Is Tofu Keto-friendly? All You Need to Know

is tofu keto

Tofu has been around for over two thousand years  (179–122 BC).

So, it’s safe to say tofu is no newcomer.

However, the ketogenic diet was developed in 1924, and while it’s not very new, it’s certainly quite young in comparison to tofu.  

In this article, we will be looking at how suitable tofu is for a keto diet, as there are many vegetarians and vegans out there who would like to try the keto diet, but as usual, their options are quite limited. 

What is Tofu?


Before we dive into the finer details to look at the compatibility of tofu and the keto diet, let’s first understand what tofu really is. 

Tofu, according to BBC Foods, is also known as bean curd because it is made from soya (soybeans). To make tofu, fresh soya milk is pressed into a solid block and then cooled. 

This process is meant to curdle and solidify the milk, and it is quite similar to the method used to create traditional dairy cheese; curdling and solidifying.

Tofus is very popular across the globe, but more so in some countries than others.

Places like China use tofu in many dishes, as it is quite versatile and can be flavored and formed to taste whatever they please. 

Additionally, tofu is packed with protein and is also suitable for low-carb diets. 

Types of Tofu

1) Silken

Silken tofu has a very soft and silky texture.

This type of soft tofu will not hold its shape for long periods, as it has the highest water content. 

Because of its thin consistency and high water content, silken tofu is primarily used in a creamy filling, sauce, smoothie, and “cheesecake” recipes. 

2) Regular

Regular tofu is one of the popularly used types.

It is sometimes referred to as Chinese-style tofu and is pressed and has a sponge-like texture, somewhat firmer than that of the silken type.

3) Firm

Firm tofu is the most versatile and most commonly used type.

Its consistency is somewhat similar to feta, making it easy to chop since it doesn’t fall apart quite so readily. 

In the kitchen, firm tofu is the most versatile of the tofu types.

Firm tofu is ideal for stir-frys. Because of its texture and it comes in many variations. 

4) Extra-firm

Extra-firm has less water than firm tofu, and this accounts for the difference in texture.

But extra-firm tofu can be used in similar recipes as firm tofu; however, it is more ideal for frying, marinades, and sauces since it won’t absorb as much. 

Extra-firm tofu makes a great crispy style tofu dish cut into cubes or bite-sized chunks. 

5) Super-firm

Super-firm tofu is incredibly dense and has the least amount of water content of all the tofu types. 

Because of its solid consistency, super-firm tofu is a great substitute for meats like chicken; and, as such, will be found in many meat-based recipes.

It can be cubed or sliced and fried in oil or cooked in a sauce. 

These five different types of tofu can be made into numerous variations, such as

  • stinky tofu (fermented and has much more nutritional benefits. Also, not easy to find in the United States
  • dried tofu
  • pickled tofu 
  • silken tofu
  • fresh tofu
  • fried tofu
  • processed tofu 
  • frozen tofu

What is the Keto Diet?

Keto is short for ketogenic, which means a low-carb diet; therefore, a standard ketogenic diet is one that has you cut back on carbs and eat more healthy fats. 

The goal of the keto diet is to provide you with more calories from fats and protein and less from carbohydrates.

You can also look into doing a cyclical ketogenic diet.

How Does Keto Work?

Furthermore, with the ketogenic diet, you have under 50 grams of carb intake daily so that in a few days, your body will run out of blood sugar, which it basically uses to power itself. 

When this happens, your body will begin to break down fat and protein to use as energy sources for its cells. It is this fat and protein usage that is meant to help you lose weight.

Tofu Keto: Can I Have It On A Keto Diet?

Yes, tofu is keto-friendly. 

Tofu is keto-friendly primarily because of its low-carb content. For example, one serving of tofu will give you roughly 1.5 grams of net carbs. This is perfect for the ketogenic diet.

That means eating regular tofu should not push you over your daily 50 grams of carb allowance.

Tofu also has a whole lot of macronutrients for you to benefit from, including fiber and protein.

Additionally, you can get micronutrients such as calcium, magnesium, and iron from tofu. 

But you must ensure that you are using the regular tofu since each type of tofu will have a varying amount of these nutrients, and that includes carbohydrates too. 

Nutrient Profile of Tofu

Eating a half a cup (approximately a hundred grams) of tofu will provide you with:

  • 94 calories
  • 10 grams of protein
  • 6 grams of fat
  • 2 grams of carbs
  • 1.5 grams of net carbs
  • 1 gram of fiber
  • 31% of manganese
  • 20% of calcium
  • 14% of selenium
  • 12% of phosphorus
  • 1% of copper
  • 9% of magnesium
  • 9% of iron
  • 6% of zinc

Incorporating Tofu into your Keto Diet

How you use tofu in your ketogenic diet will be somewhat dependent on the type of tofu that you purchase.

Below are just a few ways you can use silken, regular, firm, extra-firm, and super-firm tofu in your keto meals. 

For a Keto diet, the silken tofu is great for sauces/dressings, making a cream sauce, smoothies, ice cream, etc.

Using regular tofu is quite simple; it can be used to make spreads and tofu scrambles, which look similar to scrambled eggs. 

The firm variation of tofu is perfect for marinating. If using in stir-frys or pan-frying, you may want to press the tofu. Plus, you can make much thicker spreads from firm tofu.

Aside from being a good substitute for chicken, super-firm tofu is ideal for ground meat replacement in foods like tacos, bowls, and other recipes.

Extra-firm tofu is commonly used as baked tofu, and for frying, since it is not too hard, it won’t take too long, and it’s not too soft where it will break down or absorb too much oil. 

Downsides of Eating Tofu

If you are at all familiar with tofu, then you know that there is much controversy surrounding how healthy it actually is for consumption.

Here are some reasons why many have opted not to eat this plant-based protein:

1) Allergies 

People with soy allergies, such as soy milk, should stay clear of tofu, as the product is made from soybeans and, if consumed, can result in even life-threatening complications depending on how severe their soy allergy is.

2) Anti-nutrients

Soya contains compounds that are referred to as anti-nutrients, and they are capable of preventing the absorption of some of the nutrients found in soybeans.

Examples of these are phytates and trypsin inhibitors. 

Studies suggest that fermenting or soaking soybeans before cooking can help you to minimize these potentially harmful compounds. 

3) Xenoestrogens and phytoestrogens

Xenoestrogens are compounds that act like estrogen in the body.

These estrogen-like nutrients are found in some foods, and when digested, they will make their way to your cells and attach to the estrogen receptors to take over functions usually carried out by estrogen.

Phytoestrogens do pretty much the same thing.

Though this may seem harmless, studies show that excess levels of estrogen are associated with hormonal imbalance, breast cancer, high blood sugar levels, and hindering weight loss, cyst, and tumor development.

4) Genetically-modified soybeans

Soybeans are quite frequently genetically modified and used to make a number of products, including soybean oil, and this oil is filled with harmful trans fats.

Processed and genetically modified soybeans are quite common in the Western world. 

So, whenever you buy soy products, read those labels carefully. 

Final Thoughts 

Tofu, which has been around for centuries, is a soy-based vegan product that is extremely versatile and can be used in a number of ways, even as a substitute for meat.

It is filled with micro and macronutrients, making it quite beneficial to your overall intake of nutrients, such as protein intake.

Furthermore, because it is plant-based and low carb, tofu is both vegan-friendly and keto-friendly; as such, vegetarians and vegans who want to try keto can certainly add tofu to their list of acceptable foods. 

Also, there are five types of tofu that range from a thin to an extremely hard consistency and are used based on the meal you are preparing.

However, tofu does come with a bit of controversy.

Over the years, some people have stayed away from eating this meat substitute because it is associated with anti-nutrients, Xenoestrogens, and phytoestrogens, and unfortunately, it is often genetically modified. 

With the facts at hand, you can now decide if you want to include tofu in your vegan keto diet or vegetarian keto diet.