Tofu is freakin’ delicious. If that’s only just a-curd to you, you probably haven’t bean cooking it in the best way. You need to learn how to press tofu so you can get that super-crispy, delicious texture.
Questionable jokes aside, you might’ve had a few bad experiences with this soybean bad boy. But listen, it’s not tofu’s fault.
A lot of people just don’t know how to prepare it. So let us show you.
So why the heck do you need to press tofu anyway?
Do I always need to press tofu?
Commercial tofu is made by condensing soybean milk curds and pressing them into blocks (like some super funky bean cheese).
There are different types, ranging from super-soft silken tofu to extra-firm tofu. Which one you’ll use depends on what you’re cooking.
The tofu manufacturing process leaves behind a lot of moisture, so sometimes you’ll need to press the tofu to remove the moisture. This stops it from becoming mushy (blegh).
Not all tofu needs to be pressed. If you’re buying smoked or flavored tofu, it has probably been drained and pressed already.
You can do a little moisture test to check. Just grab a clean kitchen towel and dab the surface. If the towel doesn’t pick up any moisture, you won’t need to press the tofu.
If you do need to press it, there are a few options. Let’s take a look.
With a press
A bona fide workhorse in any vegan kitchen, a tofu press is designed to squeeze the living daylights out of your tofu.
A ton of models are available online, from traditional-style bamboo clamps to newfangled plastic drainers. They all work in a similar way, using a clamping mechanism to apply pressure and a drainer to remove the liquid.
Place the tofu on the press and secure or tighten the clamps. Then leave it in the fridge for a couple hours to do its thing. Take it out and remove the water from the drainer. Simple.
Without a press
If you don’t want to invest in another piece of kitchen gear (hello, unboxed pasta maker, juicer, and spiralizer), you can take the MacGyver route and create your own makeshift tofu press.
All you need are some kitchen towels, a plate, and something heavy, like a big-ass frying pan.
Wrap the tofu in the towels and set it on the plate. Place the weight on top and leave it for a few hours.
You might need to readjust the weight every so often so it doesn’t slip off. You can use a cutting board to help keep things level if needed (and it’s probably best to keep an eye on it to avoid any mishaps).
You can save some prep time by doing this the day before you need to use your tofu. Just keep it stored in a sealed container in the fridge.
Most tofu you buy in the grocery store will come swimming in its own juices. This sounds a little gross, but it just helps keep the tofu fresh, so don’t be weirded out.
If you’re using extra-firm tofu for something like a stir-fry, all you really need to do is cut a small hole in the package to drain out the liquid and then pat the tofu dry with a kitchen towel.
But if you want super-crispy tofu, it could be worth sticking it in a press for a couple of hours. You might need to experiment a little to see what you prefer.
Theoretically, the less moisture content the tofu has, the crispier it’s gonna get. But removing too much moisture can sometimes make it dry and chewy.
If you’re using silken tofu for things like vegan mayonnaise or desserts, then draining is pretty much a waste of time. But if your tofu is way too juicy, you can use a plate — with one hand supporting the tofu — and gently tip off any excess liquid.
Now that you’ve got the hang of pressing, it’s time to don your chef’s apron and get to work. Here are some methods to try.
Crispy fried tofu
So you want to know the secret ingredient to perfect crispy tofu?
That’s right: Cornstarch is full of, well, starches that will make your tofu uber-crispy. It’s like a magic trick.
- Press tofu to drain off any excess liquid.
- Cut it into equal cubes.
- Toss cubes in a mixture of cornstarch, salt, and pepper. (You can add other seasonings, too, like Cajun spice blend or curry powder.)
- Heat up a pan of oil for shallow frying. Try to use something flavorless, like grapeseed or peanut oil.
- Fry tofu on medium heat for 5–10 minutes, until crispy and golden on the outside.
- Remove from the pan and place in a bowl lined with kitchen towels. (They’ll soak up any excess oil.)
- It’s ready! Use it in your favorite dishes or just eat the whole bowl yourself. No judgment.
Crispy baked tofu
Same sorta vibe here, just less oil for those health-conscious tofu lovers out there.
- Press tofu to drain off any excess liquid.
- Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).
- Line a large rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper. (This will stop the tofu from sticking.)
- Cut tofu into equal cubes.
- Toss cubes in a mixture of cornstarch, oil, and soy sauce (you can use tamari here too).
- Arrange tofu in an even layer on the sheet pan, being careful not to overcrowd it.
- Bake for 25–30 minutes, until golden and crispy on the edges.
- Ready! Om nom nom nom.
Now that you’ve perfected the art of crispy tofu, it’s time to expand your recipe book! Here’s a rundown of our fave crispy tofu recipes:
- Pan-fried sesame garlic tofu
- Crispy tofu lettuce wraps with peanut sauce
- Sweet and spicy baked firecracker tofu wings
- Sticky-sweet ginger tofu with baby courgettes (FYI: Courgettes are zucchini.)
- Marinated tofu naan wraps with avocado-lime slaw
- General Tso’s tofu (so, Tsofu?)
- Crispy breaded tofu strips with sweet potato fries
- Korean-inspired crispy tofu tacos
You might’ve had some bad experiences with limp tofu before. But that’s probably because it wasn’t well cooked.
By removing all the moisture before cooking, you’ll get crispy, delicious tofu that you’ll have a great time eating. All you need is a tofu press or something heavy to squeeze out all that liquid.
So say goodbye to soggy tofu forever. You won’t miss it. 👋