Easy Smoky Tofu (Oil-free) + Tips To Perfectly Press and Prepare Tofu

March 20, 2017

Appetizers and Sides

By: Jasmine Briones 

Not a fan of tofu? We honestly weren’t huge fans either. Actually, before Chris and I went vegan, and even shortly after, we were convinced that we did not like tofu. In reality, the problem was that we simply didn’t know how to cook it. Once we learned how to properly prepare tofu, this all changed and now we LOVE tofu, and we hope this tutorial will do the same for you too.

Not only are we going to share with you our absolute FAVORITE way to prepare tofu, but also a few tips on how to perfectly prepare tofu so that you can nail it every time you use it in the kitchen. The marinade for this recipe was inspired by our oil-free Carrot Lox recipe on the blog. We fell in love with the smoky flavor and knew we had to experiment in using the marinade on other ingredients, and we hit the JACKPOT with this smoky tofu recipe!

Here are a few tips for you to consider when preparing tofu that we think will help you out:

Number 1: Determine Which Type You Need

Keep in mind that there are two types of tofu, and each of these types comes in various consistencies, so you should be sure to purchase the right kind for specific recipes/preparation techniques.

The first type of tofu is Silken Tofu. This type is undrained and unpressed, meaning it has the highest water content and is custard-like. It is often labeled soft, firm, or extra firm, and is perfect for creamy and blended foods like smoothies,, puddings, dressings, dips and sauces.
The second type is Regular Tofu, which means it has been pressed. This too comes in various consistencies, soft, medium firm, firm, extra firm and sometimes even super firm, going from highest to lowest water content.

For this recipe, we are using regular extra firm tofu, and I would suggest you try to opt for super firm if it is available to you for the best results.

Number 2: Press & Marinate Tofu

It is often assumed that you need to simply remove the tofu from it’s packaging, dice it, throw it on a pan with some seasoning and voila… but that may result in bland/water tofu and is probably why a lot of people are not fans of it.

The key to delicious tofu? Pressing and marinating it first. Think of tofu as a big sponge. When you press your tofu, you remove all the water inside of it, allowing for it to soak up marinades more efficiently and pack in WAY MORE flavor.

How to press tofu? We filmed our easy fool proof method, a LIFE HACK that will help you enjoy perfect tofu. Check out the video below!

Number 3: Freeze Tofu

If you remove the tofu from its package and freeze it in a storage bag, then thaw when ready to use. This will give you an even denser, firmer and chewier texture, perfect for instances that you need super firm tofu that can be handled without breaking.

Another way to prepare this smoky tofu recipe is into slices rather than cubes, and you can serve them in sandwiches! Simply cut tofu in half width-wise, then cut each half into a total of 6-8 thin slices. Marinate it just as you would the cubes, then dry fry on a pan and voila, you have added an amazing flavor packed ingredient to take your school or work lunches to the next level!

Make sure you tag us on Instagram @sweetsimplevegan and @consciouschris and hashtag #sweetsimplevegan if you recreate any of our recipes, we love to see your photos!

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The Best Smokey Tofu – {easy, vegan + oil-free}


  • Author: Jasmine Briones / Sweet Simple Vegan
  • Total Time: 9 hours 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4

Ingredients


Instructions

  1. Remove tofu from packaging, drain and press for 1 hour to release its liquid.
  2. In the meantime, mix together the remaining ingredients to create your marinade.
  3. Cut pressed tofu into 1/2-1/3 inch cubes and place into a large ziplock bag or a shallow baking pan.
  4. Pour the marinade over the tofu, seal, shake up/turn over to ensure even distribution of the marinade. Place in the refrigerator for 3-8 hours, the longer the better. Mix the tofu periodically if possible for even marinating.
  5. Once the tofu is marinated, place it into a nonstick pan over medium-high heat with all of its liquid. Mix tofu into a singer layer, and allow it to cook until no liquid remains and the tofu has browned.
  6. Reduce the heat to low, and flip the tofu. Allow it to sit for a few more minutes. Remove from heat and serve the tofu as desired. We love ours with rice, beans and vegetables.
  • Prep Time: 9 hours
  • Cook Time: 20 mins
  • Category: Entree
  • Cuisine: Asian


Nutrition facts label provided by Nutri Fox.

Disclaimer: This page may contain affiliate links, which simply means that we earn a commission if you purchase through those links, but your price remains the same. Thank you for supporting Sweet Simple Vegan!

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Recipe rating

  1. Sabrina says:

    Hey Jasmine,

    I really loved the recipe, but I just have a quick time for you! I *think* my brick of tofu might have been bigger than yours, because there was hardly enough marinade to cover my tofu, and there was no excess liquid when I fried it! No big deal, for next time I’ll just double the marinade because I really enjoyed the flavours 🙂

  2. Jess says:

    Is there I can use as a substitute for Coconut Vinegar? Coconut Aminos or another type of vinegar?

  3. […] extra-firm tofu —> press it first (here are some awesome instructions for pressing tofu – […]

  4. Nora B. says:

    I’m really excited to try a smoky tofu, for every type of meal, any time of day. It’s funny about how you were fairly convinced that you disliked tofu so much…my vegan “origin story was the opposite—I’d had some past with tofu & bc I knew how much I loved it & its versatility in every meal I could consider “an awesome vegan meal,” I remembered that tofu & seitan were absolute staples. When I gave in to that ever-louder inner voice calling me back toward a vegan diet & lifestyle, the first food I got was like four boxes of tofu. After that grocery store trip, I entered a cooking phase that I can only consider accurate if I call it “TOFU BOOTCAMP.” I tried every last tofu preparation that I could imagine. (Fast forward to now—that tofu boot camp was incredibly fun & helpful, although I’m not quite comfortable with the “shake’n’bake…actually the skillet-fried marinated tofu coated w plenty of cornstarch. (It worked just fine & was delicious, but the smoke detectors in my apt are too sensitive for all that pan-fried goodness; at the very least, I learned that you must-must “know thy marinade,” & if you’ gonna use barbecue sauce, you’re only going to burn that dinner once—either bc you don’t use bbq sauce ever again, or bc you’ve gained a basically too-deep understanding of how bbq sauce + pan-fried anything really works. The high high sugar content of bbq sauce, although delicious (!!!) can turn on the home chef so quickly…I might be up for a new shake-n-make a new battered & pan-fried tofu dish. Well, at least it’s a potential idea, not a certainty…

    Long story (well…long anyway,..) told, I was excited to find this liquid smoke tofu hack. I’m absolutely going to try this on some level, whether fairly naked in spring rolls, or in my typical “one pan no plan” looks-like-straight-up-garbage single-skillet grassroots vegan cooking activism.

    I never thought of using liquid smoke w my tofu…not sure why, but here’s where the internet comes in handy, right?! (Yes…)

    I ate so much vegan junk food during Veganuary 2020, so it’s time to get back on track. The weight loss I’m experiencing is one hugely positive (& so needed!) “side effect” of going vegan. So far I’ve lost 31 pounds; although I have ~30-some pounds to go until I’m comfortable with everything & can be ok w being finally getting back to the public pool to swim laps. Anyway…here’s a super long missive about my relationship with tofu… lol, idc how much you actually read, but writing this has been helpful for defining my achievements, progress **&** my goals from the POV of a the first year of my vegan-lifestyle positive changes. Recipe sites like yours are really fantastic… thanks for publicizing your successful recipes & everything! I’ll stop typing now bc not even my close friends want to read my longer stories (& I’m fairly sure of the fact of the expiration date on those “friendships.” I’ve always defined myself as a writer, first; then as a visual (photos, mixed media…) artist. Bc I honestly do not know you, maybe it’s just easier to write longer-read commentary; I won’t consider twice if you don’t want to read all this. Childhood-bff (?!) ppl are different though. It’s not really my problem that their attention spans have reduced to (if we’re lucky?!) three-minute intervals. My attention span remains unchanged, so…ugh whatever. I’m so self-conscious about “using my words” now… so I’m done. Tomorrow is grocery & tofu-marinade day! ???? I’m excited to try sth new lime this recipe. Thank you.

  5. Ruth W says:

    Love this Liquid smoke hack!!! I never even thought i could smoke my own tofu but yesterday i had a life defining salad including RAW smoked tofu, kale in an oily smokey marinade (i don’t care what anyone says about oil – i LOVED it!), and a sliced smoky carrot that seemed to mimic smoked salmon. I rushed home to scour the internet for inspiration on how to do it all myself. But all the ideas for the tofu seemed to involve cooking it or using a BBQ to ‘cold smoke’. But i don’t have a BBQ!!! I felt inspired to look again this morning and BINGO I found your site!! I’m so HAPPY, particularly as you reference Carrot Lox which might just be the smoked carrot i was looking for from my amazing salad. Now i just have to find the marinade for my kale….
    Also i can’t get coconut vinegar so don’t know what to do about that…. I will find something though and let you know how it goes cos I’m pressing some tofu right now. I was also in the ‘tofu is bland’ camp until right now, so I’m putting a lot of pressure on this!
    Btw Nora B i loved your missive – stop apologising – takes up too many unnecessary words!!!

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