With the increasing popularity of raw food diets, especially in combination with veganism, tofu is a popular ingredient in all types of meals. But is it really safe to eat tofu raw? We've answered a few of the common questions around eating uncooked tofu to put your mind at rest.
Generally speaking, raw tofu means tofu that hasn't been cooked since it was pressed and packaged. You can eat raw tofu straight from the pack if you like, but you'll probably want to drain off some of the excess water first, as it can be messy, and it doesn't really add anything to the experience. Soft tofu and silken tofu are the most common types in which we've seen people eating raw, but you can safely try any type.
What does tofu taste like when it's raw?
It depends on the specific type of tofu you're eating. Silken tofu has a very high water content when raw, as does soft block tofu, but both have very neutral flavors which makes them suitable for blending into liquid recipes (see below for some ideas!)
Firm tofu will also be "wetter" when eaten raw than it would be if it were cooked. If you want to minimize this, so you don't get tofu water mixing with your salad dressing, for example, simply press the tofu between two paper towels for a while before serving. Fermented tofu, as you would expect, has a much stronger flavor than the other types, especially if eaten raw and by itself.
Is it dangerous to eat raw tofu?
Can you eat raw tofu? It's not dangerous, as long as you take care to observe good hygiene. As we mention below, just like any other food, if tofu is not stored and prepared correctly, you run the risk of bacterial contamination, and you could get sick. But that's not specific to eating raw tofu. It's no more dangerous than most other foods, and when compared to certain items, like salad leaves or raw chicken, it has a much lower risk of food poisoning even if prepared carelessly. Of course, we recommend that you always take the proper precautions with any food you plan to eat or serve.
Benefits and risks of eating raw tofu
Is tofu actually raw?
Remember what we said right at the beginning of this article? Raw tofu means tofu that hasn't been cooked since it was pressed and packaged. Technically, tofu isn't raw. Soybeans are soaked overnight to make them softer, and then they're boiled to make soy milk. The milk is then cooked again so that coagulants can be added.
So, when the tofu reaches you, it is basically compressed soybeans that have already been cooked.
Tofu has many, many health benefits. It is packed with protein. If you're a vegetarian or vegan, this is definitely one of your go-to meat replacements. It's also full of amino acids, calcium and magnesium. Even though it contains all these nutrients, it's low in fat and calories, so you're not going to put on weight if you eat a little too much of it. Its goodness makes your bones, hair and nails strong. It's also great for reducing menopausal syndrome.
All in all, tofu is an excellent addition to your diet.
The only thing you need to make sure of, is that your tofu isn't contaminated. Any food that is contaminated is going to make you ill. Remove the tofu from the packaging and rinse it thoroughly. If you are handling raw meat at the same time as the tofu, use separate utensils.
Other than that, there are no risks to eating raw tofu.
Eating raw tofu - FAQ
Does cooking with tofu change the texture?
If you know how to cook tofu, you'll have noticed that there is a change in texture, although this depends to a degree on the specific cooking methods you use. The main difference between eating raw and cooked tofu is that when cooked, a lot of the moisture evaporates from the tofu, leading to a firmer and chewier texture. This is especially true when frying tofu at a high temperature, for example in stir-fries. It's less of an issue with recipes where the tofu is cooked in liquid, such as in a soup.
Can you get food poisoning from tofu?
Yes, of course, it's possible to get food poisoning from tofu, as it is with all foods. It all depends on the quality of production, storage and preparation of the tofu. Cooking tofu is one way of mitigating the risk of food poisoning, but there's no reason that raw tofu can't be eaten safely as long as you stick to basic food hygiene principles, as you would when preparing any raw meal.
How long does tofu last?
There isn't just one answer to this question. It depends on where the tofu is stored, whether it's been opened or not, and whether or not you freeze. The best thing to do would be to read our article about how long tofu lasts, depending on these various factors.
Can you eat tofu on a raw vegan diet?
A lot of raw vegans eat tofu. Benefits include higher levels of key nutrients, including essential amino acids, iron, calcium, selenium, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, copper and zinc, as well as vitamin B1.
It's also great for regulating blood pressure, lowering harmful cholesterol and increasing estrogen levels when eaten as part of a healthy diet.
What are some easy raw tofu recipes?
If you know how to prepare tofu raw, there is a wide range of recipes to try out to expand your use of the ingredient.
As well as using it in its natural state, either eating raw tofu from the pack or chopping and adding to salads, you can also try some more adventurous methods, which you might not have thought of:
#1. Tofu smoothie - Adding silken tofu to a smoothie is a great way to increase the protein content and thicken the consistency without changing the flavor.
#2. Tofu yogurt - Pureed silken tofu can be used as a yogurt or cream substitute in a number of recipes, including sauces, dips, and dressings.
#3. Tofu ice cream - Raw silken tofu blended with soy milk, oil and sugar, plus whatever flavorings you prefer, makes a great vegan ice cream.
How do you remove excess water from tofu?
Excess water is a common issue with raw tofu. Usually, this would evaporate out during the cooking process, but you can easily get rid of it without cooking by simply pressing your tofu for a while. Set the tofu on some paper towels, and cover with more paper towels, and then just put a heavy book or a pan on top to form a press. Leave it for an hour or so and you'll find much of the excess water has been squeezed out, leaving a firmer and drier texture. Shorten or lengthen the time under the press if you prefer your tofu slightly wetter or slightly drier.
Can you eat tofu raw: The final word
Hopefully, this article has answered any questions you might have had about whether or not to eat tofu raw, and how to prepare and store it if you decide to do so.
Remember that tofu needs to be cleaned before preparation, and removing excess moisture will allow for a more pleasant and tasty experience. Tofu is a fantastic source of nutrients and is a healthy addition to your diet.
The next time one of your friends asks "Can you eat tofu raw?" just send them this link!