Introduce tofu to your baby with confidence with these cooking tips and recipes! Whether you are doing purees, baby led weaning, or both, tofu is an amazing first food.
When Can Babies Eat Tofu?
Tofu can be offered to babies as soon as they’re ready to start solids, usually around 6 months. It’s important to remember that your baby is unique and that rather than going by the calendar, you need to make sure your baby is DEVELOPMENTALLY ready to start solids.
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Is Tofu Safe for Babies?
Tofu is not a choking hazard as long as it's soft enough to be easily smushed between your thumb and forefinger and is served in an age-appropriate way.
Tofu is made from soybeans, which is one of the top allergens. If you were told to wait until around 2-3 years of age to introduce it, this is outdated advice!
The current recommendation is to introduce highly allergenic foods EARLY and OFTEN. By doing so, you can dramatically reduce the risk or actually help prevent the development of food allergies.
When first introducing, start with a small amount and gradually increase.
Packed with so many essential nutrients, tofu is an excellent source of plant-based protein and calcium. It also contains omega-3 fatty acids, which play a key role in brain development, as well as many essential micronutrients, like iron, zinc, and magnesium.
Do be sure to serve tofu alongside a vitamin C rich food to greatly enhance the absorption of iorn.
What About the Phytoestrogens?
You may have heard that consuming soy foods can cause feminization in boys and breast cancer.
Yes, tofu contains isoflavones, phytoestrogens that are similar in structure to the hormone estrogens. However, they are NOT the same and behave differently in the body.
In fact, there isn’t research to support that soy has a negative impact on testosterone. But there is evidence showing that phytoestrogens do NOT affect testosterone and estrogen levels.
In addition, there is evidence that girls who eat soy at a young age may have a lower risk of breast cancer later in life.
Types of Tofu - which one is best?
Tofu is made from soybeans, water, and bean curd. Similar to the cheese-making process, it's made by curdling fresh soy milk, pressing it into a block, and then cooling it.
All types of tofu are great! You will notice differences in the key nutrients, but again, I encourage you to serve a variety. Do look for calcium sulfate in the ingredients.
It comes down to how you want to serve it.
Silken and soft tofu are wonderful for purees and adding creaminess to sauces, dips (tofu mayo), smoothies, baked goods, puddings, etc. They can also be used as an egg replacer, if your baby is allergic!
Firm and extra-firm tofu are great for slicing into strips or bite-sized pieces as a finger food.
Sprouted tofu is the same as extra-firm tofu but made with sprouted soybeans. If you find that your baby doesn't tolerate tofu, this variety may help as the process of sprouting helps aid in digestion.
How to Prep Tofu
Tofu contains a lot of water so it’s best to press out as much as possible if intending to serve as a finger food. Here's what to do:
- Wrap the tofu block in 2-3 or more layers of paper towel, a clean dishcloth, or a kitchen towel.
- Place a baking sheet on top with a few canned goods or a heavy skillet (if using extra firm) to help weigh it down.
- Set aside for at least 20 minutes.
If adding to sauces, dips, smoothies, etc. then there's no need to press. Simply drain, wrap tofu in a kitchen towel, and gently press over the sink.
Top Cooking Methods
First, you want to cut the tofu into strips that are about 2 inches in length (size of your pinky finger) and about ½ to ¾ inch in width.
Here's how I like to cut a block of tofu:
Its subtly sweet, nutty, and neutral flavor profile makes it the perfect blank canvas, taking on whatever flavor it's cooked with.
Most of the recipes you find on the internet promise crispy tofu because we, the adults, love this texture. However, we want the tofu to be soft (easily smushable between thumb and forefinger) for babies, and that's what I promise ;).
Here are several ways to achieve this so that it's safe and enjoyable for your little one.
Remember - bigger is safer for babies who are just starting solids. You can always chop into smaller pieces after it's cooked to serve to older babies and kids.
In a small bowl, whisk together oil and seasoning(s) of choice. Place tofu on a baking sheet. Brush oil mixture onto each piece of tofu to prevent breaking. If using extra-firm tofu, you can toss with oil and seasonings.
You can totally use several different flavorings as you see pictured (oregano, curry powder, cumin) to incorporate variety throughout the week.
Place on baking sheet and bake at 375°F for 20-25 minutes, flipping halfway through. To ensure evenly cooked tofu, don't skip this step.
Heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil over medium high heat. Arrange your prepared tofu in a single layer on the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until lightly browned on the bottom. Flip and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Work in batches if necessary.
Pictured: cooked in sesame oil and seasoned with garlic powder.
How to Serve Tofu to Babies (Baby Led Weaning)
6+ Months Old
- mash and preload onto a spoon or mix into other foods (e.g. oatmeal, quinoa baby cereal, lentils, mashed avocado, hummus, etc.)
- serve as a big strip
Pictured above are the exact meals I served to my baby during her first month of starting solids. I actually filmed EVERYTHING I made for her as well as my toddler, husband, and me from Day 1 to Day 84 (so 3 months) in real time and turned it into an easy to access and follow program!
Do you want to minimize picky eating and set a solid foundation for a lifetime of healthy eating habits?
Check out this 3 month mastering self-feeding program! It’s the closest thing to me being in your kitchen
9+ Months Old
As your baby develops their pincer grasp and is able to pick up small pieces of food using their thumb and finger, you can cut into small, bite-sized pieces. I still suggest continuing to offer larger pieces so they can practice taking bites.
I also encourage you to offer mixed foods early and often during this "window of opportunity" when babies are most willing to try and accept new foods.
If your child has never had foods touching or mixed together, it will be much harder to get them to eat these as they enter toddlerhood.
Frequently Asked Questions
I recommend purchasing organic, if possible, as it guarantees there's no genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
If you don't use all of the tofu, submerge in cold water in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 week. Be sure to replace the water each day. Toss it out if it starts to smell funny.
Once cooked, store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
I wouldn't for babies. Freezing will result in a chewier texture which we don't want.
Yes! tofu that you find at the store actually has already been cooked. As long as it’s been pasteurized, it is safe. Having said that, if you want to err on the side of caution then you can certainly heat up the sauce and bring to room temperature before serving to your baby.
Tofu Recipes for Babies
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How to Cook Tofu for Baby Led Weaning
- 14 ounces firm or extra firm tofu
- oil (e.g. olive, avocado, sesame)
- seasonings (e.g. curry powder, turmeric, cumin, oregano, garlic powder)
- First press the tofu. Wrap the tofu block in 2-3 or more layers of paper towel, a clean dishcloth, or a kitchen towel. Place a baking sheet on top with a few canned goods or a heavy skillet (if using extra firm) to help weigh it down. Set aside for at least 20 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or baking mat and set aside.
- Cut into strips that are about 2 inches in length (size of your pinky finger) and about ½ to ¾ inches in width.
- Toss tofu with oil and seasoning(s) of choice.
- Place on baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, flipping halfway through. To ensure evenly cooked tofu, don't skip this step.
- Heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil over medium high heat. Arrange prepared tofu in a single layer on the pan and cook for 5-6 minutes, or until lightly browned on the bottom. Flip and cook for an additional 5-6 minutes. Work in batches, if necessary.