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Is tofu and bean curd the same thing?

Tofu and bean curd are names used to refer to the same food product. They are made from soy milk which is coagulated to produce a white, cheese-like block. The different names come from the food’s origins in China versus the West.

What is Tofu?

Tofu is a food made from condensed soy milk which is pressed into solid white blocks. It originated in China over 2,000 years ago and is a staple ingredient in East Asian cuisine. The Chinese name for tofu is 豆腐 (dòufu).

To make tofu, soybeans are soaked, ground, boiled and strained to produce soy milk. A coagulant is then added to the milk to cause the proteins to curdle and form curds. The curds are pressed to remove excess liquid and form a solid block. Traditional coagulants used include nigari salt, gypsum and acids such as lemon juice or vinegar.

Tofu has a subtle flavor and can be firm, soft, or silken depending on the amount of pressing. It is highly versatile and can be fried, stewed, marinated, or used in soups, salads, desserts, and many other dishes.

What is Bean Curd?

Bean curd is simply another name for tofu used mainly in Western countries. It refers to the same white soy curd product made by coagulating soy milk. The term bean curd comes from the fact that tofu is made from soybeans.

The word “tofu” comes from Chinese, whereas “bean curd” was adopted in English speaking places to refer to the same food item. Bean curd became a more familiar term to use since soybeans were not as commonly consumed in Western cuisine.

Some key differences between the terms:

  • Tofu is the original Chinese name and more commonly used in Asian cooking
  • Bean curd is primarily used in the West when referring to tofu
  • Tofu can also refer specifically to the soft silken variety, while bean curd refers to all varieties

But in essence, both terms denote white soybean curd, made by coagulating soy milk and pressing the curds into a block. The finished product is nutritious and versatile, with a mild flavor that takes on the taste of accompanying ingredients and sauces.

Nutrition Comparison

Since tofu and bean curd are different names for the same food, their nutritional information is identical:

Nutrient Per 100g of Tofu/Bean Curd
Calories 62
Protein 7.9g
Fat 4.3g
Carbohydrates 1.9g
Fiber 0.5g
Calcium 350mg

Tofu is considered a good source of protein, containing all the essential amino acids. It also provides calcium, iron, and other nutrients. Bean curd has the exact same nutritional profile.

How Tofu is Made

Tofu and bean curd both go through the same production process. Here are the key steps for making tofu:

  1. Soak soybeans – The soybeans are soaked in water to rehydrate them and make them softer for grinding.
  2. Grind beans and boil – The rehydrated soybeans are ground into a slurry and boiled in water.
  3. Filter milk – The boiled slurry is filtered to extract the soy milk, leaving behind the fiber residue.
  4. Coagulate milk – A coagulant like nigari salts, lemon juice, or vinegar is mixed into the milk to cause the proteins to curdle.
  5. Press curds – The curdled milk is poured into molds and pressed to remove liquid and form solid blocks.
  6. Cut and package tofu – The pressed tofu is cut into smaller blocks and packaged in water-filled tubs.

This curding process gives tofu its characteristic white color and firm yet tender texture. Both tofu and bean curd undergo the same production stages.

Types of Tofu/Bean Curd

There are many varieties of tofu, which can also be called types of bean curd:

Silken Tofu

Silken tofu has a jelly-like consistency as it is only lightly pressed. It has high water content and is smooth in texture. Silken tofu is best used in smoothies, desserts, creamy sauces, and blended dishes.

Soft/Firm Tofu

Soft or firm tofu retains more of the soybean flavor and has a firmer texture from extra pressing. Firm tofu can be pan fried or baked and holds its shape well in stir fries and other dishes.

Extra Firm Tofu

As the name suggests, extra firm tofu is dense and compact from higher pressure during processing. It has a chewy, almost meaty texture and is often used for vegetarian dishes to replace meat.

Pressed Tofu

Pressed tofu has nearly all moisture pressed out of it, resulting in a very dense and chewy texture. Pressed tofu absorbs marinades and sauces exceptionally well due to its dryness.

Within these main categories there are also many regional tofu variants across East Asia, all of which can also go by the name bean curd.

Differences Between Tofu and Bean Curd

While tofu and bean curd refer to the same food, there are some differences between the terms themselves:

  • Origin – Tofu is the traditional East Asian name while bean curd is the Western name
  • Usage – Tofu is more widely used in Asian cooking. Bean curd is primarily a Western term.
  • Varieties – Tofu can specifically reference silken tofu. Bean curd is a blanket term for all types.
  • Manufacturing – Tofu also refers to the soft, unpressed curd before being pressed into blocks.

So while subtle differences exist between the terms tofu and bean curd, they both fundamentally refer to the same white soy curd product.


Tofu and bean curd are different names for the same food – white curds made from coagulating soy milk. Tofu is the original Chinese name while bean curd was adopted in the West as a more familiar term.

Despite their different names and origins, both tofu and bean curd are produced the same way and have the identical nutritional content. They can refer to soft silken tofu or firmer pressed blocks. So while the terms themselves have slightly different uses, tofu and bean curd can be used interchangeably when referring to the soy curd food.