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Learn how to press tofu! This article will answer all of your questions about the proper way to press tofu and will demonstrate 2 simple methods.
Do you have a recipe that calls for pressed tofu?
There are two main reasons for this:
- To create a texture with more of a bite. Pressing tofu make it more firm, which can help the tofu hold it's shape while cooking instead of falling apart.
- To add flavor through marinating. After getting the liquid out of the tofu, marinade will be able to soak right in.
What Type of Tofu is Best?
Extra firm tofu or super firm are typically the best to use for most recipes that call for pressing tofu. You can use firm in a pinch. Avoid using medium, soft, or silken - they won't stand up to being pressed and will get mushy.
How Long to Press Tofu
If the recipe specifies how long the tofu needs to be pressed, follow those directions because it may vary.
Typically, tofu should be pressed for at least 30 minutes. I prefer about an hour for most recipes, especially crispy sesame tofu and orange tofu. (An exception is a recipe like Tofu Tacos, where you want more liquid in the final product.) You can also press it in the fridge over night. The longer the tofu is pressed, the firmer it will be (and the better, in my opinion!)
How to Prep Tofu
For both methods, you'll prepare the tofu this way.
Simply open the package and drain out the liquid. Remove the tofu from the package and pat it dry.
The only difference is whether you choose to leave the tofu as a whole block or cut it into slices. I almost always slice it, unless I am making a tofu roast.
Marinate your tofu after pressing for extra flavor! This will add some moisture back in, but not too much, so it stays firm.
Here's a simple marinade to use. Mix up:
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons vegetable stock
- 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon pepper or red pepper flakes
Brush it over tofu slices on both sides, or toss it with cubed tofu. Let the tofu soak it up for about 5 minutes then saute or bake!
Method 1: Tofu Press Device
Using a storebought tofu press is a great way to press tofu if you're thinking ahead. Instead of using a few towels, something for weight, and two smooth surfaces, you just need one device.
There are many different types of tofu presses, but they all essentially work the same way - adding pressure to the block of tofu to strain the liquid out.
The tofu press I have has two plates and springs. The more you tighten the springs, the closer together the plates move, and more pressure is placed on the tofu.
This press is similar to what I use.
For this method, you don't want to add all of the pressure at once. This will cause the sides to bulge and essentially smush your tofu.
Place the block of the tofu in the press and tighten just so the tofu is snug. Tighten a few more turns and place the press on its side, over a bowl or plate with a lip so the liquid can drain out. Every 5 minutes or so, turn the knobs a few more times and flip the press to the other side. Flipping allows the block to press evenly.
Press for your desired amount of time (length of time is discussed above.) To remove the tofu, simply loosen the knobs. Your tofu is ready to go!
Method 2: DIY
If you were wondering what my favorite method is, it's this one. I far prefer the texture. You are able to slice the tofu, which means you get a firmer texture faster, and the towels help soak up the additional liquid.
This is the method to use if you don't have a ton of time.
First, start by placing a folded towel on top of a smooth, hard surface like a cutting board or cookie sheet. Lay your tofu on the towel, whether it's a full block or slices. (Again, I recommend slicing!)
Place another towel on top of the tofu, along with another hard surface. I usually use a cutting board.
On the cutting board, add some weight evenly across the surface. I like to use a cast-iron pan. You could also use 6-8 cans of beans or whatever you have in your pantry. One time I even placed my blender on top. (Listen, we were living in an RV for 4 months and I was desperate! 😂) The blender was just a little too heavy and the tofu bulged out on the sides...lesson learned.
Eventually, you'll find what works for you!
Ways to Use Tofu
Here are some delicious vegan recipes that call for pressed tofu:
How to Press Tofu
- 1 (14-ounce) block tofu firm or extra firm
- For either method, drain and remove tofu from package. Make sure you are using firm or extra firm tofu.
Method 1: Storebought Tofu Press
- Place the block of tofu in the press. Tighten slightly.
- Place the press sideways over a wide bowl or towels to allow the tofu liquid to drain out.
- Every 5 minutes or so, tighten a few more turns and flip the press over so the tofu drains from the other side. (Tightening too much too quickly can cause the sides of the tofu block to bulge.)
- Press for a total of 30 minutes. If pressing overnight, let the tofu continue to press and drain over a towel or bowl in the fridge. You do not need to flip during this time, but tightening a few turns here and there will help.
Method 2: DIY
- For this method, you can leave the block of tofu whole or cut into slices. I prefer to slice for the best texture.
- On a flat surface like a cutting board or sheet pan, lay down a folded lint-free towel or cloth. You can also use paper towels. Place the tofu on top, followed by an additional towel, then another cutting board.
- Place something heavy on top of the cutting board. I prefer to use a cast iron pan. Other options are canned goods or a stack of hefty mixing bowls. Anything to add a decent amount of weight! Don't put so much weight that the tofu gets smushed. Gradually add weight if you are unsure.
- If the towels become saturated, replace them.
- Press for at least 30 minutes. If pressing overnight, place in the fridge.
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