Meat-free doesn’t have to be “meh.”

If you’ve never thought of tofu as anything beyond a tasteless meal filler, think again. As far as plant-based protein goes, tofu is one of the cheapest and most versatile sources out there, and the flavor is entirely up to you.

With the right preparation, the low-cal wonder can enhance everything from salads to stir-fry to burrito bowls.

Whether you’re trying meatless Mondays or going full-fledged vegetarian, these tofu cooking tips will ensure you never look at your plate and wonder, “Where’s the Beef?”

No matter how you’re preparing it, start by wrapping the tofu (we recommend extra firm) tightly in an absorbent towel to soak up the excess liquid. You can even set something heavy (like a cast-iron skillet) on top for good measure. If you skip this step, the tofu will soak up less flavor and will be more difficult to crisp up.

Here are two of our favorite ways to prepare tofu:

Deep Frying

If you’ve ever had really good tofu at a restaurant, it was probably deep fried.

To start, heat vegetable oil to about 350 degrees in a deep fryer or heavy pot with a high-temp thermometer. Prepare your dredging station with a bowl of white flour, a bowl of two to three whisked eggs, and a bowl of breadcrumbs. Setting up the three ingredients side-by-side will save you time and spare you from a huge countertop mess.

With the tofu sliced in 1-inch by 2-inch sections, coat each piece in flour until fully dusted. Transfer to the next bowl for a dunk in the egg wash. While the tofu is still sticky, place it in the third bowl and toss or sprinkle with bread crumbs until totally covered.

Carefully submerge the tofu in the frying oil, being cautious to avoid hot oil splatters. Cooking at 350 degrees, the tofu will fry quickly and only needs about two to three minutes before it reaches a beautiful golden brown.

Szechuan Tofu with Cauliflower


Pan-frying won’t give you as much of a crispy texture, but it does require less ingredients.

For this method, cut your tofu into smaller cubes for a faster cook time (and an easier way to eat). You can prep the tofu cubes with just a sprinkle of salt and pepper, or add in flavors like curry powder or BBQ seasoning. Adding a light coating of cornstarch before cooking can also yield crispy results.

With pan-frying, you’ll need to double the time it takes you in the deep fryer, totalling about 5 to 6 minutes. Add oil to a hot pan that’s set over medium heat. Put the tofu in while the oil is hot, and rotate the cubes in the pan every few minutes until each side is golden brown. If you’re still not satisfied with the crispiness, toss your oven-safe pan in a 375 degree oven for about 10 minutes.

Tofu Curry with Lemongrass and Chile
Credit: Iain Bagwell

Iain Bagwell


No matter which way you chose to cook it, toss the crispy tofu in a flavorful sauce, like the sesame sauce Chef Amanda Williams uses, to complete the dish. Garnish your plate with scallions, peanuts, or any other toppings you please.

Look here for some of our favorite easy sauces.