How to Press Tofu

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Woman arranging tofu slices on a paper towel.

Pressing Tofu

Tofu is sold packed in water, so it’s a challenge to get it to really brown in a skillet. But, don’t despair – pressing tofu can be a game changer!

Tofu with Peanut Sauce

Pressing tofu to drain out excess moisture will allow it to brown and crisp up more, yielding a texture some people find more appealing (even extra firm tofu is pretty soft). It also allows it to hold it shape better while cooking.

Pressing Tofu without a Press

You can use either plates or cutting boards for the following methods. Use plates flat enough to lie cleanly against the top and bottom of the tofu, plates that are curved won’t be as effective). Place a dishtowel on a large flat plate or cutting board. Put a couple of sheets of paper towel on top. Place the block of tofu on the paper towels.

Woman putting paper towel on a cutting board.

Place a paper towel on top of the tofu, and another dishtowel on that.

Woman placing paper towel onto a stack of cutting board, paper towel, then tofu.

Put a second flat plate or cutting on board on top.

Place a couple of large cans of beans or tomatoes or a few heavy books (yes, you can absolutely order your own copy of The Mom 100 Cookbook or Dinner Solved!) on top of the top cutting board or plate, and let drain for about 45 minutes. Pour off the excess water that gets released (much of it will be absorbed into the towels) pat the tofu completely dry with fresh paper towels, and proceed with your recipe.

Several Mom 100 cookbooks on tofu pressed between two sheets of paper towel.

You also do this directly on the counter. See directions for cut tofu below.

Pressing Cut Tofu

If you are planning to slice the tofu in slabs or rectangles for your recipe you can cut the tofu before you press it. You can also cube the tofu after if that’s what you need for a stir fry or another recipe.

Woman slicing tofu on a wooden cutting board.

To press cut tofu, first slice the tofu into 8 to 10 rectangular slices. Place a couple of dishtowels on your counter, then place a few sheets of paper towels on top.

Set the slabs of tofu on the paper towels, then cover the top with more paper towels, then another couple of dishtowels.

Woman arranging tofu slices on a paper towel.

Place a few heavy books or large cans on top of the paper towels and let the tofu sit for 30 minutes. The dishtowels will absorb the water the tofu releases.

Woman placing large cans onto a cutting board pressing tofu.

Discard the paper towels, blot the tofu dry with fresh dishtowels or paper towels, and proceed with the recipe. Cut the tofu into cubes if needed.

How to Press Tofu: Pressing tofu allows it to brown and crisp up and also absorb more flavor while cooking. Here are tips on how to press tofu without a press.

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How Long Does Tofu Take to Press?

Tofu takes about 30 to 45 minutes to press. If you have placed enough pressure or weight on the tofu, after 45 minutes as much water will be released as possible. Additional time won’t yield firmer tofu. However, if you want to press your tofu in the fridge overnight for convenience, you can do that.

What Happens if You Don’t Process Tofu Before Cooking it?

Do you need to press tofu? Well, it will still be perfectly fine and safe to cook and eat. But if you don’t press the tofu it won’t brown or sear very well. And it’s almost impossible to get non-pressed tofu crispy. Additionally, it won’t be able to absorb as much flavor from a sauce or marinade as its water content is quite high. This easy step allows it to absorb more flavor, and prevents it from falling apart as it cooks, especially if you are stir frying or sauteing it.

Simple Stir Fried Crispy Tofu and Vegetables

Pressing Tofu with a Tofu Press

There is also such a thing as a tofu press, which many people consider to be a game changer. If you cook a lot of firm tofu you may want to consider buying one – many are very affordable, and you can press your tofu overnight in the fridge, and be amazed at how much water you are able to extract. Each tofu press will come with its own specific instructions.

Recipes with Tofu:

Korean Tofu Salad
5 from 1 vote

Korean Tofu Salad

The flavors of Korean cooking are front and center in this recipe. It’s an amazing balance of spicy and sweet and savory.
View Recipe

White bowl of Stir Fried Crispy Tofu and Vegetables and rice.
5 from 1 vote

Simple Stir-Fried Crispy Tofu and Vegetables

Nuggets of tender but chewy tofu and a slew of vegetables become a perfect vegetarian stir-fry.
View Recipe

Spicy, Sweet and Nutty Tofu on a long blue platter.
5 from 3 votes

Spicy, Sweet and Nutty Tofu

And you thought you didn’t like tofu.
View Recipe

Large, white serving bowl of Pad Thai on a wooden table.
5 from 3 votes

Vegetarian Pad Thai

A flavorful and satisfying Pad Thai with plenty of vegetables, and no fish sauce and shrimp.
View Recipe

Vegetable Udon Noodle Soup
5 from 1 vote

Vegetable Udon Noodle Soup

This slurper incorporates some of my very favorite Japanese flavors, and my kids’ favorite noodle, udon.
View Recipe

About Katie Workman

Katie Workman is a cook, a writer, a mother of two, an activist in hunger issues, and an enthusiastic advocate for family meals, which is the inspiration behind her two beloved cookbooks, Dinner Solved! and The Mom 100 Cookbook.

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