How to Cook Tofu: 4 Tips to Level Up Your Tofu

If you struggle with enjoying tofu, this guide shows you how to cook tofu using 4 techniques to improve the taste and texture of your tofu. 

Popcorn tofu on a white plate with fresh herbs sprinkled on top.

This post is sponsored by Nasoya, but all opinions are my own.

What Is Tofu?

Tofu is made when freshly made soy milk is cooked at a high heat causing it to curdle. When the resulting curds are pressed together, they form a tofu cake. Depending on how that tofu cake is pressed you end up with tofu varying in consistency. The most common varieties include silken, firm, extra firm, or super firm tofu. You can then flavor and cook it to your liking.

Block of tofu in a package in front of a tofu press device.

Getting the Right Texture

Tofu preference varies person to person. You can find various forms of tofu used in traditional recipes and enjoyed as is in many Asian cultures. Outside of these traditional uses, tofu may be used by other individuals looking for a meat alternative that can still provide a satisfying texture and chew. And that’s where the firmest varieties of tofu can shine: 

  • Firm and Extra Firm Tofu: These varieties of tofu are pressed longer, resulting in a denser texture that holds its shape better. Both firm and extra firm tofu can be cut, marinated, sautéed, or baked to create a chewier texture.
  • Super Firm Tofu: This tofu is the densest variety, giving it a meaty texture. It’s sold vacuum-sealed, so it’s ready to season and use straight from the package.

Pressing and Draining Tofu

One of the most common recommendations you will see is to press your tofu. This is a method used to help remove excess water from the tofu, which can make it chewier in texture and better for marinating. This method is best used with medium firm and extra firm tofu while options like silken tofu are best for smoothies, desserts and dressings. Now that you know which variety to use, choose the method you prefer based on preference.

  • Pat Dry: Drain the extra firm tofu right out of the package and give it a gentle squeeze while holding its shape to release some liquid, then pat dry with a clean towel. Note, your tofu will still have excess water in it, so it may dilute the flavor of sauces or seasonings used on it.
  • Tofu Press: Using a tofu press can help remove excess water from tofu without a mess or the need for extra paper towels. Simply place the tofu in the device and press as directed.
  • DIY Tofu Press: If you want to make your own tofu press, save the tofu container after removing the tofu. Flip the container over, poke small holes into the bottom and place it in a shallow dish. Place the tofu on top of the plastic container then top the tofu with a plastic cutting board or flat dish. Balance 1-2 books on top and allow to press for at least 15-30 minutes.

You can use pressed tofu to make meals like this Teriyaki Tofu Sandwich or some Easy Baked Peanut Tofu.

Freezing Tofu

Freezing tofu is a great way to change its texture and make it more porous, allowing it to absorb more flavor. To freeze tofu, simply remove it from the package, drain any excess liquid, and place in a freezer bag or an airtight container. Place it in the freezer for at least 24 hours, or until frozen solid. When you’re ready to use the tofu, let it thaw in the refrigerator for a few hours before using it in your recipe.

Seasoning Tofu

Rather than pressing your tofu, you can season it. One easy way to do this without a marinade is to soak the tofu in a briny solution. Cube the tofu then soak it in warm or boiling water that has been heavily salted, similar to how you salt boiling water for pasta. The salt will penetrate the inside of the tofu to flavor it, and the heat and salt will also help firm up the tofu and lend a crispier exterior when baked or pan-fried. This is a fantastic method to use for Tofu Stir-Fries.

Use Pre-Pressed and Pre-Marinated Tofu

If you do not have time to press or season your tofu, convenience items are available that can help. I use Nasoya’s Super Firm Tofu the most when I need a quick meal. Since it doesn’t require additional pressing, this can be used to season or marinate straight out of the package.

And for even more convenience, I keep at least one package of a pre-marinated tofu in the fridge. Typically I will keep some Nasoya Plantspired TofuBaked in the fridge. It’s tofu that is already pressed and marinated. There are three different flavors to choose from, and you can eat it cold or toast it up in a pan or in the oven. I love to shred the Sweet BBQ flavored one, roast it in the oven, coat in my favorite BBQ sauce then stuff it into tortillas with baked plantains and extra toppings.

Put It Into Practice: Let’s Make Popcorn Tofu

So now that we’ve gone over the various techniques you can use to improve your tofu experience, let’s put it into practice by making Popcorn Tofu. Crispy breaded tofu that is fully baked in the oven even though it looks like it was pan-fried.

Close up of popcorn tofu on a plate topped with fresh herbs.

Key Ingredients and Substitutions

  • Tofu: I used Nasoya’s Extra Firm Tofu. Just make sure to remove from the package before freezing. If you forget to freeze your tofu, use super firm tofu or press your extra firm tofu before using. 
  • Flour: I used regular all-purpose flour. Feel free to swap with an all-purpose gluten-free flour mix if desired.
  • Bread Crumbs: You can use regular bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs. For a gluten-free alternative, try a crushed corn flake style cereal.
  • Nutritional Yeast: Helps add additional umami flavor to the bread crumb mixture. Feel free to replace with additional bread crumbs or some cornmeal.
  • Plant-Based Milk: Any plant-based milk will work. I prefer using either soy milk, almond milk or cashew milk for this.
  • Seasonings: I used a mix of smoked paprika, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder and salt. Feel free to adjust the seasonings more to your liking based on your own preference.
  • Soy Sauce: Adds additional salty and umami flavor to the tofu and batter. If gluten-free, swap for coconut aminos or wheat-free tamari.
  • Vinegar: I used rice wine vinegar, but apple cider vinegar or the juice of half a lemon works as well.

How to Make Popcorn Tofu

Place your drained tofu in an airtight container and place in the freezer overnight or until frozen solid. Remove the tofu from the freezer and allow it to completely thaw. Carefully squeeze out excess liquid from the thawed tofu, then proceed to tear the tofu into small nugget sized pieces.

Place the tofu nuggets in an empty container and toss with the soy sauce to coat then set aside.

Preheat oven to 425F. To a naked 9in x 13in rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with the oil to completely coat the bottom of the pan.

In one shallow bowl, whisk together the flour, milk, soy sauce, vinegar and salt until smooth.

In a separate shallow bowl, combine the bread crumbs, nutritional yeast, and seasonings until well incorporated.

With one hand, take a tofu nugget and dip into the batter to coat completely. Shake off any excess and place in the bread crumb mixture. With your other clean hand, coat the nugget completely in the bread crumb mixture. Shake off excess and then place on the baking sheet and repeat with the remaining tofu pieces.

Place the baking tray in the oven for 25 minutes, flipping the tofu half way through the baking process. When flipping, if the tray looks dry, drizzle or spray the tofu with a little oil before placing back in the oven. Once the tofu is golden, remove from the oven and serve immediately.

Plate of tofu nuggets and a vegan honey mustard dipping sauce in a bowl on the side.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it okay not to press tofu?

Absolutely! You can just drain then pat the surface of the tofu dry with a clean cloth and add it to a pan to cook. Many traditional tofu recipes use their tofu in this way. Just note your tofu texture will be softer, which is totally fine. If you prefer a firmer consistency, pressing for even just 15 minutes can make a big difference.

What are the best marinades to use for tofu?

I have a whole post with suggested tofu marinades to try. They are easy to make and can be prepped in advance for the work week ahead all at the same time.

Can popcorn tofu be made in advance?

Popcorn tofu is best enjoyed immediately after coming out of the oven. You can store leftovers in an airtight container and place in the fridge for up to 4 days. To reheat and make crispy again, place the pieces in a toaster oven or air fryer at 350F and bake for 5 minutes to heat the tofu through.

More Tofu Recipes to Try

Close up of popcorn tofu on a plate topped with fresh herbs.
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Tofu nuggets on a white plate garnished with fresh herbs.

How to Cook Tofu: 4 Tips to Level Up Your Tofu

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  • Author: Catherine Perez
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Roasting
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan


If you struggle with enjoying tofu, this guide shows you how to cook tofu using 4 techniques to improve the taste and texture of your tofu.




  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk or almond milk
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt


  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dry thyme
  • 1/2 tsp salt




Tear the tofu into even pieces. Make sure they are about the same size so they cook evenly in the oven.

If the pan dries up when flipping your tofu, spray some of your tofu with a little spray oil.

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. To reheat, place the tofu in a toaster oven or the air-fryer at 400F for 3-5 minutes or until warmed through and crispy.

If you tried this recipe or any other recipe on the blog, then let me know what you thought in the comments below! And if you loved it, don’t forget to rate it too. Feel free to follow on Instagram, Pinterest, and TikTok for the latest nutrition tips and recipe videos.


This post contains affiliate links which means I will make a small commission if you purchase from those links. I only recommend and share products that I know, trust and personally use myself!

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