What is the difference between tofu vs paneer? While these foods look similar and are sometimes used interchangeably in recipes, they are different in nutrition as well as taste. Let’s discuss what makes the two foods different.
What is tofu?
Tofu is a staple food used commonly in Asian cuisine and as a meat replacement in various dishes. It’s made by coagulating soy milk, collecting the curds and pressing them into a block of tofu. It’s a plant-based food and is very popular among vegan and vegetarians due to its high protein content.
There are several varieties of tofu based on level of firmness. Silken tofu or soft tofu has the highest water content and breaks apart very easily. This kind of tofu works well in soup dishes like sundubu jjigae.
Regular tofu is the next level up, with a slight firmness but still rather high water content. From there, you can also get firm tofu, extra firm tofu or super firm tofu, all with increasing levels of firmness and lower water content.
Tofu is a very nutrient dense food and offers a variety of health benefits. One block of firm tofu (244 grams of tofu) contains about 250 calories, 29 grams of protein, 9 grams of carbohydrates and 14 grams of fat. It contains adequate amounts of all essential amino acids, making it a complete source of protein.
Its nutritional value is obvious when you look at its micronutrient profile. Firm tofu has a high iron content, with 5.2 milligrams per block. It’s also a good source of calcium, magnesium, potassium, selenium, zinc, folate and some B vitamins like thiamine and riboflavin.
What is paneer?
Paneer is a type of cheese, commonly used in a variety of dishes from India. It’s typically made from full fat cow milk or buffalo milk. This Indian cheese is a versatile ingredient, used in dishes like saag paneer and palak paneer. It’s made in a similar way compared to tofu, using milk as a base and lemon juice as a coagulant. Curds and separated and pressed into paneer.
Paneer is a nutrient dense food, similar to tofu. Two ounces of paneer (57 grams of paneer) contains about 210 calories, 12 grams of protein, 1 gram of carbohydrate and 17 grams of fat. Paneer is also a complete protein.
Looking at its micronutrient profile, paneer is a good source of vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), vitamin B12, vitamin A, calcium, selenium and zinc. Overall, it’s a fairly nutrient dense food.
Taste and texture differences
While tofu and paneer look pretty similar, they have different textures and tastes. The main difference is the texture. Paneer has a crumbly texture, similar to feta, while tofu has a more spongy texture. When you press down on tofu, it will bounce back, while paneer will break apart.
The taste is also slightly different. Tofu has a mild taste with a slight bean flavor. Paneer has a bit stronger flavor, more similar to cheeses like feta or ricotta. While both don’t have strong flavors, their flavor profile is different and noticeable.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which is higher in calcium?
It depends if you want to compare by weight, per calorie or by volume. When comparing by ounce or by tablespoon, paneer has a higher calcium content. But when comparing by calories, tofu reigns supreme.
I personally feel it’s best to compare by tablespoon or cup, since this would be the most realistic way they would be swapped for one another. Two tablespoons of paneer contains 109 milligrams of calcium while two tablespoons of firm tofu contains 84 milligrams of calcium.
While paneer is slightly higher in calcium, both are high calcium foods and can be beneficial for bone health.
Which is higher in protein?
Both paneer and tofu are a good source of protein, but tofu contains slightly more when compared by volume. Two tablespoons of tofu contains 3.8 grams of protein, while two tablespoons of paneer contains 3.6 grams of protein. It’s also important to note that paneer contains almost twice the amount of calories compared to tofu when measured by volume.
Which is higher in carbohydrates?
Tofu is consistently higher than paneer in carbohydrates. Two tablespoons of tofu contains 1.2 grams of carbohydrates while two tablespoons of paneer contains 0.3 grams of carbohydrates. If you are on the keto diet or a low carbohydrate diet, paneer may be the better option. That being said, tofu can be consumed in moderation on both of these diets.
Which is better for weight loss?
Tofu has fewer calories than paneer, which could possibly make it a better choice when it comes to weight loss. That being said, weight loss only occurs when you are consuming less calories than you are expending. Switching from paneer to tofu may reduce the calories in a single meal, but if your overall calories over the course of time aren’t reducing, you won’t lose weight.
Which is better for cholesterol?
This is a tough question since there are a variety of factors that contribute to your blood cholesterol levels. But, since saturated fat is a large contributor, tofu may be the healthier option. Two tablespoons of tofu contains 0.3 grams of saturated fat while the same amount of paneer contains 3.2 grams. If you have a history of heart disease, tofu may be the best bet.
Are tofu and paneer vegan friendly?
Tofu is compatible with a vegan diet, but paneer is not since it is made from animal products (dairy products specifically). Tofu is made from soy milk, which is made from soybeans, which are plant-based. Paneer is made from cow or buffalo milk, which is animal-based.
How to make homemade tofu
Tofu is actually fairly simple to make. First, pour soybean milk into a pot and simmer. Scrap off the foam that forms on the top and remove from heat. Add coagulant of choice (lemon juice, nigari salts, vinegar, gypsum) and gently stir. Let sit for 15 minutes during the curdling process.
Prepare your tofu press or mold by lining with cheesecloth (some tofu presses don’t require this). Ladle in the tofu curds and press out the excess water. If using a mold, wrap the curds in the cheesecloth and put something heavy on top to press out the water.
Let sit for 1-2 hours or until the desired level of firmness has been achieved. To store, place it in a layer of water in an airtight container in the refrigerator.