But, like most people, you probably have no idea what to do with it. Good news: Tofu is one of the easiest and healthiest foods to cook! The extremely mild taste goes with anything, and it’s packed with quality protein.
In order to turn this white brick of pure potential into dinner, it helps to know a few tricks and tips. Here are some tofu basics (and some stellar vegetarian recipes) to get you going:
Tofu needs to be “pressed.”
Tofu is packed in water, and it’s a lot like a sponge — if you don’t press out the old water you can’t get any new flavors in. This is really easy; it just takes a teeny-tiny bit of advanced planning:
- Slice open a package of extra-firm, water-packed tofu (not the silken kind) and drain the water. Cut the block of tofu width-wise into however many slices you want — four or six should do it.
- Lay a dish towel on a cookie sheet or tray; place some paper towels on top of that.
- Spread the slices of tofu out in a single layer on top of the towels. Put more paper towels and another dish towel on top of that.
- Set some heavy objects on top. I usually put another cookie sheet on top, and load it up with some cookbooks.
- Leave it alone for at least 30 minutes, but preferably a couple hours. You can leave it like this all day or night if you put it in the fridge. If you’re really in a hurry, you can apply some “manual pressure” and cut back the time to 15 minutes, but it’s not going to be quite as awesome.
- Uncover; leave as “tofu steaks” or cut into cubes, marinate and cook according to your recipe!
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Tofu loves being marinated.
If you don’t marinate it, it will taste like nothing.
Tofu hates marinades containing oil.
Tofu has a lot of water in it — even after you press it — and oil and water don’t mix. Using oil in your marinade will actually create an oil slick on the tofu and the flavors will never sink in. Skip the oil in your marinades and replace it with extra vinegar, soy sauce, citrus juice or stock.
Get crispy with cornstarch.
If you’re going to pan-fry or stir-fry your tofu, simply coat it in cornstarch after marinating. A medium or light coat is best. Just put your marinated tofu in a big plastic zipper bag, add a half cup of cornstarch, close and shake well. I like to dump it all into a colander over the sink to shake off the excess. This will give your tofu a fantastic, crispy coating — and it also really, really helps the tofu not stick to the pan.
Don’t forget about broiling, grilling and grill pans.
Tofu is great on the grill, in a grill pan and under the broiler! Just marinate it, spray your cooking surface with a little canola oil and cook until you get nice grill marks or crispy edges, about seven minutes per side (or less on a scorching-hot grill). Tofu doesn’t actually need to be cooked at all, so don’t worry about internal temps. This is a super-healthy (un-fried) way to prepare tofu!
It’s not just for stir-fries anymore.
Tofu is the ultimate multi-tasker. It’s right at home in stir-fry, but use an Italian marinade and some bread crumbs and it can easily pinch-hit in chicken parmesan. Use a steak marinade, grill it with onions and barbecue sauce and serve on a toasted bun at your next BBQ. Cube it, coat with cornstarch, pan fry and serve with honey mustard and sweet potato fries for super-easy “chicken” nuggets.