The café around the corner has added a new tofu taco to their menu that is way better than ANY taco you’ve ever tasted. Not only has this new option made it easier to agree on a office lunch spot, it has also sparked hope on your quest to learn how to cook tofu at home.
When you asked the staff, they said it was an easy process to create their delicious spicy tofu. It’s just a marinade and then cook it up, they said. The secret is in the sauce, the counter guy says with a wink.
If that’s the case why does tofu at home never taste this good?
When you cook tofu at home does it come out bland and crumbly? Have you had more than one Pinterest tofu burger end up as a huge #fail?
Learning how to cook tofu at home is a skill. Cooking tofu properly is about learning some simple methods first and then finding the flavor combinations that meet your tastes. The great thing is these tofu cooking skills are easy to learn.
The Basics of Learning to Cook With Tofu
You need to learn two basic things to start: which kind of tofu to buy and how to press tofu. Silken tofu, which often comes in a shelf stable vacuum pack, is going to be softer and easier to blend into smoothies and sauces. It can also crumble easily into casseroles. It does NOT hold up well for roasting or pan frying. If you want tofu to top a salad, add to a stir fry or for your tacos you want water-packed tofu from the refrigerated case.
Water-packed tofu needs to be pressed before you use it in most recipes. My method of pressing tofu is fairly simple. I take the tofu out of the container and slice the block in half, making two slabs about a half an inch thick. Then I lay down a kitchen towel with a layer or two of paper towels on top of it. I place the two slabs on top of the paper towels, cover with another layer of paper towels and fold over the kitchen towel. Next, I place a heavy cutting board or my cast iron skillet on top. I let it sit that way for at least 30 minutes but sometimes up to an hour.
When you’re learning to cook with tofu, I say start with the easy stuff first. The easiest way to learn how to cook with tofu is a simple smoothie or sauce. You can use soft silken tofu as the protein in your Super Shake or use it in place of dairy to make an excellent cream sauce. Tosca Reno has an excellent no cook sun-dried tomato cream sauce I would highly recommend. Silken tofu also makes easy and delicious pudding. Try Tosca’s Bananas Chocolate Pudding; it will not disappoint.
Your next step in the tofu journey is learning to roast and fry. You’ll following the tofu pressing method I described above. I get my best roasting results when I start with a marinade. I have a few marinades I use including this basic tofu marinade I found via a Google search and the lemongrass tofu from Salad Samurai. I cut the slabs of tofu into cubes (about ½ inch to 1 inch in size) and I let the tofu marinade for at least an hour.
I roast my tofu by preheating my oven to 425. I put parchment paper down on a cookie sheet or roasting pan. Then I layer the tofu in a single layer with space between the cubes. I place in the oven for 15 minutes. At 15 minutes I turn each cube over and check the crispiness. I may let it roast for another 3-5 minutes depending on how done I want it. Then it’s ready to eat, although you may want to let it cool a few minutes. Roasted tofu goes so great with cauliflower fried rice, on a salad or with my beloved roasted Brussels sprouts and avocado.
If you don’t have time to marinade and roast, you can pan fry the tofu. You will still need to press the tofu prior to cooking. You’ll also cube the tofu as I recommend for roasting. If I pan fry tofu I use my caste iron skillet that I’ve heated on medium high heat. I warm up a little coconut oil and add the tofu to the skillet. Let it cook for 3-5 minutes, until it starts to brown and then flip over. Then cook for another 3 minutes. Once you remove the tofu from the skillet, place on a plate with paper towels to absorb the excess oil.
When you pan fry, you’ll need to add some sauce. This is where pre-made sauces can come in extremely handy! You can also use sauce recipes you know and love, like the one you use to make buffalo wings for example. I love the Red Hot Saucy Tofu from Salad Samurai.
Now that you know the basics of how to cook tofu at home, you can now expand into more complicated recipes like tofu scrambles or burgers. For some of the best recipes in both of these categories I will suggest getting a copy of Protein Ninja by Terry Hope Romero. Her tofu scramble is the best one I’ve ever had. For more book recommendations and cooking tips, you’ll want to subscribe to my email list too. I share often but it’s not always on the blog!