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Perfect Tofu

Tofu might seem unfamiliar to many new vegetarians and nonvegetarians, but the good news is that when properly prepared, tofu can be delicious. And by “properly,” I mean cooking the tofu my favorite way—pan-frying it until it’s golden and chewy.


To achieve this, you can freeze your tofu overnight, and let it thaw before cooking it for a short amount of time. But if you’re not one for planning ahead, then your tofu must be cooked for a long time to reach the chewy stage. There’s simply no way around it. I often see recipes that call for tofu to be cooked for just a few minutes, but if you do that, you’ll probably be left with a very soft texture.

The only other requirement for perfect tofu is to finish off the pan-fried soy protein with a splash of soy sauce. It’s a great first layer of flavor that can easily be built upon.


Pan-Fried Tofu

1 16-oz. pkg. firm tofu
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced

  • Remove the tofu from the packaging, drain, pat dry, and cut into 1/2-inch squares.
  • Place a medium sauté pan or wok over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoonfuls of oil.
  • Add the tofu and cook until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Be sure to turn or toss often.
  • Once cooked, add the soy sauce, then toss to coat. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, stirring often.

Makes 4 servings

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  • Lilly says:

    I adored this, wasn’t sure if I would. I tend to be rather picky. So i made it without the garlic, my oldest doesn’t like garlic. Added a pinch of salt and some Mrs Dash, It was amazing! I will have to make it again and again! Thank you so much for this great recipe.

  • foodie says:

    Drain, put in air tight container, then freeze.

  • seamaiden says:

    I’m amazed that anyone could not like tofu, really. I don’t especially like the texture after freezing, actually. I buy extra firm Chinese tofu and drain it and press it in a towel for at least 30 minutes and get a very nice texture for pan fried tofu. I have tons of great tofu recipes on my blog- my (non-vegetarian) husband loves them!

    I think people worry too much about their food- it isn’t a good idea to overdo any food item but tofu as a protein source a few times a week isn’t going to hurt anyone, IMO, unless they have thyroid issues.

  • ToddSBodner says:

    I will try these new recipes. It seems no matter how I have used tofu I cant find a way to cook it and have it taste good. I am all about healthy eating! I love growing my own garden.

  • Tahler says:

    I think I cooked mine too long (or too hot?) it came out too dry and cruntchy.

  • Anthony Polenzani says:

    The problem with tofu is the high water content, even with extra firm. I slice it through the middle and wrap each half in a tea towel, then put a cookie sheet on top and weigh it down with big cans of whatever. In half an hour a lot of the water will be gone and the tofu will have feel more like a piece of meat than a brick of feta. Now you have essentially a dry sponge that will soak up marinade (soy sauce). It will also hold up better in the pan if you just start sauteing it.
    Now, someone tell me about the high hormone levels in soy. I like tofu, but I eat it sparingly because I’ve been told it’s like taking estrogen pills.

  • Nifer says:

    Just made it. It was less chewy and more crunchy… may try a lower heat next time. Still delicious!

  • Gordon says:

    We coat it in a mix of 2 parts corn starch to 1 part nutritional yeast. (Toss it in a large container to coat)…it is delicious! (You can also coat it with any “wing” sauce flavor at this point for a different treat!) We love “Buffalofu”!

  • Mr Surbade says:

    I’m gonna try that tonight

  • Bridget says:

    Hey there!! Love your blog!! I’ve included this recipe post in my top 15 recipes of the week on Twitter–> WEll done, and I hope to see more of these fabulous recipes come swimming through the twitter stream soon.

    Love, Bridge.

  • earthmom says:

    MMMMMMmmmmmm I have always enjoyed tofu but never tried it this way – tonight I followed this recipe and it was DELISH! I did not freeze it, just squeezed out the water and sliced and pan fried. WONDERFUL!

  • Mikeachim says:

    Okay, I’ve never had tofu. But you just sold me on the idea. It can be *chewy*? I always presumed something like slightly toughened feta cheese, consistency-wise. More fool me. Wow.

  • Tao says:

    The only revision i make to this method of Saute(ing!) tofu is to marinade the tofu in a good soy sauce for about an hour or so ,again turning often,because you only need to use a couple of teaspoons of soy, some of which will still remain in the dish before frying

  • Whitney says:

    So THAT’S what I’ve been doing wrong with my pan-fried tofu. Freezing — tried everything but that.

    And I’m intrigued by the previous commenter’s suggestion of coating with flour and cornmeal and frying it that way. I’ll give it a try — maybe with a little sprinkle of chili pepper in the cornmeal.

  • Alyson says:

    Another thing you can do is freeze the tofu overnight and then let it thaw.

    Pat dry then cut into small cubes.

    Coat with flour and cornmeal.

    Fry in a pan with 2 T of oil, turning it often.

  • Kindra says:

    i just made it with this recipes today! YUM

    tofu = <3

  • Rachael says:

    Personally, I don’t like chewy tofu! I like it nice and soft just so it slides through your teeth when you bite it in half!
    Cooking it for just a few minutes and adding soy sauce, ect, is my favourite way to eat tofu! 😀
    Thanks for the recipe though.

  • Shannon says:

    Freeze first, then cube, or vice versa?

  • Culturedropout says:

    One thing I figured out by accident was that if you fry it this way long enough, it will dry out completely to the point that it’s crunchy. I thought I had ruined it, but decided to try putting it in a bit of water and microwaving it until the water boiled. Much to my surprise, it re-hydrated back to a nice, chewy texture. I keep meaning to do this again and freeze a bunch of it for “instant fried tofu” but I haven’t done it yet. Anybody care to give it a try?

  • vaer says:

    “when properly prepared, tofu can be delicious.”

    I think you must mean:

    “when properly prepared, tofu is always delicious.”

  • Nic M says:

    I recommend not stirring often. I pan-fry tofu the same way I make homefries… that is, I leave each side to cook until it is golden-brown, then rotate, cooking each side perfectly. After each side is cooked, you can add your soy sauce, etc., and then stir and fry just a little bit longer. I guarantee you will get a nicer texture this way.

  • sara says:

    Mmm. when I first became a vegan, I wasn’t sure how to prepare tofu, so I just threw it onto a pan with some hot olive oil and came out with wonderful results 😀

    Also, it tastes great with some garlic powder and hummus.

  • Marlene says:

    So simple…yet so astounding. Yum!

  • VeggieDAWG says:

    This is my favorite way to cook tofu. Its simple and taste great. I use this method when i have non-vegetarians over and want them to try Tofu. No complaints so far. I usually just coat it with some sort of seasoned salt and then saute in olive oil. I have never thought to add soy and garlic at the end. Sounds tasty.

  • Elle says:

    Oh, looks yummy!

    Do you freeze it in the water it’s stored in? Or press the water out then freeze it? (Excuse me if this is a silly question, I’m culinarily challenged.)

  • veggievixen says:

    mmm this is definitely a favorite tofu preparation of mine…only second to baking it!

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