Many people wonder how to prepare tofu. Standing face-to-face with a whitish block of tofu can seem daunting. You know it is good for you, and that it is a great source of healthy protein. However, what do you do with it?
The answer to the question of how to prepare tofu is complex in its simplicity: any way you want.
The fact that tofu is so bland on its own is one of its best qualities as an ingredient. That's because tofu can be prepared in a number of ways, from sweet to savory, to take on the flavor and character of whatever dish you are cooking.
What Is Tofu?
Tofu is made from coagulating soy milk and pressing the curds into blocks, much like the process of making cheese from milk. There are many varieties of tofu. It is important to learn how to choose the best kind.
Learning How to Prepare Tofu for Savory Dishes
Learning how to prepare tofu is not complicated. You just need to follow these simple steps.
Step 1: Choose the Right Tofu For Your Dish
There are several types of tofu. Select from the types below, depending on the dish you are making.
- Silken tofu: This type of tofu lives up to its advertising. It is very silky and smooth. Because of this, silken tofu makes a great base for creamy dishes like soups, dips, smoothies and puddings.
- Soft tofu: This type of tofu usually comes packed in water. It crumbles easily and as such, it is great for use in things like tofu burgers or as a replacement for ricotta cheese in pasta dishes.
- Firm tofu: This type of tofu comes either packed in water or aseptic packaging. Because it holds its shape very well, it is great in recipes where it is cubed or sliced - like in a stir-fry or marinated and grilled.
- Baked tofu: Some stores offer tofu that has been marinated and baked. Its texture is very dense and chewy, but it can be crumbled. This type of tofu is good as a meat substitute in casseroles and sandwiches.
Step 2: Get the Water Out
If the tofu you use comes water-packed, then you will need to press it to get out the water. Performing this step improves the texture of the tofu and makes it more receptive to soaking up spices and marinades.
- Remove the tofu from the water one to two hours before cooking or marinating.
- Slice the tofu into three or four slices lengthwise across the block.
- Cover a plate or baking sheet with several layers of paper towels, and lay the slices on the plate. Don't stack them.
- Place several more layers of paper towels on top of the tofu, and then put another plate on top of that.
- Put something heavy, like books or a brick, on top of the plate and set the tofu aside for one to two hours. The paper towels will absorb the moisture as it is pressed out of the tofu.
Step 3: Precook the Tofu
This step further firms up the tofu so that it will hold its shape. It is as easy as sauteing or toasting the pressed blocks of tofu just until there is a little firmness to the skin.
Step 4: Cut It Into Manageable Pieces
Once the skin has firmed up, you can cut the tofu up into whatever you feel will best incorporate into your dish. This can be cubes, slices or crumbles.
Step 5: Add Flavor
Make a tasty marinade or spice rub, depending on the dish you are making. For instance, if you are making a stir fry, you might want to marinade in garlic, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil and ginger, or you may want to use lime juice and chipotle for a Mexican dish. Marinate, covered, in the refrigerator for one to 24 hours.
Step 6: Cook the Tofu
You can fry it, grill it, or bake it. It's up to you.
Step 7: Add It to the Finished Dish
Mix the tofu in with your dish. You can toss it into a soup, or add it in at the end of a stir fry.
Incorporating Tofu into Sweet Dishes, Sauces and Dressings
The easiest way to incorporate tofu into all of these types of dishes is to blend it in a blender or food processor with other ingredients. There is no need to cook the tofu in these cases - just blend it right in with your other flavors.
It may seem daunting, but preparing tofu doesn't need to be. Learning to prepare tofu opens you up to a completely new world of healthy eating choices.