In today’s post, I’m going to share my tips on how to bake tofu with no oil. This way of baking oil-free tofu can be mastered by anyone regardless of their experience in the kitchen.
Adding tofu to a lot of vegan and plant-based recipes is a great way to boost their protein content. However, if you add it raw straight from the box, it’s most likely going to fall apart because of its delicate texture.
That’s why I prefer to pre-bake my tofu before adding it to things like stir-fries, soups, salads, etc. It has a nicer texture and mouthfeel, and it holds together well when used in any recipe.
When speaking about cooking tofu, there are a few basic facts you need to know.
Basic Facts About Tofu
1. Tofu is made from soy milk in a process called coagulation. Soy protein gets separated from the liquid parts of soy milk, and then is pressed to form a solid block.
2. Tofu comes in various degrees of firmness, from silken (the softest, most tender) to firm and very firm. Silken tofu is ideal for sauces, puddings, pie fillings, etc., while firm varieties are perfect for by baking, grilling, frying, and so on.
3. Tofu absorbs the flavor of whatever you cook it with, especially if you marinate it prior to adding it to the rest of the ingredients. While it is ideal in Asian-style stir-fries, it can also be used in soups, stews, and even sandwiches, especially if you bake it first following the directions in this post.
4. Tofu can absorb not only marinades, but also lots of oil during frying because of its spongy texture. This is why I decided to post my favorite way to bake tofu that involves no oil at all (if you bake the tofu pieces on parchment paper), or very little oil (if you spray the cookie sheet with oil) .
My baked oil-free tofu comes out sturdy and firm, so it doesn’t break when added to various dishes, but it’s still soft enough to absorb flavors. Plus, it’s not drenched in oil!
5. Tofu is in no way a mandatory food to consume if you decide to go vegan/plant-based! There are plenty of vegan people who forgo tofu completely, just as there are vegans who are gluten-free/allergic to other foods. Recipes calling for tofu are usually easy to make without it, like substituting beans for tofu in soups and stir-fries.
Still not interested in eating soy products as a vegan? See my tips on how to go soy-free as a vegan.
Is Tofu Good for You or Bad for You?
Tofu is one of the ingredients common to vegan/plant-based cooking that often gets a lot of bad rap. While some people declare it terrible for our health to the extent of causing cancer, others say that they can’t stand its taste or texture.
I’ve heard people say that they could never go vegan because they didn’t want to “eat all that tofu”!
Tofu (like all soy foods) contains substances called isoflavones. “Isoflavones are classified as phytoestrogens… which means that they can have very mild estrogen-enhancing effects under some conditions and anti-estrogenic effects under others, as they block the body’s hormonally active compounds.” (Quoted from My Beef with Meat: The Healthiest Argument for Eating a Plant-Strong Diet by Rip Esselstyn.)
Because certain cancers (some types of breast cancer in particular) thrive off of estrogen, a lot of health-conscious people choose to stay away from eating soy in the hopes to lower their cancer risk.
However, phytoestrogen is quite a bit weaker than estrogen that naturally occurs in our bodies, as well as in meat and dairy. When phytosetrogen gets attached to cancer receptors that are looking for real estrogen, its growth happens at a slower rate.
So if you’re trying to cut down on estrogen consumption, you’re much better off avoiding meat and especially dairy than soy!
(Note that I’m not a doctor or a medical professional, so please do some additional research and ask your caregiver about soy in your diet.)
The exact ways of how (and if) tofu and soy products affect our health are continued to be studied, but evidence suggests that there’s no need for us to be afraid of consuming tofu made from organic soybeans once or twice a week.
Now that we’ve covered all the basics, let me show you a good way to bake tofu for further use in different dishes.
How to Bake Tofu with No Oil: a Simple Technique
I’m using half of a 16-ounce store-bought block of firm tofu in the pictures below. I find that this amount is plenty for adding to any soup or stir-fry for two adults.
1. Press your block of tofu. This will take about 20 minutes. This step is necessary to squeeze out excess liquid from the package, or otherwise the cooked tofu might come out rubbery.
To press your tofu, wrap it in a paper towel, put it between two cutting boards, and apply something heavy on top (like a teapot or a book). Alternatively, you can use a special tofu-pressing device like this gourmet tofu press from Amazon.
2. Preheat the oven to 400° F while the tofu is being pressed. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. If you don’t have parchment paper, and are ok with using a bit of oil, spray your cookie sheet lightly with cooking spray.
3. Cut your tofu into cubes or squares, making sure not to slice them too thin (they might dry out too much in the oven).
In the picture below, I’ve cut my tofu into 1″ x 1″ x 1/2″ pieces approximately. If you need larger pieces of tofu, cut them larger.
4. Arrange tofu pieces on the cookie sheet.
I’m using a greased sheet in the pictures below, but these days I prefer to line my cookie sheet with parchment paper for easier cleanup afterwards.
5. Bake tofu for 10 min at 400° F, then take it out and flip.
If you’re using a greased cookie sheet, some of the tofu may stick to it. When baked on parchment, tofu is much easier to flip.
6. Bake for 6-8 min longer, then take the tofu out. At this point, the baking is done! The pieces will be yellowish and springy to the touch.
I often pop a few pieces in my mouth as soon as they’ve cooled off a bit. That’s even better if I have a fun dipping sauce on hand!
7. Use your oil-free baked tofu in any recipe that calls for pre-cooked tofu: add it to stir-fries, marinate it in various sauces, add it to soup, etc. Enjoy!
Trying to make being vegan easier both for yourself and your family? Check out my favorite vegan finds on Amazon, from useful cookbooks and vegan pantry staples to kitchen tools, products for vegan kids, etc.!
New to vegan cooking? Check out my vegan how-to’s page that covers a variety of subjects, from oil-free cooking and stocking your vegan pantry to budgeting your groceries and making vegan kitchen staples at home.
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