How to Prep and Cook Tofu ~ comprehensive guide

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Cooking tofu, especially the first times, can be a bit daunting, right? But I got you. In this post let’s learn how to prep and cook tofu to perfection. Let’s cover the types of tofu, the prepping process in detail and lots of tips to cook delicious tofu. If you’re more of a visual person, check this blog post in video format here:

What’s tofu and why eat it?

The simplest way to explain it – tofu is the soy milk version of cheese. It’s made of condensed soy milk that is pressed in a process similar to cheesemaking and it originated in China.

Tofu is high in protein and is packed with all the essentials amino acids your body needs! It’s low in fat and a great alternative to the animal protein in many dishes. It’s a great source of protein, manganese, calcium, selenium and many others! It’s a very versatile food, low-carb, dairy-free, gluten-free, cholesterol-free and one of the staples of vegetarian and vegan diets, but even as a meat-eater, give it a try!

At grocery stores, you can now find tofu varieties that range from soft silken tofu (the type you use for desserts or sauces) to extra-firm tofu. The difference between varieties is the amount of water that is pressed out – the more water that’s pressed out in the process of making the tofu, the firmer the texture and the more nutrient-dense tofu will be. Depending on the type of tofu you choose, the number of nutrients and calories vary greatly, being the firmer the most nutrient-packed.

Here’s a quick guide for tofu types:

  • Silken tofu – with a creamier texture, can be used in mousses, puddings, smoothies, sauces… Anything that requires it to be blended.
  • Medium tofu – a little bit firmer and perfect to use in miso soups or served as is!
  • Firm tofu – so versatile, can be battered, baked, pan-fried, stir-fried, boiled, crumbled…
  • Extra-firm tofu – holds its shape perfectly and gives a hearty and chewy texture to dishes. Perfect to fry, bake, add to stews and crumble.

When and why should I press tofu?

We press tofu to drain out as much water as possible, as watery tofu equals bland tofu. This way we create room in the tofu for it to absorb the delicious flavours of our marinades and it also helps with its texture, allowing you to end up with crispy and flavorful tofu.

If you’re baking, frying, crumbling, marinating or wanting to cook cubed firm or extra-firm tofu, you will benefit from pressing it first. The excess liquid can make the tofu delicate and cause it to break up when flipping it. Pressing will improve tofu’s texture turning it chewier and more satisfying. We only want to press the firm to extra-firm tofus, as the softer ones are too delicate and will get mushed…

How to press tofu?

There are two ways of pressing tofu: the DIY one or with a tofu press. I don’t have any tofu press, and honestly don’t think my kitchen has any more space for yet another kitchen gadget. And the DIY method works so well for me that I’ll continue doing it this way!

For the DIY method, you want to drain the liquid of your firm or extra firm tofu and wrap it in a clean dishtowel or 3 or 4 paper towels sheets and place your wrapped tofu on top of a board or dish. Place a cutting board on top of it and balance something heavy on top, like two big cans of beans or an iron skillet. Let it sit for 20 to 30 minutes, for most of the liquid to be pressed out of the tofu, but if you’re in a hurry even 10 to 15 minutes will help! Once the tofu is pressed enough, remove the weights, unwrap it and slice, marinate, cube or crumble it as desired. I usually press it for 1h and then slice it or cube it and marinate it!

How to Press Tofu

Servings 2
Prep Time 5 mins
Resting time 30 mins

Equipment

  • Cutting board or dish
  • Heavy objects – big cans, iron skillet, books
  • Dishtowel or paper towel sheets

Ingredients

  • 1 Firm or extra-firm tofu block

Instructions

DIY Method

  • Drain the liquid of your firm or extra firm tofu.
  • Wrap it in a clean dishtowel or 3 or 4 paper towels sheets.
  • Place your wrapped tofu on top of a board or dish.
  • Place a cutting board on top of it and balance something heavy on top, like two big cans or an iron skillet.
  • Let it sit for 20 to 30 minutes, for most of the liquid to be pressed out of the tofu. *
  • Remove the weights, unwrap it and slice, marinate, cube or crumble it as desired.

Tofu Presser Method

  • Drain the liquid of your firm or extra firm tofu.
  • Place the tofu on your tofu presser and gently press it.
  • Let it sit for 15 to 30 minutes, for most of the liquid to be pressed out of the tofu.
  • Remove the weights, unwrap it and slice, marinate, cube or crumble it as desired.

Notes

Use firm or extra firm tofu, as medium or silken tofu are too delicate to be pressed.
* If you’re in a hurry even 10 to 15 minutes will help!
Course: Appetizer, Essentials, How to, Main Course
Keyword: Dairy-free, Easy, Egg-free, Gluten-free, Healthy, Lactose-free, Plant-based, Quick & Easy, Vegan, Vegetarian

Should I marinate my tofu?

When plain, tofu has a very neutral and mild flavour (often not much appreciated on its own). Its ability to take on all flavours it is paired with makes tofu a blank canvas, and so versatile. It acts like a sponge that soaks up any flavours you add to it.

Prepare your marinade and let your tofu soak in it for at least 30 minutes. I usually let it sit for at least one hour and sometimes I happen to leave it overnight! Any type of marinade works, and that will only depend on the type of dish you’re trying to make. Use soy sauce, wine, beer, citrus juice, vinegar, vegetable broth, tomato paste, liquid smoke, lots of spices and herbs…

The only rule I have to share with you when it comes to marinades is not adding oil to them. The oil will coat the tofu and prevent the delicious flavours to be soaked by it so – no oil in your marinade!

How long should I cook tofu?

Cooking times vary widely depending on the tofu variety and type of confection. Let’s sum it up:

  • Baked tofu – for 35 to 45 minutes.
  • Sautéed tofu – for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • In stews and curries – 20 minutes.

Some tofu recipes you might enjoy!

Vegan-Butter-Tofu-de-Manteiga-Indiano-Tofu-Makhani - 11
Vegan Butter Tofu (tofu Makhani)
Roasted Crispy Tofu and Veggies Bowl - Nourish Bowl de Tofu Crocante e Vegetais Assados Vegan e Saudável
Mediterranean Roasted Tofu and Veggies Nourish Bowls
Portuguese-Sautéed-Tofu-Veggies-cornbread-Gomes-de-Sá-style-broa-de-milho - 10
Gomes de Sá Tofu ~ Portuguese Tofu with Veggies
christmas-tofu-with-migas-cabbage-and-corn-bread-tofu-com-migas-batata-doce-5
Roasted Tofu with Cabbage & Corn Bread Crumble
healthy-vegan-noodles-salad-tofu-peanut sauce-salada-saudável-noodles asiáticos-molho de amendoim-4
Asian Noodles Salad with Peanut Sauce and Tofu

Hope you’ve enjoyed these tips, and that, if you haven’t already, you give this nourishing food a shot! If you’d like to find more tips on nutrition, healthy habits, and productivity, join our community on InstagramFacebook and, YouTube. Wishing you an amazing and healthy week!

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