How to Prepare Tofu

This article is a basic intro on how to prepare the underdog of proteins: Tofu. If you've had one bad tofu experience, don't sweat it. Give it a second try! Tofu is extremely versatile, and is a great cholesterol-free and heart-healthy protein. Tofu (which is basically just coagulated and pressed soy milk, very similar in production to cheese) is a very healthy addition to any diet that's easily incorporated into almost any dish.


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    Purchase the tofu. While mass-produced tofu is now available at many supermarkets and grocery stores, it's even better to find your local Asian grocery and buy it fresh there. Packaged tofu will have traveled many miles to reach its destination, and might contain preservatives that reduce both the flavor and nutritional value. In general, the fresher, the better.
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    Decide what type of tofu to buy. Firm tofu is often a bit gritty and is most commonly used in stir fries, or other dishes that cause "rough handling". Silken tofu has a much finer, creamier texture but needs to be handled somewhat delicately; it is best used as tofu steaks or for mixing in desserts.
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    Press it! If you are using water-packed tofu, you want to get the water out. This is done easily by pressing the entire block or cutting into slices. All you need is something absorbent (paper towel or clean lint-free kitchen towel) and some weight. Place tofu in between towel, put a plate on top, and use a soup can. All you are doing is gently pressing the water out.
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    Cook it. Tofu can be pan-sauteed, fried, toasted, grilled, etc, until it is firm enough that the skin offers a decent amount of resistance when poked with a spatula or a fork.
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    Cut the tofu into blocks or slices.
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    Prepare a sauce to balance the mild, subtle flavor of the tofu and complement the texture. A traditional Asian option would be to mix soy sauce with sesame oil. You can also toss in a bit of minced garlic, if you think your taste buds can handle it. A nice, finishing touch is to toast some sesame seeds to sprinkle on top of the sauce right before the tofu is served.
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    Fry or grill the tofu.
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    Work the tofu into your dish.
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    Put it into a bowl of broth along with other ingredients to make a soup or stew.
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    Stir fry it with various vegetables and the sauce.
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    Serve on top of a salad.
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    Make vegetarian pizza. Add tofu and basil, cheese, tomato sauce, olives, red onion, green and red pepper, sweetcorn and tomatoes to store bought packaged pizza dough. Bake it.
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    Serve on top of Asian noodles and top it with a delicious sauce.
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    Have it grilled with a side of green vegetables (like spinach) and fluffy rice.
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    Make a tofu sandwich.
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    If using only vegetables and tofu in the marinade, you can cook down the marinade (boil until some of the water evaporates) and use as a sauce.


  • Tofu comes in a range of textures/firmness ("silky", "regular", and "firm" are common designations). In particular notice that most tofu is packaged in its own liquid (which is quite bland and monotonous) -- this liquid is actually the source of the dislike many people claim for tofu products, because when the tofu solids are saturated with the liquid in which it was packaged, other sauces, marinades, etc are prevented from soaking into the tofu.
  • An optional step is to marinate the tofu in spices used in the category of cuisine your recipe falls into - for example, for stir fry: marinate with ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil and five spice powder; for Indian foods: ginger, garlic, curry, cumin, fenugreek, etc.; Italian: oregano, garlic, olive oil, basil... you get the idea. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour and up to 2 days. Note: this is a perfect use for zip-lock baggies -- put tofu and marinade in a baggie, zip it almost closed, then (similar to, but the reverse of, blowing up a balloon) "inhale" to remove remaining air and enhance the marinade-tofu contact.
  • Try eating it straight out of the package! Surprisingly, it is very good.
  • The best way to make the texture of tofu more appetizing is to press it for 1-2 hours before cooking or marinating it. Cut the block of tofu into 4 slices longways, and spread these out onto a plate covered with two layers of paper towels. Cover the tofu with two more layers of paper towels and another plate. Apply pressure with something heavy, like a few books or a toaster. When you're done, the paper towels will have absorbed a lot of the tofu's moisture, and it will have a better texture and absorb marinades better.
  • If you have trouble finding a local Asian grocery store, try looking in the yellow pages or, better yet, patronize an Asian restaurant and ask the staff for tips on where to shop. You might also try natural food stores.
  • Experiment! With tofu, the possibilities are endless. You can vary the cooking method, the sauces, and what the tofu is served with.
  • For a stronger texture, more "meat" like, try freezing your tofu at least overnight. Choose tofu packed in water (not silken) and place the entire, unopened package in the freezer. Thaw and prepare as usual. This is great for grilled or barbecued recipes and will give it a more comfortable chewing experience for skeptical or unseasoned tofu eaters. Less mush, more texture.
  • After freezing tofu, thaw it out and then squeeze out all the juice. It has now become more sponge-like and capable of absorbing a great amount of flavor so take care! Sauces that contain lots of sugar are not recommended; tofu's power of absorbance allows the sweetness of a lot of marinades we might want to use (i.e. traditional BBQ sauce) to overpower the flavor you're aiming for.

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