Tofu is an incredibly versatile, affordable plant-based protein growing in popularity with the rise in plant-based diets. It’s a new food for many, which means you may not be sure how best to handle it for food safety. Can you get food poisoning from it? Can you reheat tofu, or should leftovers be thrown away?
We all hate to see food go to waste, but it’s important to avoid eating food that bacteria and other harmful microorganisms have potentially contaminated. As a registered dietitian, I’ll discuss the best ways to handle leftover tofu.
What is tofu?
Tofu is a popular plant-based protein made from soybeans that was first produced in China during the Han Dynasty. The process of making tofu is similar to that of making cheese, using soy milk instead of dairy milk.
Silken, firm, and extra-firm varieties of tofu are available. They have differing moisture contents, with silken tofu having the most moisture.
Tofu is an amazing source of plant-based protein with 28 grams in half a block of tofu. It’s also rich in iron and anti-inflammatory isoflavones and phytochemicals. According to the USDA1, a half-block of calcium-set tofu can provide an incredible 75% of the daily value of calcium!
Related: Are soy curls healthy?
Can you reheat tofu safely?
As with other foods, tofu can be reheated safely as long as proper food handling procedures are followed. Since tofu is a high-moisture food2, bacteria and other microorganisms can grow easily in it.
After the initial cooking, tofu should be cooled to room temperature within two hours and then stored in the refrigerator or freezer in an airtight container. These cold temperatures significantly slow down the growth of new bacteria.
When reheating, use a food thermometer to ensure that the innermost part of the tofu is reheated to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Why 165 degrees? This temperature is high enough to kill any bacteria that had the chance to grow while the tofu was being pressed prior to cooking, while it was cooling after being cooked, or while being stored in the refrigerator.
Just be sure that the tip of your food thermometer is inserted in the middle of your tofu, not at the surface or touching the pan or bowl. This will give you the most accurate results.
Contrary to popular belief, you can reheat tofu more than once3 as long as it is reheated to 165 degrees Fahrenheit each time. Of course, the texture and quality will get worse each time, so it’s best to only reheat the amount you plan to eat in one sitting.
Best ways to reheat tofu
There are multiple methods for reheating tofu. Consider how you plan to use it when deciding which method to use.
The microwave is the best option when you need to reheat leftovers quickly (and no worries, it won’t zap the nutrition out of your food). It works for most types of leftovers, including curries, baked tofu, and tofu scrambles.
- Place tofu in a microwave-safe bowl or plate, depending on what works best for the dish.
- Microwave on high for 1-2 minutes or until the dish is steaming. The timing will depend on how much food you’re microwaving at one time.
- Insert the tip of a food thermometer into the middle of your tofu, making sure not to touch the plate. It should read at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. If not, keep microwaving for 15-30 second increments until hot enough.
The stovetop will take longer than the microwave but is better at heating leftovers evenly. This method is best for tofu dishes with a high liquid content, such as tofu curry, or baked or fried tofu that you’d like to crisp up again.
- Add moist dishes like tofu curries or stews to a stock pot or saucepan and place it on a burner. Place tofu cubes, leftover tofu scramble, or baked/fried tofu slabs on a skillet.
- Heat over medium heat for 5-10 minutes, or until liquids are bubbling all the way through. The total time will depend on how much food you need to heat.
- Insert the tip of a food thermometer into the middle of your tofu, making sure not to touch the pot or skillet. It should read at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Heating tofu in the oven will work best for solid dishes like tofu steaks, breaded tofu cutlets, or tofu “bacon”.
- Preheat to 350°F.
- Place tofu on a baking sheet.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the middle of the tofu reaches at least 165°F when tested with a food thermometer. Avoid touching the thermometer to the baking sheet. Try to also avoid overbaking as this will dry out your tofu.
The air fryer works great for the same types of dishes you’d heat up in the oven – drier, solid pieces of tofu that you want to crisp up.
- Preheat air fryer to 350°F
- Arrange tofu pieces in a single layer in the air fryer basket
- Air fry for 3-5 minutes, or until the middle of the tofu reaches at least 165°F when tested with a food thermometer.
Tofu is a nutritious, protein-rich soy food that can be safely reheated as long as its internal temperature reaches at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. This ensures that any bacteria present in your leftovers will be killed, significantly reducing the potential for food poisoning.
Looking for ways to make your tofu more flavorful? Check out: What Does Tofu Taste Like? [The Ultimate Flavor Guide]
Can you reheat tofu? – FAQs
Is it safe to reheat tofu?
Yes, tofu can be reheated. It’s best to reheat it to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit in order to kill any bacteria that have had a chance to grow.
Can you warm up tofu in the microwave?
Yes, tofu can be warmed up in the microwave. It’s best to reheat it to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. This will kill microorganisms that could potentially cause a foodborne illness.
Can cooked tofu be eaten cold?
Cooked tofu can be eaten cold as long as it has been properly refrigerated for up to 3-4 days after cooking.
The scientific information in this article was accurate at the time of publishing but may change over time as new research becomes available.
- USDA. Tofu, raw, firm, prepared with calcium sulfate. USDA FoodData Central website. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/172475/nutrients. Accessed 9/6/23.
- FDA. Water activity (aw) in Foods. FDA website. https://www.fda.gov/inspections-compliance-enforcement-and-criminal-investigations/inspection-technical-guides/water-activity-aw-foods. Accessed 9/6/23.
- USDA. How many times can I reheat foods? AskUSDA website. https://ask.usda.gov/s/article/How-many-times-can-I-reheat-foods. Accessed 9/6/23.