Confused about How to Cook Tofu and make it taste good? Look no further! I am going to show you my tried and true tips on which tofu to use and how to make it taste delicious!
I hear people say all the time that they don’t like tofu, and I know right away that they just haven’t had it prepared well. Personally, I LOVE tofu! It is pretty easy to cook with and can be made into just about anything including a wide variety of breakfasts like Vegan Quiche, dinners that include things like Pad Thai, and even creamy delicious desserts such as Chocolate Mousse.
Tofu is so versatile and delicious when used correctly. The thing is, there are actually different types of tofu that are better suited for certain recipes, and that’s where the problem starts. That’s why I want to show you the different types, prep methods, and seasoning options for tofu that are going to make you feel like a tofu pro!
To start, what is tofu?
Tofu is an Asian food made from soybeans. Production involves soaking soybeans in water and creating soy milk. Then the milk has to be curdled using a substance such as calcium sulfate or lemon juice. From there, curds are separated from the whey and usually packaged in block form. It is sold in a variety of options, from soft to extra firm, and they differ mainly in the amount of water retained.
Different types of tofu
- Silken tofu is often called Japanese-style tofu, as well as soft or silk, and it’s packed in very little water. It has a more delicate texture and will fall apart if not handled carefully. It is best when making creamy recipes like Homemade Mayonnaise and Dairy-Free Chocolate Mousse. It can be found on the shelf and doesn’t need to be refrigerated. Oftentimes, grocery stores will also carry a version of it in the refrigerator section with the regular tofu. It will be labeled soft and does need to be refrigerated.
- Regular tofu is the type that is usually used as a meat replacer because it is firmer. You’ll find it in medium, firm, and extra-firm textures in the refrigerator section of the store, and it’s packed with a lot of water that will need to be drained and pressed. This type of tofu holds together well and is terrific for making recipes like stir-fries and even Crispy Air Fryer Tofu.
- Softer tofu types are packed with less water and sometimes don’t even need to be drained and certainly not pressed. They are usually found on the shelf and don’t require refrigeration, though there is a soft type in the cold section as well.
- Firm tofu types are packed with lots of water and will need to be drained and pressed before use. They are most often used as a meat replacer and will be found in the refrigerator section of the grocery store.
Certain types of tofu are packed in a good bit of water, so you’ll need to drain it and then press it before using it in recipes. This helps remove the excess water and leaves room for the block of tofu to be able to soak up seasonings.
How to press tofu (2 options)
- The traditional way- Slit the package and drain excess water over a sink. Next, place the tofu block in a tofu press if you have one. Otherwise, place tofu on an absorbent surface such as layered paper towels or a dishtowel. If pressing without a tofu press, continue by using another dish towel or paper towel to place on top of the block and top with a heavy plate or cast iron pan. Continue to drain under pressure for approximately 30 minutes.
- Freezing method- After purchasing tofu in a plastic container from the produce section of the grocery store, bring it home and place it directly in the freezer. This greatly lengthens the time allowed for using it, since it won’t be spoiling within a couple of weeks. When ready to use in a stir fry or other dish, defrost completely by either placing it in the refrigerator for 24+ hours or submerging it in a large bowl of very warm water. If submerging, it will take an hour or so and will require changing the water a couple of times to make sure it stays very warm. Once defrosted, open the container and drain out excess water. You will notice that the molecular structure of the tofu has actually changed. It is much firmer and sponge-like. It can now be handled with ease and the water can be squeezed out of it using your hands, just like wringing out a sponge. Check out my cooking demo of Breakfast Tofu Scramble to see how easy it is.
One of the most common complaints about tofu is its bland flavor. I happen to think that is one of its best attributes because a good marinade can infuse it with flavor from the inside out. Marinating times can be anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight. The longer it is allowed to marinate, the stronger and more distinct the flavors will be.
How to make tofu taste good
I consider tofu to be a blank canvas for whatever great combinations of seasonings I happen to dream up. These are just a few of my favorite marinating sauces that will make it taste delicious.
There are so many seasoning options to choose from. These are just a few of my favorites.
Tofu cooking methods
After marinating, it’s time to cook, and there are a number of different options.
- Air Fry- This air frying method gets tofu the crispiest. Just place in the basket–breaded or not–and cook at 375 for approximately 20 minutes. I suggest stopping around 10 minutes to toss and then finish cooking.
- Pan Fry- Requires a good non-stick pan and a very hot surface. Rather than adding oil to the pan, I use a little bit of the marinade to brown the tofu. After it has turned golden brown, add vegetables, rice, noodles, or anything else desired.
- Steam- This involves elevating the food above the water with a steamer, traditionally. Spicing the food has to wait until after. However, I tend to take the easy way and just add my tofu at the same time I cook the vegetables in a stir fry. Since stir-fry veggies take only minutes and leave a light crunchy texture, adding the tofu at the same time and covering it with a lid for a few minutes allows it to steam and warm thoroughly, as well as soak up more marinade flavor from the vegetables. The tofu will not get crunchy using this method, but I personally like it just as well.
- Bake- Requires using parchment paper or a silicone baking mat to keep food from sticking. I typically cook at 400°F for 20-30 minutes, because ovens differ.
- Grill- Another great way to cook tofu is to grill it, and my favorite recipe is tofu kabobs.
I am often asked about which nonstick pan I use, and my favorite is the 12″ Stone Earth Ozeri Fry Pan. There are actually two of them in my kitchen, and I use them daily.
Best firm tofu recipes
I have a lot of firm tofu recipes on my site, and they can be found on this category page called Tofu Recipes. For the short list, check out the recipes I’ve listed below.
- Tofu Teriyaki with Broccoli
- Air Fryer Tofu
- Vegan Quiche
- Peanut Tofu Veggie Stir Fry
- Vegan Pad Thai
- Grilled Veggie Kabobs
- Tofu Breakfast Scramble
- Crispy Baked Tofu
- Tofu Stir Fry with Ginger Sesame Sauce
Favorite silken tofu recipes
Silken tofu recipes are always going to be creamier in texture and include things like sauces and desserts. More Silken Tofu Recipes can be found on this category page.
- Eggless Low-Fat Mayo
- Chipotle Ranch Dressing
- Tofu Sour Cream
- Chocolate Mousse
- No-Bake Chocolate Pie
- Vegan Yogurt
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Baked Crispy Tofu
Marinade & Tofu
- 14-16 oz pkg firm or extra-frim tofu drained and pressed
- 3/4 cup water
- 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 heaping tablespoon thickener such as flour cornstarch, or arrowroot powder
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour or other whole grain flour
- 1/4 cup yellow corn meal
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika optional for topping
- 1 tablespoon dry parsley flakes optional for topping
- If you have time to plan ahead, I suggest freezing the block of tofu before using it. It’s not required, but freezing tofu changes the texture and causes it to have a spongy texture that I really like for this recipe and others. When I bring tofu home from the grocery store, most of the time, I pop it right in the freezer and store it that way. It’s a great idea because there’s no need to worry about it going bad before the expiration date like would normally be a concern when it’s stored in the refrigerator. For a lot more information about cooking with tofu, check out my article, Easy Tofu Recipes, which has lots of tips.
- If you have previously frozen and defrosted tofu on hand, simply drain the water from it and squeeze with your hands to remove all the excess water. If your tofu is fresh, you’ll need to press it.
- Next, cut the tofu into 1/2″ slices and place them into a flat shallow dish and set to the side while you mix up the ingredients for the marinade.
- In a medium-size mixing bowl, whisk together all of the marinade ingredients EXCEPT THE THICKENER which will be used at the end. Keep in mind that this marinade has two purposes. After it has been used for marinating the tofu, we are going to make it into a yummy gravy to drizzle over the final dish after baking.
- One of the ingredients for the marinade is poultry seasoning. Now everyone, please remain calm because there is no chicken in the seasoning. It’s simply herbs that are commonly used to season chicken, and it’s really good to cook with.
- If you like a lot of gravy on your food, maybe even consider making a double-batch of it now so there will be plenty leftover to make the gravy shortly.
- Now, pour the marinade over the tofu slices in the flat shallow dish. Turn the slices over so all the sides are well coated. Cover the dish and place it in the refrigerator to allow it to marinate for several hours or even overnight. Turn the slices over occasionally or spoon marinade over them from time to time.
- When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 400°F, and line a baking dish with parchment paper to prevent sticking and make for really easy cleanup.
- While the oven is heating up, whisk together the coating mix in a medium-sized bowl. Remove each slice of tofu from the marinade one at a time and dredge each one in the coating mix, making sure to cover them well all over.
- Place the slices on the prepared baking sheet as soon as they are coated well. Once they are all on the sheet, I like to sprinkle mine with a little smoked paprika and dry parsley.
- Place in the oven and bake at 400°F until the slices are golden brown which takes approximately 20-30 minutes.
- If you have an air fryer, these do really well and finish up even more crispy than baking in the oven. Simply place the breaded tofu slices in your fryer and set the appliance at 400°F and cook for approximately 20 minutes.
- While the tofu is cooking, scrape the marinade into a microwave-safe bowl. If you decided to make a double-batch of the marinade earlier, I think you’re going to be even more pleased.
- Add your thickener of choice and whisk together well. I personally like arrowroot powder best because it doesn't clump and is so easy to use.
- Simply place the bowl in the microwave and heat for 2-minutes. Stop and whisk and check thickness. If it needs to be a little thicker, add 1-minute. However, be aware that it will continue to thicken for a minute or two even after you remove it from the microwave, so don’t get it too thick. If it does get too thick, just add a little bit of water to thin it a bit.
- Once the tofu is baked, remove it from the oven. Allow it to cool and then drizzle the marinade gravy over the top before serving. If you want to make Mashed Potatoes as a side dish, this gravy is perfect for those too. As you can see from my photos, roasted vegetables are another great side option.
Air fryer directionsIf you have an air fryer, these do really well and finish up even more crispy than baking in the oven. Simply place the breaded tofu slices in your fryer and set the appliance at 400°F and cook for approximately 20 minutes. Recipe adapted from Dr. Neal Barnard’s book, Breaking the Food Seduction.
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About Terri Edwards
Hi guys! I am the content creator behind EatPlant-Based and a licensed Food for Life instructor with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. I am passionate about sharing healthy recipes and tips to empower others to get healthy. I’m so glad you’re here! Read More…