Tofu definitely has some haters. I was one of them not too long ago. After an unsuccessful first attempt at cooking it for myself at home, and an equally traumatizing experience giving it a second try at a sushi restaurant, I was close to giving up hope and accepting that it just wasn’t my thing. There are lots of other plant-based proteins, right! I really am glad I gave it another try and figured out how to prepare it in a more appetizing way. If my tofu struggles resonate with you, you’re in the right place! I’m sharing my tips for how to cook with tofu for those of you who may be wanting to incorporate more plant-based eating into your lifestyle.
How to Cook with Tofu
There are three key factors to consider when you’re cooking with tofu:
If you’re using tofu as a replacement for animal protein in a dish, or if you’re just used to the texture of animal protein, make sure you buy the firm or extra firm stuff. A lot of people get turned off by the soft, squishy texture of silken, soft, or medium textured tofu, but the firm stuff is much, much better! That being said, the softer options can be great blended into pudding recipes or smoothies for an extra protein boost!
I can not stress the importance of marinating your tofu enough! It is completely flavourless otherwise, and the farthest thing from delicious! Try mixing up different combinations of these flavours:
- Something sweet: maple syrup, honey, sugar, brown sugar, molasses
- Something salty: tamari, soy sauce, hoisin sauce
- Something spicy: red chilli paste, ginger, garlic, cumin, paprika
Marinating your tofu a few hours before cooking it or while you’re prepping the rest of your ingredients is just fine. If you’re really on the ball, it’s even better if you can marinate the tofu the day before so it has more time to soak up all those delicious flavours!
My favourite way to cook tofu is to pan fry it in a little oil on medium-high heat. I find I get the best texture when it’s cooked this way. The key to pan frying your tofu and getting a slightly crispy exterior is this: don’t overcrowd the frying pan! If your frying pan isn’t large enough that you can comfortably spread out your tofu cubes in one even layer, then it’s really best to fry it in a few smaller batches. It’s totally worth the extra time!
Alternatively, you could also spread your tofu out onto a large baking sheet lined with parchment and bake at 400F for 10 minutes, flip, then pop back in the oven for another 10 minutes. I doesn’t get quite as crispy this way, but it can definitely save you some time in a pinch.
Better yet, if you marinate your tofu in something with a little sugar, when you bake it or pan fry it it will get this lovely caramelized crust on the outside. Yum!
Easy Pad Thai
- 1 package firm tofu (350g)
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 2 tsp red chili paste
- 4 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and julienned
- 1 bell pepper, julienned
- 1 small zucchini, julienned
- 2 cups baby spinach or baby bok choy
- 6 cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 3 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp maple syrup
- 1/2 lb rice vermicelli
- sesame seeds and green onion for garnish
- Drain the liquid from the tofu package, remove the brick and cut it into 1/2 inch cubes. In a tupperware container large enough for the cubed tofu, mix 1 tbsp sesame oil, 1 tbsp maple syrup, 2 tsp red chilli paste and 4 tbsp tamari or soy sauce. Add tofu, close the container, and shake to coat the tofu in the marinade. Refrigerate while you prep the rest of your ingredients.
- Prep your carrot, bell pepper (any colour), zucchini, spinach or bok choy and mushrooms.
- Fill a medium pot with water and set on the stove to boil.
- Stir fry your prepped veggies in 3 tbsp of soy sauce or tamari, 1 tbsp sesame oil, and 1 tsp maple syrup on medium heat. Once the veggies are tender and slightly browned (15-20 mins), remove from pan and set aside.
- Empty the tofu and marinade into a frying pan and cook on medium-high heat until crispy.
- Cook the rice vermicelli according to package instructions. Drain and rinse with cool water.
- Toss tofu and stir fried veggies together with cooked vermicelli.
- Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and finely sliced green onion.