What Food Group is Tofu: Comprehensive Guide

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Tofu is a food that is derived from soybeans and is a staple in many vegetarian and vegan diets. It is considered a protein-rich food and is often used as a meat substitute. In this article, we’ll explore the nutritional benefits of tofu and what food group it belongs to. We’ll also provide tips on how to incorporate tofu into your diet and some delicious recipes to try.

what food group is tofu

What is Tofu

Tofu, also known as bean curd, is a creamy, high-protein, low-fat soy product that is typically sold in blocks1. It’s a versatile and nutritious food that is an important source of protein in the cuisines of China, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia2. Tofu provides essential amino acids, fats, carbs, and a wide variety of vitamins and minerals3.

Soy Product Origin

Tofu’s history can be traced back to the Han dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE) in China2. It is an essential food in many Asian cuisines and has become popular worldwide due to its nutritional benefits and adaptability in various recipes.

Production Process

Tofu is made from soybeans, water, and a coagulant or curdling agent1. The production process involves the following steps:

  1. Soaking the soybeans: Dried soybeans are soaked in water2.
  2. Crushing and boiling: The soaked soybeans are then crushed and boiled2.
  3. Separating the soy milk: The liquid separated from the crushed soybeans is soy milk4.
  4. Adding the coagulant: A coagulating agent, such as calcium or magnesium salts, is added to the soy milk
    to curdle it1.
  5. Forming the curds: The curdled soy milk forms the base of tofu1.
  6. Pressing: The curds are pressed into molds to form tofu blocks1.

Tofu is known for its ability to absorb flavors from spices, sauces, and marinades1. This makes it a versatile ingredient in various dishes, like stews, stir-fries, and salads.


  1. <a href=”https://www.thespruceeats.com/what-is-tofu-definition-and-recipes-3376822″>The Spruce Eats</a> 2 3 4 5 6
  2. <a href=”https://www.britannica.com/topic/tofu”>Britannica</a> 2 3 4
  3. <a href=”https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-is-tofu”>Healthline</a>
  4. <a href=”https://www.bonappetit.com/gallery/all-about-tofu”>Bon App├ętit</a>

Tofu and Food Groups

Protein Foods Group

Tofu is an excellent source of protein and can be found in the Protein Foods Group. It’s derived from soybeans and offers a considerable amount of nutrients, including essential amino acids, fats, carbohydrates, and numerous vitamins and minerals1. Due to its high protein content and being a plant-based food, tofu is often classified with meats and eggs in terms of nutrition, but it does not contain cholesterol, making it a healthier protein option2.

Plant-Based Protein

As a plant-based protein, tofu provides an alternative option for those seeking to reduce their meat consumption, vegetarians, or vegans. Additionally, tofu is beneficial for people following specific diets or those with dietary restrictions, such as lactose intolerance, as it is dairy-free.

Some key features of tofu as a plant-based protein include:

  • Originates from soybeans, a type of legume3.
  • Provides complete protein, containing all essential amino acids1.
  • Low in saturated fat and cholesterol-free2.
  • Contains a variety of other nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals1.

It’s essential to note that while tofu is a great source of protein, it is not part of the Vegetable Group as it does not fit into any of the subgroups like dark-green vegetables, red and orange vegetables, starchy vegetables, or legumes (beans and peas)45. Instead, tofu holds its unique position as an excellent plant-based protein option in the Protein Foods Group2.

In conclusion, tofu is a versatile and nutritious plant-based protein that can be included in various diets and lifestyles. It provides essential nutrients and offers a healthier alternative to animal-based proteins.


  1. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-is-tofu 2 3
  2. https://fruitsandveggies.org/expert-advice/tofu-classified-terms-food-groups/ 2 3
  3. https://www.britannica.com/topic/tofu
  4. https://www.myplate.gov/eat-healthy/food-group-gallery
  5. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/healthy-eating-you-age-know-your-food-groups

Nutritional Profile of Tofu


Tofu, derived from soybeans, is a versatile and nutritious plant-based protein popular in various cuisines. A common addition to meatless diets, it offers a good balance of macronutrients, including proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. For instance, a 3.5-ounce (100 gram) serving of tofu provides roughly 181 calories, 11g of fat, and 3.5g of carbohydrates. One of tofu’s main appeals is its high protein content, at approximately 21.8g per half-cup (126g) serving.

Vitamins and Minerals

Tofu is also rich in essential vitamins and minerals that contribute to a healthy diet. A 2-ounce serving contains 30% of the daily value (DV) for calcium, an important mineral for bone health. Other key minerals in tofu include:

  • Manganese: 29% DV
  • Copper: 24% DV
  • Selenium: 18% DV
  • Phosphorus: 9% DV
  • Magnesium: 8% DV

Additionally, tofu is an excellent source of iron, with 3.4mg per half-cup serving.

Essential Amino Acids

Another unique aspect of tofu is that it contains all the essential amino acids needed by the body. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and essential amino acids must be obtained through food since the body cannot produce them. Tofu’s complete amino acid profile makes it an attractive choice for vegetarians and vegans looking for a quality protein source.


Tofu offers a modest amount of dietary fiber, with 2.9g per half-cup serving. Fiber is important for healthy digestion and weight management, as it adds bulk to the diet and promotes feelings of fullness.

Phytoestrogen and Isoflavones

Soy products like tofu contain phytoestrogens, particularly isoflavones, which are plant compounds that can mimic the effects of estrogen in the body. While there has been some controversy surrounding soy consumption, recent research suggests that moderate intake of soy products, including tofu, is generally safe and may even provide health benefits, such as reducing the risk of certain types of cancer and improving heart health. It is important to maintain a balanced diet and consult with a healthcare professional if one has concerns about incorporating tofu into their meal plan.

Health Benefits of Tofu

Tofu, made from soybean curds, possesses several health benefits due to its nutrient-rich composition. As a versatile plant-based protein, it serves as a valuable addition to a variety of dishes.

Cancer Prevention

Breast Cancer

Tofu contains isoflavones, which play a significant role in reducing the risk of certain types of cancer, such as breast cancer. Isoflavones have estrogen-like properties, which may influence hormone-dependent cancers, positively affecting prevention efforts 1.

Prostate Cancer

Another area where tofu can potentially help is in preventing prostate cancer. Research suggests that incorporating tofu in one’s diet may help maintain lower prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels, which can be indicative of a reduced risk for prostate cancer 2.

Heart Disease Prevention

Tofu also contributes to heart health. Its high isoflavone content is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease 3. Additionally, tofu contains essential amino acids, calcium, manganese, and iron, which promote overall well-being and may further support heart health.

In summary, incorporating tofu into a balanced diet can offer numerous health benefits, such as reducing the risk of breast and prostate cancers, and preventing heart disease. The versatility and nutrient-rich profile of tofu make it an excellent choice for various dishes and dietary preferences.


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  2. https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/benefits-tofu
  3. https://www.heart.org/en/news/2022/10/10/clearing-up-questions-on-whether-tofu-is-healthy

Types of Tofu

Tofu, also known as bean curd, is a versatile plant-based protein made from soybeans. It is a popular ingredient in various cuisines worldwide and can be used in a wide variety of dishes due to its neutral taste and ability to absorb flavors. Tofu falls under the legume food group, with its primary ingredient being soy. This section will discuss the different types of tofu, focusing on firm and extra-firm, as well as soft and silken varieties.

Firm and Extra-Firm

Firm and extra-firm tofu are sturdy and denser than their softer counterparts, making them suitable for stir-fries, grilling, and baking. These types of tofu have been pressed to remove excess liquid, which gives them a more robust texture. Firm and extra-firm tofu can hold their shape well, so they’re perfect for slicing, cubing, or crumbling. Some benefits of using these types of tofu include:

  • They can retain their shape in recipes that require high heat and extended cooking times.
  • They absorb flavors and marinades well due to their dense texture.
  • Their chewy consistency makes them a great substitute for meat in various dishes.

Soft and Silken

Soft and silken tofu have a higher water content and a smoother texture than firm and extra-firm varieties. They are more delicate and require gentle handling. Soft tofu is ideal for soups, stews, and sauces, while silken tofu is often used in desserts, smoothies, and as a dairy substitute. Here are some key characteristics of soft and silken tofu:

  • Soft tofu has a texture similar to fresh cheese, making it suitable for recipes where a delicate consistency is desired.
  • Silken tofu is typically sold in vacuum-sealed boxes and can be found in soft, firm, or extra-firm varieties, but all share a creamy, custard-like texture.
  • Due to the smoothness of silken tofu, it blends well into liquids, making it perfect for creating creamy sauces and dressings.

In addition to the types of tofu mentioned above, there are other soy-based products worth noting, such as refrigerated and tempeh varieties:

  • Refrigerated tofu is typically packed in water and must be drained before use. This type of tofu can be found in various forms, such as firm, extra-firm, and silken.
  • Tempeh is a soy product made from fermented soybeans and has a firm, meaty texture. It is a great source of protein, fiber, and vitamins, making it a healthy alternative to meat in many recipes.

In summary, tofu is a versatile and nutritious ingredient that comes in different forms, such as firm, extra-firm, soft, and silken, to suit various cooking methods and dishes.

Culinary Uses of Tofu

Tofu is a versatile food that can be utilized in a wide range of dishes, thanks to its unique texture and ability to absorb flavors. In this section, we’ll explore various culinary uses of tofu, focusing on techniques such as grilling, frying, and baking, as well as scrambled tofu and different styles of preparation.

Grilled, Fried, and Baked

When it comes to grilling, frying, or baking tofu, it’s crucial to choose the appropriate type. Firmer varieties, such as extra-firm tofu, work well with these cooking methods. To grill tofu, simply slice it into slabs or cubes, marinate it in your choice of sauce, and then grill until it has a nice charred exterior. Baked tofu follows a similar process, but instead of grilling, cook the marinated tofu in the oven until it becomes crispy and golden.

Pan-frying tofu requires a slightly different approach. With this method, tofu can be either breaded or simply pan-fried in oil. The key to successful pan-frying is to cook the tofu in a single layer, turning it occasionally so that each side becomes golden and crisp.


Stir-frying tofu is another popular and delicious method for enjoying this versatile ingredient. Scrambled tofu, a vegan alternative to scrambled eggs, is made by breaking firm tofu into small pieces and then cooking it with a variety of seasonings, such as nutritional yeast, turmeric, and black salt, which mimics the taste of eggs. The dish can also include vegetables, herbs, and other ingredients to cater to individual preferences.


There are various styles of preparing tofu, with regional variations adapting the ingredient to suit local tastes. For example, in Chinese cuisine, tofu can be enjoyed in dishes like mapo tofu, a spicy, savory dish made with minced meat and black bean sauce, or as a cold appetizer, served with soy sauce, sesame oil, and scallions. Japanese dishes often feature silken tofu in soups, such as miso soup or hot pots.

Korean cuisine offers a delicious tofu stew called “soondubu-jjigae,” which combines soft tofu with a spicy broth and a variety of vegetables and proteins. Meanwhile, in Southeast Asian cuisine, tofu is often deep-fried and served with peanut sauce or incorporated into curry dishes.

Regardless of the style, tofu offers incredible versatility and endless possibilities for culinary exploration. It can be grilled, fried, baked, or scrambled and customized to suit individual tastes and preferences with various sauces and seasonings. The key is to experiment and find the tofu dishes that you enjoy the most.

Dietary Considerations

Vegetarian and Vegan Diets

Tofu, a plant-based protein made from soybeans, is a versatile and nutritious food that plays a significant role in vegetarian and vegan diets1. As it is dairy-free, gluten-free, cholesterol-free, and vegan, tofu is a popular choice for people with specialized diets2. High in protein, tofu contains all the essential amino acids needed by the human body3. This makes it an excellent source of protein for those who choose not to consume meat or animal products.

Vegetarians and vegans can enjoy tofu in various forms, such as:

  • Silken tofu: ideal for smoothies and desserts
  • Soft tofu: suitable for soups and sauces
  • Firm tofu: great for stir-fries and grilling4

Notably, tofu is also a good source of vitamins and minerals, adding further value to plant-based diets. For example, it is rich in calcium, iron, and magnesium5.

Low-Fat Diet

Adopting a low-fat diet is beneficial for individuals looking to reduce their calorie intake or maintain a healthy weight. Tofu can be a valuable addition to low-fat diets, as it is generally low in fat and cholesterol while remaining filling and satisfying. In a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of firm tofu, there are only approximately 7 grams of fat6. Moreover, tofu can help lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, especially when used as a replacement for animal-based proteins7.

In conclusion, tofu’s unique nutritional profile and versatility make it a valuable addition to both vegetarian and vegan diets, as well as low-fat diets. Its high protein and essential amino acid content provide necessary nutrients for those abstaining from meat and animal products, and its low-fat content offers a healthy alternative to individuals seeking a nutritious, low-cholesterol food option.


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Storage and Preparation


Storing tofu properly is essential for maintaining its freshness and preventing bacterial growth. Open tofu should be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days, ideally in airtight containers, to reduce exposure to contaminants and retain its moisture content. Maintaining a reduced temperature in the refrigerator helps keep the tofu safe for consumption and extends its shelf life (source).

Draining and Pressing

Draining and pressing tofu is crucial for enhancing its texture and flavor absorption. When dealing with water-packed tofu, it’s important to remove excess water before cooking. Here are some steps for draining and pressing tofu:

  1. Place the tofu block on a plate with a slight incline.
  2. Put a clean kitchen towel or several layers of paper towels on top of the tofu.
  3. Put a heavy object, such as a cutting board or a pan, on the towel-covered tofu. Ensure the weight is evenly distributed.
  4. Allow the tofu to press for at least 20 minutes to an hour to remove excess water.

Some key tips for the final preparation and storage of tofu include:

  • Store tofu in water and change the water daily to maintain freshness.
  • When using tofu as a salt substitute, take note that it naturally contains a small amount of sodium.
  • For added convenience, consider investing in a tofu press to make the draining process more efficient.

By following these guidelines, you can ensure that the tofu remains fresh, tasty, and ready to be cooked or transformed into a flavorful dish.

Tofu in the Context of Other Food Groups


Tofu, a protein-rich food made from soybeans, is often considered a part of the vegetable group due to its origin from legumes. Legumes, including soybeans, are typically classified as vegetables. However, it’s important to note that while tofu shares some nutritional qualities with vegetables, it doesn’t contain the same variety of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals present in many vegetables1.

Comparing tofu to other types of vegetables, red and orange vegetables offer nutrients like beta-carotene, potassium, and vitamin C. Starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, provide carbohydrates and fiber, while leafy greens are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants2. In this context, tofu serves as a unique addition to the vegetable group, providing primarily protein and some essential nutrients.


Tofu doesn’t belong to the grain group, as it is made from soybeans, not grains like wheat, rice, or corn3. Nevertheless, tofu can be an interesting comparison to grains due to its versatility in culinary applications. Both grains and tofu can serve as base ingredients for many dishes. Grains are typically categorized into two types: whole grains, which contain the entire grain kernel, and refined grains, which have been processed to remove the bran and germ4.

Whole grains are rich in dietary fiber, minerals, and B vitamins, while refined grains may be enriched with some nutrients but lack the fiber and other essential components found in whole grains5. Tofu provides a plant-based protein source, with approximately 21.8 grams of protein per half a cup of firm tofu6. Unlike grains, which are primarily rich in carbohydrates, tofu offers a balance of protein, healthy fats, and essential minerals.

In conclusion, tofu serves as a versatile ingredient that shares characteristics with both vegetables and grains while providing unique nutritional benefits. Being a plant-based protein source, it makes a fitting addition to various dietary patterns and meals.


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