If you’ve ever wondered how to cook tofu and love it you’re in the right place!
I fully accept tofu isn’t for everyone. I’ll even admit the first time I tried it I didn’t like it. I didn’t properly marinate it and I didn’t know how to cook tofu correctly. Which all led to a bland blubbery mess. It put me off for a LONG time. But since being vegan and trying to incorporate variety (because I could literally live off hummus) and a bit of extra protein into my diet, I thought it was about time I re-embraced the strange white stuff.
And I’m a convert. Hand on heart, praise be to the mighty soy bean, convert. I did my research. I marinated properly. And I learnt how to cook those little nuggets to delicious crispy perfection. Which is probably why you’re here too 😉
WHAT IS TOFU?
Also known as bean curd it is prepared by coagulating soy milk and pressing the resulting curds into white blocks of varying texture and firmness – silken, firm or extra firm.
It’s low in calories but relatively high in protein and iron – making it a great vegan or vegetarian alternative to meat. By itself, it has very little smell or flavour and can be used in both savoury and sweet recipes. I think of it as a little sponge, providing a fairly nutritious base to soak up all the wonderful flavours added to it.
It’s been on my radar for a while to do a whole post just about different tofu marinades. But for now we’ll just cover the basics. And each of the relevant recipes below will have their own marinade instructions.
It’s important to thoroughly drain then dry your tofu block. Removing as much excess water as possible allows this little sponge to soak up all that lovely marinade flavour. I normally sandwich the tofu between a few sheets of kitchen paper for 30 minutes but you can press the tofu to ‘squeeze’ out as much water as possible. You can get a proper tofu press or you can lay the tofu between sheets of kitchen paper and place something heavy on top. Personally I’ve rarely press tofu unless I’m frying it. Leaving it wrapped in kitchen paper for as little as half an hour seems to work for me (I also don’t really have any space left for another gadget!)
Whisk your marinade ingredients together in a shallow bowl or dish, cut your block of tofu into bite sized pieces then submerge the tofu in the liquid. Gently turn the pieces to cover all sides, cover and leave for anything from 30 minutes to 24 hours
This is probably the easiest way to cook tofu – marinate, pop onto a lined tray and bake in a hot oven for around 30 minutes. Another advantage is you can cook larger amounts at once this way, freeing up stove top space for cooking the rest of the meal.
Baked tofu is great tossed in salads, served with rice or noodles or added to a stir fry with a sticky, delicious sauce.
SAUTEED OR FRIED TOFU
Fried tofu is less about the marinating and more about cooking the tofu in the sauce. You’ll want to use the extra firm tofu here to withstand all the jiggling about it does in the pan! You’ll also want to get your tofu as dry as possible for this. If you want to press it but don’t want the expense of a proper press just lay the block of tofu between several sheets of kitchen paper and put something heavy on top. I use a small frying pan with a heavy jar. The pan sits on the tofu and the jar sits in the pan. Leave for around 30 minutes.
Cut your pressed tofu into cubes, coat in your sauce or seasonings and fry in a little oil – I like a combination of sesame and a nut, seed or olive oil.
Turn carefully throughout the cooking, using tongs, a palette knife or fish slice if your pan is big enough.
This was a complete revelation to me. How can tofu look and taste like scrambled eggs quite so much?! There’s really only 2 tricks to it – ‘mash’ your tofu with a fork until it resembles the texture of scrambled eggs then add Himalayan Black Salt during cooking. This salt is the real secret. It starts out as pink salt which is then heated to extremely high temperatures and mixed with the seeds of the harad fruit which gives it that distinctive sulphur (or eggy) flavour. It reminds me of umami flavour and combined with the texture of scrambled tofu you have the perfect egg substitute!
Add a little of the Himalayan salt and taste – adjust to your own eggy requirements 😉
Add a few veggies for bright, fresh flavour, a pinch of nutritional yeast and some turmeric for that gorgeous sunshine yellow colour!
Silken tofu is rarely cooked. Its texture reminds me of a set egg custard, making it extremely difficult to cook for the inexperienced tofu handlers amongst us. HOWEVER (caps for emphasis!) One of the best things I’ve made recently (am I allowed temporary favourites?) is this Silken Chocolate Pie. OH.MY.WORD.
THE perfect set. THE perfect texture. Just 7 ingredients in the filling for the most divinely chocolatey smooth pie/tart/call it what you will slice of absolute heaven. Phil ate 4 slices after I’d finished photographing it and hassled me for the entire time I was taking the photos.
You are probably thinking that I’ve gone a bit bonkers. Tofu in a pie? A SWEET pie? What the heck? Just trust me ok. Live a little, push the envelope, test some boundaries and MAKE.THIS.PIE. You’ve been told.
OUR FAVOURITE TOFU RECIPES:
Sheet pan tofu
This is a variation on a recipe from Straight Outta Compston Kitchen. Not a vegan blog but they do have some great ideas that can easily be adapted to vegan.
Vegan Buddha Bowl
Tofu Stir Fry
Beer Battered Vegan Fish and Chips
Healthy Indian Takeaway
Vegan Scrambled Eggs
Baked Tofu Nuggets
Sesame Crusted Tofu
My adaptation of a delicious recipe from Mairi – The Ginger Vegan