How to Cook Tofu with the Right Method for Your Meat-Free Recipe

Learn all the possibilities this unique ingredient holds, including the best types of tofu for each recipe and how to prepare it in a variety of dishes.

Whether you're vegetarian or not, tofu deserves a place on your table. It's high in protein, low in fat, and the perfect neutral-flavored vehicle for a variety of flavors and cuisines all over the world. But what is tofu, anyway? Tofu is made from water, soybean curd, and a natural or chemical coagulant. It's a low-calorie, plant-based protein with a subtle flavor that's ideal for marinating with whatever flavors you want. In addition to learning how to cook tofu, get familiar with the types of tofu to know which is best for the recipe you're making. From there you can learn how to cook tofu on the stove by stir-frying or pan-frying as well as how to bake tofu in the oven.

Andy Lyons

How to Cook Tofu

The key to expertly cooked tofu is choosing the right kind. There are two main types of tofu: silken and regular.

  • Silken: best blended into dips, smoothies, soups, salad dressings, or creamy desserts.
  • Regular: great for slicing, cubing, or on the grill. It is packaged based on its texture and moisture content and comes in medium, firm, and extra-firm.

Marinated Tofu

Look for pre-marinated tofu in the plant-based section of your grocery store. Popular flavors include teriyaki, Mediterranean, and Italian flavors. We like these in stir-fries or veggie wraps. To make your own, drain then slice or cube tofu before marinating 2 to 24 hours. Drain before using.

Grilled Tofu Teriyaki with Spicy Spinach Udon
Blaine Moats

How to Grill Tofu

Firm and extra-firm tofu work best for grilling. To grill, grease grill racks well and place pressed tofu directly on rack over medium heat until brown. You'll know the tofu is done when it easily releases from the rack.

Tofu and Pickled Vegetable Sandwich
Andy Lyons

How to Cook Tofu on the Stove

When stir-frying tofu or searing tofu, it's best to use extra-firm. It breaks apart less easily than regular or firm tofu. Add pressed tofu (learn how to press tofu here) to an oiled, preheated wok ($35, Bed Bath & Beyond) or skillet and fry until lightly browned on both sides.

How to Fry Tofu

Cooking tofu on the stove in oil as noted above is the easiest way to fry tofu. You can also batter tofu and fry it to achieve an extra crunchy exterior similar to fried chicken. Try coating tofu slices in cornmeal in our tofu stackup with summer veggies or over a watercress salad.

Crispy Tofu Stir-Fry
Jason Donnelly

How to Cook Tofu in the Air-Fryer

You can also cook tofu in your air fryer ($140, Walmart) to use less oil but still achieve crispy fried tofu. In our air-fried tofu recipe (pictured above), we toss the tofu in a bit of cornstarch first to develop the color and crispy texture.

Coconut-Crusted Tofu with Black Bean Slaw
Blaine Moats

How to Bake Tofu

Baked tofu is an easy way to infuse the flavors of your tofu marinade without having to monitor it cooking over the stove. To cook tofu in the oven, simply put the tofu on a baking sheet (seasoned or breaded however your recipe calls) and bake until golden brown. For our coconut-crusted baked tofu (pictured above), we quickly bake it for 10 minutes under high heat (450°F) to get the ultimate "fried" crunch on the outside.

How to Prepare Tofu

People new to the vegetarian world wonder how to cook tofu like chicken. The secret to getting a chewy texture that's similar to meat is to press it. Many tofu recipes recommend pressing it before cooking to remove excess moisture. Whether the recipe calls for it or not, it's a good idea to press tofu for optimal flavor infusion and achieve a crispy exterior. Use our guide to learn how to press tofu. You can also try freezing tofu as a way to remove the moisture.

Now that you know how to cook tofu on the grill or in a pan, you'll want to try some of our favorite tofu recipes. Use tofu as a filling for spring rolls or lettuce wraps. We also encourage you to try tofu in some innovative ways. Bake some extra protein into a quick casserole. Whip up some healthy chocolate chip cookies or blend tofu into a smoothie bowl.

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