This Ultimate Guide to Cooking Tofu is the only guide you’ll need to read in order to master cooking tofu that is actually delicious.
Tofu can get a bad rap for being bland and boring but it is far from that! If you think this, odds are that you just don’t know how to cook it correctly yet! This ultimate guide to cooking tofu is exactly what you need to expand your skills and learn everything about tofu.
The Ultimate Guide to Cooking Tofu will touch on the most popular types of tofu and how to cook all of them! Learning how to cook tofu was a game changer for me and at the end of this blog post I’ll be linking over 10+ recipes that are fun yet easy to make, approachable and delicious. Plus a bonus recipe for the crispest tofu ever!
Origin of Tofu
Tofu originated in China and no one knows exactly who or how it was invented. There are a few different theories out there but whoever invented it, thank you! Making tofu is similar to making cheese so one theory is that someone discovered it while attempting to make cheese out of soy milk.
There is a misconception about tofu being a food that only vegans consume but this is very wrong. Tofu has been a staple in Asian cuisines for centuries!
What is Tofu?
Tofu is made by coagulating soy milk then the curds are pressed together to create that shape and textures that we are familiar with today. The process of making tofu is actually quite interesting and is compared to making cheese. Tofu has definitely evolved over the centuries and what was once 1 type of tofu has now taken multiple different shapes. We’ll touch on that next.
What are the different types of tofu and how do I prepare them?
There are many many different varieties of tofu but we’re going to cover the most popular silken tofu, soft tofu, medium firm/ firm tofu, extra-firm tofu and super firm tofu.
Silken tofu has an incredibly silky creamy consistency and will fall apart when handled. It also has the highest water content of all the different varieties of tofu and the lowest protein content. It is recommended not to press this variety of tofu.
There are different types of silken tofu but most grocery stores only carry one. They can be interchangeable and it doesn’t really matter which variety of silken tofu you find.
Soft tofu is similar to silken tofu but they are not the same! The mouth-feel is definitely different. Soft tofu is a bit more course in texture whereas silken tofu is silky smooth and creamy.
How do I use silken and soft tofu?
While soft tofu and silken tofu are not the same, they are usually interchangeable. This variety of tofu is best to blend in to sauces or desserts or consumed as it comes and not recommend to bake or fry as it will just fall apart.
Recipe Ideas for Silken and Soft Tofu:
- Cubed small and served in Miso Soup
- Blended in to sauces and salad dressings
- Blended in to desserts like mousse, puddings, tarts and cheesecake
- Blending in to smoothies for higher protein
- Served raw with soy sauce, scallions and chili sauce poured over top
Medium Firm & Firm Tofu
Medium Firm and Firm Tofu are different but very similar. They both have less water content than silken or soft but aren’t as firm as extra-firm or super firm. The texture is firm yet smooth and they are both interchangeable so I’m grouping them together. It’s more delicate than extra-firm or super firm but will hold together and can be pressed. This is a great tofu to use when you want a crisp outside while keeping the inside soft.
Recipe Ideas for Medium Firm & Firm Tofu:
- Vegan Egg Salad
- Tofu Scrambles
- Crumbled in Vegetable Fried Rice
- Can be baked, pan-fried or crumbled where a crispy outside and softer inside is desired
- Pulsed in to a tofu ricotta.
How to Make Sweet Chili Tofu:
Extra Firm Tofu
Extra Firm Tofu is the most popular variety of tofu. Extra-firm tofu is higher in protein and denser in texture than firm tofu. It holds together well and is perfect for marinading, pan-frying and baking. This is definitely the variety that most recipes call for and is a staple in plant based cooking.
Super Firm Tofu
Super Firm has the lowest water content and doesn’t need to be pressed. You can use super firm in replace of extra firm in just about every recipe if a super dense hearty texture is desired. This tofu comes wrapped in plastic instead of the usual plastic container that we typically see tofu in. It is usually more expensive so I don’t typically buy this variety but it is great if you are short on time and want to skip the pressing stage and have a crispy end result.
Recipe ideas for Extra Firm or Super Firm Tofu:
- Tossed in cornstarch and seasonings and pan-fry, fry, bake or air-fry in a bit of oil. Then, tossed in a sauce of choice. Recipe down below for how to make the crispest tofu ever!
- Marinate the tofu in whatever flavoring is desired and then crumble, bake, fry or pan-fry.
- See below for tons of recipes that use extra-firm or super firm!
How to Press Tofu
Investing in a tofu press changed my tofu game! You can buy an inexpensive tofu press or create your own DIY tofu press by wrapping it in paper towels or clean dish cloths and placing in a shallow bowl. Then, stack heavy items on top to drain the excess water. Press for 20-30 minutes.
I always recommend pressing the tofu when you desire crispy tofu. Removing the excess water will not only improve the texture but will also help the tofu get crispy.
Removing the excess water is also important when you plan to marinate tofu because removing the water will help the tofu absorb all that flavor.
But pressing tofu isn’t always necessary. For example, you wouldn’t press silken tofu or soft tofu when making sauces or using the tofu in baking. You also wouldn’t press super firm tofu as it has very little water content already. It truly depends on what variety you use and what you are making.
How to Cook Tofu:
How to Bake Crispy Tofu
Press a block of extra firm tofu for 20-30 minutes then cube and toss with a splash of low sodium soy sauce. Then, toss with 1-2 tablespoons of cornstarch, pinch of salt, black pepper and any other desired seasonings then bake @ 425F for 20-25 minutes or until crispy and golden.
Marinate a block of tofu whole and bake @ 375F for 60 minutes or until the edges are nicely brown. This Brown Sugar Balsamic Glazed Tofu follows this method and it’s incredibly delicious.
How to Pan-Fry Tofu:
Press a block of extra firm tofu for 20-30 minutes then cube and toss with a splash of low sodium soy sauce. Then, toss with 1-2 tablespoons of cornstarch, pinch of salt, black pepper and any other desired seasonings then fill the base of a medium pan with neutral oil and pan-fry until crispy and golden brown on each side.
Top tips to pan-frying tofu:
- Remove excess water by pressing the tofu. This will help the tofu become extra crispy.
- Don’t overcrowd the pan or the tofu will steam.
- Drain on a wire rack to prevent the tofu from getting soggy.
- Give the tofu time to crisp up. I find that tofu gets stuck to the pan and then once it’s crisp enough it will be easy to flip. So, give the tofu piece a little tug and flip if it’s ready and leave it alone for a few more minutes if it’s not.
How to Braise Tofu:
Press a block of extra firm tofu for 20-30 minutes then slice and toss with a splash of low sodium soy sauce. Then, coat in cornstarch, pinch of salt, black pepper and any other desired seasonings then add a touch of oil to a medium pan pan-fry until crispy and golden brown on each side. Add in the sauce of choice and cook on both sides for about 7 minutes or until the sauce has been absorbed in to the tofu.
My recipe for Spicy Gochujang Braised Tofu follows this method and it’s incredibly delicious!
How to Season Tofu:
The wonderful thing about tofu is that is a blank canvas. Tofu truly takes on the flavor of whatever seasonings you put on it or whatever you marinate it in.
My go- to everyday tofu seasonings are garlic powder, onion powder, salt, freshly cracked black pepper and smoked paprika. But if I’m making a tofu scramble than my go to seasonings would be all of that plus some turmeric and nutritional yeast. Or if I’m making tofu tacos then I might add cayenne pepper and ground chili powder. Or some Italian seasonings if I’m crumbling to add to pasta. Since tofu is very plain and boring without seasonings, you can’t go wrong here! Any and all seasonings will work when it comes to tofu.
What does tofu taste like?
Tofu is very bland in flavor but that makes it a great blank canvas to whatever you’re cooking! It takes on whatever flavor you add to it.
Can I eat raw tofu?
Tofu is technically already cooked. But silken and soft are most often eaten this way. Drain and rinse the tofu and be sure that the tofu has been properly stored before enjoying straight out of the package.
What is the easiest way to cook tofu?
Crumble tofu and cook in a pan for a few minutes to create a super fast and easy tofu scramble. Add vegetables of choice and vegan cheese if desired then serve with toast for a delicious and easy breakfast.
Is it better to pan fry or bake tofu?
Both are delicious! Baking tofu gives the tofu a chewier texture and pan-frying the tofu will crisp up the exterior while leaving the inside nice and soft. It depends on what you’re looking for and what you’re cooking.
Do I have to marinate tofu?
Nope! It adds flavor but tossing tofu in cornstarch and lots of seasonings is just as delicious.
What seasoning is good on tofu?
Anything and everything! My go-to tofu seasonings are nutritional yeast, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and smoked paprika.
Should I only buy organic tofu?
Soy is a highly sprayed crop so I do recommend buying organic tofu. I have found that most readily available brands are already organic.
Is tofu healthy?
Tofu is high in protein (with even higher protein in the extra-firm variety) but also provides you with healthy fats, carbs and important vitamins and minerals. There are some common myths that circulate about the beloved tofu but those are myths and have been debunked.
The Best Tofu Recipes:
I hope this ultimate guide to cooking tofu was helpful for you! But now let’s put the knowledge in to practice. Below are my favorite tofu recipes that are easy, approachable and delicious! Keep checking back on this post as this list of recipes will grow over time and this article will be updated with even more information and helpful tips. Enjoy!
- Sweet Chili Tofu
- Vegan Orange Tofu
- Butter Tofu
- Vegan Chicken Tikka Masala
- Vegan Lasagna Soup with Tofu Crumbles & Ricotta
- Creamy Coconut Curry Tofu
- Crispy Tofu Rice Bowl with Peanut Sauce
- Baked Sesame Garlic Tofu
- Tofu Ricotta Stuffed Shells
- Vegan Tofu Pesto Grilled Cheese
- Spicy Gochujang Braised Tofu
- Chipotle Tofu Fajita Burrito Bowl
- Brown Sugar Balsamic Glazed Tofu
- Spicy Tofu Onigiri
- Whipped Vegan Feta
- Vegan Potato & Onion Caramelized Galette
If You Make Any Of These Recipes:
I would greatly appreciate if you share your review in the comments of the recipe and leave a star rating. Don’t forget to add if you made any fun substitutions. Thank you!Print
This Ultimate Guide to Cooking Tofu is the only guide you’ll need to read in order to master cooking tofu that is actually delicious. As promised, here is the recipe for how to make crispy tofu! This recipe can be used for many of the recipes linked above or can be sauced up and served however you’d like.
- 1 Block Extra Firm Tofu
- 1 tablespoon Low Sodium Soy Sauce
- 1–2 tablespoons Cornstarch
- Seasonings of Choice, see notes
- Vegetable Oil, for pan-frying
- Press a block of Extra Firm Tofu for at least 20-30 minutes. See above to learn more about pressing tofu.
- Cube the tofu and place in a large bowl.
- Gently coat the tofu with the low sodium soy sauce then toss in cornstarch and any seasonings of your choice.
- Heat a large pan on medium high heat and coat the base of the pan in a neutral oil.
- In batches, fry each side of the tofu until crispy and golden brown. About 3-5 minutes each side. Drain the tofu off on a wire rack and finish frying the remaining tofu. Serve however you’d like and enjoy!
My favorite seasonings to add are garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper and smoked paprika. Season however you’d like!
Keywords: How to Make Crispy Tofu, Ultimate Guide to Cooking Tofu, Crispy Tofu, How to make the crispest tofu, guide to crispy tofu