The best marinated tofu is the one where you turn the leftover marinade into a glaze and fry the tofu with it in the end. This simple method will take the flavor of your tofu dish to the next level. Combine it with your favorite sides for a complete and filling meal that will have the entire family lining up for seconds!
We love using tofu in our recipes because of the numerous ways to prepare, cook, and serve it. Marinated tofu adds to the fun, providing endless flavor possibilities. Be sure to check out our other marinated crispy tofu recipes, including our hoisin tofu, harissa tofu, and chili miso tofu bites.
What to expect?
Contrary to what some may believe, tofu is not hard to season! In this marinated tofu recipe, we kick the flavor up a notch by soaking firm tofu in a flavorful marinade with soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, thyme, smoked paprika, and molasses. We then hand tear it to create multiple edges, giving the tofu an extra crunchy texture once fried. To finish, we pan-fry it to perfection before coating it with sauce again to fill each bite with even more flavor!
Why you will love this marinated tofu recipe:
- It is easy to make – There are less than ten steps to follow before this delicious marinated tofu dish is hot and ready to serve. The total time to make this recipe is just 40 minutes, including the 15 minutes to marinate the tofu.
- It is simple – This recipe does not use special equipment or marinade ingredients you can not find in your grocery store or pantry.
- It is versatile – There are multiple ways to prepare marinated tofu, including hand-shredded tofu steak, tofu cubes, and tofu triangles! Refer to our post on how to prepare tofu for even more ideas. You can also customize it with different marinades, seasonings, and sides.
This easy marinade tofu recipe only requires nine simple ingredients, many of which you may already have at home in your pantry. We have also provided some alternatives in case of dietary restrictions or if you forgot to make your grocery store run!
- Firm tofu – You can also use extra firm tofu with less liquid.
- Soy sauce – For a gluten-free alternative, use tamari sauce.
- Vegetable oil – Sesame oil is another option.
- Corn starch – Tapioca flour is a good substitute.
- Balsamic vinegar
- Maple syrup – You can also use other liquid sweeteners. Honey is not vegan, but you can use vegan honey or one of the many other honey substitutes.
- Thyme (dried) – Or fresh thyme, if you prefer.
- Sweet smoked paprika powder
- Molasses – This ingredient is optional, but highly recommended.
🛒 You can find detailed measurements for all ingredients in the printable version of the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Making marinated tofu
- Using your fingers, slowly and gently tear the tofu apart. You can do so by first pulling it in half or tearing off larger pieces before creating bite-size pieces.
- Mix the soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, thyme, smoked paprika, and molasses in a small bowl.
- Pour the marinade over the tofu and stir gently, taking care not to break the tofu. Let the marinated tofu rest for 15 minutes, then drain and set the excess marinade aside.
- Add the cornstarch and mix it evenly, not breaking the tofu.
- Heat 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a pan. Once the oil is hot, add the tofu pieces and fry on each side for 2-3 minutes. Once the pieces are cooked, move them to a paper towel to absorb the excess oil.
- Mix the cornstarch with the excess marinade that you previously set aside. Make sure there are no lumps. Pour the marinade mixture into a pan and bring it to a boil.
- Add the fried tofu and evenly coat them with the sauce.
- Marinate overnight – For maximum flavor, marinate the tofu overnight.
- Alternatives to frying – We tested four ways to make crispy tofu, but we recommend pan-frying for marinated tofu that is glazed in the end.
- Using the leftover marinade – When mixing the tofu with the excess marinade, we recommend coating them on a per-serving basis, especially if the pan is not large enough to cover them all evenly. We like to add one serving of sauce to a warm skillet or pan, then toss it well with one serving of fried tofu cubes.
There are many different ways to prepare, marinate, and cook your tofu. Here are a few of them:
- Different preparation methods – Instead of hand-shredding your tofu, you can make tofu steak, thin-sliced tofu, or cut your tofu into cubes or triangles. Find more techniques in our list of 10 ways to prepare tofu.
- Different cooking methods – There are a few alternative ways to make crispy tofu, including air-fried, baked, and deep-fried. See our guide on making crispy tofu for the pros and cons of each method. For even more cooking methods, refer to our guide with 11 ways to cook tofu.
- Different marinated tofu recipes – There are countless ways to marinate your tofu. Our marinated tofu favorites are harissa tofu, teriyaki tofu, and chili miso tofu. We share more ideas in our list of tofu marinade recipes.
- With spices – Toss the tofu in other herbs and spices such as garlic powder, onion powder, or ginger for a different flavor profile. If you like heat, sprinkle on some cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes. You can even add some liquid smoke to the marinade for a smoky taste.
Once you marinate and fry your tofu to perfection, here are several delicious ways to serve it:
- With vegetables – Serve it alongside your favorite veggies, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, snow peas, green beans, or sweet potato. You can also try it alongside our roasted asparagus and mushrooms, sauteed mushrooms, sauteed julienned carrot, or roasted cauliflower.
- With grains – Serve it on top of steamed or fried rice, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, or cauliflower rice.
- With noodles – Serve it with a side of our tahini miso soba noodles or Thai glass noodle salad.
- With a salad – A fresh green salad is a nutritious side to serve with marinated tofu.
- With toppings – Top your tofu with edamame beans, sesame seeds, sliced green onion or scallions, bean sprouts, or chopped nuts.
Marinated and fried tofu is best served fresh and hot on the same day you cook it. However, in case you have leftovers, here is the best way to store it:
In the refrigerator: For the best flavor, marinate the tofu overnight before cooking it the next day. Once cooked, store the leftover tofu in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days. For the crunchiest texture, use within 24 hours as they become dry and soggy with time.
In the freezer: Some freeze tofu before cooking to achieve a “meaty” texture. However, we do not recommend freezing tofu after you cook it.
Reheating: Reheat marinated tofu on a baking sheet in the oven or a toaster oven for the crispiest texture. We do not recommend reheating it in a microwave.
Depending on the type of tofu you use, it is possible to marinate it too long. The protein in softer tofu will start to break down after 24 hours. However, high-protein, extra-firm tofu can last up to three days without changing the texture.
You may have not pressed enough of the liquid out of the tofu, which prevents it from absorbing the flavor. Additionally, if your marinade contains oil, it will act as a barrier against the marinade once combined with the excess liquid from the tofu.
We do not recommend marinating the tofu before pressing it, as the excess liquid will prevent the tofu from absorbing the flavor.
More marinated tofu recipes
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The Best Marinated Tofu (Sticky, Crispy)
- Use a firm tofu and press it.
- Use your fingers and tear the tofu slowly and gently. You can tear them first in half or tear off larger pieces, then create bite-size tofu at the end.
Marinating and frying
- In a small bowl, mix soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, thyme, smoked paprika, and molasses.
- Pour the marinade on the tofu pieces. Stir gently, not to break tofu. Let them rest for 15 minutes. Drain and save the excess marinade.
- Add cornstarch and mix it evenly, try not to break the tofu.
- In a pan, heat up 3 Tbsp vegetable oil. Once it is hot, add tofu pieces. Fry each side for 2-3 minutes. Once ready, take them out to a paper towel to absorb excess oil.
Making marinated tofu
- Mix cornstarch into the remainder of the marinade. Make sure there are no lumps in it.
- In a pan, pour in the marinade and bring it to a boil.
- Add in the fried tofu and coat them with the sauce evenly.