Tofu has very little flavour itself but soaks up almost every flavour you add to it. When you put tofu in a stew or simmer it in a broth, you don't need to marinade it beforehand, as it absorbs all of the flavours during cooking. But for all other types of preparations, it’s better to marinate the tofu first of all.
Use a 'conductor' such as (rice) vinegar, soy sauce, lemon juice, (rice) wine or even a little bit of water to distribute the herbs and spices equally.
Don’t use oil in a marinade
It’s not recommended to use oil in marinades. Depending on the amount of moisture in the tofu, the oil can form a layer around the tofu, preventing it from absorbing flavours. For example, when grilling tofu, brush with oil only after it has been marinated.
Due to its high water content, tofu takes up little oil during preparation. To get a crispy crust when pan-frying, you therefore have to use a generous amount of oil.
Sugar for a delicious crust
Marinades with a little sugar, honey or syrup not only provide flavour but also ensure a crispy crust as the sugars caramelize when heated. Using a sweet ‘conductor’, like rice wine, hoisin sauce or balsamic syrup, can also provide this effect. Pan-fry the tofu on a medium height to prevent the sugar burning and giving a bitter aftertaste.
Soaking up the marinade
The amount of marinade absorbed depends on the size and/or thickness of the slices or cubes of tofu. Prick the tofu with a fork to ensure that the tofu absorbs as much marinade as possible. During marinating, turn the tofu over several times.
Natural tofu is low in salt. To add salt, either add salt directly or use a salty sauce like soy sauce, ketjap manis (a thick, sweet Indonesian soy sauce) or fish sauce.
How long must I marinate my tofu?
The larger and thicker the tofu, the more time is needed to absorb the marinade. The minimum time to marinate small cubes, thin slices and grated or 'scrambled' tofu is 15 minutes. For the tastiest results, marinade the tofu overnight.
A crispy crust
Roll slices or cubes of marinated tofu in some rice flour, potato starch, corn flour or grated coconut before pan-frying for an extra-crispy crust. Be sure to use a non-stick pan with a generous amount of oil. Deep-frying is also an option.
Which marinade should I use?
There are endless possibilities when it comes to marinating tofu. You can use an existing recipe (for example for a meat dish), as long as you omit the oil and add a little sugar, syrup or honey.
Make one of these delicious marinades:
- Japanese rice wine, fresh grated ginger, red pepper and salt
- Balsamic vinegar, crushed garlic, marjoram and salt
- Soy sauce, honey, five-spice powder, red pepper and grated lime rind
- Ketjap manis, ground cumin, curry powder and sambal (a spicy condiment made primarily of chilli peppers)
- Lemon juice, orange zest, crushed garlic, ground cinnamon, ground cumin and salt