Crispy Baked Tofu

After five days in the Midwest—flying to Chicago, then driving to South Bend, then back to Chicago, consuming brats, duck prosciutto, Pat LaFrieda burgers, Lou Malnati’s pizza, and so much beer*—I’m ready to do Meatless Mondays, Vegan Before 6, and any other type of cleanse you want to throw my way. (Except for the Gwyneth Paltrow GOOP one. Did it once, ended very badly with a bowl of mac, cheese, and hot dogs.)

But I’ll just start by making a big batch of my baked tofu to throw into some veggie-centric dishes over the next few weeks.

baked tofu
What, are you shocked? Really, truly, I LOVE TOFU. Never had a problem with the texture, never balked at its blandness at all—in fact, I downright enjoy the way it soaks up flavors like a sponge. (And looks like a sponge to boot.)

I’m not going to try and convert the haters; trust me, I’ve tried to force-feed it to Dan one too many times to learn that tofu, like beets, is a taste that you come to on your own terms. But for those of you who have trouble getting a beautiful golden-brown crust on your pan-or-wok-fried tofu, try advance baking to ensure a crispity-crunchity exterior on your blocks of soy without leaving the tasty bits stuck to the bottom of a hot pan.

Yes, there are a few preliminary steps to follow, but they can be done in bulk and you’ll be rewarded with trays of well-browned, nutty tofu at your disposal. The key is the freezing process; when you give the tofu a subzero time-out, the texture changes so it stays firmer and never feels slimy upon thawing. You’re rewarded with something that feels meatier and more substantial without the dreaded saturated fat content.

[UPDATE: Thanks to Alexandra Grabbe at Chezsven, here are two incredibly helpful lists of which organic soy products and dairy products are best for your health (and yes, buying organic really makes a difference in this category). I’m happy to see that the Whole Foods 365 brand is getting 4 out of 5 stars on each list—for all the company’s flaws, its house-label products are a good value.]

Never fear, GFS faithful—more posts on Chicago are forthcoming.

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  1. says

    I keep trying to like tofu. Can we change its name to something more attractive? Eggplant, for instance, always sounds better in countries where they call it aubergine.

    • Casey BarberCasey says

      Ha! My mom used to have a purple car that we called “The Aubergine.” Technically it WAS the name of the paint color – how cosmopolitan of Ford Motor Co.!

      Tofu’s got nothing going for it, name-wise – soy and bean curd are equally unappealing. How about calling it “takaku,” which is the Japanese word for versatile/diversified?

  2. says

    I like baking tofu but not as much as when I fry them in coconut oil. I just like the texture better when I fry the tofu. However, when I use tofu in my pita or sandwich, then I prefer them baked.

    I’ve never tried fish sauce in my tofu marinade, thanks for the idea.

  3. Ilana says

    I feel like as a follow up post I need you to now tell me what to do with the Tofu. Share some of your favorite tried and true recipes.

  4. says

    I’ve tried this a few times and it has never come out good. But I didn’t do it the way you suggest… so I’m willing to give them another go and see what happens.

  5. says

    I’ve gone through a tofu phase or two–I once made a HUGE pan of tofu lasagna in an effort to eat more soy. My husband was good enough to eat seconds but I’ve never made it again. This looks so good. And you’re right the beautiful thing about tofu is it soaks up whatever flavors are around it.

  6. says

    Ooh, I’m gonna do this. Never knew about freezing it first…maybe that’s why my baking attempts have been futile. I am excited to try this – thanks!

  7. says

    I’ve never heard of doing this, but I’m going to try it. I’ve only had success in getting my family to eat tofu two ways: blended up in smoothies and in lasagna.

  8. Meghan says

    Thank you for the fantastic recipe! I want all the crunch without all the fat from frying. I broiled them for a minute at the end, and got a roasted, crispy finish. Thanks!