Cooking with tofu 101
How to cook tofu 101 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 with tofu 101
- 💧How to drain tofu
- 🥄 How to press tofu
- ❄️ How and why to freeze tofu
- ♨️ Why there different types of tofu
- 👩🍳 Tips for buying tofu
- 🍲 Best tofu marinades and sauces
- 🍛 How to marinate tofu
- 💥 Use corn starch for extra crispy tofu
- 🧂 How to make crispy baked tofu
- ♨️ How to make crispy air fried tofu
- 🥘 How to make crispy pan fried tofu
- 💥 How to add a sauce to tofu
- 🍳 How to scramble tofu
- 📖 Delicious Tofu recipes
- ❓ FAQ’s
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 tofu taste amazing every time
💧How to drain tofu
When you get a package of tofu, take the tofu over to the sink.
Cut down the side, and then the other side of the package, making an L shape.
Place your hand flat over the tofu and flip it upside down into the sink, draining the water away.
🥄 How to press tofu
#1 way to make your crispy and not soggy if you’re frying, baking, or sautéing it, is to press it 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.
How to press tofu with a tofu press
- Buy a life changing (too dramatic? It’s absolutely true) tofu press. Use the code DamnTasty for 10% off
- When you have a tofu press, you don’t need to press it as long. Press it for 10-15 minutes with a tofu press.
How to press tofu without a tofu press
- 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.
- Press it for 25-30 minutes. Drain away the liquid.
❄️ How and why to freeze tofu
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 makes the water molecules expand inside the tofu when they freeze. This creates large pockets.
This leaves a ton of room for the inner part of the tofu to soak up marinades, once you squeeze it out a little bit after thawing.
Freezing the tofu makes it extra chewy as well, 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 20 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 extra sauce and marinade.
♨️ Why there different types of tofu
You can usually find three different types of tofu:
This is a super smooth and gelatinous tofu that works great blended with other ingredients for creamy Alfredo sauces, vegan mayonnaise, pies or desserts.
People also blend it in smoothies to add some extra protein.
Usually diced up and put in miso soup, 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.
👩🍳 Tips for buying tofu
Make sure to always buy organic, non-gmo tofu
Soy is one of the most pesticide-ridden crops because it’s one of the most widely grown crops.
It’s so widely grown because 70-80% of soy is used to feed to the billions of livestock animals we kill a year on factory farms, since it’s cheap, easy to grow and fattens up the animals quickly for slaughter.
Buy tofu at an Asian grocery store for the best price
The best price that you will ever find for tofu, is buying a big tub of it at an Asian grocery store.
Since you probably won’t be able to eat it all in one sitting, just separate a couple blocks, put them in a freezer friendly container and freeze them until you’re ready to use them.
The day before you want to cook it, throw it into the fridge to 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 of them don’t. Just because it says it’s a meat marinade, doesn’t mean you can’t use it on tofu! 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 marinades
- meat marinades
Homemade Asian tofu marinade
- 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
Simple and versatile homemade tofu marinade
- 4 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
🍛 How to marinate tofu
One thing to know before hand, is if you marinate tofu, it won’t come out as crispy. It will, however come out super flavorful. Marinating tofu is great if you want really flavorful tofu.
If you want crispy tofu, you need to crisp it up on the stove or in the oven first, then add sauce to it after it’s crisped up. I’ll teach you how to do that below.
Freeze first method
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 20-30 minutes. Overnight is best.
If you don’t freeze the tofu, it’s very important to press the tofu for at least 30 minutes. This ensures that the marinade can seep into the tofu better.
After pressing the tofu, it will taste best if you marinate it overnight, to give the marinade time to infuse into the tofu.
If you don’t marinate the tofu for at least overnight, I recommend crisping it up first on the stove or in the oven, and then just using the marinade as a sauce once it’s crisped. I’ll give you tips on how to do that below.
If you don’t marinate non-frozen or pressed tofu for at least a few hours, it doesn’t have enough time to sink into the tofu and it’s a bit pointless.
💥 Use corn starch for extra crispy tofu
When I finally learned this trick, it took my tofu to a whole new level.
After pressing the tofu, sprinkle on 1-2 tablespoon of oil, then 1-2 tablespoons of corn starch. Gently mix it so every piece is coated. Sprinkle a little salt.
Coating tofu in corn starch creates a nice crispy outer layer when you pan fry it or bake it.
Another trick to getting it crispy, is to not marinate it before hand. Marinating tofu is great if you want to make tofu taste like meat, like if you’re making tofu bacon.
But if you want tofu to be crispy, you need to crisp it up first, then add the sauce after it’s crisped up. I’ll show you how to do that in the “How to add a sauce to tofu” section below.
🧂 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 420 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 air fried tofu
Air frying tofu is my favorite way to make tofu. It turns out perfectly golden brown and crispy every time. Just press your tofu first, add a little soy sauce, garlic powder and then sprinkle on corn starch. Then air fry for about 20-25 minutes.
🥘 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 add a sauce to tofu
Whenever I want to make tofu that is smothered in a sauce, I crisp it up first, un-marinated, in the oven or on the stove.
Not dousing it in liquid or marinade before cooking it, helps it to be crispy and not soggy. By adding the liquid (sauces) after it crisps up, it will create a nice firm texture.
After crisping it up, I then mix it in some sauce on top of the stove, and cook it until the sauce caramelizes and the tofu crisps up again.
🍳 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.
📖 Delicious 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
Tofu has been around in certain Asian countries for centuries. It’s a daily staple in many of their diets.
It’s often used as a meat replacement for vegans and vegetarians because it’s so high in protein and versatile.
Tofu is also called bean curd. It’s made by turning soy beans into soy milk. Then heating up the soy milk until it curdles.
Once it curdles, it’s then drained into a cloth, and the excess liquid is squeezed out, until you’re left with a spongy block.
Tofu is made from a soybean, and just like other beans, it’s healthy for you. It’s a complete protein and full of iron, calcium, magnesium, copper, zinc and fiber.
Contrary to what the studies funded by the meat industry would have you believe, plant estrogens in soy are actually cancer fighting when eaten in normal ranges (3-4 servings a day)
So yes, when eating the recommended amounts of soy, tofu is good for you and it won’t mess up your hormones or give you “man boobs”
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!
Thank you so very much for this post ! You’ve given me all o need to know for my first go at tofu .. I’m going to press my tofu tonight and thaw tomorrow !!!! Thank you Thank you!!
I’m so glad this helped you out!
Thanks a bunch this has been super informative and helpful..cant wait to try thanks for the cool tips
You’re very welcome! I’m so glad it was helpful for you
Thank you for putting this post out! Just starting on this journey and it has such
good info. Now to go buy tofu!
I really like your post and I agree tofu is a wonderful food source but I’d like to recommend another source for your pro soy info at least as it relates to Breast cancer (which I have had, estrogen-positive). I spent ages researching this very thing and as a registered nurse I agree it is so important to have good info out there and we don’t want people to avoid Tofu unnecessarily.
thanks for a great resource
I’m trying to eat less meat to do more for the environment, so I decided to read up on how to cook tofu. While this article is helpful in many ways, the self-righteousness you portray is a huge turn-off. I’d equate it to “holier-than-thou” Christians trying to shove their Christianity down people’s throats. Your tone in this article has the same effect. Shoving veganism down people’s throats with a “holier-than-thou” self-righteousness is certainly not going to win anyone over to your lifestyle or way of eating.
The irony of saying I’m “shoving veganism down people’s throats” when you came to my site on your own is laughable. The fact that people think vegans are being “holier than thou” when we’re just sharing a recipe is also hilarious. Thanks for the laugh
Loved this article and I will use a lot. You must of struck a nerve.
Thanks, April! Glad you found the article helpful
My goodness. So much anger.
Thank you Maria for such great instructions on tofu. I have been wanting to add tofu to my food plan but was confused with the different types and how to prepare it. Your instructions are great. I have silken and extra firm in the fridge now and plan on freezing the firm one tonight.
I’m so glad the article helped you out! Thank you so much for your message
Thanks for this article. I really like tofu. But only eat it when at a resteraunt. You made it seem fairly easy to prepare, I’m gonna try to do it myself. 🤞
Thank you heaps for this informative article. I have avoided tofu since I tried it a few times and was disappointed, I just bought one to give it a try based on your clear article. Much appreciated!
I am getting ready to cook Tofu for the first time and was like ummmm where do I start! This information is great! My question is.. Can you make crispy tofu ahead of time or does it get soggy if its refrigerated “cooked” overnight?
Thanks a bunch!
So glad this helped you out! When the tofu gets refrigerated after crisping it up, it does lose its crispiness. But, it gets nice and chewy. If you want to crisp it back up, add a little oil to a pan on medium heat, let the oil get hot first, then toss the tofu in. Let each side crisp up.
This is the most non bullshit blog I have come across. Thank you! Tonight’s tofu isn’t gonna be very good. But the next time I use it it will be delicious! (Didn’t know about draining and pressing)
Thank you! I’m glad this was helpful! Good luck on your next tofu adventure! I hope it’s damn tasty
I am a healthy, vibrant 75 year old. Never have tried tofu, but your article was great. My granddaughter is vegetarian and I love to cook for her. So, I am going to be using your advice and recipes. Even my husband is in on this new journey. Thank you!
I will attempt my first tofu meal tonight. Thank you for all of your tips!! I never saw the holier than thou or self righteousness!!Sorry for rude people!!
Thank you! I’m so glad this was helpful. Try out this sticky maple miso tofu. It’s a great recipe to fall in love with tofu. If you don’t want to use the maple miso sauce, you can also use BBQ sauce, or Hot sauce instead. https://damntastyvegan.com/sticky-miso-tofu/
Kate and Barry
Greetings to you, Maria! We purchased Tofu with the intent to experiment. Then, found ourself not knowledgeable. That is when Pinterest and your article entered our life. As we started to read together your “honest, understandable, humorous” article we found to be inspiring. As we sit waiting our 30 minutes, our firm tofu is being pressed by a 30# kettle ball! Yes, this article has achieved the save status for return visits. Thank you for the clarity your article provided!