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A Step-by-Step Guide on the Best Ways to Cook Tofu

Mar 11 2017 - 1:45pm

Your diet could use more protein, but let's face it — it can do without added saturated fat and cholesterol. I have one word for you: tofu. Yes, this versatile vegetarian food is just the thing to fill you up and sustain your energy to help you defeat hunger and drop pounds.

Because I've been a vegetarian since the ripe age of 13, friends keep asking advice on how to cook tofu so that it's not squishy and gross! Well, here's a simple step-by-step guide to preparing this white wonder in three tasty ways.

Types of Tofu

If you're not into the soft, slimy texture of tofu, then you'll want to skip the silken and soft varieties and go straight for firm, extrafirm, or even superfirm. These are more dense, which means more calories and more protein per bite. Check out the nutritional comparison below for a three-ounce serving:

Firm: 70 calories [3], 8 grams protein

Extrafirm: 80 calories [4], 9 grams protein

Superfirm: 100 calories [5], 11 grams protein

How to Press

It you've never opened a container of tofu in your life, it may surprise you to see this little white block swimming around in water. It's necessary to prevent your precious tofu from drying out, but you don't need it when cooking, so the first thing on your tofu-making to-do list is to drain the water.

Since tofu is like a sponge, you'll want to remove some of the water it's holding by pressing your tofu. Fold a cloth dish towel in half lengthwise, and place it on a cutting board. Place the block of tofu on one end, and fold the towel over the top of the tofu. Rest a large plate on top, and gently press down to squeeze out any excess water. Don't squeeze too hard unless you want crumbles for a tofu scramble.

How to Cut

Now is the fun part — cutting your tofu. How you slice depends on how you plan on preparing it. Diced works well when marinating, since the smaller bites result in more flavor per bite, but they can also be used when sautéing or baking. And since you've chosen a firm tofu, it'll hold its cube shape well.

Lucky for you, some brands offer precubed tofu, so that's one less step. All you'll need to do is slit the top of the package with a sharp knife to drain the water, and then you can use your hands to gently squeeze the container to remove the excess moisture.

When sautéing or baking, you may prefer thinner, rectangular slices, since they'll cook faster. You can get fancy and cut different shapes like triangles — it's totally up to you!

How to Marinate

A common (and supereasy) way to prepare tofu used on top of salads or in sandwiches is to marinate it. Just make your sauce, pour it on your tofu, stir it around, and leave it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (overnight is even better). Here's a simple recipe to try:

You can enjoy the tofu cold right out of the fridge, or you can sauté it in a pan with a little oil if you prefer your tofu warmer or with crispy edges.

How to Sauté

Faster than marinating and just as easy, sautéed tofu results in crispier edges and a drier, firmer texture.

Place a pan on medium-low heat. Add the oil and tofu to the pan, and give it a good stir. Sprinkle with garlic powder, salt, and dill, and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often.

How to Bake

Baking your tofu can yield a drier texture, which squishy-tofu-haters will appreciate. This recipe is always a crowd-pleaser.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Use a Silpat silicone mat, or lightly spray a cookie sheet. Place the tofu slices on the pan. Drizzle with tamari and maple syrup. Sprinkle with thyme, cumin, and dill, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes.

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