A hot bubble bath can fix a lot: stressful days, sore muscles, store-bought tofu. No offense to tofu; it’s not you, it’s supermarkets. No one would want to spend weeks in a little container of cold water, only to be hurled in a bag, taken to who knows where, tossed in the fridge, then—Oh! I totally forgot we had tofu! Hence why so many of our favorite recipes offer some warmth:
Bake. Fry. Simmer in sauce. All lovely options, but my go-to technique is none of these—it’s blanching. I learned the trick cookbook author Fuchsia Dunlop, who specializes in Chinese cuisine. In her book Every Grain of Rice she writes:
“Blanch plain white tofu in hot salted water before use, to freshen up its flavor and warm it before you combine it with other ingredients.”
Shop the Story
Just as blanching vegetables not only cooks but seasons them, too, blanching tofu brings out its best texture and flavor. And it only takes a minute to accomplish these results. The quickest dunk in salty, simmering water relaxes the protein into its happiest mood—warm, supple, and creamy, like fresh mozzarella cheese. (That said: “Do not allow the water to boil or the tofu will become porous and less tender.”)
Dunlop puts the technique toward saucy dishes like mapo doufu. But I use it even more simply. My routine: Start a pot of brown rice. Start a pot of salty water. Meanwhile, roast whatever vegetables are about to go bad. Mix together peanut butter, miso paste, rice vinegar, and water, by sight and to taste. (Also try: the turmeric-tahini and roasted garlic dressings, above.) When the rice is done and the water is simmering, cube the tofu and add it for a minute to two. Drain well. Add a bed of rice to a bowl. Top with tofu and veggies. Drizzle with peanut-miso sauce. Dinner! Happy me. Happy tofu.
What’s your favorite way to cook tofu?
The Food52 Vegan Cookbook is here! With this book from Gena Hamshaw, anyone can learn how to eat more plants (and along the way, how to cook with and love cashew cheese, tofu, and nutritional yeast).
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.