January 16, 2024

How To Prepare Tofu (notes to Noah)

This is kind of an odd post because it's actually directed to Noah (and my "voice" in the post is written toward him) but I thought maybe someone who is new to tofu, or just interested in trying tofu, might find it helpful.

I remember very specifically a time that made me feel really damn GOOD about being a mother. I think that parents probably question themselves all the time about whether they're doing a good job and I think we're probably very hard on ourselves sometimes. I'm extremely critical of myself (something I'm always trying to work on). But there was one moment that I remember so well; it made me feel better as a mom than I've ever felt!

It was the night before my mom and I were going to take Noah and Eli to Belle Isle in Detroit to run a 5K. The kids were excited and I told them to pick out the clothes they wanted to run in the next morning. Eli, out of nowhere, said, "I want to make a shirt that says 'Runs for Cookies is my mom'." I have no idea where that came from, I swear.

It was too late for him to make a shirt, but my heart just melted. He was proud of *me*?! He was *that* proud that I was his mom?! I couldn't stop thinking about it, so I decided to get out of bed, pull out what crafting supplies I had, and make Eli a shirt. It turned out pretty good, all things considered! In any other circumstance, I'd have been really embarrassed about a shirt that is basically saying I'm a big deal; but I would have worn anything Eli'd asked me to that day. He loved the shirt and was proud to wear it. (And yes, I still have it.)

I recently had another moment where I thought with pleasant surprise, "Really? Me?!" as a mother. I'd asked Noah to write a Christmas wish list and most of the things on there were tools that he'll need for working on cars. Toward the bottom, though, he'd written that he wanted me to make him a cookbook of his favorite recipes that I've been making all these years. And then he specifically asked for instructions on making tofu.

I never knew that Noah thought anything special about the dinners I cook. I certainly never expected him to ask for a book of the recipes! One of the things I wish I'd done more of is teach the kids about cooking. I've had them help me cook lots of times, but I never really explained things the way I wish I would have--like what types of spices to use for different cuisines, for example.

So, I wanted to make this little cookbook for him. Not necessarily for Christmas, but because he wants to have the foods he loved when living here. (He knows he can always come home for food--actually, I just made him waffles this morning when he came by--but I like that he wanted to learn to cook for himself.)

I won't post the whole thing here, but since tofu can be intimidating if you're never made it, I figured this would be a good part to post. I'm obviously not an expert at making tofu--I've only been making it for a year and a half--but I do make it a LOT because I love it. I've experimented with lots of different ways of making tofu, but these are what I've found work best.

So, here is what I wrote for Noah (about tofu). I don't have actual recipes posted here; just the ways of preparing tofu. Maybe I'll put together a post of a few favorite recipes another day. (You can download the PDF for the tofu prep here--it's the exact same instructions as below.)

How To Prepare Tofu (in various ways)


I like to buy the extra-firm tofu, which you can find in the refrigerated “healthy” section of the store. First, either put it in the freezer (freezing it and then thawing it gives it a more “meat-like” texture) or just open the package. It will have a lot of liquid in it, so drain off the liquid and then put it in the tofu press that I bought you.

Press the tofu (like I showed you) for a couple of hours to get out most of the liquid. Then cut it in the shape you want (I like to do slices or cubes, or you could even tear it with your fingers into “nuggets”.)

You will almost always want to marinate your tofu before using it, but it’s not completely necessary. 


When marinating, always try to do it the night before you plan to cook it (or at least in the morning). You want it marinating long enough to absorb the flavors of the marinade.

In a large reusable ziploc bag, combine all of the marinade ingredients. Zip the bag shut and shake it well. Then add the tofu and gently turn the bag over a few times to let all of the tofu get some marinade. Put it in the fridge overnight (give it a turn every once in a while if you want).

After marinating, move on to cooking methods...


Make sure the marinade you make has oil in it (the oil makes the tofu more firm and crispy; if there is no oil, it’s hard to get a crispy texture on the outside). Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and then spread the marinated tofu across the paper. Bake at 350 F for between 30-50 minutes. That’s a huge time span, I know, but it largely depends on how the tofu is cut (size and shape). Check it after 30 minutes and it will likely still be soft. Then check it every 5-10 minutes until it’s firmed up how you want it. It will CONTINUE to firm up a little as it cools, so take it out before the texture gets too tough.


Prepare the tofu just like you did above, but before you put it in the oven, prepare the breading. Get out 3 bowls and in them, combine:

Bowl 1: Flour (about ¼ cup)

Bowl 2: Milk (I like soy milk; about ½ cup) + ½ tsp. vinegar (which will curdle the milk; don’t let that alarm you)

Bowl 3: Panko bread crumbs (about ¾ cup) + seasonings you like (remember that the marinade was probably salted, so make sure you keep that in mind when you add salt to the seasonings).

Dip each piece of tofu into the flour to lightly coat the sides. Then dip it into the milk. And then, roll it in the panko + seasoning mixture. (If you want it super crispy, do a second dip in the milk and a second roll in the panko.)  Spray with cooking spray (optional; it just makes the breading crispier).

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper. Spread the tofu around in a single layer, then bake at 375 F for about 30-50 minutes (it depends on the size of your pieces. Just lightly press a spoon or spatula on a piece of tofu to feel how firm it is, then take it out when the firmness is just slightly softer than you want (because it firms a little as it cools).


Prepare the tofu just like for the oven baked tofu, but don’t prepare a baking sheet. Instead, heat a good layer of oil on the bottom of a pan. Heat the pan over med-high heat, then place the tofu in a single layer and fry for a few minutes. Turn the tofu and cook the other side (or if there are cubes, just keep flipping them around, gently). Add more oil if it becomes dry. Cook until the tofu is crispy on all sides and the firmness is how you like it. You will probably have to turn the heat down once the outsides are crisp—don’t let it burn.


Depending on what you’re making, you don’t need to press this tofu very much. If you’re going to leave it as-is (meaning no prepping/seasoning beforehand) then just squeeze excess water over the sink. Then crumble the block of tofu into a bowl so that it’s broken up like ground meat. Then just add it to your dish. This method is good for things like spaghetti, chili, etc.

If you want it to be drier (but seasoned), you can mix together in a bowl:

2 Tbsp. tamari (the “good” soy sauce)
1 tsp. kitchen bouquet (optional, for color)
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoons smoked paprika (if you don’t have this, it’s okay to leave it out; it’s different than regular paprika)
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
1 block extra-firm tofu (14-16 oz) (gently pressed)

Crumble the tofu into the bowl with all the seasonings. Then bake at 350 F for about 20-30 minutes, until it resembles ground meat. This is a good method when you’re not using a sauce or when you want to use it for tacos or something.


You don’t even have to really prep it. Just press it, then cut into cubes and add it directly to the sauce you want. Then let it simmer (it will soak up the liquid, which will flavor it). This way will result in much softer tofu. I love it like this in curry sauce!


To use it in place of eggs for fried rice, press it well (to remove any tofu flavor) and put it in clean water to rehydrate (soak the water back up so it’s soft). Crumble it into pieces into the fried rice. You can season the tofu to look and even taste like eggs with a spice blend that I make—I will give you some if you want). You can also use soft tofu or silken tofu (the kind that is in a box in our pantry). I like the silken tofu for a tofu scramble (potatoes, green peppers, onions, and scrambled tofu). With ketchup! ;) That's the kind that I've made for you before.

Here is the way that I prep tofu when I know *you’re* going to be eating it (usually in an Asian sauce, like orange sauce, with rice). Thaw a block of tofu from the freezer (I leave it on the counter for several hours; it takes a few days to thaw when it’s in the fridge). Press the block very well to remove the liquid. Combine this marinade in a bag: ¼ cup olive oil, 2 Tbsp. lemon juice, 2 Tbsp. water, 1 Tbsp. of my vegan bouillon seasoning, and about ¼ tsp. black pepper. Cut the tofu into bite-size pieces and toss gently in the marinade. The marinade will be absorbed quickly, but let it sit for several hours if you can. Then spread it on a baking sheet with parchment paper, bake at 375 F for about 35-45 minutes (until it’s almost as firm as chicken). Then just eat it as-is or stir it into whatever sauce you like. (You really like the orange sauce that I gave you the recipe for! And serve with rice.)


  1. When my daughter and her besties (my "other" daughters) went to college, I made them a "How not to die" document with easy recipes, must haves for cleaning, general tips for surviving on their own...and they've told me many times how it saved them headaches. I should probably dig it out sometime and update it now that my daughter is a mom, and see if any of it stuck. I love that Noah knows right where to go for advice.

  2. I bought a tofu press last year and vowed to learn to prepare it in 2024. Thank you for this post!!!
    I also made a cookbook of my best/easiest recipes and gave one to our grown son (almost 50) and grandson (now 24). I'm not sure either has been used, but I feel good knowing those family recipes are available to them "someday."

  3. This is great! I'll definitely give tofu another try now.

  4. What are some of his favorite recipes you make?? My kids are 18 plus and I'd love to get recipe ides!!

  5. Goodness! I can't love this enough. You are a tremendous mom. Also, I downloaded it and will give to our chef, Ed, to see if he will make tofu.


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