Regardless of your current dietary preferences, the saying “variety is the spice of life” has become a cliché for a reason.
There is a lot of discussion around the topic of chicken vs tofu. It’s a subject that concerns fitness fanatics, nutritionists, animal lovers, and environmental ethicists alike, not to mention culinary wizards.
Whether you’re a carnivore, vegan, or somewhere in between, you’ve likely wondered what the differences between chicken and tofu are.
What’s the difference between chicken and tofu? Besides chicken being a meat product and tofu being made from soy, there are other culinary differences, including taste, texture, preparation, and nutritional value. These differences make each product suitable for separate diets and recipes.
Chicken and tofu are both well known for their neutral flavors and versatility in cooking, but in this article, we’ll take a closer look at both food products with these criteria in mind.
We’ll also discuss questions of nutrition in terms of calories, carbohydrates, fat, and, of course, protein.
By the end of this article, you’ll know everything there is to know about chicken and tofu, whether or not you decide to add either or both to your diet.
Chicken is one of the most popular meat products in the world, with poultry coming second only to pork.
It is highly praised as a source of lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids while also being low in carbohydrates and fat.
Perhaps more importantly, chicken is incredibly versatile. It can be cooked in several different ways, fitting into nearly any taste preferences and cooking abilities.
What Does Chicken Taste Like?
Many people find it ironic that there are so many foods that are said to “taste just like chicken” and yet it’s incredibly difficult to accurately describe the flavor experience of chicken itself.
Conventionally produced modern chicken has a blander flavor than organic chicken or wild poultry options. Chicken soaks in flavors very well, making it perfect for a wide variety of cuisines.
In other words, chicken will generally taste like whatever it is spiced with, marinated in, or cooked with. However, it will always have those classic umami undertones of … well, chicken!
What Does Undercooked Chicken Taste Like?
Ideally, you will be able to identify undercooked chicken by sight before you have the opportunity to taste it.
Undercooked, or worse, uncooked, chicken can be very dangerous and is one of the highest contributors to salmonella and food poisoning.
Look for these signs that your meat is properly cooked:
- Properly cooked chicken will be white and opaque throughout with no pink or translucent or streaks, though this may be less reliable if you’ve marinated your meat or cooked it in a red sauce. You can cut your chicken open to see if it’s still pink in the middle.
- Chicken will shrink in size when it is cooked, particularly if it is non-organic.
- Cooked chicken will have a firm but tender texture, whereas undercooked chicken will be somewhat rubbery and jiggly.
If you’re still not sure if your chicken is cooked thoroughly, rather than taste testing, use a meat thermometer. (This one is the most accurate instant food thermometer we’ve come across.)
Cooked chicken should have an internal temperature of at least 165°F to be considered safe from potential bacterial contamination.
How to Cook Chicken
Chicken is one of the most popular meats consumed worldwide, which means that it can be featured in nearly any type of cuisine. There is no limit to the ways it can be prepared.
The most common types of preparation include roasting, sauteing, frying, grilling, poaching, stewing, slow-cooking, or pressure-cooking. Of course, you can also barbeque, braise, and boil, among other cooking techniques as well.
Even within the long list of cooking styles, there is an equally unlimited variety of spices, seasonings, sauces, marinades, or breadings that you can use to further enhance the flavor and texture of chicken.
With a little bit of creativity, it’s nearly impossible to get bored of this versatile white meat.
Texture of Cooked Chicken
The texture of cooked chicken is something you will learn to recognize mainly by what it is not.
Undercooked chicken will be wiggly, shiny, pink, and a bit rubbery. Overcooked chicken will be dense, hard, and will have a tough, stringy texture if you try to pull it apart.
Well-cooked chicken represents the middle-ground between these two unappealing extremes. It should be firm yet juicy, with a nice chew that is neither rubbery nor stringy.
It has been said that tofu is the chicken of the plant-based world.
Just as chicken can be prepared in an infinite number of ways and is somewhat bland on its own, so can the same be said for tofu.
Tofu is a block of condensed soy milk, created in a process similar to that of cheesemaking.
It is thought to date back more than 2,000 years, discovered by accident when a Chinese cook mixed fresh soy milk with a salt solution called nigiri.
What Does Tofu Taste Like?
Fresh tofu has very little flavor at all, however, it absorbs flavors even better than chicken. There are many different textures and styles of tofu that can be made to taste like anything from sweet desserts to savory main dishes.
Preparing tofu well does take some practice and a degree of understanding of how the product reacts to the cooking process.
One of the most effective ways to help tofu soak up even more flavor is to use a tofu press to eliminate as much water from the spongey block before seasoning, marinating, or simmering it in any type of sauce.
Just like a sponge, if it is already full of water it doesn’t have any room for more. But if you get rid of the water first, it will thirstily retain all the seasoned liquid it is exposed to.
Texture of Tofu
One of the reasons tofu is so versatile is because there are many different varieties and textures.
While you may get the choice between enjoying a chicken breast or a chicken leg, you’ll have many options with tofu as well.
The different textures of tofu include:
- Silken/Soft – With a texture like pudding or yogurt, soft tofu is often used for desserts or served as a creamy base or garnish for soup, curry, or other sauces.
- Medium -Medium-firm tofu has enough strength to maintain some structure along any cut edges but will remain soft inside, with plenty of space to soak up the surrounding flavor.
- Firm & Extra Firm – The tougher, chewier blocks of tofu are great for frying or grilling but should be pressed before cooking to allow flavors space to infiltrate.
The texture of tofu is the biggest stumbling block for most people. With the exception of soft tofu, there is a unique spongey, chewiness that is associated with tofu.
Once you’re a fan, you’re a fan for life, but it can take some getting used to because there is nothing else quite like this soy product.
How to Cook Tofu
Tofu can be eaten raw as well as cooked, and there are nearly infinite options for preparation methods.
There are a few techniques that can help you take tofu from edible to extraordinary:
- Use a Tofu Press -Tofu is packaged in water and, at the very least, needs to be drained before you cook with it. Even better, pressing the remaining water out of the block of tofu is ideal, especially for firm or extra firm textures, though medium tofu can also be pressed. If there is too much water left in your tofu when you start to cook it, the texture will be compromised and it won’t be able to absorb as much flavor, leaving it bland and mushy.
- Season Your Tofu – Whether you marinate your tofu, simmer it in a rich sauce, or sprinkle herbs and spices over it, you want to provide your tofu with plenty of added flavor to enrich the mild flavor.
- Experiment With Texture – Testing out different textures of packaged tofu is a good way to explore the different experiences tofu can bring to a meal, but how you cook it can also dramatically alter the texture. Deep-fried medium tofu creates an entirely unique mouthfeel when compared to stir-fried extra-firm tofu, or firm tofu cubes simmering in a curry sauce. Tofu can be meaty, crispy, or soft and smooth, creating many different focus points for your meals.
Tofu takes a bit of patience and experimentation, but you’ll be glad you put in the effort.
Chicken Vs Tofu – Nutritional Value
Depending on who you’re talking to, chicken and tofu can both be considered extremely nutritious, healthy protein sources but they both have considerable controversy surrounding them as well.
Chicken Vs Tofu – Nutrition (Per 100g)
|Chicken Breast (g)||Tofu (g)|
|Omega 3||120 mg||582 mg|
|Omega 6||1740 mg||4338 mg|
|Thiamin||0.1 mg||0.2 mg|
|Niacin||9.9 mg||0.4 mg|
|Vitamin B6||0.5 mg||0.1mg|
|Calcium||11 mg||683 mg|
|Iron||0.7 mg||2.7 mg|
|Potassium||220 mg||237 mg|
The chart above compares 100 grams of chicken breast to the same volume of firm tofu. Chicken registers slightly more calories, measuring 172 cal to tofu’s 145 cal, however, that is only a small part of the story.
Both chicken and tofu are best prepared with plenty of added flavor, so how you prepare and cook the star of your meal is very important.
One of the most common questions that arises when considering either of these food items is whether they are good for diets.
The complicated answer is that both chicken and tofu can be a healthy part of a well-managed weight loss plan, but neither should be considered miracle solutions.
Consuming your choice of tofu or chicken while also managing the added ingredients such as oil, salt, and even sugar is a smart weight-loss strategy.
Carbs in Chicken Vs Tofu
With the rise in popularity of the keto diet everyone wants to know how many carbs are in the food they consume. Even if you’re not on a strict keto plan, chances are this is a nutritional data point that you’re interested in.
Tofu does have some carbs, but they’re extremely minimal and offset by the corresponding fiber content, which reduces the overall net carbs.
In contrast, it is considered a very high source of complete protein, meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids.
Unlike tofu, chicken does not have carbs unless they are added, like with the addition of bread crumbs. Depending on how you prepare it, it would make a good addition to a keto diet, despite being relatively low in fat.
Fat in Tofu Vs Chicken
Another thing tofu and chicken have in common is that they are considered low-fat protein sources that happen to be rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Chicken does have slightly more fat than tofu, but the bigger difference is in the type of fat.
Chicken has almost twice the amount of saturated fat and three times the amount of monounsaturated fat, whereas tofu is higher in polyunsaturated fat.
While there are minimal amounts of fat in either food, polyunsaturated fat is considered the healthiest type of fat for your heart, giving tofu the advantage in this category.
Another important factor to consider is not just the amount of omega-3 fatty acids, of which tofu has more, but the ratio of omega-3 to omega 6 fatty acids.
The ideal ratio is 1:4, respectively. Neither product meets this perfect ratio, but tofu comes closer with 1mg of omega-3 to every 7.5 mg of omega-6. Chicken, in comparison, has a ratio closer to 1:14.5
Protein in Tofu Vs Chicken
We saved the best for last: protein. Protein is the building block of every cell in the human body and we all need to be sure we’re consuming enough high-quality protein in our diet, whether it comes from plants or animals.
A 100g portion size of raw chicken breast contains approximately 20g of protein, or approximately 48% of the recommended daily intake (dependant on body size and composition).
The same 100g portion size of firm tofu has just less than 16g of protein, which is closer to 32% of the recommended daily intake (dependent on body size and composition).
There are a few added factors to consider before drawing any conclusions in this section.
First, portion sizes for chicken are often very different from what you might expect. The suggested serving size should be 3–4 ounces of chicken, which in many cases is only about 1/3 of a chicken breast.
Because of this, many people eat a great deal more chicken than is recommended, despite the positive benefits of consuming protein.
In contrast, the recommended serving size for tofu is actually 150g, which is more than we accounted for in the chart.
Additionally, chicken is often served as the focal point of a meal, paired only with smaller amounts of other forms of nutrition.
In contrast, tofu is most often served as a minor ingredient in a meal that is usually rich with other forms of nutrition, such as vegetables in a stir-fry or curry.
In conclusion, both chicken and tofu can be healthy, nutritious, and, above all, delicious components of a well-balanced and exciting diet.