Are you a tofu aficionado or new to the ‘fu? Tofu can be intimidating at first, but once you get the preparation down pat, it will become a kitchen staple! Read on to learn all about this soy superfood, how to press tofu, how to cook tofu, and tofu recipes everyone will enjoy.
This post is sponsored by EZ Tofu Press.
🌱 What is Tofu?
Tofu, sometimes referred to as “bean curd”, is a soy-based protein made from curdled soy milk, a process similar to making cheese.
Tofu is much more delicious than it sounds. A culinary blank canvas, it can be cut, marinated, and seasoned in many different ways, either to mimic meat or eggs, or as its own thing.
Sometimes tofu gets a bad rap because it’s stereotyped as bland vegan food, or just prepared poorly. Tofu is very easy to prepare, but there are some steps to follow to make it super delicious, and not everyone knows them!
So let’s make a pact—no more boring tofu! Tofu is healthy, flavorful, and satisfying. I’ll show you the ins and outs of making perfectly seasoned, crispy tofu and the best tools to make it.
🔢 Types of Tofu
Yes, there are different kinds of tofu! Nine times out of ten, you’ll use the same kind of tofu—firm or extra firm—but it’s good to know what the other kinds are used for and how to cook them. If you’re following a recipe, the recipe should instruct which type of tofu to use.
The first time I tried tofu, I was making a stir fry and expected perfectly cooked tofu cubes with crispy edges and a chewy texture. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that there were different kinds of tofu with wildly different textures, and I bought silken tofu, which is a soft tofu meant for mashing and blending. You can probably see where this is going...as I attempted to pan fry the tofu, it practically disintegrated in the pan and I was left with tofu soy sauce jelly.
Needless to say, it wasn’t the greatest first experience with tofu! Now that you’re learning all about tofu, you won’t have to replicate my mistakes.
As I mentioned above, soft or silken tofu is a soft tofu typically eaten pureed. It’s most often used in desserts like chocolate pudding pie, as an egg replacement in baking, or in smoothies for an extra kick of protein. Silken tofu is usually sold in a shelf stable aseptic package, but is sometimes in the refrigerated section.
Medium tofu has a texture somewhere between soft and firm. It’s not a type of tofu that I use or see in recipes often because it’s too thick to puree, and too soft to hold its shape when cooked. The best way to use medium tofu is in a recipe like Tofu Scramble, where the tofu is not meant to hold a shape.
This is the tofu you’ll use most often because you can pan fry, bake, grill, or fry it, and it will hold its shape. I’m combining firm and extra firm because the difference is minimal—try both and see which one you prefer!
This prepared tofu is already pressed, seasoned, and cooked before being packaged so all you need to do is heat it up. I don’t often buy this type of tofu because it’s more expensive and I like to make my own tofu marinade.
There are many benefits to eating tofu, taste and health wise!
Tofu is incredibly nutritionally dense. One serving (3.5 ounces or 100 grams) of firm tofu typically contains 8 grams of protein per 70 calories, and like all plant-based and vegan foods, tofu is free of dietary cholesterol. Tofu also contains all of the essential amino acids, and is high in calcium, iron, and zinc.
When you cook tofu, you’re working with a blank slate! Tofu has very little flavor straight out of the package and will absorb the flavors of the marinade and seasoning. This makes it a wonderful meat alternative for anyone, vegan or not.
The first step to preparing tofu is draining the water out of the container and pressing the tofu. Pressing the tofu is quite literally what it sounds like—squeezing the block of tofu to remove the excess water. This is an important step so the tofu can absorb flavor and achieve a crispy texture when you cook it.
Dinner Plate Method
If it’s your first time cooking tofu, you can press it by wrapping the block in paper towels or a clean kitchen towel, placing it on a dinner plate, topping it with another plate, and placing a heavy object, such as cans or a textbook, on top. This method takes a little while and it can be messy, but it gets the job done, especially if you don’t cook tofu that often.
The quickest, least messy, and most efficient way to press tofu is by using a tofu press, a kitchen tool made for this exact purpose. If you make tofu at least a couple times per month, it’s well worth the small investment. In my opinion, the best tofu press is the EZ Tofu Press, the sponsor of today’s post!
The EZ Tofu Press is made with 2 USDA-approved food grade plastic plates and tension knobs that makes for a simple, durable design. After trying (and breaking) several other spring-loaded tofu presses over the years, I bought my first EZ Tofu Press in 2017 and it’s been going strong ever since.
The company recently redesigned their press so that it requires less plastic to manufacture, which makes it more sustainable, especially since a press will last for years to come!
To use the EZ Tofu Press, place the block of tofu within the lines on the bottom plate, and screw the tension knobs to tighten the press.
Place the tofu press in a bowl to drain, tightening the knobs every 5 minutes.
Once the tofu is half its original size (this only takes 15 minutes with the EZ Tofu Press!), remove it from the press and use the pressed tofu as directed in your recipe.
To clean the EZ Tofu Press, you can hand wash it or place it in the top rack of your dishwasher.
You can also use the EZ Tofu Press to squeeze the water out of frozen spinach and shredded potatoes for perfect hashbrowns or Potato Pancakes.
Tofu is relatively flavorless on its own, but it will absorb the flavor of any marinade!
Most recipes will include the marinade in the instructions, but if you need an all purpose tofu marinade, here is mine: 2 cups vegetable or vegan chickenless broth, 3-4 tablespoons soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon garlic powder.
Depending on the type of recipe you’re making, you can season it appropriately. For example, ginger and toasted sesame oil are great for a stir fry, and olive oil and Italian seasoning are great for an Italian meal.
👩🍳 Cooking Methods
Now that your tofu is pressed and marinated, there are several ways to cook your tofu! A good tofu recipe will give step-by-step instructions for cooking, but here are some tips for each method.
Want to make perfectly crispy tofu? Pan frying is the easiest way to make tofu with nice, crispy edges. I recommend using a hot cast iron pan and a flexible metal spatula so you can flip the tofu with ease. Non-stick pans won’t cook the tofu as evenly, so if you’ve struggled with pan frying tofu, a cast iron pan is the way to go.
To start, preheat 1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large cast iron pan.
Drain your tofu completely, then add it to the pan, evenly spacing it out.
Cook for 6-8 minutes on each side, or until browned a crispy, using a thin metal spatula to flip.
Remove from heat and eat with a salad, stir fry, or as directed in a recipe.
Baking your tofu is a foolproof method and it’s great if you meal prep on weekends and want to have baked tofu to add to salads and sandwiches throughout the week.
To bake tofu, cut your marinated tofu into slabs or cubes and place on an oiled baking sheet. Bake at 400°F for 20-30 minutes, or until browned, flipping halfway through.
What’s better than summer grilling?! You can grill tofu to get that smoky flavor and nice grill marks.
Preheat your grill to 400°F. Cut a block of marinated tofu into 4 slabs and place on a clean grill brushed with oil.
Grill for 4-5 minutes on each side until browned.
Air fryers have gained popularity over the past few years as a way to quickly “fry” food without the oil used in traditional frying. An air fryer operates as a convection oven and “fries” the food with hot air.
Everything tastes good deep fried—what more can I say? You can bread and fry tofu just like any meat alternative or pastry.
What does tofu taste like?
Tofu has very little flavor straight out of the package. It smells and tastes a little beany, but it’s pretty bland overall. That’s good news though! A culinary chameleon, you can get any kind of texture and flavor depending on the type of tofu and seasoning you use.
Can you eat tofu raw?
You can eat tofu raw, but you may not necessarily want to, especially with firm tofu. Sometimes silken tofu is consumed raw in smoothies, puddings, and dessert.
Can you freeze tofu?
You can freeze tofu, but be aware that it totally changes the texture. It makes it more chewy and spongy. In fact, some recipes specifically instruct you to freeze the (uncooked, unpressed) tofu before cooking to get this texture. It’s not my cup of tea, but experiment with it if you wish!
🍽 Tofu Recipes
Now that you’re equipped with all the tofu knowledge, try your hand at one of these tofu recipes!
Kung Pao is a popular Chinese takeout dish made with celery, bell peppers, and hot Sichuan peppers, and it’s super delicious when made with tofu! Part of preparing the tofu for this recipe involves dusting the pieces in a layer of cornstarch, which gives it an extra crispy coating.
Tofu scramble is the vegan version of scrambled eggs. It’s a classic vegan recipe perfect for brunch! Eat it alongside pancakes and tempeh bacon, or add it to a breakfast burrito.
If you like the little bits of scrambled egg in fried rice, you can also make them with tofu! This veggie fried rice is a great way to use leftover rice, and it can be made with any of your favorite veggies.
Pad Thai is a great dish to start with if you’d like to experiment with Thai cooking. It’s a familiar dish that’s delicious made with crispy pan fried tofu.
You can find many more tofu recipes at the EZ Tofu Press website too!
Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, cutting back on meat, or just looking to try something new, you won’t regret adding tofu to your weekly recipe rotation! Save time on prep work and pick up your own EZ Tofu Press today so you can start pressing tofu in 15 minutes flat!
Thanks again to EZ Tofu Press for sponsoring today’s post so we can help tofu make it to dinner tables everywhere.