This baked tofu recipe transforms that soft, squishy mass into the most delightfully crispy-chewy nuggets that take all of 5 minutes of prep time and can be used as a substitute in virtually any dish that calls for meat!
As an omnivore I like meat but I don’t eat a ton of it. I regularly rotate vegetarian dishes through our family’s meal plans. That usually simply means a “meatless” meal as opposed to a meal that contains a meat substitute. For one thing I love vegetables, legumes and grains and am perfectly satisfied leaving the meat component out of it entirely without swapping it for a meat substitute. The other reason is that I’m just not a fan of most meat substitutes.
Take tofu for instance. I don’t eat it because I don’t like the texture. But there is one exception to that: Baked tofu. It’s the method that takes that soggy, squishy block of “stuff” and transforms it into nuggets that are delightfully crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. Now that’s different and if I’m going to eat tofu this is the way!
I’ve been using this method for going on 15 years and was among the first to publish it online in a blog post from January 2013, the first month I launched my blog and one of my very first recipes: Tofu Stroganoff. (The pictures are terribly outdated but boy is the recipe still delicious as ever!) I didn’t like that soft, squishy tofu any better back then than I do now and so I experimented to find a way to make it more firm and crispy. And baking it worked!
In those earlier years instead of draining the tofu on a towel first I instead fried the tofu in a non-stick skillet and then transferred it to the oven to bake. Either method works well but I now skip the pan-frying step for the sake of convenience.
Tips for Making Crispy Baked Tofu
It doesn’t take much to achieve crispy tofu perfection, but there are a few key steps: Choose the right tofu, drain it, add some oil, and toss with a little cornstarch.
Choose the right tofu: You’ll need extra firm tofu. Anything softer won’t firm up as much and is more likely to fall apart.
Drain the tofu: In order to achieve a firmer, crispier texture you’ll need to drain some of the liquid out of the tofu. The best way to do this is to lay the cubes of tofu out onto a clean tea towel that is lint-free, cover tofu with the towel, and press it down with something heavy like a cast iron pan. Then leave it for about 20 minutes to drain.
Once the tofu is drained you’ll toss it with some olive oil.
Then you’ll toss in some cornstarch. This step isn’t essential but it will definitely make your tofu more crispy.
Lastly, you decide how long to bake it. We give a recommended range but you can test your tofu at any point during the baking process to see if it’s the texture you want. You may prefer it more crispy or you may prefer it less crispy, depending on what you’re using it for.
Adding Seasonings to Baked Tofu
Some recipes call for adding things like soy sauce or tamari, garlic powder, paprika, salt, pepper, or a combination of these. I generally like to just add a little salt and that’s all because, as with chicken meat, I like to keep the flavor neutral so that, depending on what I’m cooking with it, the flavors won’t conflict or compete with the flavors of the dish. This way the tofu will simply take on the flavor of whatever dish you’re adding it to.
However, depending on what you’re using your baked tofu for, feel free to add some seasonings of your choice. Making some vegetarian jambalaya and are using baked tofu in place of chicken? Sprinkle the tofu with some homemade Creole Seasoning before baking it. Going Italian? Sprinkle with some Italian seasoning. Going Indian or Mexican? Sprinkle with some homemade Curry Powder or Taco Seasoning. Want to add some “seafood” flavor? Use our Old Bay Seasoning. How about Greek “chicken” gyros with tofu strips? Use our Greek Seasoning. For more fun flavors try our Chinese Five Spice, Ethiopian Berbere, or Indian Panch Phoron, or you can go for an all-purpose Seasoned Salt.
How to Use Baked Tofu
The sky’s the limit! Add your baked tofu to any recipe calling for bite-sized pieces of meat. Use it in place of chicken in your favorite Chinese takeout dishes such as Mongolian Chicken, Orange Chicken, Sesame Chicken, Kung Pao Chicken, General Tso’s Chicken, or Sweet and Sour Chicken. Add it to your fried rice or noodles.
Cut it into longer “beef” or “pork” strips and add it to some Shanghai Noodles, Beef and Broccoli, Orange Beef, or Mongolian Beef. In the mood for Ethiopian? Use it in place of chicken in our Doro Wat. How about something Russian? Our Tofu Stroganoff is delish!
How to Bake Tofu
Let’s get started!
Dice the tofu into whatever size cubes you prefer.
Place the cubes on clean, lint-free cotton dish towel or on paper towels, place another cloth on top, and set something heavy on it to press down on the tofu cubes to press some of the water out of them (e.g., cast iron pan, a casserole dish with a heavy book in it, etc) for about 20 minutes.
In the meantime, preheat the oven to 400 F.
Transfer the tofu cubes to a bowl, drizzle over the olive oil, and toss to coat.
Sprinkle half of the cornstarch and salt evenly over the tofu, toss to combine, then repeat with the remaining half of cornstarch and salt. If you’re using other seasonings add them now.
Spread tofu cubes in a single layer on lined baking sheet so they are not touching each other.
Bake for 20-25 minutes (depending on the size of the cubes), carefully flipping the cubes over with a spatula halfway through, until dark golden.
Use immediately or store in a covered container in the fridge for up to a week.
- 1 pound extra firm tofu (packages are normally 14-16 ounces)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Dice the tofu into whatever size cubes you prefer.Place the cubes on clean, lint-free cotton dish towel or on paper towels, place another cloth on top, and set something heavy on it (e.g., a cast iron pan) to press down on the tofu cubes to press some of the water out of them. Let them drain like this for about 20 minutes.In the meantime preheat the oven to 400 F.
- Transfer the tofu cubes to a bowl, drizzle over the olive oil, and toss to coat. Sprinkle half of the cornstarch and salt evenly over the tofu, toss to combine, then repeat with the remaining half of cornstarch and salt. If you're using other seasonings add them now.Spread tofu cubes in a single layer on lined baking sheet so they are not touching each other.Bake for 20-25 minutes (depending on the size of the cubes), carefully flipping the cubes over with a spatula halfway through, until dark golden.Use immediately or store in the fridge in a sealed container where it will keep for up to a week.