Looking for tofu recipes that actually taste good? Learn the secret to cooking delicious tofu dishes in this beginner-friendly guide.
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 Tofu
- Stovetop Tofu
Easy Tofu Recipes
Pan-Fried Tofu with Mango Kefir
Pan-fried tofu is simmered with bok choy in a creamy and a flavorful mango-lime kefir sauce.
Baked Tofu Harvest Bowls
Baked Tofu Bowls with sweet potatoes, kale, and an easy, homemade maple-turmeric sauce for fall.
Heirloom Tomato Salad with Tofu Feta
This vegan take on Greek salad is made with juicy heirloom tomatoes, nutty toasted farro, and dairy-free "tofu feta."
Sheet Pan Tofu Bowls
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.
Vegan Roasted Cabbage Caesar Salad
Warm, roasted cabbage tossed in a plant-based Caesar Salad dressing with creamy silken tofu and zippy caper brine.
Smoky and Spicy Chipotle Tofu Jerky
Tofu strips are rubbed with a smoky and spicy seasoning blend and then dehydrated to create a vegan jerky snack.
Wild Blueberry Blood Orange Ginger Smoothie
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
Pressing tofu helps to remove the excess liquid it's packaged in and leads to a firmer texture. Read all about how to press tofu in this guide.
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 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 Tofu Recipes
The key to cooking 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.
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 golden brown.
Stovetop 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.
Should I grease the pan?
Stephanie McKercher, RDN says
Hi Shannin, I did not grease the pan but I did line it with a silicone baking mat. You could also use parchment paper or foil as a liner, or grease the pan if you prefer not to use a liner. Thanks!