An easy tofu marinade with just 4 ingredients and tons of flavor. No more bland tofu! Cook the marinated tofu in a skillet or bake it in the oven.
This easy tofu marinade is my go-to tofu recipe, one that I make over and over again. The marinade is versatile, flavorful and made with just 4 ingredients.
Best of all, this marinade gives tofu tons of flavor. No more bland tofu, hooray!
I always keep tofu in the back of my refrigerator. It stays fresh for a long time and it's perfect for those nights when you're almost out of groceries and don't know what to make for dinner.
Serve the tofu with white or brown rice, noodles, rice noodles, or stir-fried or roasted vegetables. I also like to toss this tofu into salads, made with either greens or grains.
Why This Recipe Works
- 4 simple ingredients
- Marinate for just 15 minutes, or longer if you have time
- The marinade doubles a sauce
- Pressing the tofu before marinating is optional
I've been using this tofu marinade for so long that I can't remember where it originally came from (maybe Sam Sifton at the New York Times?) I love the sweet/salty/tangy flavor and I also love how easy it is. You only have to look at this recipe once to commit it to memory.
- 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 Tablespoons oil (sunflower, olive oil, or sesame oil)
- 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
This easy weeknight tofu recipe involves just a few simple steps
Step 1: Cut the tofu into any shape - cubes, slabs or triangles. Whisk together the marinade, and pour it over the tofu on a rimmed plate or baking dish. Flip the tofu once while it marinates.
Step 2: In a hot skillet, cook the tofu for 3 minutes without turning or moving it. Not moving the tofu is key for getting it a little crispy. After 3 minutes, use a wide spatula or tongs to flip the tofu and cook 2 to 3 minutes more.
Optional Third Step: Pour the remaining marinade over the tofu and let it simmer for a few minutes until the marinade reduces, thickens and has a syrupy consistency.
Helpful Recipe Tips
- Use firm or extra-firm tofu: This type of tofu has less moisture and is easier to slice and sear
- How to cut tofu: Here's a quick video that shows how to cut tofu into squares or cutlets
- Remove the tofu from the marinade before cooking it: Cooking the tofu in the marinade will just make it soggy. Once the tofu is cooked, you can then add the remaining marinade to the pan to make a quick sauce.
- Don't stir the tofu: The trick to browning tofu and getting it crispy on the outside is leaving it alone in the pan. Cook tofu in a non-stick skillet with a drizzle of oil over medium or medium-high heat. Let the pieces of tofu cook for at least 3 minutes without touching or moving them. Then flip the pieces and cook for another 2 minutes or so.
- Keep the heat on medium: Soy sauce and maple syrup will burn if the heat gets too high.
- Pressing is optional: For more about pressing the moisture out of tofu, read the next section
Should I Press the Tofu?
Pressing tofu means pressing the moisture out of the tofu so that it fries up crispier, browns better and isn't so soggy.
Pressing tofu can also help it soak up more flavor from a marinade.
The easiest way to press tofu is to use a tofu press. This kitchen gadget is handy if you eat a lot of tofu.
Or, you can just wrap the tofu in a lint-free towel and press the moisture out by placing something heavy on top of the tofu (like a plate or pan with cookbooks on it).
If you have time, then pressing the tofu before making this recipe will help the tofu soak up more flavor. BUT to be honest, I'm usually making this recipe on busy weeknights, and I don't bother.
Often, I just wrap the block of tofu in a towel and gently pat it dry before slicing the tofu.
Don't worry, if you don't press the tofu this recipe will still turn out great!
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For a recipe like this one, buy firm, extra-firm or super-firm tofu. The more firm it is, the lower the moisture content. It's easy to slice and is easy to bake or pan fry.
Medium or "regular" tofu (often just labeled as "tofu") is fairly firm and can be sliced. It has a more spongey texture that absorbs flavor well. It's good for dishes that braise tofu in a sauce.
Silken tofu has a high moisture content and custardy texture. It's often added to smoothies, blended into sauces, added to soup or used in desserts.
The trick to making tofu crispy is leaving it alone in the pan. Use a non-stick skillet over medium or medium-high heat with a light layer of oil. Cook the tofu for at least 3 minutes without moving it at all. Then flip the tofu and cook 2 to 3 minutes more.
Yes. Tofu can be eaten raw. Cooking tofu adds flavor, but isn't necessary before eating it. You can add raw tofu to smoothies or salads or eat uncooked tofu in a flavorful sauce or marinade.
If kept in the sealed container from the store, tofu stays fresh for months. Just keep on eye on the expiration date. Once taken out of the sealed container, it should be eaten within a week. If tofu has gone bad, it will have a yellow-ish color and won't smell fresh. It might also have a sour flavor.
According to the National Celiac Association, tofu is gluten-free. Tofu is made from soy, which is naturally gluten-free.
However, if the tofu is flavored with soy sauce (like in this recipe), keep in mind that soy sauce is not gluten-free. Tamari is a good gluten-free replacement for soy sauce.
Yes, tofu can be frozen for several months. It's best to freeze the tofu with no liquid. You can freeze the entire block, slices or cubes in an airtight container or freezer bag. Defrost in the refrigerator.
Some cooks say that freezing tofu (even if just overnight) is an easy way to remove moisture from the tofu. It also changes the texture, so the tofu is less soggy and absorbs flavor better. When the tofu defrosts, you can immediately cook it without having to press moisture out of the tofu. I haven't tried this yet, but will let you know when I do!
Usually, I pan sear this tofu in a skillet. It only takes a few minutes. The sugars in the marinade caramelize quickly, giving the tofu a nicely browned exterior.
However, you can also bake the tofu, if you prefer an easy hands-off cooking method. The tofu doesn't get as crispy on the outside when it's baked and is slightly less flavorful. Set the marinated tofu on a sheet-pan that's lined with parchment. Bake the tofu until nicely browned, about 25 minutes.
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Easy Weeknight Tofu Marinade
This easy tofu marinade is made with just 4 ingredients and gives tofu amazing flavor. I prefer to cook the marinated tofu in a skillet because the flavors become more caramelized and the texture is crispier. But for a more hands-off method you can also bake it in the oven.
I often serve this tofu over rice with simple veggies on the side, like steamed broccoli, raw snap peas or sauteed baby spinach. Don't forget frozen egg rolls or pot stickers to make it a full dinner!
This recipe was originally published July 2019, and updated on August 16, 2022
- Prep Time: 20
- Cook Time: 6 minutes
- Total Time: 26 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Category: Vegetarian
- Method: saute or stir-fry
- Cuisine: Asian
- Diet: Vegetarian
- 14 to 16 ounces extra-firm or firm tofu
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons oil (sunflower, sesame, avocado or olive oil)
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- Pressing the tofu is optional for this recipe. See the section "Should I Press the Tofu" in the blog post above for more details about pressing moisture out of tofu.
- If you don't have time to press the tofu, just wrap the block of tofu in a towel and gently pat it dry before slicing the tofu.
- Slice the tofu into whatever shape you like best. Here's a video about how to slice tofu.
- Lay the tofu pieces out on a rimmed plate or in a baking dish just large enough to fit the tofu in one layer.
- Whisk together soy sauce, oil, balsamic vinegar and maple syrup.
- Pour the marinade over the tofu.
- Marinate for at least 15 minutes. Flip the tofu once while it marinates. I often marinate the tofu and then let it sit on the counter while I prep the rest of dinner. You can also marinate the tofu earlier in the day or the night before.
- Use a wide non-stick skillet (12-inch), so the tofu isn't crowded. Heat the skillet over medium-high and add a scant drizzle of oil.
- When the skillet is hot, use tongs or a slotted spoon or your fingers to take the tofu out of the marinade and space it evenly in the skillet (watch out for oil splattering). Cook the tofu for 3 minutes without turning or moving it. Not moving the tofu is key for getting it a little crispy.
- After 3 minutes, turn the heat down to medium. Use a wide spatula or tongs to flip the tofu and cook 2 to 3 minutes more. The less you stir and flip the tofu, the more browned and crispy it will get.
- At this point, the tofu is ready to eat. However, you also have the option of creating a sauce by adding the leftover marinade to the skillet. This gives the tofu even more flavor, but does soften the texture a little bit.
- Optional: When the tofu is done searing, pour the remaining marinade over the tofu and let it simmer rapidly for 2 minutes until it reduces and thickens to a syrupy consistency. Make sure to remove the tofu and sauce from the pan before it begins to burn. Soy sauce and maple syrup will burn if the heat is too hot.
To Bake the Tofu: Preheat the oven to 400 F. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to take the tofu out of the marinade and space it evenly out on the sheet pan. Bake the tofu for about 25 minutes, flipping once, until browned and slightly crispy on the outside. Use the remaining marinade as a sauce to serve with the tofu.
Taking the tofu out of the marinade to cook it is important. Don't pour the marinade into the pan with the tofu at the beginning of the cooking process or bake the tofu in it. The marinade will just burn onto the pan and also make the tofu soggy.
I mostly use this marinade with tofu, but it can also be used for chicken, pork, or beef.
Add even more flavor to this marinade by adding grated or finely chopped ginger and finely chopped garlic.
You can adjust the flavor of the marinade by adding more or less vinegar or syrup, depending on how sweet or tangy you want the flavor.
Keywords: tofu, easy tofu marinade, baked tofu, skillet tofu,