Are you new to the world of tofu? This resource is full of easy vegetarian tofu recipes, tofu cooking tips, and detailed instructions for how to make the best crispy tofu main dish!
I understand why you might be feeling intimidated about cooking tofu for the first time. Getting to know an unfamiliar ingredient takes time.
In the case of tofu, at least, getting acquainted is definitely worthwhile, especially if you want to cook more plant-based meals throughout the week.
As a dietitian and long-time vegetarian/flexitarian, I've learned a thing or two about tofu over the years, and I thought it could be useful to summarize everything I know all in one place.
Here's what you'll find in this Tofu Cooking Guide:
- Easy Tofu Recipes
- Common Tofu Cooking Mistakes
- Tofu Prep
- How to Make Tofu Taste Good
- Oven-Baked Crispy Tofu
- Stovetop Crispy Tofu
Easy Tofu Recipes
Crispy, pan-fried tofu is simmered with bok choy in a creamy and a flavorful mango-lime kefir sauce.
Crispy Baked Tofu Bowls with sweet potatoes, kale, and an easy, homemade maple-turmeric sauce for fall.
This vegan take on Greek salad is made with juicy heirloom tomatoes, nutty toasted farro, and dairy-free "tofu feta."
Sheet Pan Tofu is baked in a sweet-and-savory sauce and served over a hearty mix of grains and lentils in this easy dinner recipe.
Warm, roasted cabbage tossed in a plant-based Caesar Salad dressing with creamy silken tofu and zippy caper brine.
Tofu strips are rubbed with a smoky and spicy seasoning blend and then dehydrated to create a vegan jerky snack.
This smoothie combines wild blueberries, fresh-grated ginger, and zest and juice of blood orange to create a refreshing fruit smoothie. Soft tofu provides creaminess and protein and ground flax adds healthy omega 3's.
Common Tofu Cooking Mistakes
- Using the incorrect type of tofu for your dish. Silken and soft tofu is great for sauces, soups, and dressings. Use firm and extra-firm tofu for most other uses.
- Not draining the liquid in the container and pressing tofu when you want it to hold its shape.
- Not cooking tofu long enough or at high enough heat.
- Making it too bland without herbs, spices, oil, vinegar, and colorful fruits and vegetables.
I always look for extra firm tofu when I want it to hold its shape and get crispy on the edges. You’ll need to press out the liquid tofu is packed in to get this result.
How to Press Firm and Extra-Firm Tofu
First, I use kitchen scissors to slice open and remove the plastic film on top of the tofu package. Then, while I’m standing over the sink, I hold one hand on each side and then flip the carton over to remove the tofu block and drain out the liquid.
To press, wrap the drained tofu in a clean towel and place it on a cutting board or large dish. Place a heavy object (I use a cast-iron skillet) on top. The weight works to press out what’s left of the liquid inside the tofu block. Pressing tofu improves its texture and helps it get crispier when it’s cooked.
When I’m really on top of things, I like to press tofu overnight. In this case, I wrap the tofu and put it on a plate in the fridge with a smaller cast iron skillet on top. Plan to keep tofu in the fridge if you’re going to press longer than an hour or two.
How to Make Tofu Taste Good
Tofu is a blank canvas. Anything goes, but you’ll need to add major flavor with your supporting ingredients. You’re not going to get much salt, acid, or heat from tofu on its own. This is why every piece of crispy tofu needs a good sauce.
When I make sauces at home, I try to include each of the following flavor components.
Homemade Sauce Formula for DIY Tofu Recipes:
- Fat: olive oil, grapeseed oil, sesame oil, avocado, nut butter, tahini
- Acidity: vinegar (cider, rice, red wine, balsamic), lemon, lime, tomato paste
- Salt: kosher, soy sauce, miso
- Sweetness: maple syrup, agave, honey, sugar, dates, fruit juice
- Spices: crushed red pepper, cayenne, black pepper, garlic, ginger
- Herbs: basil, oregano, mint, thyme, parsley, cilantro
The sauce in my recipe below is a quick emulsion of grapeseed oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, maple syrup, garlic powder, and black pepper. I also add fresh herbs as a garnish at the end.
Oven-Baked Crispy Tofu Recipes
The key to cooking crispy tofu in the oven is high heat. I usually set the oven to 450F.
Once the block of tofu is pressed, sliced into pieces, and coated in a flavorful sauce, it’s ready for baking. Spread the tofu squares on a baking sheet, leaving at least an inch or so in between each piece. If the tofu is too close together, it won’t have the space it needs to get crispy.
Bake on the center rack for 10 minutes. Remove the baking sheet, flip tofu pieces with a spatula (the bottoms should be starting to turn golden brown) and bake 10 additional minutes. Remove the baking sheet again, stir the pieces, and bake 10 additional minutes, or until the edges are crispy and golden brown.
Stovetop Crispy Tofu Recipes
Another trick for making tofu crispy is cornstarch. I used this method to make Pumpkin Curry on the stovetop.
Preheat a large skillet or Dutch oven over high heat.
Gently stir a block of cubed tofu, a tablespoon of cornstarch, and salt and pepper in a large bowl. You can add more spices, too, if you want.
Spread the tofu pieces on the hot pan (just like the baked version, each piece needs space to get crispy). Cook 5 minutes, or until the bottom of tofu is brown and begins to easily separate from the pan without sticking. Use tongs to flip the tofu, and repeat until each side is cooked.
If your tofu is sticking to the bottom of your pan, it needs more time to cook. This requires a little trust the first couple times you make it but I promise in about five minutes, the pieces will begin to effortlessly separate from the pan. This is your signal that it’s time to flip.
Once each side is cooked, I like to transfer the pieces to a wire rack so they can cool and crispen. You can serve this tofu the same way you’d eat the baked tofu above.
- 1 block extra firm tofu, drained (14 ounces)
- 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
- 2 teaspoons rice vinegar or vinegar of choice
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce or gluten-free tamari or liquid aminos
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup or sweetener of choice
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- Black pepper
- Fresh herbs for garnish (optional)
Press the tofu: Wrap drained tofu block in a clean towel and place on a cutting board. Place a heavy object (such as a cast iron skillet) on top to press out remaining liquid. Wait at least 30 minutes before removing the heavy object and unwrapping the tofu. Store in the refrigerator if you plan to press tofu overnight or longer than 2 hours.
Slice pressed tofu into square pieces.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Whisk grapeseed oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, maple syrup, garlic powder, and black pepper. Brush onto tofu pieces, reserving some sauce for serving if desired.
Spread tofu pieces on a baking sheet, leaving at least an inch in between the pieces so they have space to get crispy. Place baking sheet on the center rack of the oven and bake 10 minutes. Flip tofu pieces and bake 10 additional minutes. Stir and bake 10 additional minutes, or until edges are crispy and golden brown. (30 minutes total cooking time.)
- Transfer cooked tofu to a serving dish and garnish with fresh herbs and remaining sauce if desired.
Gluten-free variation: use gluten-free tamari or liquid aminos instead of soy sauce.
Cover and refrigerate cooked tofu up to five days.
Did you try one of these tofu recipes?
Rate the crispy tofu recipe or leave a comment below to let me know how it went. You can also tag me (@GratefulGrazer) if you share it on Instagram!