This marinated tofu is hands down the best tofu I’ve ever tasted! It’s super flavorful, simple to make, and very versatile. I like to serve it on a bed of rice with stir fried vegetables, or even sliced in sandwiches. Perfect addition to salads, too!
As I’ve shared before, I live near Portland, Oregon. I’m about 30 minutes from the city, and honestly, with my kids and everything else going on, I don’t get to enjoy the bounty of vegan restaurants quite as often as I’d like. Several months ago, we ate at a place called the Bye and Bye, and they had the most delicious tofu. I got a BBQ tofu, brussels sprouts and rice bowl, and it was A-mazing. The tofu had flavor like I had never tasted! Flavor was infused all throughout each piece of tofu, and I decided I needed to find a way to re-create this deliciousness at home.
After several tries, I have finally perfected this flavorful marinated tofu. If you think tofu is bland, boring, or difficult to make, think again! I’ll teach you how to make the best tofu ever. I love serving this with rice and some stir fried vegetables, but it’s also good in sandwiches, on salads or simply as a high protein snack.
How to press tofu quickly:
There are a few things you need to know about tofu. The most common way to buy it is packed in water. You usually need to press the tofu to drain most of the water, especially for stir fries or baked tofu. You can skip this step buy purchasing super firm tofu that is vacuum packed, not in water.
To press it very quickly, remove the tofu from the water pack and cut into cubes. Place the cubed tofu on a flat surface like a cutting board, lined with paper towels (or a clean tea towel.) Cover with more paper towels, a baking sheet, and then place something heavy on top like a cast iron skillet. This way, you only need to let it press for about 15 minutes while you make the marinade.
My set-up looked like this:
While it is pressing, combine the marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Once tofu is done pressing, place the cubes in a shallow baking dish and cover with the marinade. Let it marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour, longer if desired.
How do you cook tofu after marinating it?
After the tofu has marinated, warm a few tablespoons of canola oil in a pan, cast iron preferred. Remove the tofu from the marinade, but do NOT discard the extra sauce. Place the tofu in the pan and fry until golden brown on all sides.
TIP: How to prevent tofu from sticking in the pan
The key to keep tofu from sticking to the bottom of a pan is this: when you first add the tofu cubes to the hot pan with oil coating the bottom, let them cook, without trying to move them AT ALL, for 3-4 minutes. They should get browned and crispy on the bottom by then, and will be much easier to flip. Repeat once you flip them. Do this instead of trying to move them around too much. Use a quality spatula to move them around in the pan, and be gentle.
Can I bake the tofu instead?
If you prefer to make this tofu oil free, it can be easier to bake them. It works well, they just won’t be as crispy as if you fried them. To bake, place the marinated tofu cubes on a silicone mat or a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes, flip and bake 20 minutes more. To add extra flavor, quickly saute the baked tofu in a pan with the extra marinade.
Want more mouthwatering tofu recipes?
Recipe adapted from Genius Kitchen.
Marinated Tofu (The Best Tofu Ever!)
- 16 ounces extra-firm tofu
- 4 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger, OR 1/2 teaspoon dried ginger
- 2-3 tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola
- Quick press the tofu: Cut the tofu into cubes. Place them evenly on a flat surface such as a cutting board lined with paper towels or a clean towel. Cover with a layer of paper towels, set a baking sheet on top and then something heavy, like a large book or cast iron skillet. Press like this for 15 minutes while you make the marinade.
- Make the marinade: In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar, maple syrup, sesame oil, garlic and ginger.
- Marinate the tofu: Place the pressed tofu pieces in a shallow dish. (In the photos above I doubled the recipe, so I used a 9 x 13 inch dish, but for one batch you will need a smaller dish, such as an 8 x 8 inch.) Pour the marinade over the tofu. Let it marinate for at least 1 hour, covered, in the refrigerator. If you want to leave it overnight, it will be even more flavorful.
- Cook the tofu: In a large skillet, cast iron preferred, add a few tablespoons of a neutral oil, such as canola oil and heat over medium-high heat. You can omit the oil if needed, but you will need a very good non-stick pan so the tofu pieces don't stick. Remove the tofu pieces from the marinade and add to the pan. Do not discard the marinade sauce. Fry the tofu until golden brown on each side.
- Once the tofu pieces are browned, pour any leftover marinade sauce into the pan with the tofu, and stir to coat. This makes the tofu even more flavorful! The tofu will quickly absorb the sauce. Remove from heat, and serve with rice and stir fried vegetables such as baby bok choy, mushrooms and carrots.
- Store leftover tofu in a covered container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. It's also good cold, as a high protein snack or in sandwiches and salads.
- For gluten free, use tamari instead of soy sauce.
- You can also bake the tofu if you prefer. Place the tofu pieces on a silicone mat or parchment paper on a baking sheet, and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Flip the pieces and bake for 20 more minutes. To add more flavor after baking, quickly saute in a pan with the leftover marinade sauce; you won't need to use any oil.
- Instead of quick pressing, you could also press the whole block of tofu for at least an hour.
- This recipe can easily be doubled or even tripled, and stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, if it lasts that long! I always double it as my family gobbles it up fast.
- Nutrition information is for 1/4 of the tofu only, using 2 tablespoons of canola oil for frying.
Wonderful recipe! Several friends requested the recipe. I baked it the evening before and refrigerated it. It was delicious on our salads. Didn’t wind up using the extra marinade.
Hi Marie. Sounds so delicious on a salad! Thanks or your great feedback! I’m glad you loved the tofu!
Can this be frozen?
I haven’t tried freezing it after cooking, but maybe. It would change the texture of the tofu for sure.
I have toasted sesame oil, is that what you use? If not, I will use sunflower oil.
Yes, I usually use toasted sesame oil, it adds a wonderful flavor.
Taste was great, but extremely salty. I used the reduced sodium tamari. Any suggestions on what I can do to reduce the salt taste?
I also tried baking it and that was good, but texture is oh so much better when you sauté it.
If you found the marinade too salty, simply replace some of the soy sauce with water. Hope that helps!
Perfect perfect perfect! My wife and kids absolutely love it. No more oily sub par take out!! I double it easily! Pair it with a quinoa and rice mix with steamed stir fry veg and you won’t have a problem cleaning your plates!! Finally an easy week night at home “Chinese take out”! Thank you!
Very very good. Thanks for sharing!
You are welcome! I’m so glad that you love the tofu recipe! Thank you for your feedback!
Wow. This was impressively good. Crunchy like the ma po tofu at P.F. Chang’s. So good!!!
I’m thrilled you loved it! Thank you for sharing your great feedback and review!
Made this for dinner tonight, a keto version using keto pancake syrup. It was amazing! I fried it up in my wok and it was honestly the best tofu ever. Will be making this again and again. That sauce was incredible.
Hi Veronica. Thanks for your fantastic feedback! I’m glad you loved the tofu!
I suggest baking the tofu in an oven at 400 C for about 30 minutes on a sheet of parchment. This avoids the problem of sticking in a fry pan.
Thank you John, will try that!
400C? you must mean F
Making this dish for dinner this evening
I love all your recipes Nora!!!!!
Thank you so much! I appreciate your positive feedback! Happy cooking!
I’ve been struggling to make tofu that tastes pretty damn good, each time I try I seem to get better and better. Well, with this tofu recipe I made the BEST TOFU I’ve ever made, and it was actually delicious! My boyfriend and I both ate it up. The marinade made the tofu taste a bit like vinegar, but not in a bad way.. in a really good, tangy way. Also I bought a tofu press and use that instead of the DIY method, it’s just easier for me to put the tofu in the press in the morning and then marinated the tofu for 6 hours before pan frying it. The only thing I’d change for next time is to make double the sauce so I have leftover sauce to put in the pan at the end. Although this marinated tofu is good without sauce, I didn’t have anything to quite match it to put with my veggies and rice.
Hi Tory. Thank you for sharing your great feedback and ideas! I’m so glad you and your boyfriend love the tofu! Wishing you lots of happy cooking!
Delicious. My go to tofu recipe. This is my family’s favorite and I always return to this recipe after trying others. 🙂 I prefer the texture of tofu after it’s been pressed and frozen so I always try to do that a few days ahead of it being on the menu.
Thank you for your great feedback, Cara! I’m glad you and your family are loving the tofu recipe! Wishing you happy cooking!
Hey Nora! Thanks for the recipe! Any recommendations on what to have with these? Trying to add to the arsenal in cooking for my partner and this will surely impress her!
Hi Noah. I like to serve it on a bed of rice with stir fried or roasted vegetables of choice. I also slice it for sandwiches. It’s a perfect addition to salads, too! I’m glad you love the tofu! Thank you for sharing your great review and feedback!
Can I air fry after marinating? If so, how long and at what heat do you suggest? 🙂
Hi Josie. Yes, I make tofu in my air fryer frequently, and it works very well! I’d try 10-15 minutes, shaking occasionally, at 375 – 400 degrees. Hope that helps!
Loved the recipe so much that same evening made a batch for tomorrow. Great mix of flavors and very easy to follow recipe. Bravo Nora!
Thank you, Tatiana! I’m thrilled you found the recipe easy and delicious! I appreciate you sharing your great feedback!
You go, Nora. I never (and I do mean never) comment on anything, so this is special. Thanks for the tip about not stirring it for 2-3 minutes to prevent sticking. Good recipe!
Hi Danette. I feel honored! Thank you for sharing your wonderful feedback! I’m thrilled you love the tofu! Happy cooking!
I didnt even need the oil. I marinated my tofu for 45 minutes and it was really good.
I’m glad you loved it! Thank you for sharing your great review and feedback!
What can I substitute for the canola oil? Would olivebor avocado oil work? Maybe coconut oil? Please advise.
Any neutral oil, like olive or avocado oil, will work.
I baked mine in the halogen oven untill crispy on a high heat, normal oven does the same. I used dry ginger and balsamic vinegar as that’s what I had along with the other ingredients. Best tasting tofu ?
Thank you for sharing your feedback, Clare! I’m glad you loved th tofu! It’s one of my favorites!
This sounds delicious! I plan to try, but am wondering, is there a substitute you can recommend for the rice vinegar? Will it be very different if left out? It’s the only ingredient I don’t have…
If you don’t have rice vinegar, you can use apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, or even lemon juice instead. The vinegar is really important for the flavor and balance!
How long can I marinate in the fridge?
Is more than one day too much?
Can I keep fried tofu in the fridge?
1. It can be marinated for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
2. Yes, more than 1 day is too long because the marinade can begin to break down the tofu.
3. Yes, the cooked tofu stores well for 3-4 days in the fridge.
This is my go-to tofu recipe. If you don’t have low sodium soy sauce, 3 or 3 1/2 tablespoons of regular soy sauce works just as well. The full 4 can make it too salty.
I’m new to tofu and wished I’d read this first. Good tips for drying tofu . I’ll sub the syrup w/a pinch of brown sugar, and garlic powder, but do have fresh ginger?
I’m glad the tips are helpful for you! Happy cooking!
Do NOT use a cast iron skillet to fry tofu half of my food is stuck to the pan
User error. Your pan was too hot. There is some skill involved in cooking with cast iron.
agreed with the previous commentor about the pan being too hot; it took me a while to learn how to cook in the cast iron pan and I’ve had similar problems as you, Cole, with food sticking because I was cooking at too high a temperature. I used avocado oil with this recipe and turned my tofu every 1-2 minutes until it was golden brown on each side. no issues with sticking this time. good luck for next time, Cole!