Wondering how to cook that block of tofu in the fridge? Learn how to prepare tofu in different ways to make it flavorful, nutritious, and delicious.
What is tofu?
Most of us are familiar with the existence of tofu – that spongy looking white block of food found in many vegetarian and vegan recipes. But what exactly is tofu, and should you be eating it?
Tofu is a food made of condensed soy-milk, that is pressed into a solid block to be eaten. Tofu comes in various different textures. Silken tofu has a soft consistency, while extra firm has a more solid texture and less water.
On its own, tofu has a very neutral, bland taste. It takes on the flavors of marinades, sauces, and seasoning very well. Because of this, tofu is an extremely versatile ingredient!
Tofu nutrition information
Made from soybeans, tofu is a plant-based food that’s naturally vegan and gluten free. Here’s the macronutrient breakdown of a 3 oz serving of firm tofu:
Fat: 4 g
Saturated fat: 0.5 g
Carbohydrate: 2 g
Protein: 8 g
As you can see, tofu is a great source of plant-based protein that provides very little carbohydrate and saturated fat. In addition, tofu provides many micronutrients in the diet. It’s a good source of B vitamins, calcium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, and even iron!
Tofu is also high in isoflavones, which are compounds with estrogenic activity. There is no need to worry about the negative impact of estrogenic activity, though! Soy isoflavones have consistently been shown to have several health benefits in the research, including reduced risk of heart disease, breast cancer, and potent anti-inflammatory effects (1,2).
Overall, tofu is a very healthy addition to your diet, providing several micronutrients and plant-based protein. Now, learn how to prepare tofu to make it irresistibly delicious!
First, prep your tofu for cooking
Preparing perfect tofu requires a little bit of preparation. Since it’s stored packed in water, you shouldn’t cook it straight from the package. You need to press it first. Here’s how to prep tofu to be cooked:
Open tofu package and drain excess water.
Wrap the block of tofu in a clean tea towel or a few paper towels. Place it between two plates. Put a few cans of food, a heavy book, or another weighted object on the top plate to add more pressure.
Keep the tofu pressed between plates ideally for 30 minutes or more. The longer you press it, the more water you’ll be able to press out, and the better the tofu will hold its shape when cooked.
Finally, cut the tofu into desired shape. You can do cubes, triangles, mini steaks, or crumbled.
Think about your flavor factor
Tofu is quite bland on its own. However, it takes on the flavors of marinades, sauces, and seasonings beautifully. To add great flavor to your tofu, you can marinate it or add a sauce to it once cooked (or both)!
Tofu especially takes well to water or vinegar based marinades. Some excellent marinade liquids include combinations of soy sauce/tamari, apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, lemon or lime juice. Add salt, pepper, and spices to taste when whisking up a marinade.
My personal favorite way to enjoy tofu is to drench it in a delicious sauce! This cuts down on prep time, as you don’t need to factor in marinade time. Some sauces I make regularly to serve with tofu include peanut sauce, miso sesame ginger sauce, and homemade pesto.
How to prepare tofu: 2 ways
I cook tofu either on the stovetop or baked in the oven. These cooking methods work wonderfully for firm and extra firm tofu.
Option 1: Stir fried on the stovetop
This is the quickest method to prepare tofu. Stir frying on the stovetop only takes about 10 minutes and is quite easy. It’s best to use cubes or slabs of tofu using this method, as it’s harder to crisp up crumbled tofu on the stovetop.
How to stir fry tofu
Heat 1-2 tbsp olive oil or avocado oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Make sure your pan is large enough for each piece of tofu to touch the surface – otherwise, cook it in batches. Also, the oil should coat the entire surface of the pan to prevent tofu from sticking.
Add your tofu to the pan, ensuring each piece is touching the surface. Cook for about 3-5 minutes, until bottom is crispy and toasted brown. Use tongs to flip each piece of tofu onto the opposite side, and cook for another 3-5 minutes.
Option 2: Baked in the oven
Baking tofu takes a bit longer, but it’s mostly hands-off time. It yields perfectly light and crispy tofu in about 30 minutes. This is my preferred method of cooking tofu, because it allows me to do other things while it’s in the oven.
You can cook tofu cubes, slabs, steaks, or crumbles using this method. Baking helps to dry out the tofu even more after it’s been pressed.
How to bake tofu in the oven
Preheat oven to 425F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
If not using a marinade, very lightly spray avocado or olive oil onto tofu pieces. You just need a small amount to prevent it from sticking, and too much can prevent crisping.
Bake for 15 minutes, then flip the tofu pieces. Bake for another 15 minutes until golden browned and crispy on the edges. If you are baking crumbled tofu, just mix it around halfway through baking.
If you don’t marinate the tofu, simply season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder before cooking. This applies for both cooking methods. While the tofu cooks, you can prepare a flavorful sauce to enjoy with it.
Tofu recipes to try
Now that you know how to prepare tofu, it’s time to try some recipes! Here are some of my favorites, several of which I make on repeat at our house.