An affordable and versatile source of protein, tofu can be prepared in many ways for different dishes. From stir-fries to silken pies, the possibilities are endless for turning this bean curd into a flavorful culinary creation. The key to getting great flavor and texture from water-packed tofu lies in the act of pressing.
Pick the Best Package
Tofu comes in a variety of forms and textures, all with their own applications and uses. Silken tofu is the smoothest and is great for pureeing — but not ideal for pressing. Soft tofu is good for crumbling but doesn’t hold its shape well enough for pressing. Firm and extra-firm tofu are dense, making them the best choice for pressing. Pressing as much water as possible out of water-packed tofu gives it a meatier texture and allows it to absorb flavorful marinades and sauces.
Wrap It Up
After draining excess water and removing the packaging, wrap the block of tofu in paper towels and then with a clean dish towel. This catches water that is pressed out of the tofu without making a mess in your kitchen.
Weigh It Down
Place wrapped tofu on a clean plate or cutting board, then top with a clean, flat object such as a plate, baking sheet or cast-iron skillet. To reduce the amount of pressing time required, add additional weight, such as a large can of beans, heavy books or any object that can rest steadily on top of the homemade press. Make sure the weight is evenly distributed.
Transfer the tofu and homemade press into the refrigerator, and allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes or up to four hours. Applying more weight or extending press time will result in a firmer and drier texture. If the towels become too saturated, rewrap tofu with clean, dry towels.
Soak and Season
After pressing, it is time to add flavor. Cut the block of tofu into your desired size of pieces. If marinating, place tofu and marinade in a shallow dish with a tight-fitting lid and shake gently to coat. Allow it to stand in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or up to four hours, flipping the tofu halfway through the marinade time.
No time for marinade? Drizzle low-sodium soy sauce or balsamic vinegar on tofu, or top it with a sprinkle of fresh chopped garlic, ginger or herbs for an instant flavor boost.
Emily Cooper, RD, is a nutrition educator in the Portland, Maine, area. She is a Stone Soup blogger and author of sinfulnutrition.com.
More Tofu Tips
Add creaminess without cream. Soft or silken tofu generally is made by coagulating soy milk right in the package so curd remains intact and custardy. Whirr it in the blender for a velvety texture, and use it as a substitute for creamy ingredients such as sour cream, cream cheese and mayonnaise. Add cocoa and your favorite sweetener for a high-protein pudding.
Make it meaty. The process of freezing and thawing releases more water from firm tofu than pressing alone. For an extra-chewy texture, remove tofu from packaging and freeze until solid. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then press for 30 minutes.
Amp up the crunch factor. Most baked tofu recipes call for pan-frying in a little oil to give tofu a golden color before baking. For ultimate crunch, preheat a baking sheet in the oven, then transfer pan-fried tofu to the hot sheet and bake based on the recipe’s instructions.
Spice it up. Curry paste, spice rubs or Sriracha sauce stay on the surface of meat and vegetables. But, because of its spongy texture, pressed tofu allows spice to penetrate throughout (even more so when marinated).