Terrific Tofu: 5 Tips for Cooking With Tofu

On its own, tofu is fairly bland and unexciting. But, oh, the wonders that quivering block of soy contains! A quick marinade, some time in the oven, or fried until golden, and tofu becomes something delicious and dinner-worthy. Here are some of our favorite ways to cook with it. What are yours?

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For most of our weeknight dinners, we're cooking with extra-firm tofu. This is thick enough to slice and firm enough to stand up through cooking.

1. Marinated Tofu - Tofu will soak up flavorful marinades like a sponge, particularly if you cut it into bite-sized pieces first. Try a simple marinade of soy sauce and rice wine to begin with, and then start playing around with things like hot sauce, yuzu, minced ginger, garlic, and brown sugar. Let it marinate for at least 15 minutes, though he longer you can let the tofu marinate, the more flavorful it will be.

2. Pressed Tofu - Even extra-firm tofu can still contain a fair amount of water and end up soft. When we're making something like tofu-loaf or pad thai, we like to press the tofu between two plates to squeeze out the water. A few cans of beans on the top plate helps weight it down. The resulting tofu is nicely compact.

3. Baked Tofu - Diced into small pieces and baked in a low oven, tofu slowly dries out and becomes chewy. These bites are perfect for snacking, adding to salads, or rolling up in a veggie burrito.

4. Crispy Seared Tofu - You can sear tofu just as you would sear meat. Place it in a single layer in a hot pan and let it cook without stirring. The bottoms becomes golden and crispy, a wonderful contrast to the custardy middles. Shake the pan every few minutes until all sides are golden.

5. Diced or Crumbled Tofu - The way you cut your tofu also changes the experience of eating it. For soups, we like to dice the tofu into teeny-tiny cubes, but we leave them larger for stir-fries and noodle dishes. Crumbled tofu does well in things like casseroles and dumplings where a more uniform texture is desired.

What are your tips for cooking with tofu?

Related: Tofu Steak with Miso and Ginger

(Images: Dana Velden; Emma Christensen; Emily Ho)

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