What is Tofu in India: Essential Guide

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Tofu, a soy-based food originating from China, has gained popularity in India over the years as a healthy and versatile ingredient. Whether you’re a vegetarian or just looking for a meat alternative, tofu has become a staple in many Indian kitchens and restaurants. But what exactly is tofu and how is it used in Indian cuisine? Let’s find out.

what is tofu in india

What is Tofu?

Tofu, also known as bean curd, is a versatile and nutritious food item that has gained popularity in Indian cuisine. Made from soybeans, it is a great source of protein and other essential nutrients. Created through a process called coagulation, tofu is formed by solidifying soy milk into solid white blocks.

Tofu is derived from soybeans by first soaking and grinding dried soybeans. The ground soybeans are then filtered to produce soy milk. During the coagulation process, a coagulant is added to the soy milk which causes it to form into soy curds. There are two primary coagulation methods used for making tofu:

  • Chinese-style tofu: Gypsum or calcium sulfate acts as the coagulant, resulting in soy curds. This method is the reason tofu is often referred to as “bean curd” source.
  • Japanese-style tofu: Nigari, a magnesium chloride solution, is used as the coagulant, producing a softer and smoother tofu.

Tofu is appreciated for its adaptability as it can take on the flavors of the ingredients it is cooked with. Indian cuisine utilizes tofu in a variety of dishes, including curries, stir-fries, and kebabs. The Indian tofu curry is an excellent example of how tofu can be used in Indian cooking, bringing together a blend of spices and flavors to create a delicious and hearty meal.

Some benefits of incorporating tofu into an Indian diet include:

  • High protein content
  • Rich in amino acids, calcium, and iron
  • Low in calories

Indian tofu recipes featured on NDTV Food, such as Tofu Masala, Tofu Bhurjee, and Tofu Tikka, showcase the diverse ways tofu can be used in traditional Indian dishes. Using tofu in Indian cuisine allows for the creation of healthy and flavorful meals that cater to both vegetarians and vegans.

Different types of tofu offer distinct textures and cooking properties, making it suitable for various cooking methods source. For instance, firm tofu works well for stir-frying or grilling, while silken tofu is ideal for blending into smoothies or creating creamy sauces.

In summary, tofu is a versatile and nutrient-dense food that enhances Indian cuisine, offering both delicious flavor and health benefits. The coagulation process, varying types of tofu, and versatility of the product make it an ideal ingredient for creating diverse and flavorful dishes.

History of Tofu

Tofu, a popular protein-rich food item, has a fascinating history that can be traced back to China during the Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE)1. Made from soybeans, tofu has evolved over the years and become a staple not only in Chinese cuisine but also in Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia. Eventually, it found its way to India, where it is now a favorite among various communities.

The origins of tofu can be attributed to the culinary explorations of ancient China, where it is believed to have been first made during the Han Dynasty2. It is during this era that the process of making tofu from soaked, crushed, and boiled soybeans was discovered. The resulting mixture was then separated into okara, a solid pulp, and soy milk. The addition of a coagulating agent to the soy milk would then create the creamy soybean curd we know today as tofu3.

The spread of tofu throughout Asia is often linked to the rise of Buddhism. As the Buddhist vegetarian diet gained popularity, tofu became an essential source of protein for those practicing this lifestyle4. This led to the introduction of tofu in other countries such as Vietnam in the 10th and 11th centuries, and later to Japan in the 8th century AD5.

In India, tofu has become a popular food item, particularly for those seeking an alternative to dairy-based protein sources such as paneer. Although not as widely known in the past, tofu can now be found in grocery stores and served in many Indian restaurants, thanks to the country’s growing awareness of its versatility and nutritional benefits.

The Indian market for tofu has grown, fueled by the demand for healthier, high-protein, and low-fat foods6. Tofu can be found in various preparations, from stir-fries and curries to being used as a base for desserts. Its neutral flavor profile allows it to absorb the bold and aromatic spices commonly used in Indian cuisine.

In conclusion, the history of tofu is a fascinating journey that originated in China during the Han Dynasty and has since spread throughout Asia, including India. Its nutritional benefits and versatile nature have made it a popular choice for individuals seeking a delicious and healthy vegetarian protein source.


  1. https://www.britannica.com/topic/tofu
  2. https://tofubud.com/blogs/tips/who-invented-tofu
  3. https://www.thespruceeats.com/what-is-tofu-definition-and-recipes-3376822
  4. https://asian-recipe.com/history-of-tofu-3559
  5. https://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-food/the-history-of-tofu/
  6. https://www.britannica.com/topic/tofu

Tofu in India

Tofu, also known as bean curd, has become increasingly popular in India, particularly among vegetarians and vegans. Originating from East Asia, tofu is made from condensed soy milk through a process similar to cheese-making 1. It is a rich source of amino acids, calcium, and iron2, making it an ideal protein-packed alternative to meat for those who follow a plant-based diet.

In Indian cuisine, tofu is often incorporated into various dishes featuring the distinct and flavorful spices that the country is known for. This versatile ingredient can be cooked in many ways and absorbs flavors easily, making it an excellent choice to pair with the traditional spices of India. Some popular Indian tofu dishes include tofu curry, tofu tikka masala, and tofu-paneer fusion recipes3.

Being a predominantly vegetarian country, India’s culinary culture has embraced tofu as it offers a nutritious option that aligns with their dietary needs. Tofu is particularly popular in vegan diets, which avoid all animal-derived ingredients. This is because, unlike dairy-based paneer (cheese), tofu is purely plant-based and does not contain lactose or cholesterol4.

When it comes to preparing tofu in Indian cuisine, some common spices and flavorings include:

  • Turmeric
  • Garam masala
  • Cumin seeds
  • Coriander
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Curry leaves
  • Chili powder

In addition to enhancing the overall taste and aroma of the dish, these spices often offer their own array of health benefits. For example, turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, ginger aids digestion, and garlic has antimicrobial properties5.

To prepare a tasty, Indian-inspired tofu dish, try an Easy Indian Tofu Curry6. This one-pot recipe requires minimal effort and incorporates a blend of onions, ginger, spices, and coconut milk. Another popular recipe to try is Methi Malai Paneer Tofu, which features tofu, bell peppers, cumin seeds, tomato-onion sauce, dry fenugreek leaves, and raw cashews7.


  1. Tofu: Nutrients, Benefits, Downsides, and More – Healthline
  2. 6 Best Indian Tofu Recipes – NDTV Food
  3. 10 Best Indian Tofu Recipes (+ Easy Vegetarian Meals)
  4. Creamy Indian Tofu Curry – My Plantiful Cooking
  5. Easy Indian Tofu Curry – The Fiery Vegetarian
  6. Easy Indian Tofu Curry – The Fiery Vegetarian
  7. 10 Best Indian Tofu Recipes (+ Easy Vegetarian Meals)

Types of Tofu

Tofu, a popular protein source in India and around the world, is made from soy. Its versatility and ability to absorb flavors make it a favorite ingredient in many dishes. Tofu comes in various forms with different textures and uses. Here are some common types of tofu to help you choose the right one for your next meal:

Silken Tofu

Silken tofu is the softest type of tofu available. Its silky texture is a result of not being curdled during the preparation process. Silken tofu comes in a range of textures from soft to firm but shares a common high water content1. As it is delicate, silken tofu is best suited for blending and can be used as a creamy base for smoothies, soups, or sauces2.

Soft Tofu

Soft tofu is similar to silken tofu but has a slightly firmer texture. It is made by curdling soy milk, then allowing the curds to form a cohesive block. This type of tofu is ideal for use in dishes like soups and stews, such as Agedashi Tofu or soft tofu scramble. Soft tofu can also be added to dishes like curries, where it can absorb the rich flavors of the sauce.

Firm Tofu

Firm tofu is made from curds pressed together to form a more solid, cohesive block. This tofu has a denser texture and can hold its shape during cooking. Due to its firmer texture, this is a versatile choice suitable for stir-frying, baking, and grilling. Whether you’re making tofu tikka, tofu korma, or a simple tofu sauté, firm tofu is a top choice.

Extra-Firm Tofu

Extra-firm tofu takes the firmness of tofu one step further than firm tofu. This type of tofu has a robust texture and can withstand vigorous cooking techniques such as stir-frying, pan-frying, or grilling. Since extra-firm tofu can hold its shape even better than firm tofu, it’s an excellent option for dishes where you want more assertive tofu pieces or want to create tofu steaks.

When choosing tofu for your next dish, consider the following factors:

  • Silken tofu for blending and creamy dishes
  • Soft tofu for soups, stews, and curries
  • Firm tofu for general cooking purposes
  • Extra-firm tofu for dishes requiring a more robust texture or shape

While getting to know different types of tofu, you’ll find that their varying textures and uses can expand your culinary options. Explore the versatility of this protein-rich soy-based ingredient and enjoy the exciting flavors and dishes it can bring to your table.


  1. Bon Appétit
  2. TofuBud

Nutritional Benefits

Tofu, a popular food item in India, is made from soybean curds, and offers an array of nutritional benefits. One of the primary advantages of consuming tofu is its high protein content. In fact, a 3.5-ounce or 100-gram serving provides a significant amount of protein, meeting the essential amino acid requirements needed by the body.

Not only is tofu high in protein, but it also has a relatively low calorie count. This makes it an appealing option for those looking to maintain or lose weight while ensuring a sufficient intake of protein. Furthermore, tofu is low in fat, particularly saturated fat, which is beneficial for heart health.

Additionally, tofu is a valuable source of fiber, which can aid in digestion and contribute to overall gut health. It also contains essential minerals such as calcium, iron, and magnesium. These minerals play crucial roles in maintaining bone health, carrying oxygen in the blood, and supporting muscle function, among other things.

Isoflavones, naturally occurring compounds found in soy products like tofu, also offer potential health benefits. Studies indicate that these isoflavones may help lower LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) and, in some cases, provide relief from certain menopausal symptoms.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the nutritional content of tofu per 3.5 oz (100 grams) serving:

  • Protein: 8-15 grams
  • Calories: 70-110 calories
  • Fat: 3-5 grams
  • Saturated fat: 0.5 grams
  • Calcium: 130-575 milligrams
  • Iron: 1.5-2.5 milligrams
  • Magnesium: 20-60 milligrams

Apart from its impressive nutritional profile, tofu is a versatile ingredient, often used in Indian cooking as a dairy-free, gluten-free, cholesterol-free, and vegan substitute for paneer or other meat alternatives. Its inherent mild flavor allows for it to absorb the flavors of the spices and other ingredients it is cooked with, making it a suitable option for a range of Indian dishes.

In summary, tofu’s nutritional benefits make it an excellent choice for individuals seeking a balanced and healthy diet. Its high protein content coupled with low levels of saturated fat, calories, and an abundance of minerals and isoflavones make it a valuable addition to various meals within the Indian cuisine.

Tofu vs Tempeh

Tofu, a popular food in India, is a soft, white cake-like product made from soybeans. It is created by grinding soybeans into a liquid form, similar to soy milk, and then coagulating it with the help of different coagulants such as calcium sulfate, magnesium chloride, acids, or glucono delta-lactone. The coagulation process results in a curdled mixture, which is then pressed to remove excess water and acquire the desired solid content and texture.

On the other hand, tempeh is another soy-based product that is made through a fermentation process. It has a firmer texture and a slightly sour taste compared to tofu. In making tempeh, cooked whole soybeans are combined with a particular fungus to initiate the fermentation process, resulting in a dense, cake-like structure.

Both tofu and tempeh are rich in nutrients such as protein, vitamins, and minerals. However, there are some differences in their nutritional compositions:

  • Protein: Tempeh generally contains more protein than tofu, making it a great option for those seeking plant-based protein sources.
  • Fiber: Tempeh is a fiber-rich food due to its whole soybean content, while tofu has lesser fiber content.
  • Prebiotics and Probiotics: The fermentation process used to make tempeh introduces prebiotics and live-active bacteria called probiotics, which provide benefits for gut health.

Despite these differences, tofu and tempeh can both fit well in a healthy and balanced diet. They are versatile ingredients that can be used in various culinary applications. These soy-based products can be grilled, pan-fried, or baked and incorporated into a wide range of dishes including salads, stir-fries, and curries.

In conclusion, tofu and tempeh are both nutritious soy-based options to include in your diet. While tofu has a more neutral flavor and softer texture, tempeh offers additional nutritional benefits due to its fermentation process and higher fiber content. Exploring both options can help you to incorporate more plant-based protein into your meals and expand your culinary horizons.

Tofu Processing

Tofu, a popular food item in India, is made from soybeans through a detailed process involving several steps. To give a better understanding of how tofu is produced, this section will discuss the key components of tofu processing, including soaking, coagulant, okara, and nigari.

The initial step in producing tofu involves soaking the soybeans. This process can range from 4 to 6 hours at higher temperatures (32°C) or 9 to 10 hours at lower temperatures (22°C) depending on the desired consistency and texture of the tofu. Soaking the soybeans allows them to hydrate and soften, making it easier for the beans to be ground into a paste-like substance. In some cases, the soybean hulls are removed prior to grinding to reduce the soaking time needed.

After soaking, the soybeans are ground into a wet pulp-like texture. This grinding process further breaks down the beans and aids in the tofu-making procedure. Once ground, the wet pulp is boiled to obtain soy milk, which is then used as the primary ingredient for tofu.

The next step in tofu processing is the use of coagulants, such as nigari, to separate the soy milk into curds and whey. Nigari is a natural coagulant derived from seawater and is a popular choice due to its ability to create a smooth and tender texture in tofu. Other coagulants, including calcium and magnesium chlorides and sulfates, can also be used as alternatives to nigari.

The formation of curds and whey is considered to be a crucial stage in tofu processing. This separation is achieved by adding the chosen coagulant to the soy milk and waiting for the chemical reaction to take place. As the curds form, they are subsequently scooped out and placed into molds to define the tofu’s shape and size.

The solid byproduct left behind after separating the curds and whey is known as okara. Although not part of the final tofu product, okara is a valuable source of fiber and protein and has multiple uses in food and agriculture.

In summary, tofu processing consists of various steps, including:

  • Soaking the soybeans for a specific time
  • Grinding the hydrated beans into a pulp
  • Boiling the pulp to obtain soy milk
  • Adding coagulants like nigari to separate the soy milk into curds and whey
  • Scooping out curds and placing them into molds
  • Keeping the leftover okara for other uses

This process results in the production of tofu, a versatile and nutrient-rich food enjoyed by many in India and worldwide.

Popular Indian Tofu Recipes

Tofu, a popular soybean-based ingredient, has gained recognition in Indian cuisine due to its versatility and health benefits. Commonly used as a vegetarian alternative to meat, tofu performs exceptionally well when cooked with traditional Indian spices, making it a scrumptious addition to any meal.

One delicious Indian tofu dish is tofu curry. Featuring a rich mix of spices like cumin, turmeric, and coriander, this luscious curry pairs perfectly with steamed rice or flatbreads. Adding ingredients such as coconut milk, yogurt, or cashews helps achieve a creamy and smooth texture while enhancing the curry’s depth of flavor.

Another popular recipe is Indian tofu stir fry, a delightful medley of pan-fried tofu cubes cooked with cumin seeds, fresh ginger, and garlic. The stir fry’s vibrant taste primarily results from the unique combination of ginger and garlic, which complements the delicate nature of tofu. A finishing touch of lemon juice adds a tangy zest, creating a harmonic balance between taste and nourishment.

Incorporating tofu into Indian dishes often involves marinating the tofu. A prime example is tofu tikka masala, in which tofu is marinated in a mixture of yogurt, lemon juice, and various spices like cumin and turmeric. After marination, the tofu pieces are grilled or pan-fried, and then simmered in a tomato-based sauce infused with aromatic spices. Garnished with coriander, this dish strikes a splendid blend of smoky, tangy, and savory flavors.

Other favorite Indian tofu recipes include:

  • Mango curry with tofu: A fruity and tropical delight that combines mango puree, coconut milk, and fresh mango chunks with seasoned tofu.
  • Tofu makhani: A vegetarian spin on butter chicken, where tofu is cooked in a creamy tomato sauce bursting with Indian spices.
  • Tofu phali: A healthy and nutritious option that melds tofu and green beans into a scrumptious medley.

Whether it’s a curry, a stir fry, or a delightful mango-infused treat, tofu in Indian cuisine offers an array of possibilities. Rich in protein and nutrients, tofu serves as a fantastic alternative to meat while satisfying the taste buds and enhancing the dining experience.

How to Cook Tofu

Tofu, a popular food item in India, is made of soybeans and offers a versatile cooking ingredient that can be found in various vegetarian and vegan dishes. Known for being high in protein, this dairy-free and nutritious food is cherished for its creamy texture which can replace heavy cream in some recipes.

Preparing Tofu

Before cooking tofu, it is essential to press it to remove the excess water. Extra firm tofu should be pressed for about 30 minutes, while softer types might require less time. Once pressed, cut the tofu into the desired shape, such as cubes or triangles.

Marinating Tofu

Marination aids in imparting flavor to the otherwise bland tofu. The marinating time largely depends on your preferred recipe and the type of flavors you wish to infuse. You can use various marinade ingredients, such as spices, herbs, or sauces. A quick tip is to use an Indian spice mix to create a delightful dish. To marinate, simply coat the tofu evenly in the mixture and let it sit for a while. A longer marinating period often results in a more intense flavor.

Cooking Techniques

There are several methods to cook tofu, and each offers a unique taste and texture.


To bake tofu, preheat your oven to about 390°F (200°C) and place the marinated tofu pieces on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10-15 minutes, flipping the tofu halfway through to ensure even browning (source).


Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tofu to the pan in a single layer without overcrowding. Cook undisturbed for about 4-5 minutes or until the underside is golden brown and crispy. Pinch of Yum recommends turning the tofu pieces and continuing to cook until they reach the desired crispiness.


Another option to achieve crispy tofu is to air-fry at 375°F (190°C) for 8 minutes, shaking the pieces halfway through the cooking process (source).

Using Tofu as a Heavy Cream Substitute

If you’re looking for a dairy-free alternative to heavy cream, consider using tofu. Simply blend silken tofu until it reaches a smooth consistency, and add it to your recipe in place of heavy cream. This option not only adds creaminess to the dish but also reinforces its protein content.