Can you list all 4 ways to press tofu? If not, this guide is just what you need. If you are new to cooking with tofu, this guide will contain answers to all your questions like why and how to press tofu, or how long you need to prepare it for cooking. We also included our favorite tofu recipes, so you can jump right in and enjoy delicious tofu dishes starting today.
Which tofu needs to be pressed?
Tofu is typically sold in the form of blocks under two main categories, “fresh tofu” and “processed tofu.”
- Fresh tofu – YES!!! It is made directly from soy milk, and this is the one you should be looking at for pressing and cooking.
- Processed tofu – NO!!! It is produced from fresh soybeans. Examples are pickled tofu, stinky tofu, or thousand-layer tofu. They are already pressed and prepared, so you can use them as they are.
Fresh tofu comes in many varieties too, like
- Soft silken tofu – NO!!! It is very soft, with an almost custard-like consistency. It is used to make cheesecake, sauces, or pudding. We don’t press it before using it.
- Firm tofu – YES!!! This is the type you should choose to make stir-fries, curries, stews, or even crispy meat alternatives.
- Super firm or extra firm tofu – YES!!! While this type has the least water content, we still recommend pressing it.
3 reasons why pressing tofu is important
To soak up the marinade
You need to imagine it like that. If you have a sponge full of water, it cannot take up anything more. But if you squeeze your sponge empty, it can absorb new water again. Therefore, if you press your tofu block, the water will be drained, and tofu marinades can be soaked up in its place. This step is to make sure you have flavorful tofu at the end.
To reduce the water content
If you want to make crispy tofu, you need to get rid of any excess liquid. If you were to fry it, grill it, or bake it without pressing, the water would be released then. This means, even if you get them crispy, they will soften back up.
To firm up its texture
If you press tofu, it will be easier to work with. And it makes the texture of the tofu denser. It also becomes less crumbly and less likely to be torn or fall apart.
Can you skip pressing?
Sometimes. If you buy extra firm or super firm tofu, you can essentially skip this step and use it in cooking without any preparation.
The main difference between a firm and an extra firm variety is its water content. The extra firm type was just pressed harder or longer during manufacturing. However, if you press firm tofu, you actually get very close to the texture of extra firm.
That being said, we still recommend pressing extra firm tofu for one reason only: marinating. If you want to make sure it is packed with flavor, you need to get rid of as much water as you can, so you can replace it with the marinade. We also recommend slicing it rather thin to have a better chance of getting the seasoning right in the middle.
How to press tofu in 4 ways?
Using heavy objects
Technically, you don’t need a tofu press, you can use a so-called DIY method. The aim is to press as much liquid out as you can. Which can be achieved in various ways. However, having one makes it so much easier and mess-free. If you want to try it without one, here is what you need to do:
- You need a tray or a plate with a kitchen towel or a thick, good-quality paper towel or multiple layers of paper towels on it.
- Drain the liquid from the package. Take the tofu out.
- Place the whole block of tofu on the towel.
- Cover it with another kitchen towel or fold the one from below.
- Place a heavy book or any heavy object (like a cutting board) on top.
- Wait at least 30 minutes. Preferably longer. Watch how much moisture it releases and how dry your tofu is to know when to stop.
DIY method is considered a cheap alternative as you have all the “equipment” you require at home. So technically, you don’t need to buy anything new. However, while it seems easy, but it may actually get quite messy. And here is why:
- As the liquid you drain is not water, you must wash the kitchen towels and other things you use. You can’t just load your washing machine with 1 dish towel, so you need to dry it somewhere and wait until you can add it to a full load.
- If you don’t find a flat surface or don’t use flat “equipment”, your tofu pressing tower may lean and fall. Yes, it did happen to us once or twice.
- You require a larger, undisturbed countertop space to avoid knocking it over. Yes, it also did happen to us.
- The kitchen towel absorbs the liquid. That is true. But the tofu is still standing on a moist surface. So after a while, you either change the towel, creating more things to wash, or just accept the fact that not all moisture can be squeezed out.
Using tofu press
There are various types of tofu presses available to buy. If you are interested to know more, here is our tofu press review. If you decide to buy a tofu press, here are the 3 most common types.
- Tofu press with a spring: This type uses a spring to apply pressure to the tofu, squeezing out the excess liquid. One example would be TofuBud.
- Tofu press with screws: This type of press has two plates tightened together with screws, gradually squeezing the tofu and removing excess moisture. One example would be EZ Tofu Press.
- Tofu mold: This type of press is a simple mold that allows excess water to drain from the tofu as it sets. One example would be Tofuture.
How to press tofu is the same with all types:
- Place the tofu inside the tofu press.
- Place the lid securely on top.
- Screw it together, or click it closed.
- Wait for at least 15-30 minutes to see any result.
- Drain the excess water.
- Open the tofu press and take the pressed tofu out. It is now ready to be used.
Compared to the DIY method using heavy objects, here are several reasons why you should consider buying a tofu press. Especially if you intend to make lots of delicious tofu recipes.
- It is designed to apply consistent pressure to the tofu, which can be difficult to achieve with a DIY method. Consistent pressure ensures that the excess water is pressed out evenly, resulting in a firmer, denser texture.
- It is generally much faster. You can see results in 15-30 minutes. DIY methods, on the other hand, may require many hours or overnight to achieve the same results.
- It is a purpose-built tool that is designed specifically for pressing tofu. It is convenient and easy to use. DIY methods may require more time and effort to set up, as well as to clean up afterward.
- A tofu press can be used repeatedly, whereas a DIY method may require different materials each time.
Why it is one of the ways to drain tofu? Because, when tofu is frozen, the water inside the tofu expands and forms ice crystals. When thawed, the ice melts, leaving small holes behind. This causes the tofu to become more porous and sponge-like.
The water effectively drains from the tofu, while leaving a different texture behind. This firmer tofu is better suited for certain dishes like vegan sausage, vegan breakfast sausage, or plant-based chorizo, where you need a very dry crumble to make it work.
The longer the tofu is in your freezer, the drier it gets. Once, we found a frozen tofu which probably was in our freezer for 3-4 months. We had the driest and best crumbles. Since then, I always have one tofu in the freezer for any event.
Once the tofu is thawed, we squeeze it with our palms for 1-2 minutes, and it is good to go. Look at these dry tofu crumbles, they look like perfect vegan minced meat. We use them to make tofu burger and tofu meatballs.
Using a nut milk bag
When you are sort on time and don’t want to wait for 30 minutes or longer, this is the method for you. While it definitely needs some hard work on your part and get a bit messy, it is worth it if you are busy, or hungry and need tome tofu right in this second.
The nut milk bag acts as a filter that allows the liquid to pass through while retaining the solids, so you can press out the liquid without losing any of the tofu.
- Place the whole tofu into the nut milk bag.
- Squeeze the bag gently but firmly to press out as much liquid as possible. Do it over the basin to avoid any mess.
- Repeat this process a few times until you have removed as much liquid as possible and achieved the desired texture.
It is worth noting that while using a nut milk bag can be an effective way to press tofu, it may not be as efficient or consistent as using a tofu press. However, it is still the quickest method to press tofu I know.