Can you compost tofu? You bet!

  • Date: May 14, 2022

Plant-based food sales are increasing year-on-year and the market is estimated to be worth an incredible $7 billon.  As more and more people are for opting for a meat-free lifestyle, for ethical reasons or otherwise, it is no surprise that tofu sales are going through the roof. Although we always aim for as little food waste as possible, sometimes the odd bit waste is unavoidable. What we do with that waste is important – composting is one of the best options if you are able. Can you compost tofu? Or is it destined for a trip to landfill?

What is tofu made from?

Originating in China thousands of years ago, it found its way to Western countries in the 1960’s. One of those ‘love it or hate it’ type foods, tofu certainly divides opinion. Its versatility cannot be questioned though – it can be found in lots of foods from smoothies to curries.

Tofu is made from soybeans. The soy milk, from the beans, is curdled then cooled and pressed into white blocks that you buy in the supermarket. Making tofu uses a similar process to that of cheesemaking.

Can you compost tofu?

Most households create some kind of food waste everyday making food scraps one of the most popular additions to the compost pile. Whilst most food can be composted with minimum fuss at home, there are food waste items that are best to avoid. Home composting of meat products, for instance, is best avoided – unless you want unwanted visitors in your garden. Where does tofu stand when it comes to composting?

Tofu CAN be added to the compost pile! Composting ingredients fall into two main categories – ‘browns’ and ‘greens’. The ‘brown’ materials are those that are rich in carbon such as twigs and shredded paper. ‘Greens’, on the other hand, are those that are rich in nitrogen. Since tofu is high in protein – and protein contains nitrogen – it falls into the ‘green’ category.

Unfortunately, composting is not as simple as throwing in your waste and letting the microbes do the rest. You must ensure you maintain a healthy pile. Part of this includes having a decent mix of both carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich ingredients. A range of different ratios are suggested but a 1:1 ratio should work well. It is a lot easier to manage too – no complicated math involved! Compost piles that have too a high a proportion of ‘greens’ many not have optimal moisture for the materials to breakdown, for example, so getting the ratio right is so important. You can adjust it when needed as you go along – it is sure to throw up some warning signs if the microbes aren’t happy!  

Don’t be put off if you are new to the composting game. It can be a bit hit-and-miss with some trial and error involved. Every compost pile in every household/garden across the country is different. If you are a novice when it comes to composting, we have answered some of the most common beginners questions here.

Some things to consider when composting tofu…

The process will be kickstarted if the tofu is in smaller pieces when added to the pile. This applies to composting all materials – from crab shells to a hemp fabric shirt. It simply gives the micro-organisms in the pile the largest surface area to work on. Whether you break it up or not though, it will still compost but it will come with some issues. Waiting a little bit longer will not only test your patience, the food scraps will also have more time to attract pests to the pile. It is also a good idea to mix it in with the other materials. Tofu sitting on the top of an uncovered compost pile might prove a little too tempting for any lurking pests.

Since tofu is such a versatile food, you should also be aware of what other ingredients the dish contains. For example, you may be trying to cut down your meat consumption by mixing tofu into a predominantly meat recipe. Meat is typically not suitable for home composting – so it may be best to avoid adding it to the pile.    

The bottom line

Tofu is a great addition to any compost pile. As well as avoiding landfill, it will contribute to a nutrient-rich compost that will be useful in the garden. Everyone wins! Potential pests are likely to be the biggest obstacle you come up against – just ensure you bury them in the pile and break it into small pieces to ensure composting happens as quickly as possible. Good luck!