarti, paneer, etc., are types of cheese.
In fact, many people object to using the term “milk” to describe beverages made from soy, oats, and other plant sources, and those people would not use the word “cheese” to describe tofu.
If tofu were invented today, it would probably be marketed as vegan cheese.
But because tofu is an ancient food and used historically as a source of protein, tofu is typically classified as a vegan or vegetarian meat alternative, not a vegan cheese alternative.
Is Tofu A Cheese Substitute?
Tofu is an excellent cheese substitute but not completely identical. Here are the key factors to consider when using tofu as a cheese substitute:
The easiest cheese to substitute with tofu is feta because of the natural textural similarity.
However, tofu is available in various firmnesses and can be pressed further at home.
These texture differences allow it to substitute for soft cheeses like brie or firmer cheeses like Monterey jack.
Silken tofu is an excellent textural substitute for cream cheese or ricotta.
It’s more challenging to use tofu to substitute for very hard cheeses like pecorino Romano.
Tofu is mild in flavor and doesn’t taste like cheese. Not having a distinct flavor of it’s own, it mostly absorbs the flavors of ingredients it’s cooked with.
To create a cheesier flavor, press and then marinade the tofu in something acidic, like lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, and salt; this will make it taste more like cheese.
Tofu will not melt like cheese and will not achieve a stringy, pull-apart consistency.
Depending on the cheese you are substituting, you may need to use different firmnesses of tofu and marinate it with other ingredients.
There are hundreds of recipes for using tofu to substitute for different cheese and dairy products, so feel free to experiment and find out what works best for you.
Does Tofu Taste Like Cheese?
Tofu does not taste like cheese. The natural flavor of tofu is very mild, while cheeses tend to have a tangy, salty flavor.
However, marinating tofu allows it to take on different flavors, and a wide range of tofu marinade recipes help it take on the flavor of different cheeses.
Is Tofu Healthier Than Cheese?
Tofu is healthier than cheese, although the two foods are nutritionally similar.
Here are some of the reasons why tofu is a healthier choice:
- Tofu is high in protein and calcium. Both cheese and tofu are high in protein and calcium, with similar amounts of vitamins E and K.
- Tofu is high in minerals. Tofu is also a good source of iron and thiamine, although cheese has more riboflavin, vitamin A, and vitamin B12.
- Tofu has dietary fiber. Unlike cheese, tofu has a low amount of carbohydrates due to the dietary fiber in tofu. This fiber is good for healthy digestion.
- Tofu is lower in fat and calories. Tofu is much, much lower in fat and calories than cheese.
- Tofu has isoflavones. While the research is still inconclusive, moderate intake of isoflavones may have a range of health benefits, including reducing the risk of some cancers and osteoporosis in women.
- While cheese has more protein per volume than tofu, tofu is a much healthier food due to the presence of fiber, vitamins, and isoflavones, without cheese’s saturated fat and excess calories.
Tofu is a healthy versatile food that is an excellent vegan alternative to traditional cheeses.
In fact, tofu is made from soy milk virtually the same way traditional cheese is made from animal milk, and tofu could be considered a type of cheese or vegan dairy product.
Because tofu has traditionally been a staple food and main course protein in the Asian cuisines where it originated, it’s often marketed and sold as a vegan alternative to meat rather than a vegan alternative to cheese.
However, tofu is versatile enough to do both. With the right techniques and recipes, tofu can make an excellent swap for a wide range of cheeses and cheesy sauces.
Tofu is an excellent choice for people looking for a healthier, lower-calorie, more affordable alternative to cheese.
In addition, tofu can be substituted for many kinds of cheese in numerous dishes, making your favorite cheesy foods healthier.