Tofu is a nutrient-packed and plant-based protein source that can deliver various culinary delights. Learn how to make crispy baked tofu with a few critical preparation steps. Cut the bean curd into multiple shapes and serve with any sauce or sides.
Tofu is prized for its high plant-based source of protein. What makes it even more unique is that its made from soybeans, the only legume that has all nine essential amino acids. That’s why finding ways to incorporate the pressed bean curd into meals may provide added value from a nutritional perspective.
The lightly sweet, nutty and neutral flavors open a world of culinary options. It’s simple to switch things up and add a layer of interesting texture when cooking with tofu. The simplest way to do this is by coating small pieces of tofu with cornstarch and baking until golden. Learn how to make baked tofu and the essential steps to achieve that satisfying crispy bite.
How to make baked tofu
Tofu is an especially good option for those on a vegetarian, gluten-free, or vegan diet. There are different types of tofu, the main difference being the texture.
For baking, use firm or extra-firm tofu. These hold there shape well when cut, and more moisture can be removed for tighter yet tender bean curd.
Cut into Shapes
Make sure to pour out the water that the tofu is submerged in before cutting, and dry with paper towels. For shapes, cubes or slabs are ideal.
I cut about a 3/4-inch cube, which gives more light and crispy tofu on each side. Rectangles about 1/4-inch thick can also be cut into larger pieces.
I prefer the cubes because they bake up more crisp due to more surface area browning. No matter what shape you choose, make sure to make them as close to the same size for even cooking.
Remove Excess Moisture
There’s a lot of liquid that still retained inside of the tofu once cut. The goal is to release as much moisture as possible so that the surface of the tofu gets golden and crisp on the edges faster.
Otherwise, wet tofu will steam and take longer to cook. The way to achieve this is to place about three layers of paper towel on a sheet pan, then evenly space out the tofu pieces.
Place 3 layers of paper towel on top, another sheet pan of similar size, and a few heavy cans of food. I used about three 15-ounce cans as weights to help press out the liquid. Allow the tofu to drain for about 15 minutes, 30 minutes is ideal.
Add a Coating
Tofu becomes crispy by drying its surface with hot air circulating in the oven. To enhance this process some oil and cornstarch can be used as a coating.
For smaller cubes toss in olive oil and then cornstarch. When working with more massive slabs of tofu, oil it first, and then lightly sprinkle the cornstarch on each piece of tofu to prevent breaking.
Cornstarch helps to absorb any drops of water on the exterior and clings to the tofu. Potato starch can also be used if you’re not a fan or cornstarch. The extra layer of starch is what will make the tofu extra crispy.
You can skip the cornstarch if desired, the tofu with still change textures in the oven, however, it just won’t be as intense of a crunch. Make sure to use a high smoke point oil. Otherwise, the tofu will stick to the parchment paper after baking.
Bake the tofu at 400ºF (204ºC) to help quickly drive off excess moisture and begin the browning and drying process. The time will vary depending on the size and shape. Bake for 15 minutes, and then carefully flip the pieces over and continue to roast about 15 to 25 minutes until golden and crispy.
Serve baked tofu immediately for maximum crunch. It’s best to enjoy the same day, as the tofu can become chewy once cold and refrigerated. I like to enjoy the crispy tofu with a soy sauce and sesame oil dip, drizzled with chimichurri or served with teriyaki sauce and vegetables.
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Add starch before baking tofu for crispy texture
Adding cornstarch or potato starch helps with two things for crispiness. It first absorbs any excess moisture on the surface of the tofu. This allows the browning and drying to occur faster because it reduces steaming. Secondly, it adds another layer, similar to the effect of a breaded coating on the outside of foods like tempura for further texture development.
- 14 ounces extra firm tofu, (397g) or firm tofu
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, (15ml)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, (3g)
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch, (7g)
- Set the oven rack to the middle position. Preheat oven to 400ºF (204ºC).
- Line a baking sheet with a few layers of paper towel and set aside.
- Remove the tofu from the packaging, pouring off excess water. Drain tofu and dry excess moisture with paper towels.
- Cut tofu into cubes about 3/4-inch in size, or slice into 1/4-inch thick rectangular pieces.
- Arrange the tofu on the paper towel-lined baking sheet. Place a few layers of paper towel on top.
- Place another baking sheet on top of the tofu, then add some weights on top like a few cans of food to help press out the extra moisture.
- Allow tofu to express the excess moisture for 15 to 30 minutes.
- Transfer tofu to a medium-sized bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Gently use fingers to toss the cubes to combine, or evenly coat the larger slices on each side by flipping over.
- Sprinkle the cornstarch over the tofu and gently combine until the outside of the tofu is evenly coated.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Arrange the tofu in a single layer, evenly spaced on the baking sheet.
- Bake for 15 minutes, and then use a spatula to flip over the pieces for even cooking.
- Cook an additional 15 to 25 minutes depending on the size of the tofu, until the surface is a light golden brown and crisp.
- Enjoy warm or refrigerate for up to 3 days.
- Potato starch can be substituted for cornstarch.
- Tofu can be baked without cornstarch, however, will not be as crispy.
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