How to Make Tofu Taste Great

Holly Riddle

By Holly Riddle

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Tofu is, admittedly, pretty lackluster on its own. While there’s so much you can do with tofu, the blandness that makes it versatile also makes it boring unless you dress it up.

So, if you don’t already have a few favorite tofu recipes, what can you do to make your tofu taste great? Here are just a few simple ways to upgrade your tofu.

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Improve the Texture

First, while it’s not entirely related to taste and flavor, your tofu’s texture will greatly impact your dining experience. Some say that you should always press your tofu before cooking it, while others say that pressing your tofu is entirely unnecessary. However, these stances are both incorrect. The fact is, you should press your tofu sometimes and not other times, depending on the type of tofu you have on hand, the cooking method you plan to use, and your desired texture.

If you want crispy tofu and you plan on grilling, frying or air frying it, press it — if it’s medium-firm tofu. Medium-firm tofu has more water in it, so some of that needs to be removed. If you’re cooking your tofu any other way and are using medium-firm tofu, there’s no need to press.

A plate of crispy, fried tofu.
Riki Risnandar/Shutterstock

If, though, you have extra-firm tofu, you likely don’t need to press it at all, regardless of cooking method. The lesser water content in extra-firm tofu ensures you can achieve a crispy outer texture and moist inner texture. If crispy is your goal, you may just want to simply pat the tofu’s exterior dry and, in some cases, dust the tofu with cornstarch.

For a texture that’s more spongy than moist on the inside, try freezing the tofu before thawing and cooking it.

Add More Flavor

Tofu happily adopts whatever flavors you add to it, and it can stand up to a lot of stronger, more pungent flavors, meaning this is not the time to restrain yourself or limit your seasonings to mere salt and pepper.

Instead, reach for your most flavorful marinades, sauces, glazes, and spices. Barbecue sauce, grilling marinades, teriyaki sauce, peanut sauce, and soy sauce are all good options if you want a glaze, marinade, or sauce. For dry seasonings, try a taco or Tex Mex spice blend, Indian spice mixes, Cajun spice mixes, or blackening rubs, all of which make for bold flavors. You can even use a dry seasoning first, when you fry, saute or bake your tofu, and then add a sauce before using it in your final dish.

Switch Up the Type of Tofu You’re Using

You can also buy tofu that already comes seasoned and flavorful. While it may be a little more difficult to find, seeking it out is well worth it. Look for five-spice tofu or smoked tofu.

Start with the Right Recipe

Of course, great-tasting tofu starts with the right recipe. Look for recipes that pack in a lot of flavor to compliment tofu’s more low-key flavor profile, such as this sofritas-style burrito bowl that pairs tofu with lime rice, grilled corn and chili pepper, or this tofu and kale stir fry that incorporates soy sauce and curry powder.