This Trader Joe's Product Jumpstarts My Lazy Dinners

Pressed for time? Here's a weeknight shortcut.

July 29, 2019
Photo by Bobbi Lin

When a recipe asks you to press tofu, it’s not trying to annoy you. It’s trying to lead you toward concentrated flavor, a custardy middle, and crusty edges.

It’s annoying, nonetheless.

Because if you’re like me, you start cooking dinner as soon as you get hungry (which is to say, too late). And it isn’t that pressing tofu is hard—you use a tofu press, or put a plate and can of chickpeas on top of it and wait. It’s the waiting that’s hard.

Luckily, a few months ago, I found a supermarket shortcut to avoid all of this: Trader Joe’s Super Firm Tofu. While other tofu varieties, like firm and extra-firm, swim in a kiddie pool of water, this kind comes tightly wrapped in plastic, like cheese.

Its texture is as creamy as cheese, too. It is dense and concentrated, but not dried out—the sort of squidgy firmness that I’m going for every time I press tofu in a hurry (and end up squashing the block into a million little pieces by mistake).

After cubing it, I like to blot the super-firm tofu with a towel, to get it even drier. But from there on, it’s full speed ahead with whatever is for dinner that night. Here are four likely contenders:

Grilled Peanut Tofu

Peanut butter, soy sauce, garlic, and chile sauce are the base for this grilled tofu. You can turn the planks into a sandwich (pickled vegetables on top would be great), or make cubes instead and toss onto rice.

Japanese-Style Fried Tofu

The bulk of this marinade is easy to remember: ¼ cup each of white miso, ponzu sauce, brown sugar, and honey. The rest is bits and bobs of big-personality ingredients, like ginger, wasabi, and garlic.

Crispy Sesame Baked Tofu & Shiitake Mushrooms

Cornstarch, panko, and sesame seeds give this tofu a delightfully crispy crust. Mushrooms, soy sauce, and fish sauce add lots of umami. Serve with hot rice.

Vegan Palak Paneer

Tofu pretends to be paneer in this vegan recipe. Lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and a big pinch of salt bring out its inherent cheesiness.

This post contains products that are independently selected by our editors and writers, and Food52 may earn an affiliate commission. What are your tofu-pressing tricks? Tell us in the comments below!
The All for Farmers Market

We’ve joined forces with Tillamook to support All For Farmers—a coalition benefiting farmers across the nation—with a special market that gives back. Featuring Shop all-stars and a limited-edition Five Two apron, a portion of proceeds from every purchase supports American Farmland Trust’s Brighter Future Fund.

The All for Farmers Market

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles on the fly, baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., and writing about the history of pie in North Carolina. Now she lives in New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's award-winning column, Big Little Recipes (also the cookbook in November 2021!). And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

1 Comment

Hannah August 5, 2019
I, too, am someone who starts cooking dinner as soon as I am almost ravenous. I love Trader Joe’s for having so many frozen veggie stir fry options so I can turn out a lazy dinner in under 30 minutes. And all my lazy dinners turn out to be bowl meals - just the way I like them!