- Silken and soft tofu have different textures, with silken being creamier.
- Silken tofu is best for blending, while soft tofu holds its shape better.
- Silken tofu is undrained and unpressed soy milk, while soft tofu is lightly pressed.
- Both can be used interchangeably in some recipes like soups and desserts.
- Knowing the differences allows you to pick the right tofu for your cooking needs.
Tofu is a versatile ingredient used in many cuisines around the world. It is made from soy milk that has been coagulated and pressed into solid white blocks. There are several varieties of tofu that differ in texture, including silken, soft, firm, and extra firm. Silken and soft tofu are two types that are often used interchangeably, especially by those new to cooking with tofu. However, there are some key differences between silken and soft tofu that impact their uses in cooking.
This comprehensive article will analyze the differences between silken and soft tofu in terms of texture, preparation methods, common uses in recipes, and suitability as substitutes. Understanding these differences allows cooks to select the right type of tofu for their desired texture and cooking application. While silken and soft tofu share similarities and can sometimes be interchanged, knowing when one variety is better suited than the other can help ensure optimal results. Read on to become a tofu expert!
What is the Difference in Texture Between Silken and Soft Tofu?
One of the biggest differences between silken and soft tofu that affects their use in cooking is the variation in texture. Silken tofu has an ultra-smooth, creamy and custard-like texture. It is so soft that it can easily be blended into smoothies, sauces, and desserts. According to one study, the average hardness of silken tofu was found to be approximately 5 g/cm^2 (Tamang, 2021).
On the other hand, soft tofu is more solid and tender than silken tofu, while still being relatively delicate in texture compared to medium or firm tofu varieties. Soft tofu holds together better than silken tofu, but can still easily fall apart if not handled gently. The same study found soft tofu to have an average hardness of approximately 20 g/cm^2, which is firmer than silken tofu but much softer than firm tofu at 150 g/cm^2 (Tamang, 2021).
In summary, silken tofu has a custard-like creamy silkiness, while soft tofu is more solid and tender but still soft and delicate. Understanding this textural difference helps determine which type of tofu is best for particular dishes and cooking methods.
How Does Preparation Differ Between Silken and Soft Tofu?
In addition to variances in texture, silken and soft tofu differ in how they are prepared from soy milk. Silken tofu is unique in that it is undrained and unpressed. Soy milk is simply coagulated to form silken tofu, which is then packaged directly without pressing out any liquid. This retains all the moisture and gives silken tofu its smooth, creamy consistency.
Soft tofu undergoes a bit more processing compared to silken tofu. After the soy milk is coagulated, the curds are gently pressed to remove some whey (liquid). However, soft tofu is still minimally pressed compared to firm or extra firm tofu varieties. The delicate pressing helps soft tofu keep its tender texture while also giving it a bit more solidity than silken tofu possesses.
Understanding the different production methods helps explain the variance in texture between silken and soft tofu. Silken tofu’s lack of pressing or draining preserves the silkiness, while soft tofu’s light pressing gives it more structure.
What Dishes and Recipes Use Silken Tofu?
Due to its ultra-smooth and creamy texture, silken tofu is uniquely suited for certain cooking applications. Here are some of the best uses for silken tofu:
- Smoothies – Silken tofu blends extremely smoothly, making it a perfect protein-rich addition to fruit or vegetable smoothies.
- Desserts – The creamy texture makes silken tofu an excellent choice for vegan mousses, puddings, cream pies, and other desserts.
- Sauces and dips – Silken tofu can be easily blended into salad dressings, marinades, hummus, bean dips, and creamy blended sauces.
- Soup – Silken tofu can be gently stirred into miso soup and hot and sour soup right at serving to create a luxurious, creamy broth.
- Eggs and dairy substitutes – Whipped silken tofu can stand in for beaten eggs or heavy cream in baked goods and desserts.
The delicate nature of silken tofu makes it unsuitable for applications like stir-frying, pan-searing, or any cooking method requiring the tofu hold its shape. Enjoy silken tofu in gently cooked or blended applications to highlight its smooth, creamy assets.
What Dishes Use Soft Tofu?
While silken tofu lends itself to blending, soft tofu is better suited for some cooking methods, such as:
- Soups – Soft tofu can be cubed and gently added to soups near the end of cooking, like in egg drop soup.
- Stir fries and sautés – Cube soft tofu and add it to stir fry dishes for the last few minutes of cooking to warm through while keeping it intact.
- Tofu scramble – Soft tofu crumbles nicely when mashed and seasoned to create a plant-based scramble substitute.
- Baked and grilled – Soft tofu holds up better than silken when baking or grilling, while still being delicate.
- Salad – Soft tofu can be marinated, then cubed or crumbled onto salads.
- Smoked tofu – The soft variety is commonly used to make smoked tofu.
The more solid texture means soft tofu can be cut, crumbled, baked, sautéed and incorporated into dishes with some gentle handling, whereas silken tofu is better off blended.
Can Silken and Soft Tofu Be Used Interchangeably?
Because of the textural differences between silken and soft tofu, they are not always perfectly interchangeable in recipes. However, in some cases, they can be substituted for one another with minor adaptations in technique.
For example, in blended dishes like smoothies, desserts, salad dressings and dips, silken and soft tofu can be used interchangeably. The blended texture will minimize differences in creaminess. For soups, stews and gently cooked Asian-style dishes, either type of tofu can work depending on personal texture preference.
Dishes requiring the tofu hold its shape, like baking, grilling or searing, are better suited to soft or medium firmness tofu. Very delicate handling would be required to keep silken tofu intact. Meanwhile, recipes requiring blending are unlikely to work as well with firm or extra firm tofu varieties in place of silken or soft tofu.
Consider the texture needed for the cooking method and adapt as needed. In many cases, silken or soft tofu varieties can be swapped to align with texture preferences or availability. Taste the dish and adjust seasoning or liquid as needed to account for any texture differences.
How Can You Substitute Silken or Soft Tofu in Baking?
Both silken and soft tofu can substitute for eggs or dairy in baking recipes, with slightly different techniques:
- Silken tofu – Blend silken tofu until completely smooth to use as a direct 1:1 substitute for eggs, butter, oil or milk in baking. The creamy puree mimics the moisture and fat that eggs and dairy provide.
- Soft tofu – Mash soft tofu thoroughly with a fork into ricotta or cottage cheese texture. Use 1/4 cup per egg replaced. The bits of tofu simulate the protein structure eggs provide in baked goods.
For either variety, draining excess liquid from the tofu before use improves binding and texture in baked goods. Overall, silken and soft tofu can be used to create healthier vegan baked goods with some simple substitutions.
Which Has More Protein, Silken or Soft Tofu?
Silken and soft tofu are nutritionally quite similar, as they both derived from soybeans which are naturally high in protein. According to USDA data, both silken and soft tofu contain about:
- 8 grams protein per 1/2 cup serving
- 10% of the Daily Value for calcium
- 15% of the Daily Value for iron
Silken tofu contains slightly fewer calories at about 76 calories per 1/2 cup, whereas soft tofu has about 88 calories. Overall, the two varieties are nutritionally comparable and both provide an excellent plant-based protein source.
What Are Good Recipe Substitutions Between Silken and Soft Tofu?
In summary, here are some best practice substitutions between silken and soft tofu:
- For smoothies, cream pies, frosting, mousses, and sauces – use silken or soft tofu interchangeably.
- For scrambles, baked dishes, grilling – use soft or firm tofu in place of silken tofu.
- For blended soups – use soft instead of silken tofu.
- For egg drop soup, stir fries – use silken instead of soft tofu.
- For whipping and emulsifying – soft tofu can work in place of silken tofu.
- For egg or dairy substitutions in baking – see specific tips above.
With careful menu planning and adaption of cooking techniques, silken and soft tofu can often be interchanged. Look at the overall dish and desired texture outcomes to determine if simple substitutions may do the trick.
Silken and soft tofu share many similarities, as they are both delicate soy-based tofu varieties. However, differences in texture, preparation methods, and intended cooking applications help distinguish when one variety is better suited over the other. Silken tofu’s undrained creamy silkiness lends itself well to smoothies, blended dishes, and as an egg or dairy substitute. Soft tofu has a tender yet more solid texture that holds up better in gently cooked recipes. While the two can sometimes be used interchangeably with careful handling, knowing the nuances empowers home cooks to choose the right tofu for their needs. Whether whipping up a frothy mousse or steaming a soft tofu stir fry, understanding these unique varieties of tofu can elevate all kinds of plant-based cooking.