How to choose and use Tofu

Tofu Tips

You do not need any special recipes to use tofu, no special cookbooks, no special cookware, no special skills.... Take ANY merinade, ANY sauce, just about any recipe, and you can use tofu in place of the meat, or cheese, or milk, cream...... options are endless! And is so much healthier for you!

Just keep in mind what do you want the texture to be? Chewy, smooth, crispy? Are you going to use it in a drink or on the grill? There are different ways to prep the tofu, which result in different textures. So find what you like, what you want it to do, and go from there!


Types of Tofu

There are basically two types of tofu, also known as bean curd, available, silken and regular. You can also find these types in different consistancies, such as soft, firm, and extra firm, depending on how much water is removed before packaging.

There are no rules or standards, across the board for making TOFU, so one companies firm might be anothers extra firm. It is usually the water content that changes, and thusly the less water, the firmer, and more nutrition it will contain.

You can interchange almost any of these types of tofu, but you will get best results if you keep the following tips in mind, and perhaps stick with brands you know and like.



is very moist and custard like. It is best used in blending when you want a very creamy texture, like drinks or soups, or even scramble tofu "eggs".

It does not hold its shape very well, so must be handled extremely carefully if you need to use it for another recipe, where you need shape.

You can find silken tofu on the shelf or in the refrigerator section of health food stores, and many standard grocery stores.



is usually found in plastic bags or containers in water, in the refridgerated section of health food stores, most grocery stores, and Asian food stores. If possible, look for a locally made tofu, or ones with agari, or sprouted.

These tofus are usually very firm with almost a swiss cheese like consistancy. They are perfect for stir fries, or slicing and frying, marinating for a salad, etc. They hold their shape very well and are best for most uses.

I found that Asian/Oriental food stores often have the best, and freshest, tofu! Use as soon as possible, but it will last for several days in the refrigerator. It is best to drain the old water and cover again with fresh water every day or two.



You can use tofu straight out of the box or bag, like in a smoothy, or scramble... stir fry or anything, but if you want the tofu to pick up other flavors better, or have a denser quality or when recipes say to merinate, try pressing some of the liquid out of the tofu.


The more liquid removed, the chewier, "meatier" the results will be. You might prefer one method over another, or might be in a hurry, so try different ways to see what the results are.

If you want to add tofu directly to a soup or liquidy stew, it is best to cube it and place in a hot salty liquid, brine, before, for a few minutes, and drain. The tofu will hold its shape better. Bring a couple cups of water to a boil, turn off the heat. Add a tablespoon of salt, or other salty flavorings, soysauce, miso, and add the tofu. Let sit for 5-10 minutes.


The traditional way this is done is by removing the block of tofu from its package and placing it on a clean, lint free, kitchen towel. Cover the tofu completely with the towel and set something slightly heavy on top of the tofu, such as a couple of plates or heavy pan. Let this sit for 30 minutes to an hour or so, or even overnight if in the fridge.


QUICK PRESSED TOFU: If you don't have time to press the tofu as such, you can gently squeeze the block by hand, but if you squeeze it too hard it will crumble. (Which is fine if you want to use it as crumbles, like in a scramble) Wrap the tofu in a towel before you squeeze, if you prefer.


Another way to remove some of the water from the tofu, especially if you need to use it right away, is to microwave the tofu. Place it whole or sliced into the microwave for a minute or two. Place it on or wrapped in a towel if you want.

As it heats it will expel liquid. Gently towel dry the pieces before using. This is best to do before you fry tofu anyway. Then the tofu doesn't spatter as much and won't lower the heat of the oil as much either, giving you a better end result.

microwaved tofu


Another way to remove a lot of the liquid is by dry frying. Slice the tofu and placing the pieces directly in to a dry, non stick, pan on the stove over medium heat. DO NOT USE OIL!

Press the pieces down with a spatula, turning them over now and then, until lightly browned on each side, or desired time. Be sure you use a non stick pan, like teflon, or if you have a well seasoned cast iron pan will work too. Just don't add oil, or it will change the outcome.

dryfry tofu


You can get great results, without pre pressing, by baking sliced tofu on a greased or foiled baking sheet, 325 degree preheated oven for about an hour, flipping it a few times while baking. Most of the liquid will be removed and is ready to be used in another recipe.

Super easy baked tofu!

Take any sauce, like your favorite bbq sauce, spread some on the bottom of the baking dish. Place the sliced tofu on top of the sauce, then add some more sauce to the top of the tofu and bake, 325, degrees, about 30 minutes, and flip over adding more sauce. Bake 30 more minutes. The longer it stays in the oven the chewier it will become... or cut into thin thin slices, before you bake it, and it will become almost jerky like

Eat as is or make it into a sandwich or slice pieces into something else...

baked tofu


When you add hot oil, the tofu will form a slight barrier on the outside and not absorb as much of the other flavors. It will also form a crispy crust which is wonderful for many applications! Crispy and chewy! It is my favorite way of preparing basic tofu.


Crumble tofu (pressed and towel dried) into tiny bits and fry in hot oil until lightly browned, around 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle with a little browning liquid or Braggs if you want it burger color.

Easy fried tofu!

Press and towel dry tofu. Cube the tofu into bite size chunks, or steak like pieces Heat your oil, (I prefer peanut oil or canola oil) until it is almost smoking hot, turn it down slightly, then place the tofu gently in the oil. The more oil you have the quicker they fry. (Deep fry works great!) or just turn the tofu as each side gets light brown. The more sides you brown the crispier it is. Only brown a couple sides for a crispy and soft versian.


Use a tall non stick pan, or pot, so it doesnt splatter out as much!

You can marinate the tofu, 30 minutes to overnight, before you fry it, if you want it to have more of a specified flavor profile, but dry it in a towel before you fry it so it doesn't splatter as much. Use as is, or with sauces, merinades, savory or sweet! Dip it in any favorite sauces!

fry tofu


Take any batter, any coating, any dry rub, any seasoning mix, sprinkle it on the tofu then fry it, just as you would fried tofu above, or like with fried chicken. It works well to microwave press it (see above) then add the coatings. Add flour or cornstarch and it will make a wonderful crispy edge to it.

batterfry tofu

Go easy with salted seasonings, where as you can always sprinkle with salt later...

Amazing as it sounds, you can actually take the liquid from a can of cooked beans, (Aquafaba) like garbonzos, and use it where recipes call for egg whites, as in batters.

Or, if you dont have the bean liquid, you can dip the tofu in a little plain soymilk before you dredge in cornstarch or flour/seasoning mix. Let sit for 15 minutes before frying if possible. /p>

Be gentle when you fry it so to not dislodge the coatings.

batterfry tofu


Store bought ABURA-AGE. You can actually buy a pre fried / pressed tofu in many grocery stores or Asian stores already. It is called Abura-age, usually found next to the refridgerated tofu.

It is a great product to have on hand, to use in place of meat or regular tofu, particularly if you don't have time to press and dry fry your own tofu, especially for using with merinades, casseroles, stir fries, drop bits into soups...etc. wherever you want a very firm somewhat chewy "meat." Use as is, usually a small golden steak like triangle, or slice into bite size pieces.

You can also use Aburaage when wanting to make a "stuffed" tofu. You can gently pry it apart and fill.

aburaage tofu


Tofu is a great food to grill. Pre press the tofu if you can. Use any marinade, sauce, even a vinaigrette, and pour over the tofu. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes. (Longer if not pressed, if possible) You actually don't need a merinade or sauce if you like the smokey bbq grill flavor. You can always add one later, or dip it into something.

Cook over a hot fire for about 5 minutes per side, assuming your slices are around 3/4 " thick. Make sure the grill is well oiled as tofu is known to stick...Skewer merinated tofu cubes along with onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes and grill for a beautiful and fun way to serve... If the tofu is prepressed or pre cooked, you might not want to merinate it longer than 30 minutes.

grilled tofu


Besides marinating before you bake or fry the tofu, as used above, Take a marinade such as Italian dressing, pour over small cubes of extra firm tofu, and sit in the fridgerater 30 minutes or longer, even overnight.

Tofu tip

If you heat the marinade before you pour it over the tofu, the tofu will absorb more of the flavors.

Use this in a cold pasta salad, or in a cold sandwich. Marinate along with olives, mushrooms, peppers and serve on a toothpick as an appitizer. Use the firmest tofu you can find! It is very much like marinated cheese.

grilled tofu

YUBA or Tofu / Soymilk Skin

is often considered a delicacy in Chinese and Japanese cooking. It is the "skin" that forms on the top of the liquid when boiling soymilk, a wonderful biproduct in making tofu.

It can be used as a meat substitute, having crispy, and chewy qualities to it. It can be used to make a crispy "skin like" coating on homemade tofurkeys, or other chewy meatless meats.

Try pan frying pieces in oil and sprinkling with garlic salt, or powdered sugar for two very different results.

Click for more on YUBA.

fried yuba with sugar


FROZEN TOFU: Yes you can freeze tofu!

Tofu that has been frozen is wonderful!

It takes on a chewy even meatier texture than when not frozen.

Get in the habit of putting unused tofu in the freezer, and you will be happy you did!

You can stick the whole unopened package of tofu in the freezer, but for best results, drain the liquid first. You can even slice into pieces, and re bag it. (A single layor until frozen is best, but not necessary.) When you thaw the tofu, more of the water will drain from it and it will be a bit more crumblier, but the texture will be chewier and a little "meatier"

After you thaw the tofu, gently squeeze it, to remove more of the water.

Slice it, and use as any meat substitute

Or grind it/ chop fine and use as a burger substitute: add to spaghetti sauces, tacos, casseroles...

You can also freeze slices that are coated in a sauce already. A Premarinade of sorts! Just take it out of the freezer the day before you want it. Works great for baking or grilling!

grilled tofu