Tofu dishes have a bad reputation, but trust us – when done right, tofu is anything but boring. Learn all of our best preparation methods to take this plant-based protein from bland to a mouth full of zing!
Whether you’re working with firm, extra-firm, soft, or silken tofu, we’ve got you covered with these simple ways to make tofu your new favorite vegan protein.
#1: Non-Negotiable: Press Your Tofu!
The first mistake most tofu rookies make is to skip this essential but largely unknown step.
Press your regular, firm, or extra-firm tofu every time you cook with it. Think of a block of tofu as a soaked sponge – it’s dense and soggy. If you take the tofu straight out of the package and bake or fry it, the inside of the tofu won’t dry out.
While your tofu might get crispy on the outside, the texture will be a little soggy on the inside.
Always press your tofu in a tofu press for 15 minutes before you begin to cook. We use this press from Tofubud.
If you don’t own a tofu press, you can wrap your tofu block in a dry paper towel and place the tofu between two heavy cutting boards or plates. This pressing method is slower as it won’t apply as much pressure as a tofu press; leave the tofu pressing between plates for at least 2 to 3 hours.
#2: Build a Tasty Marinade
Many people complain not about tofu’s flavor but its lack of flavor. While it’s true that the taste of tofu on its own is light and can lean toward the bland side, that’s also what makes it a fantastic protein option – you can blend tofu into almost any meal without affecting the overall taste.
Tofu will take on whatever flavor you pair with it. And luckily, you just pressed the extra water out of your tofu, so it’s ready to absorb something new.
It’s marinade-making time!
Like any other marinade, a tofu marinade starts with a vinegar base to help break down its structure for optimal absorption. Unlike a meat or fish marinade, your tofu marinade shouldn’t contain any oil, as water-based tofu will repel it.
Instead, build a marinade with any vinegar, soy sauce or tamari, lemon or lime juice, optional sweetener of your choice, and your favorite herbs and spices.
#3: Use the Ultimate Secret Tofu Weapon: Cornstarch
Have you tried cooking tofu and been less than impressed with the crispiness of the results? I’ve followed my fair share of tofu recipes exactly, only to have my dish look far different and decidedly more floppy than the pictures on the page.
If you want your tofu to get that extra crunchy and crispy coating, use the best-kept secret of tofu cooking – cornstarch.
Once you press and marinate your tofu, it’s cooking time. But first, toss your tofu into a sealable sandwich bag with some cornstarch and get to shaking. Get an even coating of cornstarch on each cube of tofu, then toss them into the pan or oven.
It helps keep the tofu from sticking to the pan and gives your tofu the crispiest edges.
#4: Don’t Touch it!
Fried tofu tastes best when it gets that dark, golden-brown crust outside. All the tips above will help you achieve a delectable tofu texture, but the way you cook your tofu matters.
When it comes to pan-frying, you’ll want to toss your tofu cubes into a preheated pan over medium heat and then leave them.
Don’t move them or flip them for at least 3 mins – the less you mess with the tofu as it cooks, the crispier it will get.
After the first side cooks, flip the tofu and then leave it be again for 3-4 mins. Keep repeating the process until all sides of your tofu have cooked on the bottom of the pan.
#5: Use Silken in Place of Cream
We don’t want to ignore soft or silken tofu completely. While these tofu types are too delicate to fry or bake, you can use them in place of cream or milk to take many recipes up a notch.
Blend silken tofu into smoothies, soups, baked goods, or chocolate pudding!
Final Notes: Make Your Tasty Tofu, Every Time
To recap, the best ways to make a tasty meal with tofu are:
- Always press your tofu to remove excess liquid;
- Build a delicious marinade to make your tofu flavorful;
- Dredge your tofu cubes through cornstarch to make them crispy;
- Leave your tofu cubes in the pan untouched for maximum crispiness;
- And use silken tofu instead of cream in all of your favorite smoothies, soups, and baked goods.
We hope you soon learn to love tofu and the endless dinner possibilities of this essential vegan protein!