As a nutrition coach, I’m often asked if tofu is a good alternative to chicken. The truth is, there are pros and cons to both.
So, what are the differences between tofu vs chicken? The main difference between tofu and chicken is the protein content. While both foods are recognized as high-quality sources of protein, there is nearly four times as much protein in 100 grams of chicken breast as there is in the same amount of tofu.
Though chicken makes for a better source of protein, there are situations where chicken may be the worse choice depending on things like dietary restrictions or meal-prepping preferences.
Tofu vs Chicken: Nutritional Information
In the following table, you’ll find the nutritional content of 100 grams of raw, firm tofu and 100 grams of uncooked skinless chicken breast.
|Calories||76 cal||165 cal|
|Protein||8 g||31 g|
|Fat||5 g||4 g|
|Carbohydrates||2 g||0 g|
Tofu has less than half the calories of chicken. In 100 grams of tofu, there are just 76 calories compared with 165 calories per 100 grams of chicken breast.
While it’s important to note the total calories in tofu and chicken, it’s equally important to see where those calories come from. Most of the calories in tofu come from fat (45 calories), whereas most of the calories in chicken come from protein (124 calories).
When choosing between tofu and chicken, you should pick the option that fits both your calorie and macronutrient goals.
Chicken has significantly more protein than tofu. There are 31 grams of protein in 100 grams of chicken breast compared to just 8 grams in the same amount of tofu.
If you’re looking for a food that’s high in protein, chicken is a much better option. You would need to eat nearly four times as much tofu as chicken to get the same amount of protein.
Tofu and chicken have very similar fat content. Tofu has 5 grams of fat per 100-gram serving while chicken breast has 4 grams of fat per 100-gram serving.
Both tofu and chicken are low in saturated fat and higher in heart-healthy poly and monounsaturated fats. Replacing saturated fat in our diet with poly and monounsaturated fats, like the ones found in tofu and chicken, has been shown to lower rates of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality.
Besides their protein content, another big difference between tofu and chicken is their micronutrient breakdown (how many vitamins and minerals they have). In the following table, you can find the complete micronutrient breakdown of both tofu and chicken.
|Nutrient||Tofu, Raw, Firm - Daily Recommended Value in 100g portion||Chicken Breast, Skinless - Daily Recommended Value in 100g portion|
The top nutrients in tofu and their benefits
Manganese. Manganese plays a key role in metabolism and bone formation and also helps maintain certain brain functions.
Calcium. As the most abundant mineral in our body, calcium accounts for roughly 2% of our body weight. Besides forming our teeth and bones, calcium also assists in muscle contraction and hormone secretion.
The top nutrients in chicken and their benefits
Niacin. Niacin (also known as vitamin B3) helps maintain the health of our skin, digestive system, and nerves and also plays a key role in controlling cholesterol levels. A niacin deficiency can result in rashes, mouth inflammation, diarrhea, or dementia.
Selenium. Selenium is a powerful antioxidant (a substance that can help prevent damage to your cells). A deficiency in selenium has been associated with an increased risk of mortality, poor immune function, and cognitive decline.
- Related Article: Chicken Thighs vs Breast: 4 Differences & Which Is Healthier?
Tofu vs Chicken: 5 Differences
|Tofu is cheaper, but costs more per gram of protein||Cost||Inexpensive source of protein.|
|Mild bean taste; will take on the flavor of spices or sauces it’s cooked in.||Taste||No inherent flavor; will take on the flavor of spices or sauces it’s cooked in.|
|Varies greatly, from creamy to meat-like.||Texture||Soft, tender, and slightly chewy.|
|Up to 7 days when cooked.||Refrigerator Shelf Life||3-4 days when cooked.|
|Can be eaten cooked or raw.||Cooking and Preparation||Must be cooked to 165℉.|
Tofu is the cheaper option, costing around $2/pound vs over $3/pound for chicken. However, as chicken has nearly four times the amount of protein/pound, it is less expensive to get protein from chicken than from tofu.
Unlike chicken, tofu has a mild bean taste. However, both tofu and chicken are very flavor-absorbent and will take on the taste of the sauces, marinades, or seasonings they are cooked in.
Tofu can vary greatly in texture, ranging from creamy to meat-like. Super-firm tofu has a consistency quite similar to meat, but as tofu softens the consistency changes dramatically. Firm tofu has a consistency similar to feta cheese and silken tofu – the softest variety – is silky and creamy.
4. Refrigerator Shelf Life
Cooked tofu lasts longer in the fridge than cooked chicken. A cooked chicken breast only stays good in the fridge for 3-4 days. Cooked tofu, on the other hand, stays good in the refrigerator for up to a week, making tofu a great option for meal prep.
5. Cooking and Preparation
While chicken must always be cooked to 165℉, tofu can be eaten raw, making it an easy high-protein food to eat on the go. Tofu can also be cooked similarly to chicken, making it a very versatile food.
Tofu vs Chicken on Different Diets
Chicken contains a much higher amount of protein, but there are certain situations where tofu may be the better choice. Depending on the diet you follow, there may be a clear winner in the tofu vs chicken debate.
Tofu and chicken are both good choices for a keto diet. Chicken is completely carb-free while tofu has just 3 g of carbohydrates per 100 g serving, 1 g of which is fiber.
Though both tofu and chicken are good choices for a keto diet, it is important to note that cooking and preparation can change this. Cooking tofu or chicken in a high-sugar sauce, marinade, or seasoning mix will add unnecessary carbohydrates to your meal and make it non-keto-friendly.
While chicken is a staple of the paleo diet, tofu is not compatible with the diet’s restrictions. Tofu is derived from soybeans, a legume, which are not part of a strict paleo diet.
The paleo diet is built upon the idea that we should eat like our paleolithic caveman ancestors. This means eating only foods we could hunt, fish, or gather. Crops such as grains, beans, and legumes, therefore, are not allowed.
Both chicken and tofu provide a great source of protein for those following an intermittent fasting diet.
Eating enough protein during your feeding window is important to help curb hunger during the fasting window. Therefore, including protein-dense foods like tofu and chicken is important.
Low Sodium Diet
Tofu and chicken are both low in sodium and can be great options for a low sodium diet. Chicken breast contains 74mg of sodium per 100 grams, while tofu contains just 7mg of sodium per 100 grams. The key is to ensure sodium is not added through processing or cooking.
Sauces, marinades, and seasoning mixes can be high in sodium. Preparing your meals yourself is a great way to ensure no sodium is added when cooking.
- For some of our favorite low-sodium seasonings and sauces, check out 10 Best Low-Sodium Taco Seasoning (Store Bought + Homemade) and 10 Best Low-Sodium Store-Bought Stir Fry Sauces.
Chicken is never suitable for a vegan diet, but tofu is vegan-friendly. Standard tofu is an excellent source of protein for followers of a vegan diet as it is one of few plants that contain all the essential amino acids necessary for human nutrition.
Be aware, though, that some manufacturers add non-vegan ingredients to their tofu, making it unsuitable for a vegan diet. Fermented varieties of tofu, for example, often use dairy or fish or shrimp brine in processing.
Chicken and tofu (firm or extra-firm) are both low FODMAP and can be eaten by individuals following a low FODMAP diet. But softer tofus, like silken, are high FODMAP and should be avoided on a low FODMAP diet.
Added sauces, marinades, or seasonings can change this, too, so be sure to check the ingredients of your tofu or chicken to ensure it does not contain any ingredients that could cause symptoms.
- For other low FODMAP food ideas, check out 15 High Calories Low FODMAP Foods.
Tofu vs Chicken: Which Is Better For Weight Loss?
While tofu has less than half the calories of chicken, chicken is actually the better choice for weight loss. When trying to lose weight, a high protein diet has been shown to promote greater fat loss than a diet lower in protein. This makes chicken, because of its much higher protein content, the better choice for weight loss.
There are 31 grams of protein and just 165 calories in 100 grams of chicken breast. To get the same amount of protein from tofu, we would need to eat 388 grams, which equals 295 calories.
Tofu vs Chicken: Which Is Better For Muscle Gain?
Chicken contains much more protein than tofu and is, therefore, a much better option for muscle gain. Additionally, chicken also contains higher levels of branched-chain amino acids (5.8 g of BCAAs per 100 g of chicken breast compared to just 3.7 g of BCAAs per 100 g of tofu).
Research from the University of California and the United Kingdom shows that 5.6 g of BCAAs post-workout had a 22% greater increase in muscle protein synthesis over a placebo, suggesting that branch-chain amino acids lead to increased muscle growth.
As chicken breast contains higher amounts of BCAAs, it is the better option for muscle gain.
Tofu vs Chicken: Which Is Better For The Environment?
Eating tofu is better for the environment than eating chicken. More greenhouse gas emissions are produced per kilogram of chicken (6.9 CO2 kg) than are produced per kilogram of tofu (2.0 CO2 kg).
Practical Recommendations For Eating Tofu vs Chicken
Meal Prep with Tofu and Chicken
If you are a busy individual, tofu and chicken are great foods to cook in bulk and use to meal prep for the week ahead.
Cooked chicken keeps well in the fridge for up to four days, leaving you with a high-quality protein source to add to your meals from Sunday to Wednesday. Tofu, on the other hand, will last up to a week in the fridge when cooked, ensuring you have a ready-to-go source of protein all week long.
It doesn’t take any longer to cook a week’s worth of tofu or chicken than it does a meal’s worth. Use your time wisely and set yourself up for success by making a large batch of your favorite chicken and/or tofu recipes on the weekend.
Cooking in bulk and meal prepping is a great way to ensure you continue to hit your nutrition goals throughout the week.
Try Different Recipes
Chicken and tofu are both very versatile foods that can be tried in countless recipes.
From grilling chicken for supper to having tofu pudding for dessert, tofu and chicken can be enjoyed in several different ways. If you’ve had a bad experience with either tofu or chicken in the past, don’t be in a hurry to write the food off completely.
Before deciding you don’t enjoy one or the other, it’s important to try them in a variety of recipes.
- Perfect Fried Tofu
- Peanut Butter Tofu Pudding
- Healthy Roasted Chicken and Veggies
- Grilled Greek Chicken
Track Your Portions
Whether you’re eating tofu or chicken, it’s important to track your portions with a food scale to ensure you’re hitting your macronutrient goals.
Even though a serving of tofu and a serving of chicken may look to be the same size, they will have a different calorie count and a much different macronutrient profile.
Tofu’s macronutrient profile is much more balanced than chicken’s. Therefore, a 100-gram serving of tofu is not the same as a 100-gram serving of chicken, especially when it comes to protein.
Weighing, measuring, and tracking your food is key to ensuring you’re eating in line with your macronutrient goals.
Mix It Up
There are benefits to including both tofu and chicken in your diet as their micronutrient profiles are considerably different.
Eating chicken will help you increase your intake of B vitamins, while tofu will help increase your consumption of certain key minerals like calcium and manganese.
At the end of the day, eating the proper amount of protein is more important than the source(s) it comes from. But including a variety of protein sources in your diet will help ensure your micronutrient needs are met and prevent you from growing tired of eating the same meals over and over again.
If your diet allows for it, enjoying both tofu and chicken is a great idea.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Tofu Have More Protein Than Chicken?
No, tofu does not have more protein than chicken. There are 31 grams of protein in 100g of chicken breast compared to just 8 grams of protein in the same amount of tofu.
Can You Substitute Chicken With Tofu?
Yes, you can substitute tofu for chicken. In fact, tofu is one of the most popular substitutes for chicken. Tofu can have a similar texture to chicken and is very flavor-absorbent. You can use extra-firm tofu in place of chicken in stir-fries, curries, and more, making it a great vegetarian alternative.
Can You Cook Tofu Like Chicken?
Like chicken, tofu can be baked, fried, or grilled, but it can also be steamed or eaten raw. Tofu is very flavor-absorbent and can be used to replace chicken in many different dishes.
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About The Author
Riley Nadoroznick is a strength, conditioning, and nutrition coach and the owner of Conviction Fitness.
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