I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of tofu substitutes to find the best one for every cooking occasion.
Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry substitute, or want a swap that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.
Tempeh is the best substitute for tofu. But if you want to avoid soy-based products, try Burmese tofu, which is made from chickpea flour. Seitan is another soy-free substitute, boasting an incredible meat-like texture. You can also use paneer or halloumi if you’re not opposed to having dairy.
I made several batches of basic stir-fry to put various tofu substitutes to the test.
Tofu is a soybean-based product typically sold in blocks. It’s a staple ingredient in Asian cuisine, but its high protein content, affordability, and neutral flavor has made it a popular plant-based meat substitute. Tofu is also popular for its versatility – you can fry, grill, steam, bake, and even roast it!
I was looking for substitutes that were just as versatile and also good sources of protein.
Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Tempeh||Has a prominent, nutty flavor||9/10|
|Burmese tofu||Softer and more delicate than regular tofu||8/10|
|Seitan||Has the closest texture to meat||9/10|
|Textured vegetable protein (TVP)||Great for bulking up soups and stews||8/10|
|Paneer/halloumi||Excellent when grilled or fried||8/10|
|Mushrooms||Go for big, meaty varieties like portobellos||7/10|
|Beans||Good for making into nuggets/patties||7/10|
If you’re looking to switch things up, tempeh is a perfect tofu substitute. It’s made from soybeans like tofu, so it’s packed with loads of plant proteins, but it undergoes a fermentation process.
This means making tempeh takes longer, but it has a unique nutty flavor and a hint of mushroom-like taste – it’s like tofu with an attitude!
When it comes to texture, tempeh is much firmer and has a chewier bite. The firmer texture means there’s no need to press the tempeh before using it. The downside of the firmer texture is that tempeh won’t crumble as well as tofu, so it doesn’t work as well in recipes like tofu scramble.
How to substitute: replace tofu in a 1:1 ratio with tempeh.
If you’re looking for a soy-free alternative, Burmese tofu is a great option. It’s made with chickpea flour, so you’re still getting your protein fill. And it’s got a mild nutty flavor that works exceptionally well with Asian flavors – think soy sauce, chilies, and ginger. Yum!
Another factor that makes this sub slightly different from tofu is its softer, more gelatinous texture. But it’s not so different that it affects how you can use it.
Burmese tofu can be tricky to find in stores, although some large grocery chains like Walmart carry brands like Moe Shan Tofu Mix, which is a ready-made mix with everything you need to make Burmese tofu.
And East Meets Kitchen’s recipe (video above) shows how easy it is to make from scratch. The only ingredients you’ll need to purchase are chickpea flour and turmeric.
How to substitute: replace tofu in a 1:1 ratio with Burmese tofu.
Seitan is another soy-free tofu alternative you can try. This powerhouse protein source is made from wheat gluten, earning it the nickname, “wheat meat”.
It has a slightly nutty flavor that can easily be enhanced with marinades and sauces. But what really makes seitan a winner in my book is its texture. It’s heartier and chewier than tofu, and remarkably like meat!
You’ll often see seitan used to make vegan fried ‘chicken’, and I highly recommend seitan for vegan beginners who are still craving the texture of meat.
How to substitute: replace tofu in a 1:1 ratio with seitan.
Textured vegetable protein
Textured vegetable protein (TVP) may not sound like an appealing substitute for tofu but don’t dismiss it just yet.
Made from soy flour, this classic meat substitute boasts high amounts of fiber and protein. And it has a neutral taste similar to tofu, allowing it to absorb flavors easily.
The biggest difference? TVP typically comes in the form of dried chunks or flakes, so it won’t work if you want to make a tofu steak or burger. You also have to rehydrate it before using – I soaked my TVP chunks in warm veggie broth to give them a flavor boost.
How to substitute: replace crumbled tofu in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with rehydrated TVP.
If you’re following a vegetarian diet and don’t mind a little dairy, say hello to paneer and halloumi.
They’re made from milk, so they’re packed with a good deal of protein like tofu. But what sets them apart from other kinds of cheese is they’re acid-set, meaning they keep their shape when heated – no melting mess here!
I used fried paneer for my stir-fry for a bit of crunch, but you can also grill it for a smoky twist. Paneer is also the best match for tofu flavor-wise because it’s quite mild. Halloumi is pretty salty, so you’ll want to dial back on any added salt in your recipe if you use it.
How to substitute: replace tofu in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with paneer or halloumi.
If you prefer an all-natural, unprocessed tofu alternative, mushrooms are your best bet.
There are tons of mushrooms on the market, but I recommend sticking with tender-but-meaty variety. Oyster and portobello mushrooms are perfect and both have a relatively mild taste with a delicious umami undertone.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also try other mushroom varieties like King oyster or shiitake. These tend to be more tender than tofu, but will still give a satisfying meaty bite.
I used shiitake in my srit fry and they were yummy!
How to substitute: replace tofu in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with cooked mushrooms.
We can’t talk about plant-based protein sources and not have beans on the list. They’re super cheap and you might even already have some hidden away in your pantry. Like with mushrooms, there’s a wide variety of different types – from Mexican classics like black beans and pinto beans, to run-of-the mill chickpeas.
You can also use them in lots of different ways. You can keep it simple and use them whole into your dishes, or you can go the extra mile and mash them up to create faux nuggets or patties.
Pro-tip: canned beans are your best bet if you’re in a rush, although they have a mushier texture. For a firmer texture, go with dried beans and soak them.
How to substitute: replace tofu in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with cooked beans.
Other substitutes to consider
The list above are my top tofu substitutes, but the list doesn’t end there!
Here are more excellent protein sources that are worth a shot, especially if you already have them on hand:
- Lentils – a close cousin of beans, lentils are great substitutes for tofu in soups, stews, and even faux scrambles. But they won’t provide you with a meaty bite.
- Quinoa – quinoa makes for a solid tofu substitute if you’re only worried about the protein content of your meals. You can also use quinoa as a base for meatless patties.
- Nuts – like with quinoa, you can use nuts as a tofu substitute if you’re trying to up the protein content if your food. Cashews are great for Asian-style dishes.
- Cauliflower – cauliflower steaks are a perfect substitute for tofu steaks. Cauliflower has a mildly sweet flavor that fades into the background once you have it seasoned with herbs and spices or soaked in a marinade.
- Meat/seafood: If dietary restrictions aren’t a concern, you can always stick with meat or seafood. Budget-friendly chicken and pork are good choices.
FAQ: Can you use tofu varieties interchangeably?
Tofu comes in different varieties like silken, soft, firm, and extra firm. You can use silken tofu and soft tofu interchangeably, and you can also swap firm for extra-firm tofu. But you can’t use soft tofu to replace firm tofu or vice versa.
Silken tofu would fall apart in a stir fry and become part of the sauce, while firm tofu isn’t going to work in your pudding!
Substitute to avoid
I saw some websites suggesting yogurt as a substitute for tofu, but this only works in certain recipes. You can use yogurt yo replace silken tofu in smoothies or desserts. But, for recipes like Agedashi tofu or Hiyayako, there’s no work-around. You really need to buy silken tofu for these. And you definitely an’t use yogurt to replace regular tofu!
I also saw eggplant mentioned a lot, but it has a much softer texture than tofu and barely any protein.
Best Tofu Substitutes + 2 To Avoid
- 500 grams tempeh
- 500 grams burmese tofu
- 500 grams seitan
- 500 grams textured vegetable protein
- 500 grams paneer/halloumi
- 500 grams mushrooms
- 500 grams beans
- 500 grams meat/seafood
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen tofu substitutes at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.