Weeknight Cooking

Hands-Off, No-Fry Tofu (It's Crispy, Too)

April 13, 2017

Raise your hand—and raise it high—if you're excited to fry tofu on a weeknight. The brave among you are waving one arm in the air, pouring oil into a wok with the other. (You must have tasted Ottolenghi's black pepper tofu.)

While I salute you, I cannot join you. On any given weeknight, my psyche is not hardy enough to weather the frustrations of sticky skins; my paper towel supply is not plentiful enough to clean up errant oil splatters.

And so, when I'm feeling weeknight weary, I follow the lead of Cookie and Kate (and The Kitchn): Give pressed tofu a quick run through oil, cornstarch, panko, and sesame seeds, and put it in the oven. Ta-da!

Thirty minutes and one flip later, your tofu emerges with a crust as defined as the fried version (with a little help from cornstarch and panko), and you'll have skipped the sputtering oil and spatula contortion. The crowd of cubes will be evenly browned; the clean-up will be minimal.

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And while the tofu is roasting, you can take advantage of the warm oven to cook accompanying vegetables: In that amount of time, thinly sliced shiitakes will shrivel, their savory flavor concentrating as their sponginess turns to chewiness. Roast sweet potatoes chunks, cauliflower florets, or carrot spears. Add asparagus and halved cherry tomatoes to the oven halfway through cooking time, when you flip the tofu. Oh, the possibilities!

Once you've dried out the tofu in the oven, it's more receptive to flavorful sauces: Mound atop a bowl of rice or sesame noodles; float in soup; or, add to your stir-fry.

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Top Comment:
“Once the eggplant and mushrooms have become softened then add large quantities of chunks of tofu (I prefer silken) and put a lid on the pan till it is all bubbling and just heated through. Serve with a creamy potato mash for truly a comforting and flavour packed treat. Occasionally I may add a dash of Lea and Perrins, and a spoonfull of finely chopped preserved lemon, but it just depends on how I feel at the time. ”
— Shelley H.
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Or simply drizzle with a bit of soy sauce (and fish sauce, too) and snack on them like you would chicken nuggets—or, you know, tater tots.

What's your favorite way to cook tofu? Tell us in the comments below.

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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5 Comments

Shelley H. April 17, 2017
I have to admit I'm a throw it in and see how it tastes cook. So this is what turned out to be my favourite way to home cook Tofu. <br />Roughly chop about a kilo of eggplant/aubergine and throw it into a chefs pan with chopped onion and huge quantities of garlic and your favourite sauté oil. Tear up a variety of mushrooms (I love Swiss browns and fresh champignons) and add to pan. Toss it a bit. Add salt and ground white pepper. Now add a very generous dollop of oyster sauce and maybe a bit of kecap manis. Once the eggplant and mushrooms have become softened then add large quantities of chunks of tofu (I prefer silken) and put a lid on the pan till it is all bubbling and just heated through. Serve with a creamy potato mash for truly a comforting and flavour packed treat. <br />Occasionally I may add a dash of Lea and Perrins, and a spoonfull of finely chopped preserved lemon, but it just depends on how I feel at the time.<br />
 
Elizabeth April 16, 2017
Well-seasoned cast iron on low heat works w very little oil. But do not try to flip the tofu too soon (before it's really seared). Stickage will ensue. Took me a long time to figure this out.
 
mattmill April 13, 2017
Freeze the tofu first, thaw, then toss with soy/tamari, dust with cornstarch and bake at 400 for 20min, flip and 8 more minutes. The freezing helps it absorb more sauce so it's not just on the exterior.
 
Amanda April 13, 2017
Oh! I'm definitely trying this next time. Thanks for this! I've always just oiled a baking sheet and thrown it on there with fairly decent results, though normally I only get about half of the sides really crisp...
 
Alexandra S. April 13, 2017
So smart! Can't wait to try this.