What are the Best Tips for Marinating Tofu?

Christian Petersen
Christian Petersen
A plate of tofu.
A plate of tofu.

Tofu is coagulated soy-milk. It is a staple food in many countries of the world, particularly the far east. It comes in different forms, including soft, silken and firm. Tofu is versatile and may be prepared in a variety of ways. It can be sliced and deep-fried, ground, mashed, cubed for soups, stir-fried, or grilled. Tofu has very little of its own flavor, so marinating tofu is a great way to add character and flavor to this nutritious food.

A small amount of olive oil in a marinade gives tofu a fresh, exotic flavor.
A small amount of olive oil in a marinade gives tofu a fresh, exotic flavor.

Vegetarian and vegan dishes often call for tofu. Softer tofu grades absorb these flavors more quickly than firmer tofu. Soft or silken tofu will tend to get even softer when marinated, as they absorb more of the liquid. For this reason, firmer grades of tofu are better for marinating.

Marinating tofu can be quick if the marinade is thin. Very thin marinades like soy sauce can be absorbed so quickly that all that may be required is simply dipping the tofu in the marinade. If a stronger flavor is desired, allow it to soak a few minutes. For quick marinades that require less than an hour, the marinading tofu does not need to be refrigerated. It should be covered, but may be left at room temperature.

Some cooks serve stir-fried tofu and vegetables with nutritious brown rice.
Some cooks serve stir-fried tofu and vegetables with nutritious brown rice.

For thicker marinades, the tofu may need to soak for several hours or even overnight, depending on the desired strength of the absorbed flavor. Long-soak marinades should be refrigerated to avoid spoiling. Tofu should also be kept in a covered container, whether marinading or not, as it will tend to absorb odors from other foods.

A good way to help speed the absorption of the marinade is to freeze and thaw the tofu before marinating it. Tofu that has been frozen and thawed will take up the marinade faster. This trick can help lessen the marinating time when using thicker marinades. Cutting the tofu into smaller pieces will also help speed absorption.

Made from soy, tofu has long been a food staple in Asia.
Made from soy, tofu has long been a food staple in Asia.

Generally, tofu should be marinated before cooking. This helps ensure the final character of the tofu in the recipe. Marinating after cooking will result in a tofu that may not have the desired taste or texture. Some recipes may call for marinating tofu after cooking however. Follow the instructions for each recipe.

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Discussion Comments

Pippinwhite

A popular marinating method has been to put everything in a zip top bag, seal it and put it in the fridge. That would probably work with tofu, also.

I do know that tofu tends to take on the flavors of whatever it is cooked with -- or marinated in -- so a cook really needs to think about what he or she is cooking the tofu with in order to make sure the dish tastes like it's supposed to.

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    • A plate of tofu.
      By: Norman Chan
      A plate of tofu.
    • A small amount of olive oil in a marinade gives tofu a fresh, exotic flavor.
      By: margo555
      A small amount of olive oil in a marinade gives tofu a fresh, exotic flavor.
    • Some cooks serve stir-fried tofu and vegetables with nutritious brown rice.
      By: Stepan Popov
      Some cooks serve stir-fried tofu and vegetables with nutritious brown rice.
    • Made from soy, tofu has long been a food staple in Asia.
      By: gitusik
      Made from soy, tofu has long been a food staple in Asia.