Baked tofu is magical. When hot from the oven, it's crispy on the outside and creamy in the middle — amazing tossed into a stir-fry or just eaten as a snack with whatever dipping sauce happens to be handy.
After the tofu cools, it becomes wonderfully firm and chewy. Now it's perfect for tossing with a lunch salad, crumbling into a sauce, or even slicing into a sandwich. Don't bother buying baked tofu again: Here's how to make it yourself, and make it even better.
Start with extra-firm tofu. Press it beneath a weighted plate to remove the excess water and then cut the tofu into cubes, slices, or sticks. Bake until puffed and golden, then pack what doesn't get eaten right away into containers for an easy meal add-in later in the week.
I like cubes for salads, rice bowls and stir-fries, and for making dishes like frittatas and sauces a little more substantial. Slices are perfect for crumbling later and also for layering into sandwiches. Sticks = snacks: think tofu French fries. These are great when warm, but make a great, easily-to-transport snack to eat on a long hike, between classes, on on the commute home.
If you're planning to eat the tofu right away, try tossing it with a little cornstarch before baking. This makes the outside extra-crispy when the tofu is hot from the oven. Once cooled, the exterior becomes chewy whether or not the tofu was tossed with cornstarch, so I usually skip this if I'm planning on eating the tofu in salads or other meals.
Now let's talk about marinades. This is how you take baked tofu from pretty good to irresistible. Even a quick half hour marinade is enough for the tofu to soak up some extra flavor, but it's even better if you can let it go overnight.
Tofu is brilliant in its blandness — it's a blank slate for any flavors you want to give it. Now is when you really get to put that condiment collection to good use. My usual marinade is sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar and a little water to thin it out. I'll occasionally add hot sauce or some minced garlic or ginger if I'm in the mood. Thicker condiments like BBQ sauce or chili-garlic paste can be thinned with a little water to make it easier for the tofu to absorb the flavors. Mustard, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, sesame seeds — anything anything you might add to a regular marinade can be used here.
Do you make your own baked tofu? What are your favorite ways to flavor it?
Slice the pressed tofu into cubes, thin slices, or sticks, depending on how you plan to use the tofu.
How to Make Baked Tofu for Salads, Sandwiches & Snacks
What You Need
1 or more (16-ounce) containers extra-firm tofu
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon water
Other marinade ideas: minced ginger, minced garlic, lemon or lime juice, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, barbecue sauce (thinned with water)
1 tablespoon cornstarch, optional for crispy tofu
Paper towels or clean dish cloths
Heavy weight, like a 28-ounce can of tomatoes
Shallow container, for marinating
Parchment or Silpat liner
Press the tofu: Remove the tofu from its packaging and pat dry with paper towels or a dish cloth. Line a plate with a paper towel and set the tofu on top. Set a small plate on top of the tofu and weigh it down with something heavy, like a 28-ounce can of tomatoes. Press for 15 to 30 minutes. You will see liquid collect around the tofu.
Cut the tofu into pieces: Remove the weight and drain off the excess liquid. Slice the pressed tofu into cubes, thin slices, or sticks, depending on how you plan to use the tofu.
Marinate the tofu (optional): To give the tofu extra flavor, marinate the tofu pieces for at least 30 minutes or as long as overnight. Whisk together the marinade ingredients. Transfer the marinade and the tofu to a shallow container. Gently toss the cubes until coated with the marinate. Place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. If marinating longer, toss the tofu occasionally to marinate evenly.
Heat the oven: When ready to bake the tofu, heat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat.
Toss with cornstarch (optional): If you'll be serving the tofu right away, tossing the cubes with cornstarch will make them crispier. (The corn starch doesn't make a difference once the cubes are cooled and refrigerated.) Transfer the tofu to a bowl with a slotted spoon and sprinkle with corn starch. Gently toss until the outside of the tofu is sticky and coated.
Bake the tofu: Arrange the tofu on the baking sheet in a single layer. The tofu can be close, but try to avoid pieces touching each other. The tofu will shrink as it bakes. Bake until the outside of the tofu is golden and the pieces look slightly puffed, 20 to 45 minutes depending on the size and shape of your tofu. Toss the tofu every 10 minutes so the pieces bake evenly. The longer you bake the tofu, the chewier it will be.
Cool and store: If serving immediately, serve while still warm. If saving the tofu for later, let it cool on the baking sheet, then transfer to a refrigerator container. The tofu will keep refrigerated for up to a week.
• Toaster Oven Version: This recipe can also be made in a toaster oven heated to 350°F
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This post has been updated. Originally published 1/21/09.
(Images: Emma Christensen)