Marinated tofu is the best tofu! Bold statement, yes, but it’s true: when you infuse your tofu with this sweet, savory, and smoky Tofu Marinade, it’s delicious all the way through and NEVER bland! Use it for baked tofu, pan-fried tofu, or cooking tofu in the air fryer.
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Why You’ll Love This Marinated Tofu Recipe
- Has All the Flavor. Umami? Check! Sweet? Check! Smoky, warm, spicy, and savory? We’re giving out checks right and left here! This is the best tofu marinade, giving you tofu that is anything but bland and boring.
- Made With Pantry Ingredients. Just like my BBQ Chicken Marinade and Pork Tenderloin Marinade, you probably have most—if not all!—of the ingredients for this simple tofu marinade recipe on hand in your kitchen already.
- The Secret to Tasty Tofu. Marinating really is the trick to making tofu delicious. A lot of recipes have you cook tofu then toss it in a sauce, and while this is good, it still leaves the middles of the tofu bland and under-seasoned. When you marinate tofu and then cook it, you get flavor inside and out.
- Cook It Any Way You Like. This recipe works as a grilled tofu marinade, for making baked marinated tofu (the method I cover in How to Cook Tofu), for pan-frying (see Crispy Tofu for a recipe), and for Air Fryer Tofu. You have options!
- Surprisingly Versatile. The flavors in this tofu marinade work with everything from Asian cuisine to (hello Cabbage Stir Fry!) to classic American dishes like Baked Potatoes.
How to Make Tofu Marinade
- Extra-Firm Tofu. Make sure you buy refrigerated tofu, not the aseptic shelf-stable silken kind.
- Low-Sodium Soy Sauce. For umami flavor without extra salt.
- Pure Maple Syrup. The sweetness brings balance to our tofu marinade, but I also like the maple flavor here.
- Rice Vinegar. Use the unseasoned kind—seasoned is sweetened. Apple cider vinegar works too.
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil. An everyday variety you use for cooking.
- Sesame Oil. Toasted is best for this simple tofu marinade.
- Garlic Powder. For garlic flavor without the work.
- Smoked Paprika. We associate the flavor of smoke with meat, so adding smoked paprika will give your tofu a meaty quality. For extra smoky flavor, add a few drops of liquid smoke to your tofu marinade.
- Ground Ginger. Brings a little warmth to the table.
- Sriracha or Hot Sauce of Choice. Go bold and add some extra, or skip it if you like your tofu mild.
- Press the Tofu. You can use a tofu press or or set a cast iron skillet or plate with heavy cans on top of the tofu for a make-shift press.
- Cut Tofu into Cubes. I like to keep the pieces at least 1 inch big so they don’t fall apart.
- Marinate. Whisk the marinade ingredients together, then pour over the tofu. Marinate tofu for at least 30 minutes at room temperature or up to a day in the refrigerator.
- Cook However You Like!
Meal Prep Tip
You can whisk together the marinade up to 5 days ahead of time. The oil will separate, so you’ll need to shake or whisk again just before you’re ready to use it.
What to Serve with Marinated Tofu
- Healthy Grains. Pair your tofu with Instant Pot Brown Rice or quinoa and drizzle some of the extra tofu marinade over the grains.
- All-American Sides. The smoky flavor of this marinated tofu makes it an excellent accompaniment to Cauliflower Mac and Cheese and Boston Baked Beans.
- Stir Fries. This tofu marinade is versatile though! It also works with Asian-inspired dishes like Stir Fry Noodles and Zucchini Stir Fry.
- Salads. Proving once again that this tofu marinade pairs with all kinds of flavors, try serving your tofu with Asian Noodle Salad or in place of the bacon in Sweet Potato Salad with Bacon.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Tofu Press. If you cook tofu often, a tofu press makes the process of getting the excess liquid out super easy!
- Measuring Beakers. You can measure multiple tablespoons at a time with these handy little beakers.
- Liquid Measuring Cup. My go-to for whisking sauces and marinades.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Squeeze the Excess Liquid Out. Even if you don’t press the tofu, you’ll need to at least squeeze it to get most of the water out. Think of your tofu like a sponge: if it’s completely saturated, it won’t be able to soak up the marinade. The more liquid you can press out, the more room there is for the marinade to soak in.
- Don’t Use Silken Tofu. Silken tofu is sold in aseptic packages on the regular grocery store shelves, as opposed to the refrigerator case. It’s great for using in smoothies and desserts, but it doesn’t hold up well to being pressed, nor does it do a great job soaking up marinades. Buy extra-firm tofu that’s packed in water.
- Turn the Tofu. Make sure you go back to the tofu every so often to turn it so the tofu marinade soaks in evenly.
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- 1 (12-to 15-ounce) block extra-firm tofu (do not use firm, soft, or silken)
- 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha or hot sauce of choice
- 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.
- Cook according to your preferred method: Baked Tofu, Air Fryer Tofu, or to cook on the stove, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil (or a similar high-temperature neutral cooking oil) in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Spread the tofu cubes in the skillet in a single layer (reserve the marinade). Let cook undisturbed for 5 minutes until the underside is golden. Flip the cubes and continue to cook on all sides until the tofu is crispy all over (about 10 to 12 minutes total). If at any point, the skillet is dry, add more oil as needed. Stir in the reserved marinade.
- *If you like your tofu firmer and chewier, do not skip pressing. If you don’t mind a soft, creamy interior texture you can skip it.
- Adapted from my Air Fryer Tofu
- TO STORE: Store marinated tofu in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- TO REHEAT: Warm leftover marinated 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 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.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Marinate tofu for at least 30 minutes, or up to 24 hours. After a day, the protein in the tofu will begin to break down and the texture won’t be as chewy when cooked.
Absolutely! Marinating is the best way to infuse tofu with flavor all the way through. You’ll love the taste of tofu when it’s marinated before you cook it.
You can marinate tofu on the countertop for a short period of time, but if you plan on doing it longer than 30 minutes, it should be refrigerated.
Pressing your tofu first will help it absorb more of the tofu marinade.
Tofu has a neutral flavor on its own, which means it works with just about any flavors you add to it. Believe it or not, tofu is even combined with chocolate to make vegan desserts! For other tofu marinade ideas, try my Orange Chicken Marinade and BBQ Chicken Marinade, which work for tofu too.