How to Prepare Tofu
A versatile protein, tofu readily takes on any flavor you want, whether you’re making a stir-fry or a sauté. Learn how to cook tofu so it’s crisp, firm and delicious, every time.
By Elizabeth Harris, Contributing Editor and Peggy Woodward, Food Editor
It’s not just for vegetarians! Tofu rounds out many types of cuisines with its meaty texture, chameleon flavor, and protein-packed nutrition profile. Read on for tips on preparing tofu for cooking, how long to cook it, and recipes.
Expert Tips from the Taste of Home Test Kitchen:
- Tofu is delicious and crispy when pan-fried or sautéed.
- You can also bake, grill, deep-fry and broil tofu.
- No matter how you cook it, drain and press it first. That removes excess moisture and yields a better final texture.
- Freezing then thawing the tofu gives it a chewy texture that some find closer to meat.
- To marinate tofu, drain and press the tofu first. After marinating, pat the outside dry before cooking or applying a coating like cornstarch.
- How to cook tofu for stir-fry: It’s best to pan-fry the tofu first, remove the tofu to a cooling rack and cook the rest of your ingredients. Add the tofu back to the pan at the end to keep it crisp.
- If you’re in a rush to make your firm tofu recipes, firm or extra-firm tofu can just be cut to desired size, patted dry then coated in cornstarch (without pressing). Just know it won’t get as crisp, and the texture won’t be as firm.
How to Pick the Right Tofu
- If you want it crispy, avoid anything labeled as “silken.” Look for firm or extra firm tofu.
- Refrigerated tofu cooks up better than shelf-stable packages.
- Find the freshest package at the store by looking for the latest expiration date.
How to Prepare Tofu
1. Drain it: Drain the water from the carton then remove as much water from the tofu as possible.
- Method 1: Cut the tofu into 3/8-inch slices, arrange in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet lined with a clean kitchen towel. Cover with another clean kitchen towel and place another baking sheet on top. Weigh the top sheet down with a heavy skillet, canned goods or books. Let stand at least 30 minutes.
- Method 2: Follow the same steps as Method 1, but leave the block of tofu whole or cut into just two or three slices and arrange between two plates. Refrigerate all day or overnight. (This will take up less space in the fridge than pressing between baking sheets.)
- Method 3: Put slices of tofu in a colander. Pour boiling salted water over the tofu. Alternately, you can soak the tofu in boiling salted water for 15 minutes before draining it. This causes the proteins in the tofu to tighten and release water.
2. Coat it: If you want an extra crisp crust, follow this optional step. Cut pieces to desired size and dip in cornstarch, shaking off excess (a colander works great for shaking).
How to Fry Tofu
Pan-fry tofu in a very hot heavy skillet using oil with a high smoke point like corn, soybean, peanut or vegetable oil. Arrange tofu pieces in a single layer, with plenty of space between pieces (if the pieces are crowded they’ll steam rather than brown). You may need to fry in multiple batches. Allow the tofu to get a nice golden color before turning; this might take as long as 5 minutes on each side. Transfer to a cooling rack to keep the underside crisp.
How to Sauté Tofu
Simple. Just cut it into smaller pieces than you would for a pan-fry, and then follow the instructions above.