A Celebration of Tofu for AAPI Heritage Month 2024  

Tofu is an ingredient worth celebrating. It is endlessly versatile, rich in history and tradition, and is an important ingredient across many Asian cuisines. This Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, Bon Appétit Management Company is excited to shine a light on the ancient origins of tofu and its modern evolution as a rising staple across the US and in our cafés.

First, a history lesson: tofu first originated in China over 2000 years ago during the Western Han Dynasty. While its origin story is debated, some say that a Chinese royal named Liu An first created tofu while he was experimenting with soy milk and accidentally caused the mixture to curdle. Today, the art of tofu-making has built upon this initial discovery: dried whole soybeans are soaked, then ground up and cooked. The solid pulp (okara) is separated from the liquid soy milk, and a coagulant like calcium sulfate is added to form soft bean curds. The curds are then pressed into blocks and enjoyed in a vast array of dishes across many cuisines.

The firmness of tofu is due to how much moisture has been pressed out of the blocks, on a spectrum of silken tofu (very soft) to super firm tofu. Beyond the ubiquitous white blocks, tofu takes many forms, from pudding, puffs, and tofu noodles to fermented or smoked varieties.

While its origins can be traced back to China, tofu has long been established as a traditional food throughout a range of Asian cuisines, including Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and Indonesia. As the population of Asian Americans has grown significantly in the past few decades, coinciding with a rising interest in plant-based foods, tofu has also found a home in the United States. In just the last few years, tofu sales have increased 40%, leading to more variety and availability across the country.

This May, we are excited to uplift our partners and team members who identify as members of the AAPI community while centering our celebration on the breadth of tofu as a dynamic, plant protein-packed ingredient. Check out our brand new digital cookbook, Tofu Tales: A Collection of Recipes from Bon Appétit Chefs for AAPI Heritage Month, highlighting the range and diversity of tofu across Asian cuisines to make your own inspired tofu dishes at home, and learn more about our partnerships with Locally Crafted tofu producers across the country.