When I tell friends and family that my kids love tofu, I get some interesting looks and responses! I know there are a lot of people out there hatin’ on tofu. It is interesting to me that my children love tofu so much when they are so finicky about other things like homemade macaroni and cheese. (I know – who are these children?!) I, however, refused to even taste tofu until I was an adult. I had prepared it for others, but never taken as much as a nibble until I was well into my twenties. All of that has changed, of course, now that I know how to marinate tofu and prepare it in other delicious ways.
At the request of those same friends and family, I’m sharing how we (most often) make tofu at our house. Friends, I give you my recipe for marinated tofu plus some info and tips about this lovely pressed bean curd.
USING THE RIGHT TOFU FOR THE RECIPE
Firm or extra-firm tofu is preferred for this recipe, which involves pan frying after it marinates. If you’ve never bought tofu before, you’ll find it at most grocery stores in the refrigerated produce section. Sometimes it’s near wonton wrappers and noodles. Sometimes it’s in a completely different section near the vegetarian “meats.” It is usually packaged in water in plastic tubs or bags. It will keep for quite awhile in the fridge, but should be used by the sell by date.
Tofu comes in different ranges of softness from silken, which is very soft, to soft to firm and extra firm. And I’m sure there’s a medium in there somewhere, but those are the four I find at my grocery stores in my neighborhood. Firmer tofu has more of the liquid pressed from it, and softer tofu has more liquid. As the name implies, silken tofu is very smooth, almost custard-like in texture. Firm is still fairly soft, but can be cut into cubes easily. The extra firm is about the texture of a soft feta cheese. It easily crumbles, but can be cut into cubes or slices as well.
Pressing the block of tofu before using it, will help remove excess liquid. I place the block between sheets of paper towels, and gently weight it down. Usually a plate with a can on top does the trick. It’s enough gently pressure to help release a little more liquid, but won’t squash it. Removing that little bit of excess water helps the tofu absorb more of the marinade. After being pressed, I cut the tofu into around 12-24 squares depending on how big the tofu block is and they type of recipes I’m using.
MARINATE, ALWAYS MARINATE
Tofu by itself is completely bland, which is good because it absorbs flavor like nobody’s business. It benefits from marinating first if it’s going to be fried or baked. Adding tofu to a soup, stew, or curry is another great way to infuse it with flavor. The longer the tofu marinates or sits in a broth or sauce, the more flavorful it will become.
My marinade recipe starts with a base of gluten-free tamari. Any good soy sauce will do, I prefer the deeper flavor of tamari, and it’s made without wheat. To that I add an acidic element, two actually, in the form of rice wine vinegar and fresh lime juice. I always add a bunch of ginger and garlic, and just a little bit of honey for sweetness, and a small spoonful of chili paste. Like all marinades, you want this to be concentrated and strong because the flavor will be diluted as it is absorbed into the tofu.
After I mix up the marinade, I put the tofu cubes in a shallow baking dish and pour the marinade on top. Then I cover it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for around a half hour. Several hours, if I plan in advance, is even better. But 30 minutes usually gives me enough time to get the rice in the rice cooker and prepare the broccoli. I turn the tofu pieces over periodically so the marinade is absorbed equally.
Now, that marinade is worth saving. It will have been diluted a bit by the end of the marinating time. The tofu will continue to release a little more water even if it’s not being pressed. We like to take the tofu out of the pan, add the marinade and bring it to a simmer, then drizzle a little over the cooked tofu. It doesn’t need much as the flavor will still be pretty concentrated and salty. We also sometimes drizzle it over steamed veggies instead of salting them.
COOK TOFU LIKE A PRO
Cooking tofu can be a little tricky. It’s one time when I pull out the non-stick skillet. It will stick. It will stick and make you want to rip your hair out. But if you use a non-stick skillet with enough oil, get it hot enough, the chances of sticking are greatly minimized. (But it will still probably stick a little bit.)
This tofu is best when cooked until deep golden (almost bordering on too dark) brown on all sides. Plenty of oil and a hot pan are the key here, just as they are to prevent sticking. They need to cook longer on each side than you might think. I do sometimes turn them over a few times as they are cooking, but generally cook them on one side for about 5 minutes, turn them over and cook the other side for another 5 minutes and then they’ll be ready. The end result is worth the wait!
And that’s it! Easy as can be.
Here are some great recipes using tofu:
Baked Sesame Tofu Sticks with Peanut Sauce from Kalyn’s Kitchen
Sesame Crusted Tofu from Love and Olive Oil
Coconut-Lime Tofu Soup from Oh My Veggies
Grilled Tofu Tacos from Kitchen Treaty
Broccolini with Tofu, Sesame, and Coriander from Eats Well With Others
Baked Italian Herb Tofu from Oh My Veggies (plus more tips about pressing tofu!)
Grilled Teriyaki Tofu Lettuce Wraps with Sesame Dressing from Oh My Veggies
- 12 ounces extra firm tofu
- 4 Tablespoons tamari
- 1Tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon sambal oelek
- 1-2 garlic cloves, finely minced or grated
- 1" piece of fresh ginger, grated
- Place two layers of paper towels on a plate and place the tofu on the towels. Top with two more layers of paper towels and another plate. Place a can or heavy bowl on top of the plate to weight it down. Let sit for about 10-15 minutes. The tofu will release quite a bit of liquid.
- Cut pressed tofu into ½-inch cubes or slightly larger slices. Place in a shallow baking pan.
- Combine marinade ingredients and pour over the tofu. Turn the tofu over to make sure it's covered with the marinade. Cover the baking pan with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, preferably a few hours or overnight. Turn the tofu periodically for even marinating.
- To cook - over medium-high heat a 1 Tablespoon coconut or another high-heat oil in a non-stick skillet. Remove half of the tofu from the marinade and place in the skillet. It will probably splatter and sputter a bit, so use a splatter screen if you have one. Let the tofu cook until golden, about 3-5 minutes. Lower heat as necessary to prevent burning. Turn tofu and cook on the other side until golden. Remove and place on a plate, cover, and keep warm while cooking the remaining tofu. Repeat with second half of tofu. Keep warm until ready to serve.