The very first time I ever ate tofu was during my initial attempt at going vegetarian when I was maybe 11 years old. As someone who totally depended on their parents for food—and whose idea of a quality meal at the time was making “cheese soup,” aka putting shredded mozzarella and water in a coffee cup and heating it in the microwave—my experience making the plant protein staple was pretty interesting, to say the least.
I vividly remember how everything went down: I crumbled the tofu up and threw it in a pan, definitely without any sort of oil. And minutes later, my dad walked in asking what the horrible smell was. Spoiler: it was my burnt tofu. Let’s just say the vegetarian thing only lasted about a month—and my dad still brings up my mishap from time to time, even though I’ve made him try tofu that’s actually made correctly and pretty darn tasty, if I do say so myself.
Today, I’m happy to say I’m a much better chef. Even tough I was pretty scarred from my first attempt at tofu, it didn’t take me long to try again. Because of that, I’ve fallen absolutely in love with the white spongey material, all thanks to figuring out exactly how to make it crispy. Because me and Jell-O-like tofu just don’t mix.
I’ve had plenty of people ask me how I make my tofu so crispy—which you can use for everything from sesame tofu or BBQ tofu wings—and the good news is it’s really stinkin’ easy. My trial-and-error over the past couple years will help you master the technique on the first try, no frying required.
What You’ll Need:
- 1 package of extra-firm tofu (the “extra” firm part is very important!)
- a cheesecloth or some paper towels
- something heavy (pots and pans, books, canned soup—whatever you have on hand)
The first step in making crispy tofu is draining the water out of the package, then wrapping your tofu block in some cheesecloth. The most important part of making sure your tofu cooks properly is getting out as much liquid as possible. To do this, stack something heavy—but not heavy enough to smush it!—on top of your wrapped tofu to gently press the water out. Leave it for 10 minutes, then flip it and repeat on the other side. If it’s extra wet, you might need to put some towels underneath to soak up more of the water.
While getting as much water out of your tofu as possible is crucial, so is the way you cut it. If it’s too thick, it won’t get crispy. But if it’s too thin, it will get too crispy. I usually slice it in 1/2-inch pieces, whether that’s strips (as pictured!) or cubes.
Preheat your oven to 450°F, place your tofu on a lightly-greased baking sheet (I use olive oil spray), and add some seasoning, if desired. (Trader Joe’s Garlic Salt mix is delish!) If I’m going to toss them in BBQ or another sauce after baking, I usually just pop them in the oven plain or use a little salt and pepper.
After you’re done seasoning, cook the tofu in the oven for about 15 minutes. Then take ’em out, flip each piece over, and bake for another 15 minutes. After you’re done, your tofu should be crispy goodness! If you don’t like super crispy tofu, simply bake it for a little less time.
Do you have any tips on making delicious, crispy tofu? Let me know in the comments!