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
4.93 stars (184 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. This recipe stays in rotation for our meal planning. I use it for most asian inspired meals. The faves that my daughter likes are sushi bowls, with rice and veggies, stir fry noodles. Sometimes I slice it flat to make sandwiches and wraps.

    1. Hi Shawn. I’m glad that your family is enjoying the tofu recipe! It’s fun to know that this is part of your meal rotation! Thank you for using my recipes, and for taking time to share your great review and feedback! Happy cooking!

  2. I never comment on websites but I made this last night and my boyfriend and I loved it! I added sesame seeds and chopped green onion on top to finish it off and it was a great addition with our miso soup. Definitely recommend. 

  3. Tofu is usually something I buy then throw out when it’s past expiry date. Second time doing this recipe and it’s absolutely delicious! I cooked bokchoy in the pan after and tossed in the remaining marinade.  Yummy! 

    1. I am really thrilled that you loved the recipe! Thank you for taking time to share your wonderful review and feedback!

  4. Holy mother, this marinade is *amazing.* I let the tofu sit in the fridge overnight, and I’m blown away by how flavorful it is. Came out super crispy with the cooking instructions. Thank you, thank you!

    1. I’m so glad that you loved the tofu and that it turned out perfect and crispy for you! Thank you for sharing your great review and feedback! Happy cooking!

  5. I’ve always found that to have the tofu not stick to the frying pan add the tofu to a cold pan instead of a hot one. just think the opposite of eggs. Thanks for the tip to press the tofu in cube. way easier than in a block.

  6. Great recipe! Instead of marinating I double recipe (as IP needs min 1 cup liquid) and cook in Instant Pot for 3 min. I then bake for 20 min, flip, and at after another 10-15 min add rest of marinade until caramelized.

  7. Hi! I was thinking of using this tofu in some kind of bowl, but was wondering if  you had recommendations for a sauce or dressing that would compliment the flavor profile?

  8. this is my second times already. Im slowly incorporating more plant based meal in my diet. This is a great marinade Nora. can easily be tossed in a salad, sandwich or curry. Very versatile. thank you so much for all your efforts 🙂 

  9. I used honey instead of maple syrup and it worked amazing for this recipe. But this recipe is so so good thank you!

      1. I think you should update the recipe as such as sesame is not assumed to be toasted.
        That said I used toasted as it is what I had and the recipe is great. I have used it a number of times

        An alternative to marinating, double the recipe and put into Instant Pot for 2 minutes

  10. Seriously good marinade – and for once I had ALL of the ingredients!! LOL And the tofu cooked up with a nice browning. I am so pleased. Thanks!

    1. You can leave it out, or use agave. Though I have not used these, others have commented they used monkfruit sweetener and ginger syrup. Hope this helps!

  11. My tofu is marinating and it smells awesome. Love this recipe. Can’t wait to try it. Going to cook on our fire.

  12. I tried it and it was amazing.After marinating and pan frying it I added it to a French beans,baby carrot and pepper stirfry.suited me well cos I dont do gluten.

    1. Thanks for sharing your great review and comments! I’m glad you loved the marinated tofu! Your sides sound amazing! Thanks again, Kenny, and happy cooking

    1. I’m really glad you and your family love the tofu! Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful review and comments!

    1. I’m so glad you love it, Annie! I agree the leftovers are great! Thank so much for sharing your wonderful review and comments!

  13. made this several times now.  as a carnivore in a house filled with vegetarians this is a recipe we can all enjoy!  the tofu marinade could give impossible burgers a run for their money.  i cook the tofu in the large griswold cast iron, refrigerate  and save it for stir fry the next day.  it works with any variation of stir fry-so versatile.

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