Hemp tofu, sometimes called hemp-fu, adds another high-protein option to a plant-based menu plan. Hemp tofu costs more, but it can replace traditional firm tofu in many vegetarian and vegan dishes, adding a soy-free product to the lineup of meat alternatives, most of which contain either soy or wheat gluten, both common allergens.
What Is Hemp Tofu?
Hemp tofu can be baked, fried, or sautéed, but it works particularly well in dishes such as scrambles, burritos, veggie chilis, and others that would benefit from its crumbly quality. You can sub hemp tofu in most recipes calling for firm tofu, but it would not be an appropriate stand-in for recipes that rely on the creamy texture of silken tofu, such as in a dip, smoothie, or pudding.
How to Cook Hemp Tofu
To use hemp tofu in a scramble, break it up into bits in a saute pan over medium heat. It cooks quickly, so add it after vegetable ingredients such as onions, peppers, and potatoes soften first. To pan-fry slaps of hemp-fu, slice it more thickly than you would traditional tofu to prevent it from falling apart in the pan, then cook it with oil for about 5 minutes, flipping it carefully halfway through. You can bake it, broil it, and sauté it, too. If you cube it, cut the pieces at least an inch or larger around so they remain intact as they cook, or simply break it into larger free-form chunks.
You can make hemp tofu at home using a process similar to traditional tofu, but using hemp milk instead of soy milk to form the curds.
What Does It Taste Like?
Hemp tofu requires generous seasoning as the flavor on its own tastes pretty bland. You can purchase pre-seasoned varieties such as chili-lime and chimichurri, but unlike traditional tofu, hemp-fu's denser texture does not absorb flavor particularly well, so it generally tastes better served with a flavorful sauce.
Hemp Tofu Recipes
If you DIY traditional soy tofu, you can use the same recipe/process for hemp-fu by simply replacing the soybeans with hemp seeds. If you purchase pre-made hemp tofu, you can use it in place of firm tofu in many dishes.
Where to Buy Hemp Tofu
Some well-stocked natural foods stores carry Tempt, the first brand of hemp tofu marketed nationally in the United States; it comes in plain, chimichurri, Mexican chorizo, and chili/lime flavors. You may also be able to purchase it online through grocery delivery services.
Keep packaged hemp-fu refrigerated in the original unopened packaging until the best by date. Once you open it, you can store unused portions in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. Likewise, tightly wrapped leftovers with hemp tofu in them should keep for a couple of days, although this depends on the other ingredients in the dish.
Unlike tofu, hemp tofu shouldn't be frozen as it makes it even more crumbly.
Nutrition and Benefits
Hemp tofu contains 15 grams of protein per 4-ounce serving and delivers all of the essential amino acids, making it a complete protein, which is rare in plant-based food. It's also high in omega-3s, which boost brain function, reduce risk factors for heart disease, and help regulate your mood ; and 6s, which promote brain, skin, hair, and bone health while also regulating metabolism and the reproductive system. Hemp tofu, at 170 calories per serving, contains 15 grams of iron, 12 grams of total fat, and 4 grams of dietary fiber. It's naturally soy-free, gluten-free, and non-GMO.
Hemp-fu vs. Tofu
Traditional tofu, a common source of protein in a plant-based diet, may not be a desirable ingredient for people trying to avoid soy. Hemp-fu offers a soy-free alternative. Tofu comes in various styles, from silken, which can be used in place of dairy ingredients in desserts, to extra firm, which keeps its shape for frying, sauteing, and grilling. Hemp tofu comes only in a dense, granular loaf and crumbles easily. The two products share similar nutritional profiles, although firm tofu, while lower in fat, also contains less protein and fiber than hemp tofu. Hemp tofu is also twice as high in iron.
Hemp seeds come from a variety of Cannabis sativa L., the plant from which marijuana is cultivated. However, as explained in The National Law Review, the strain grown for industrial hemp contains a negligible amount of THC, the compound responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana. Commercially available hemp seeds, hemp milk, and hemp tofu do not contain THC at levels sufficient to cause the high associated with marijuana or even alter an employment drug test.
Lange KW. Omega-3 fatty acids and mental health. Global Health Journal. 2020;4(1):18-30. doi:10.1016/j.glohj.2020.01.004
Bernstein M, McMahon K. Nutrition Across Life Stages. Jones & Bartlett Learning. 2017.
The National Law Review. USDA interim hemp regulations provide welcome guidance but need refinement. November 8, 2019.