Tofu is a staple for plant-based eaters. It’s a healthy source of protein and is so versatile! If you’ve never prepared it before, you may be intimidated — especially when pressing tofu. This helpful guide will teach you how to press tofu at home.
How to Press Tofu: Different Options
All refrigerated tofu you buy at the grocery store comes in water and contains excess moisture. For the best results, it's important to learn about draining and pressing tofu. There are two different ways to press tofu, either with a machine like the trusty TofuBud or using everyday kitchen equipment.
I outline both methods below — read this article before preparing a recipe with tofu!
A Note About Plant Protein Options
You may wonder how people who eat a whole-food, plant-based diet get enough protein. It’s an age-old question that, for the most part, has been answered. To discover more about that topic, read my article, Am I Getting Enough Protein on a Plant-Based Diet?
You’ll find that you don’t need to worry about getting enough. But, if you are, there are plenty of options for plant protein.
You may not realize that many foods (even vegetables) contain protein. There’s more protein in legumes (beans & lentils), quinoa (a pseudo-grain), and seitan (made from the protein portion of wheat), plus some in nuts and seeds as well.
One of the highest plant protein options is soy. Three and a half ounces of boiled fresh soybeans have about 16.6 grams of protein. One cup of firm tofu has about 20 grams! If you have concerns about soy,
More About Tofu
Fresh soybeans, tempeh — made from fermented soybeans — and soy milk all feature soy. That said, tofu is the most well-known of the soy products and is a great option.
It comes in two forms. The shelf-safe version is called silken tofu. You can also find refrigerated tofu, which has been packed in water to keep it fresh. Silken tofu is quite fragile and takes delicate handling. It's best used in desserts, dips, or dressings where you don’t need to press it to release the water.
Here are a couple of silken tofu recipes that you can try now:
- Avocado Tofu Chocolate Pudding
- Plant-Based Vegan Sour Cream
- Macaroni Salad
- Crustless Broccoli Tomato Quiche
Refrigerated (non-silken) tofu is sturdier and requires draining and pressing for many recipes.
Some will say that tofu is flavorless and bland, but I say…they just don’t know how to prepare tofu to make it the delicious savory, or even sweet, plant-based vegan food we’ve grown to love. Did you ever meet a plain ol’ boiled chicken breast that tasted great on its own? No, is the answer!
So follow along and discover how to make deliciously flavored tofu starting with pressing it in a TofuBud tofu press to release excess water and make room for your favorite marinade. Then, I'll show you how to do it by hand in case you don't have a press at home.
Pressing Tofu and Draining Tofu: A Must For Refrigerated Tofu
You don't always have to worry about pressing regular tofu or draining silken tofu because some recipes don't call for pressing.
However, many recipes do call for pressing and draining tofu before it's cooked, especially if it's to be marinated. The process also helps the tofu hold up better, particularly if you want it to maintain its cube-like shape.
While pressing and draining tofu sounds like a lot of work, it doesn't have to be — especially if you use a handy tool like the TofuBud. I've outlined both methods below.
How to Press Tofu in a TofuBud Press
If you're interested in purchasing a TofuBud, use my 10% discount code by putting PLANTBASEDCOOKING_10 in the "Discount Code" box.
My favorite tofu press is the TofuBud. One of the reasons I adore it so much is that it's an all-in-one gadget that keeps your counter clean and dry. The released water drains right into a handy container that you can see in the image above.
- To press, simply cut open the top and drain the water from the tofu container into the sink.
- Make sure the shelf is at the bottom of the press and add the tofu.
- Place the second shelf on top of the tofu. Slide the top into the press.
- Add the knob, and press down to one of the two pressure points.
- Turn the knob to lock in place, and start the pressing process.
- Press for about 20 minutes.
How to Press Tofu By Hand
If you don't have a tofu press at home, you can use materials you likely already have in the kitchen. Here's what you need:
- A large plate
- A clean dishcloth or paper towels
- A cutting board
- A large bowl
- A weight (can of food, large water bottle, etc.)
Once you have everything, follow these instructions, and you'll be pressing and draining tofu in no time:
- Position your tofu on your dishcloth or a layer of paper towels on top of the plate.
- Layer more paper towels or another dishcloth on top.
- Place the cutting board and your weight on top. It should be heavy enough to press the tofu without squishing it completely.
- Allow your tofu to sit for about 30 minutes. If your cloth or paper towels become too wet from the tofu draining, you can replace them.
- Cube and use as desired!
See the tofu draining process in my "How-To" Video
Scroll down directly to a video of how to press tofu with a TofuBud press.
Pressing Tofu Ahead of Time
Once you've finished pressing and draining the tofu, place it in an airtight container in the fridge. You can press tofu up to 3 days in advance when stored correctly.
What's the Best Way to Press Tofu?
It depends on what you have at home! I swear by my tofu press as it makes the entire tofu draining and pressing process a lot easier. Plus, I just love the container that catches all of the excess water — it's such an easy cleanup. But if you're in a crunch and don't have time to go out and buy one, the by-hand method works just as well!
Do You Need to Press Extra Firm Tofu?
Sometimes you do. Just because it's extra firm doesn't mean that there isn't excess moisture that should be drained! You can use the same instructions above for extra firm varieties.
Check out these tofu recipes for a tasty plant-based meal:
- Green Thai Coconut Curry with Tofu & Brown Rice
- Spinach Tofu Benedict
- Sweet and Sour Tofu
- Baked Tofu
- Tofu Crab Cakes