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!

marinated tofu in a bowl close up

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.

marinated tofu in a bowl with rice and green onions

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:

showing how to press tofu for marinated tofu, cast iron pan on sheet, tofu underneath

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.

showing pressed tofu pieces on paper towels and with marinade in a dish

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.

marinated tofu being fried in a cast iron pan

Want more mouthwatering tofu recipes?

marinated tofu piece on a chopstick

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Recipe adapted from Genius Kitchen.

marinated tofu in a bowl close up
4.92 stars (190 ratings)

Marinated Tofu (The Best Tofu Ever!)

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!
Prep: 1 hr 20 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Total: 1 hr 30 mins
Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients 
 

  • 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

Instructions 

  • 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.

Video

Notes

  1. For gluten free, use tamari instead of soy sauce.
  2. 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.
  3. Instead of quick pressing, you could also press the whole block of tofu for at least an hour.
  4. 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.
  5. Nutrition information is for 1/4 of the tofu only, using 2 tablespoons of canola oil for frying.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 161kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 606mg | Potassium: 215mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 46mg | Iron: 2mg
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Japanese
Author: Nora Taylor
Did you make this recipe?Mention @nora_cooks_vegan_ or tag #noracooks!

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Comments

  1. Yes, I was one of these people that thought it is impossible to make tofu taste any decent… until this recipe came to my attention.
    Sooooo flavorful! Perfect in every possible way!
    Thank you so much for this gift!

  2. We enjoyed this in wraps along with fresh veggies. After sauteing the tofu and removing them from the pan, I added the extra marinade along with a heading tablespoon of orange marmalade to the pan and cooked several minutes until it thickened. I poured it over the tofu to coat. It added a bit of citrusy sweetness that offset the other flavors. Very good.

  3. Thank you! This is a great and super easy recipe! I added green onions into the marinade. 
    Perfect for my vege bowl!

    Also. The tofu I used is “super firm” and water is already drained, making for a relatively quick meal since you don’t need to wait for the tofu to drain. 

  4. So delicious! Made a salad with lots of veggies and ranch with this marinated tofu and it was AMAZING! Will definitely be adding this one to my recipe book. Thanks for sharing!! 

  5. I have only just read this-which is why I can’t rate the recipe- ingredients are very promising though. I recognize the superiority of a low-meat diet but don’t yet know how to cook well without meat and this post has opened a new world of possibility! Compliments to Nora as things are so well-described and I love the tips (I find that key bits of information are missing so often in online recipes). I will be back with an opinion on the recipe and thank you!

    1. Delicious! Marinated overnight. Mixed it with rice and veggies and didn’t miss the meat at all.

  6. SO good. Made this tofu to go along with some veggies, noodles and peanut sauce, and it was ideal – though I would imagine it would go well with anything. Super crispy and amazing flavor. Thanks as always!!

  7. So good! The fresh ginger and garlic make this tofu pop! A wonderful all purpose marinade to have on hand,

  8. TRULY THE BEST TOFU EVER!!!! I pressed my tofu for about an hour slowly and marinated for about 2 hours. So flavorful and crisp on the outside. My meat-eating boyfriend said he could eat it every day!

  9. This recipe was a revelation. I have never eaten such good tofu in my life. NEVER. The flavors are incredible together and it’s just so so very good. Thanks Nora! I have made it twice already and I’ll surely make it again 🙂

  10. Shout out to Nora! She surely is cooking! I’ve now made this twice in 8 days! Thanks so much, I’m excited to try some others recipes you’ve got!!

  11. Most recipes I use come from noracooks. Most everything is always easy to make and turns out great! I found this actually not to be the best tofu ever. But, it was ok. Usually when Nora says best ever, she’s right! (Especially meatloaf!). Anyways, obviously just my opinion. I even marinated the tofu overnight. To me it kind of tasted like eating bread. I still ate it up. It was fine. Thank you!

    1. Thank you so much Jennifer! I kind of think something may have gone wrong with the tofu here though, as it shouldn’t taste anything like bread! Sometimes certain brands of tofu can taste like that to me, so I imagine that is likely the issue. Unless you never enjoy tofu! Also, it tastes best when fried in a pan with oil so it gets all crispy on the outside. Anyhow, I appreciate the comment and glad you are enjoying other recipes! 🙂

  12. I’m new to eating vegan and really wanted my first attempt at Tofu to be a good first impression. I was buying tubs of Tofu while I searched for the recipe that I would like, was easy, and would inspire on my Tofu eating journey.

    After viewing countless ideas on Pinterest, Youtube the net…I decided I would try this one, and it really is the best, for this beginner at least.

    I’ve tried a few other of your recipes, the Quick Vegan Banana muffins so good! the tempeh bacon was a bust, too sour for me so I pitched it. Looking forward to your Ranch dressing and tofu tacos. Thankful for all your ideas!

    1. Nora,
      Hello from Locked Down London….I just wanted to say that this is a marvellous marinade mix and I loved your extremely clear instructions. Scored a 10 / 10 with both Veggie and Carnivores
      Many thanks for posting
      Peter

  13. Love this! I’m using apple cider vinegar instead of rice vinerag – seesm to work great too. Thank you!

  14. I’m making the marinated tofu and all I have is seasoned rice vinegar. Is that ok?
    Thanks
    Marian

  15. Better than advertised. I’m going to make it again this week after I finish the first batch. Scrumptious.

  16. This sounds SO good! This will be my first time working with tofu. I’ve never prepared it myself. Do you HAVE to use canola oil? I know canola is good for frying but it’s so bad for you. Will vegetable oil do?

  17. I’m excited to try this. I also have a question. Hopefully I don’t sound too dumb. When I serve this tofu over rice, can you pour some of the extra marinade sauce over the rice as well?

  18. This was so delicious!!! I was too eager to eat it so I didn’t wait till all the sides were browned but the taste was amazing. Will definitely make again. Thank you!

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