How to Cook with Tofu

Learn how to buy, cook, and store tofu for delicious meals.

Versatile and easy to cook, tofu takes on many roles and adapts well to the flavors of sauces and marinades. With the right type of tofu and cooking technique, you can even learn how to cook tofu like chicken.

Here are our best tips for selecting, prepping, and storing tofu.You'll learn how to cook tofu – including how to prepare different types - and discover top-rated recipes that will have you loving tofu in new and exciting ways.

How to Pick Tofu

Tofu ranges in texture from soft to extra firm and picking the right one depends on what you're cooking. You'll find fresh tofu in the refrigerated section, packaged in water to preserve its moisture content.

Firm tofu is the most common form. It absorbs marinades well and can be cubed and added to green salads. When seasoned and pan-fried, tofu has a crispy exterior and soft creamy middle. It can also be frozen and then crumbled, giving it a texture similar to ground beef.

Extra firm tofu makes some people say "tastes like chicken." This tofu has the lowest moisture content and is often used as a meat substitute in Asian or vegetarian dishes. It's excellent grilled or friend and also works well in pastas, sandwiches, and curries.

Silken or soft tofu is equivalent to a thin custard or heavy cream. This smooth, delicate tofu has the highest moisture content and works wonderfully as a base for dips and spreads. Puréed and used as a dairy substitute, it easily mixes into smoothies and soups, bakes up in tasty desserts, and is a terrific substitute for eggs in scrambles.

Silken Tofu, Firm Tofu, and Extra-Firm Tofu
L to R: Silken Tofu, Firm Tofu, and Extra-Firm Tofu | Photo by Meredith.

How to Cook Tofu

Depending on the dish, some recipes call for drained tofu. Here's how to remove liquid from tofu before you begin cooking:

  • Wrap the block of tofu — or strips of tofu — in a clean cloth towel or paper towels.
  • Set a weight on top, like a heavy skillet or a soup can.
  • Leave the weight on for about 20 minutes.
  • Unwrap, slice, and cook tofu as desired.

How to Fry Tofu

Frying is a great way to cook firm and extra-firm tofu. Cut drained tofu into slices or cubes and fry over medium-high heat in vegetable oil in a skillet, wok, or deep fryer until golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes per side. The tofu will develop a wonderfully crisp crust and delicate, airy interior.

Fried Tofu Recipes:

woman cooking tofu

How to Bake Tofu

If you prefer the oven over the stovetop, try baking tofu. First, cut drained tofu into slices, and bake on a lightly oiled baking sheet at 350 degrees F. For additional flavor, marinate the tofu in advance or try basting the tofu with a simple blend of soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice wine vinegar.

Baked Tofu Recipes:

How to Grill Tofu

Grilling tofu over high heat results in a crisp crust that's charred to perfection. Simply cut drained tofu into relatively thick slices. Place the pieces on a hot grill with clean, well-oiled grates to prevent sticking. Cook about 2 to 3 minutes per side, until lightly browned with grill marks. Save some marinade or basting sauce for brushing onto your tofu once it's done.

Grilled Tofu Recipes:

How to Store Tofu

Store unused tofu in an airtight container, covered in fresh water. Packed this way, tofu stays fresh in the refrigerator fridge for about a week. For longer storage, store it in the freezer. Tightly wrap the leftover block of tofu in plastic wrap or a Ziploc bag and freeze for up to three months.

Tofu Q&A

What is tofu? Tofu is a power-packed plant-based vegan protein that's healthful, low calorie, and super versatile.

What is tofu made of? Tofu is a curd made from soybeans that are cooked and mashed, then processed in a fashion similar to making cheese.

What does tofu taste like? In a sense, tofu tastes like whatever you want it to. Its subtle flavor and satisfying texture are a blank canvas on which sauces and marinades paint their flavors. It's this quality that makes tofu such a wonderfully versatile ingredient.

Do you have to cook tofu? Tofu does not need to be cooked and can be eaten directly out of its package - like silken tofu used in smoothies or puddings. However, in many dishes, the pleasing textural contrast in cooked tofu is welcoming to the palate.

What is the best way to cook tofu? This is entirely up to you! Try out the different types of tofu and cooking methods to find out which is your favorite.

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