Easy Weeknight Tofu Marinade

tofu in a bowl of brown rice

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5 from 8 reviews

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


Units Scale
  • 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


  1. 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. 
  2. 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. 
  3. Slice the tofu into whatever shape you like best. Here's a video about how to slice tofu. 
  4. Lay the tofu pieces out on a rimmed plate or in a baking dish just large enough to fit the tofu in one layer.
  5. Whisk together soy sauce, oil, balsamic vinegar and maple syrup.
  6. Pour the marinade over the tofu.
  7. 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. 
  8.  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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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. 
  12. 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.