Of the many types of tofu available, silken tofu and soft tofu are types of “fresh” tofu, which means they have remained uncooked and minimally processed.
But how do they differ from firm tofu? How are they used? We’ll cover that and more in this quick article!
What Is Silken Tofu?
Silken Tofu is tofu that has not been drained or pressed after the soy milk has coagulated. It has a very high moisture content, smooth texture (almost like a custard), and falls apart easily.
By contrast, firm tofu is made from coagulating soy milk and then transferring the curds to molds that are then pressed to remove moisture.
The terms “silken tofu” and “soft tofu” are often used interchangeably. Some say that soft tofu is the Chinese equivalent of silken tofu, and that it has a slightly firmer texture.
We generally use soft tofu and silken tofu interchangeably in our kitchen. Some brands of silken tofu are indeed more delicate than brands of soft tofu, but we find that it can definitely vary by brand!
How Is It Used?
Silken tofu must be handled delicately. To remove it from the package, carefully peel off the plastic seal. Then run a knife along all four edges of the tofu block, making sure the knife hits the bottom of the box. Place an overturned plate over the tofu, and then flip the tofu onto the plate.
Familiar uses include the famous dish, Mapo Tofu, one of the most popular Chinese tofu dishes known outside of China, or the addition of tiny cubes of silken tofu in miso soup.
You can also eat silken tofu raw, right out of the package, as in our spicy cold tofu recipe.
Besides saucy dishes and soups, silken tofu can also be used in steamed dishes and desserts.
We’ve even used it in place of dairy to make desserts like our Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Tart and our Dairy-Free Lemon Pound Cake.
Buying & Storing Silken Tofu
Look for organic non-GMO silken tofu. Silken tofu can be found in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese grocery stores, as well as some very well-stocked mainstream supermarkets (usually in urban areas or areas with a significant Asian population).
Silken tofu comes in either rectangular plastic white containers in the refrigerated section, or sealed in small paperboard boxes (they look kind of like juice boxes) that don’t have to be refrigerated. If you go to Korean grocery stores, you’ll also find it wrapped in plastic tubes.
The plastic tube version is good for Korean stews like Soondubu Jigae (Soft Tofu Stew), but not ideal for recipes in which you want your tofu cubed or sliced. You basically squeeze the tofu out of the tube, and it comes out in irregular chunks.
If you purchased the silken tofu in the refrigerated section, refrigerate and use by the date stamped on the package. If you purchased a shelf stable silken tofu that does not require refrigeration, store it in a cool, dry place like your pantry and use by the date indicated.
Once opened, store any unused silken tofu in water (transfer it to a clean container and add enough fresh water to cover it, or it will dry out), and use within 3-4 days.
Our Favorite Recipes That Use This Ingredient
While you may find varying levels of softness/firmness among silken tofu brands, anything labeled “soft tofu” or “silken” tofu will do for any of these recipes: