Everything you need to know about cooking tofu
How to cook with tofu for beginners. Learn why there are different types of tofu, if you should press tofu, how to make crispy pan fried and baked tofu, and tofu recipe ideas for delicious meals.
Cooking tofu is a little confusing at first, but once you learn the basics, you’ll have this shit down in no time. Tofu is like a blank canvas, it absorbs whatever flavors you cook it with.
So, if you flavor it like crap, it will taste like crap. Here’s some tips on how to make it not taste like crap
Is tofu good for you?
Reasons why I love tofu: It’s a complete protein and full of iron, calcium, magnesium, copper, zinc and fiber.
So yes, when eating the recommended amounts of soy, tofu is good for you.
Should I press tofu?
#1 way to make your tofu amazing, if you’re frying, baking, or sautéing it, is to press if for 15-30 minutes.
This gets rid of excess moisture and makes the tofu crispier and chewier when you cook it.
I know, ain’t nobody got time for that, but if your tofu always comes out like a soggy dishrag, it’s probably because it had too much water in it from not pressing it.
There are two ways of pressing it:
- Wrap tofu in a paper towel or in a clean dish rag. Place it on a cutting board and then put a heavy pan or books on top.
- Buy a life changing (too dramatic? It’s absolutely true) tofu press. Use the code DamnTasty for 10% off
In both ways, let it press for 15 minutes at least, 30 at best.
Freeze and thaw your tofu to make it extra extra spongy and chewy
Bonus points, but not required: throw your package of tofu in the freezer, yes the whole package, then set it out on the counter or fridge to let it completely thaw.
After you let it thaw, gently squeeze the tofu a little bit to get even more water out.
Freezing the tofu creates large pockets inside the tofu after it thaws. This leaves a ton of room for the inner part of the tofu to soak up marinades.
Plus, freezing the tofu makes it extra chewy, like how it tastes in Chinese restaurants. This works great if you’re making buffalo wings, or vegan chicken nuggets.
After you freeze, then thaw, then squeeze out the water, marinate the tofu in your favorite marinades for at least 15 minutes. Marinate over night if you want to really infuse it with flavor.
Frozen, then thawed and marinated tofu does best sauteing in a pan rather than baking.
Baking this could make it a bit dry, since it lost a lot of its liquid. If you choose the baking method below, make sure to use a lot of sauce and marinade.
Why are there different types of tofu?
You can usually find three different types of tofu:
- Silken -This is blended with other ingredients for creamy alfredo sauces, vegan mayonnaise, pies or desserts. People also blend it in smoothies to add some extra protein.
- Medium firm – Usually diced up and put in curries, stir frIes, or tofu breakfast scrambles.
- Firm and Extra Firm – These are the chewiest. Great for making vegan chicken nuggets, buffalo wings, vegan chicken patties for sandwiches, or anything you’d like to replace the texture of meat.
Make sure to always get organic and non-gmo since soy is one of the most pesticide-ridden crops (because 80% of soy is grown to feed to the billions of animals we kill, it’s one of the most grown and sprayed crops)
Pro tip #2:
I buy it in bulk at asian grocery stores, press it, and then always have a couple of blocks in the freezer. The night before I cook it, I just throw it in the fridge and let it thaw out.
Best tofu marinades and sauces
Store bought marinades are the easiest. Just check to make sure they don’t have animal products in them. Most don’t. Some of my favorite are:
- buffalo sauce
- bbq sauce (check to make sure they don’t have honey. Sweet baby ray’s brand doesn’t)
- pork or steak marinades
You can also make your own tofu marinade by mixing:
- 4 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil or neutral oil if you don’t like sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
How to marinate tofu
To marinate: put the whole package of tofu in the freezer, water and all.
Set the tofu out on the counter to completely thaw. Gently squeeze the rest of the water out. Choose your favorite marinade and let the tofu sit in this for at least 15-30 minutes. Overnight is best.
If you don’t freeze the tofu, marinating is a bit pointless because it won’t really infuse into the inner part of the tofu.
If you choose to not freeze and thaw the tofu, use the marinade as a sauce, and add it after getting the tofu crispy by baking or pan frying, as shown in the steps below.
To sum it up: if you freeze and thaw the tofu, you can pre-marinate tofu.
If you don’t freeze the tofu, just use the marinade after crisping up the tofu in the oven or on stove.
How to make crispy baked tofu
- use firm or extra firm tofu
- press it for 30 minutes (use the code DamnTasty for 10% off)
- BONUS STEP FOR EXTRA CHEWY TOFU (but not necessary): Freeze the tofu then completely let it thaw. Gently squeeze water out after it thaws. If you choose to freeze it, you don’t need to press it before hand, just throw the whole package in the freezer, then set it out on the counter to thaw. After it thaws, gently squeeze the water out over the sink.
- chop into cubes, slabs or triangles
- Pour 2 TBL oil, 2 TBL of soy sauce over the tofu and gently stir it to coat the tofu.
- Sprinkle on 3 TBL cornstarch or arrowroot powder and gently mix or toss until you don’t see the cornstarch
- Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes, flipping halfway through until golden brown on every side
- Let it cool for at least 5 minutes. The more it cools, the more it will firm and crisp up.
- You can eat it as is, or if you’re adding sauces to the tofu, add the sauce and tofu to a saute pan on medium low heat. Stir around until the sauce caramelizes and the tofu crisps up again.
Now you can use this on top of salads, curries, noodle or rice bowls, stir fries, lunch wraps or burritos.
How to make crispy pan fried tofu
- use medium or extra firm tofu
- press it for 30 minutes (use the code DamnTasty for 10% off)
- BONUS STEP FOR EXTRA CHEWY TOFU (but not necessary): Freeze the tofu then completely let it thaw by setting it out on the counter. Gently squeeze water out after it thaws. If you choose to freeze it, you don’t need to press it before hand.
- cut into slabs, cubes or triangles
- Sprinkle over 1 TBL of soy sauce and gently toss
- Sprinkle 2-3 TBL of corn starch and gently mix until you don’t see the corn starch
- cover the bottom of skillet or non-stick pan with small layer of oil and heat to medium heat
- once pan is heated, add your tofu
- let EACH SIDE cook for 1-3 minutes, or until golden brown, DON’T MOVE OR TOUCH IT UNTIL EACH SIDE IS BROWN AND THE PAN ‘RELEASES’ THE TOFU.
- The secret to getting perfectly crispy, golden brown tofu is to not touch it until each side is cooked.
- If tofu is sticking to the pan, it’s because you tried to flip it before it was crispy and brown, or you didn’t use enough oil.
- Once tofu is golden brown, you can use this tofu in stir fry’s, buddha bowls or curries.
- You can go one more step and add sauce to the crispy tofu.
- Turn the heat down and add your favorite marinade, and then cook for another 3-5 minutes to let the edges crisp up again and the marinade starts to caramelize. You can keep it simple by just using soy sauce or plain salt to season the tofu as well.
- Or you can take it out of the pan, let it cool for 5 minutes and then toss it in your favorite marinade like the homemade one shown above, hot sauce, teriyaki sauce, or buffalo sauce.
Now you can top this in a soup, noodle dish, Thai curry, buddha bowls or rice bowls.
How to scramble tofu
This is one of my favorite ways to cook tofu. Making scrambled tofu is an amazing way to replace scrambled eggs for breakfast, or breakfast burritos.
For this, you don’t really have to press the tofu, just gently squeeze it over a sink. It won’t matter if it cracks, because you will be crumbling it in a pan anyway.
To make tofu taste eggy, it’s important to get some black salt, also called kala namak. You can order this on amazon, or buy it in an Indian grocery store.
More Tofu recipes
Here are some fun ways to cook tofu. I’ll link to some of my own recipes as well as some of my favorites from other bloggers
- Easy BBQ tofu
- Buffalo tofu salad bites
- Easy vegan deviled eggs
- Peanut tofu quinoa buddha bowls
- Sesame ginger baked tofu
- Cheesy tofu scramble
- Sticky maple miso tofu
And there you have it. I hope these tips helped teach you how to cook and enjoy tofu more. It’s one of my favorite things to eat and is so good for you as well.
Share this with someone who’s learning how to use tofu as well and needs some help.
Leave me comments below if you have any questions!