Tofu doesn’t exactly have the best reputation, but when you know how to make Baked Tofu the right way, this bland, mushy block transforms into chewy, bite-sized nuggets that are absolutely packed with flavor. Let’s dig in!
Why You’ll Love This Crispy Baked Tofu Recipe
- Baked, Not Fried. A lot of restaurant-style tofu is deep-fried, which is how it gets that irresistibly crispy, chewy texture. This tofu recipe is also chewy, but it’s baked in the oven, making it much healthier. Score!
- Infused With Flavor. While the texture of the tofu you get from Thai and Chinese restaurants is from frying, the flavor is almost entirely on the outside of the tofu from the sauce it’s tossed in after being fried. Here, we use a sweet-and-savory Tofu Marinade to flavor the tofu from the inside out.
- No Freezing Needed. My Crispy Tofu recipe is a reader favorite, but you have to freeze the tofu in advance for best results—and I have definitely had those 5pm, “Oh shoot, I forgot to freeze the tofu!” moments when I’m about to start making dinner. This method for how to cook tofu simply requires a quick 30 minute marinade.
- Healthy Plant-Based Protein. Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, or an ardent meat-eater, we can all use some more plant-based proteins in our lives. Most varieties of extra-firm tofu have 9 grams of protein per serving, with around 130 calories, which means it packs a big protein punch for a relatively small number of calories.
- Add It to Anything. The marinade I use for this baked tofu pairs with Asian dishes like Zucchini Stir Fry, or you can make it into a wrap topped with Healthy Coleslaw and served with a side of Sweet Potato Fries. Just like my Air Fryer Tofu, this recipe is versatile!
How to Cook Tofu You Actually Want to Eat
Hot take: I think most tofu haters simply don’t know how to cook tofu.
It’s not your fault, though!
Tofu doesn’t exactly make it easy.
First, there are so many different types of tofu! Refrigerated tofu, shelf-stable silken tofu; firm, soft, extra-firm, super firm. Hello, decision fatigue!
Then, there’s the fact that you do what seems logical—cut it into cubes, add it to your stir fry—and you end up with mushy lumps of bland nothingness that doesn’t resemble those chewy little triangles in your takeout Pad Thai in any way, shape, or form.
Womp womp. No wonder so many people have sworn off cooking tofu at home.
Once you understand the method behind this recipe, you can apply it to other tofu dishes, or come up with your own tofu creations.
Tofu: it’s not just a punchline for bad jokes about vegetarians anymore.
How to Make Baked Tofu
For the Tofu and Baking
- Extra-Firm Tofu. Buy the refrigerated kind and be sure to buy extra-firm, as it has the ideal texture for baking.
- Cornstarch or Arrowroot Starch. For a crispy exterior when you’re cooking tofu.
For the Tofu Marinade
- Low-Sodium Soy Sauce. Brings umami flavor without a lot of extra salt.
- Pure Maple Syrup. Some sweet to balance the savory.
- Rice Vinegar. Rice vinegar works well with Asian pairings, but apple cider vinegar is fine too.
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil. No need to use your best bottle here.
- Sesame Oil. Toasted sesame oil adds some depth.
- Garlic Powder. Gives your baked tofu a garlicky flavor without having to crush fresh garlic cloves.
- Smoked Paprika. Adds some meaty flavor to cooked tofu since we associate smokiness with meat.
- Ground Ginger. Ginger brings a little bit of warmth.
- Sriracha or Hot Sauce of Choice. Feel free to use more or less.
Optional, for Serving
- Stir-Fried or Steamed Veggies of Choice. I love Fried Cabbage with baked tofu instead of bacon.
- Prepared Brown Rice or White Rice. Instant Pot Brown Rice is an excellent choice here.
- Press the Tofu. Squeeze the excess moisture out of the tofu with your hands, or press it for 15 minutes.
- Cut. Slice the tofu into cubes and place them in a baking dish.
- Mix. Whisk together the marinade ingredients in a bowl or liquid measuring cup.
- Marinate. Pour the marinade over the tofu and marinate for at least 30 minutes at room temperature, or up to a day in the refrigerator.
- Prepare. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
- Bake. Transfer the tofu to the baking sheet, coat with cornstarch, and spread the cubes into an even layer. Bake tofu for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Finish. Drizzle the baked tofu with extra marinade, serve, and ENJOY!
- Garlicky Lemon Herb Baked Tofu. Use a half-batch of my Chicken Marinade for baked tofu that’s perfect for adding to Green Goddess Salad or Garlic Pasta.
- Barbecue Baked Tofu. Substitute the tofu marinade for my BBQ Chicken Marinade and brush the finished tofu with your favorite Barbecue Sauce.
- Teriyaki Baked Tofu. Use your favorite store-bought teriyaki sauce (or make the honey-sweetened teriyaki sauce from my Teriyaki Chicken recipe) as a marinade and glaze for this baked tofu.
- To Store. Store the baked tofu in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- To Reheat. Warm leftover tofu in the microwave or in a 350 degree F oven until it’s heated through. Tofu can also be enjoyed cold or at room temperature.
- To Freeze. Place the baked tofu on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze until it’s solid. Transfer to a freezer bag or airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating according to the instructions above.
Meal Prep Tip
Baked tofu is excellent for meal prep since it can be eaten warm or cold and keeps in the refrigerator for several days. I recommend reserving the extra marinade and adding it just before serving (or using it as a dipping sauce) to keep the tofu from getting soft in the refrigerator.
What to Serve with Baked Tofu
- Healthy Whole Grains. In addition to rice, baked tofu pairs well with buckwheat, quinoa, farro, and other whole grains.
- Vegetables. Make some simple Sautéed Green Beans for serving with this marinated tofu, or bake a batch of Roasted Eggplant and drizzle the extra marinade over the top.
- Asian-Inspired Dishes. Stir Fry Noodles and Cabbage Stir Fry are made for pairing with chewy, sweet-and-savory tofu bites.
- Salads. Add hot or cold baked tofu to Asian Cabbage Salad or Harvest Salad for a protein boost.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Liquid Measuring Cup. I love using these for whisking sauces and marinades—the high sides mean no spillover and the spout makes pouring easy.
- Tofu Press. If you’re serious serious about cooking tofu, a tofu press is a worthy investment for squeezing out that excess liquid.
- Measuring Beakers. These little measuring beakers measure tablespoons of liquid, which comes in handy when you’re making a marinade or anything else with a lot of liquid ingredients.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Press the Tofu for the Chewiest Texture. In my humble opinion, the best tofu is chewy and meaty—and you only get this by pressing it. That said! If you prefer the tofu to be soft, with a melt-in-your-mouth quality on the inside, you can get away with simply giving the tofu a good squeeze; this will release enough liquid to allow the marinade to soak in.
- Skip the Silken Tofu. Silken tofu is fabulous in smoothies, soups, and desserts, but it’s not so fabulous for baking or stir frying. Even the extra-firm silken tofu has a soft, velvety texture and it doesn’t absorb marinades the same way refrigerated, water-packed extra-firm tofu does. If you’re not sure which is which, silken tofu is usually (but not always!) sold in aseptic boxes on the regular grocery store shelves.
- Don’t Skip the Marinade. Bypass the silken tofu, but don’t skip the tofu marinade—whether it’s my recipe, something from a bottle, or something you whip up on your own. Tofu is a food that takes on whatever flavors you add to it, and if you don’t add any flavors, it’s not going to taste like much of anything.
- Bake It. This recipe was developed specifically for baking in the oven. If you want to know how to cook tofu in an air fryer, see my Air Fryer Tofu; my Ultra Crispy Tofu recipe is for cooking tofu on the stovetop.
For the Tofu and Baking:°
- 1 12-to 14-ounce block extra firm tofu (do not use firm, soft, or silken)
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch or arrowroot starch
For the Tofu Marinade:°
Optional, for Serving:
- Stir-fried or steamed veggies of choice
- Prepared brown rice or white rice
- Remove the tofu from the package and drain. With your hands, gently squeeze out as much water as possible without breaking or crushing the block. Wrap the tofu in paper towel and gently squeeze it once more. If time allows, wrap the tofu in fresh paper towels and press it for 15 minutes, either with a tofu press or by placing it between two plates and setting some heavy cans on top*.
- Cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes. Place them in a baking dish that holds them snugly in an even layer (I find an 8×8-inch baking dish works well).
- In a mixing bowl or measuring cup with a spout, whisk together the marinade: soy sauce, maple syrup, rice vinegar, olive oil, sesame oil, garlic powder, smoked paprika, ginger, and Sriracha. Drizzle over the tofu. If any pieces look bare, turn them over in the marinade a few times so all of the sides are coated. Marinate the tofu for 30 minutes at room temperature, or refrigerate for up to 1 day.
- When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 425℉ and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. With a slotted spoon or your fingers, transfer the tofu to the center of the baking sheet (reserve the marinade for serving). Sprinkle the cornstarch over the top of the tofu, then toss gently to coat (don't worry if the cubes crumble a little bit; those crumbly bits will get crispy and be extra delicious). Spread the tofu into an even layer so the cubes are not touching.
- Bake the tofu for 20 to 30 minutes, until it’s darkened at the edges and the edges are a little crisp. Rotate the pan 180 degrees halfway through to promote even cooking. Remove tofu from the oven and drizzle with the reserved marinade. Enjoy immediately with rice and stir-fried veggies, add it to a salad or wrap, or munch it right off of the pan.
- *If you like your tofu firmer, chewier, and a little “meaty,” take time to press it. If you don’t mind a soft, creamy interior texture you can skip pressing.
- Adapted from my Air Fryer Tofu
- Marinade is my Tofu Marinade
- TO STORE: Store the baked tofu in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- TO REHEAT: Warm leftover tofu in the microwave or in a 350°F oven until it’s heated through. Tofu can also be enjoyed cold or at room temperature.
- TO FREEZE: Place the baked tofu on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze until they’re solid. Transfer to a freezer bag or airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating according to the instructions above.
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Frequently Asked Questions
I think baking is the best way to cook tofu for beginners. There’s a little extra room for error with baked tofu and you don’t have to worry about the tofu sticking to the skillet!
Baked tofu is easier than pan-fried tofu, and it’s also healthier, as there’s no need to add additional oil for cooking.
Tofu is safe to eat uncooked, but most people find it unappetizing because of its bland flavor and soft texture. That said, if you enjoy it that way, there’s no reason you have to cook it!
Tofu is usually either marinated before cooking or tossed in a sauce after cooking (or both) to make it taste good. Because it doesn’t have a distinctive flavor on its own, delicious tofu is really all about what you add to it.
Extra-firm and the newer super-firm tofu is easiest to cook with, as it holds together well when being pressed and cooked. Soft and firm tofus are more appropriate for recipes where they are crumbled into a tofu scramble or pureed into a creamy sauce, soup, or dessert.
Yes, you can cook tofu without cornstarch, but the exterior won’t be quite as crispy or chewy.