Are you new to plant-based cooking and wondering what on earth tofu is, or what to do with it? You may have heard that tofu is a bland and boring ingredient, or you may even have tried it unsuccessfully. Tofu can be tricky!
The good news is that getting the best out of a block of tofu is easier than you think! Even if you’re not a top chef, you don’t have to be intimidated by tofu! With this basic guide, you’ll soon unlock the magic.
Cooking Different Types of Tofu
First thing’s first, do you know what tofu is? In case you’re not 100% sure, tofu is bean curd made from the milk of soybeans. Making it is similar to making cheese. Tofu is super common in Asia, and it’s becoming increasingly so in the West, and for good reasons!
Tofu has many benefits. It is versatile, nutritious, packed with protein, and can be super delicious. We use different types of tofu for different kinds of dishes, for example:
This type of tofu is creamy and soft. It works in food that we blend like salad dressings, sauces, soups, smoothies, and dips.
Denser than silken tofu but still delicate, medium tofu is used in miso soup, which is simmered gently instead of boiled, or in stir-fries.
This type of tofu is excellent for stir-frying and pan-frying. It absorbs flavors well, so it’s great for marinating. Because of its consistency, firm tofu is perfect crumbed or crisped. You can even whip up a ‘tofu scramble’, which is the vegan version of scrambled eggs!
All-purpose tofu that holds its shape so well, you can slice and dice it quickly! You can use this versatile type of tofu for frying, baking, grilling, or scrambling.
Tofu Basics – Flavor!
Once you’ve selected the right type of tofu for your dish, the next thing to consider is how to make it taste great. Most protein sources, like meat, poultry, and eggs, can be enjoyed with basic seasonings like salt and pepper. Tofu is not like that.
As versatile as what it is, tofu has hardly any flavor, so it has to be seasoned particularly well. Here are a few more basic guidelines:
- Tofu is super absorbent, so don’t marinate it too long.
- Don’t be shy to season tofu; it has little taste, so it needs it!
- If you’re nervous about seasoning, cut your tofu into little blocks, dip them into a seasoned batter and fry them!
- Practice makes perfect. Begin with a small batch and experiment with seasoning.
How To Press Tofu
First of all, don’t press softer types of tofu unless you need to squeeze just a tiny bit of moisture out. You could risk it turning into a squished mess!
The best way to press medium to extra-firm tofu is to use a tofu press (like this: https://tofubud.com/products/tofu-press). You can press an entire block of tofu or cut it into smaller blocks first to get maximum moisture out. Here’s how:
- Drain the packing water out of the tofu and slice it if needed.
- Place the block of tofu into the press between the plates.
- Close the lid of the press.
- Slowly press down and lock the knob in place, or tighten the screws. With some presses, you’ll hear a click.
- Let it drain for between 15 and 20 minutes.
Another way to drain tofu is to do it manually by wrapping it in absorbent dish towels, wedging it between two plates, and placing something weighted on top. This method is not as effective as using a press, so it takes slightly longer for the tofu to drain.
Take Off Your Tofu Training Wheels
Now you know all about preparing your tofu for cooking, you’re ready for the next step: transforming it into something delicious! Here are three excellent tofu-cooking methods:
#1 The Key to Crispy Tofu
Most people who prefer a plant-based diet will have had the dreaded soggy tofu experience. You’d think there’s some magic trick involved to get it crispy. Believe it or not, it’s not that tricky. Crispy tofu is totally doable!
Cornstarch and heat are all you need. Simply cut your tofu into blocks, toss them in cornstarch and fry in a pre-heated pan for an even blast of heat. Serve with some sweet chili or spicy peanut dipping sauce.
#2 Chewy Tofu Anyone?
If you like your tofu chewy, press it, let it sit for a while in your favorite marinade, and bake it for at least 40 minutes at around 400ºF. The longer it bakes, the chewier it gets! Remember to turn it every 10 to 15 minutes and baste it with some leftover marinade.
#3 Make a Fabulous Stir Fry
Tofu is an excellent replacement for any meat. Instead of making chicken chop suey, chop up some freshly pressed tofu blocks and add them to your stir fry; for best results, marinate it first.
Time for Tofu Wizardry
Once you know the basics and have tried them out a few times, you’ll have discovered the magic of tofu!
Soon, you’ll be more comfortable with experimenting with cooking tofu in other ways. Google for some interesting plant-based recipes, or, if you were a meat-eater, you could find substitutes for your old favorites, but using healthier tofu instead!