Tofu, made of condensed curdling soy milk, is high in protein, amino acids, fats, and carbs. It also contains several vital minerals and vitamins. Tofu has been around for centuries and originated in China. Like cheese making, tofu takes its solidified form thanks to the mineral-rich coagulant nigari, a by-product of salt extraction from seawater.
Tofu is an excellent addition to plant-based diets as a substitute for meat. Tofu is delicious, but cooking it can be daunting if you don’t know how.
What’s The Best Way to Enjoy Tofu?
Tofu is versatile because it has a creamy texture when blended, making it the ideal substitute for softer cheeses and cream. It’s perfect for vegan desserts and pasta dishes like lasagna and stuffed pasta. However, it’s incredibly delicious when fried, grilled, or baked to crispy perfection to use as a hearty addition to salads, sandwiches, bowls, and cooked dishes with rice, noodles, etc.
Tips and Tricks for Perfectly Golden Tofu Every Time
It’s not impossible to get the perfect restaurant-style tofu at home. Here’s a crispy tofu 101 to help you get it right every time.
1. Buying the right texture
Tofu textures range from silken to extra-firm, and not all textures are suitable for all foods. Therefore, choose soft silken tofu to blend into desserts or slice into soups. On the other hand, if your recipe calls for you to serve the tofu as a main dish or add it as a topping to food bowls, opt for extra-firm tofu because it has a denser texture and less water content.
Note: Tofu is often made with genetically modified soybeans, so if you have concerns about GMOs, buy organic tofu.
2. Preparing the tofu correctly
You cannot take the tofu from its container and prepare it immediately because you’ll have a mushy and unpleasant texture. The secret to perfectly golden tofu is in the preparation. Make it correctly, and you might convince die-hard meat eaters that tofu is delicious.
Follow the steps below for the preparation of perfectly golden tofu every time. Follow the processes below and always get it crispy on the outside and amazingly soft on the inside.
Press to remove extra moisture: You must extract as much water from the tofu block as possible to ensure it crips properly and absorbs the flavors you want to infuse into the tofu in the cooking process. You can do this in several ways.
- A tofu press is more straightforward because it collects the liquid and minimizes mess.
- Don’t fret if you don’t have one; squeeze the tofu in cheesecloth until no more liquid comes out. Be careful because this method tends to break the tofu.
- Wrap the tofu in paper towels, place it on a plate, and press it down with a cast iron pot weighed with a few cans. Switch out the paper as it absorbs moisture until it’s firm and dry. Ideally, leave it like this for thirty minutes to an hour for the best results.
Freeze to remove extra moisture: Another method for removing the liquid from tofu to ensure the perfect texture that soaks up your preferred flavors is freezing. If you find that no matter how long you press that piece of tofu, it still retains water, why not try this method used by many restaurants specializing in its preparation? Freeze it overnight and then thaw it at room temperature. All the liquid flows out with no pressing required. Extra-firm tofu is the best quality to freeze.
- Before freezing, cut the tofu into your required shapes.
- Place it on a single layer in a baking tray and place it in the freezer.
- If you aren’t using it the next day, place the frozen tofu pieces in a freezer bag and keep them in the freezer until needed.
- Thaw at room temperature and follow the cooking methods below.
Spice it nicely: Tofu has a reputation for being bland, and it is. However, because it presents a blank taste palate and a superabsorbent texture, you can season it nicely by adding your favorite flavors. Create a mixture of corn flour and your preferred spices or a marinade. Cut the tofu into cubes, triangles, or strips and toss it into the spices or marinade.
Add cornstarch: Adding cornstarch is another trick to preparing perfect golden tofu every time. Cornstarch helps tofu get its beautiful color and crisp exterior, prevents it from sticking to the pan, and absorbs excess water.
Fry the tofu: Use a non-stick pan to heat some oil over medium-high heat. The temperature must be high enough the help it crisp. The tofu needs about two to four minutes of frying on each side. Don’t overfill the pan with tofu; cook it in smaller batches to ensure it crisps up perfectly. Add more oil if the pan gets dry. Drain it on paper towels and season it with more salt before adding it to your foods.
Bake the tofu: You can also bake the tofu in the oven. After pressing it, cut the tofu into cubes of about 1 inch. Line an oven tray with baking parchment and place the tofu cubes on it. Toss olive oil, soy sauce, and sriracha over, mix well, and bake at 435° F until golden brown (about 20 minutes). Add one tablespoon of cornstarch when spicing the pieces if you want extra crispy tofu.
Air-fryer tofu: You can also cook deliciously crispy tofu in an air-fryer. After eliminating the water, cut the tofu into one-inch cubes, marinate or spice them, and fry in a pre-heated air fryer in a single layer until crisp and golden (about 15 to 20 minutes).
If you start with pre-marinated tofu, lower the temperature to 350° F and cook for 10 minutes. Give it a shake in the middle of cooking to make sure all sides crisp up evenly.
No matter how you prepare your crispy tofu, press it as much as possible, eliminate extra moisture and spices, and follow the right cooking methods.
Tofu is a healthy and nutritious addition to your meals, and its compounds have many health benefits. But unfortunately, many people struggle to prepare it properly, which is a pity. As you can see from this crispy tofu 101, you never need to eat soggy and mushy tofu again. Instead, follow the above tips and serve perfectly golden tofu every time.
What is the best way to make crispy tofu?
The best way to make crispy tofu is to press it, freeze it (if necessary), marinate or spice it, and fry or bake it in a preheated oven until golden and crisp. Cornstarch helps absorb excess water and gives the tofu a beautiful color and texture.
How long do you have to fry tofu to become crispy?
Fry your tofu over medium-high heat for about two to four minutes on each side, depending on the size of cuts you make into your pieces. Ensure not to overcrowd the pan; cook them in smaller batches so they all crisp up appropriately.
Can you use tofu without pressing it?
Yes, you can, but the results won’t be as crispy. Pressing the tofu is important in creating that beautiful golden-brown exterior and removing excess moisture. The more moisture you remove, the better your results will be.
Can you air fry pre-marinated tofu?
Yes, you can! Preheat your air fryer to 350°F and cook for 10 minutes until crisp and golden. During cooking, shake it periodically to ensure all sides are cooked evenly.