Forget bland tofu, the secret to tofu that tastes good is a bold, flavorful tofu marinade! Ready in just 5 minutes, these 6 tasty tofu marinade recipes are perfect for baked tofu, grilled or pan fried tofu, and air fried tofu too!
Even though I was a bit slow to the tofu game, I've figured out the secret to making it taste good; and today I'm going to share all my tips with you!
Tofu is a healthy vegan meat alternative. It's quick and easy to make, a good source of plant protein, and it's super versatile. And because tofu has a naturally neutral flavor, it can take on a lot of seasoning. Marinading tofu is a great way to infuse tons of flavor to tofu dishes in minutes. Bonus: These 6 marinades are gluten free, oil-free friendly, and totally vegan!
Tofu is cheap and abundantly available (except in January!) at most supermarkets in the refrigerated section. I like to make a batch or two at the beginning of the week for my family to enjoy for lunches and dinner in veggie sandwiches and wraps, vegan tacos, salads, Buddha bowls, and much more. Let's get into the details!
You'll need a block of tofu and only a handful of pantry ingredients for your tofu marinade depending on the flavor you choose:
- block of tofu: firm or extra firm tofu (for most recipes), pressed as needed
- pantry ingredients: ie. soy sauce (tamari for gluten free), dijon mustard, oil, sambal oelek, black pepper, garlic powder, cornstarch. See recipe card for exact ingredients and measurements for each marinade.
How to Marinade Tofu
Here's the step-by-step instructions for marinating your tofu. Choose one of the sensational marinade recipes (below) then let's make a batch together:
- Wrap the block of tofu in some paper towelling or a clean kitchen towel. Place it on a flat surface then top with a cutting board and a few heavy cookbooks which will press out the excess water. Or use a tofu press if you have one on hand.
- While the tofu is pressing, mix the marinade ingredients together in a bowl or jar.
- Slice or break the pressed tofu into bite size pieces (~1") then transfer to zip top bag or bowl and pour the marinade over. Gently toss and stir to thoroughly coat the tofu pieces with marinade. Let the tofu soak up all the savory, sweet and spicy marinade flavors for 15-30 minutes up to a couple hours.
- Remove the tofu pieces, but don't throw out excess marinade.
- Cook your tofu however you like.
How to Cook Marinated Tofu
There are many ways to cook marinated tofu from grilling/pan frying, oven baking, and air frying to name a few.
Heat some oil in a large skillet over medium high until shimmering. Shake excess marinade from the tofu pieces then add to the hot pan. Crisp up until golden then flip the pieces (using a fork or slotted spoon) until all sides are crispy and delicious.
For the thinner marinades, stir in a cornstarch slurry to thicken then add to the pan for the last 2 minutes of cooking (see Tips below). For the thicker marinades, you can skip the thickening step and serve the reserved marinade drizzled over the cooked tofu.
THE SECRET to preventing tofu from sticking when grilling/pan frying (without oil): Place the tofu pieces in a hot pan and don't move or flip them until a crust forms and they naturally release. Flip and repeat on other sides (a few minutes on each side).
If you want to bake the tofu instead: Arrange the marinated tofu pieces on a parchment lined baking sheet and cook at 400ºF. It takes ~20 minutes (flipping after 12 minutes) or until the tofu is tender inside with a crispy crust outside! See my Baked Tofu post for complete instructions.
Note: For thinner marinades, thicken with a cornstarch slurry then drizzle over top before serving.
If you prefer to air fry the tofu, follow the directions in my air fryer tofu post including dredging the tofu pieces in cornstarch. Then transfer to the air fryer in a single layer and bake at 380ºF for ~10 minutes shaking the basket a couple times for even cooking! Note: I usually do 2 batches in my air fryer so the basket is not too crowded. Serve with reserved marinade for drizzling if desired.
Easy Marinades for Tofu
These are SIX of our favorite marinades that will elevate your tofu dishes from ordinary to extraordinary. Plus a few suggestions for how to serve it!
- Mustard Maple Tofu Marinade: My favorite for tofu and veggie sandwiches.
- BBQ Tofu Marinade: Delicious paired with grain bowls like quinoa with extra marinade drizzled over top.
- Vietnamese Lemongrass Tofu Marinade: Delicious on grilled tofu skewers with veggies basted in the tasty Asian marinade and served on basmati rice.
- Greek Tofu Marinade: Fantastic wrapped in a warm pita with fresh veggies and a drizzle of vegan tzatziki.
- Spicy Nashville Hot Tofu Marinade: Stir 1-2 tablespoons of vegan mayo into leftover marinade then use as a drizzle in a Nashville Hot 'Chicken' style sandwich or taco.
- Asian Tofu Marinade: Delicious stir fried with extra marinade and lots of veggies!
Pro Tip: Double the marinade recipe for basting, drizzling, and stir frying.
Common Questions & Helpful Tips
At this point, I consider myself somewhat of a tofu expert. I make tofu from scratch, cook it several times a week, and have converted many tofu skeptics in my day. If we were marinating and cooking tofu together, here's some tips I'd share with you:
- What kind of tofu should I use?: For most main dishes, I use firm or extra firm tofu. It's the perfect high protein, low carb, healthy, plant protein with meaty texture for marinating.
- Should I press the tofu?: The most asked question! The simple answer is, I would when making marinated tofu. Even extra firm tofu has some excess water and would benefit from a quick press. It's easy, just wrap the tofu block in a towel and stack some heavy cookbooks on top(or use a tofu press). Let it press for 15 - 30 minutes while you mix up the marinade.
- How long should I marinate my tofu? Tofu will have some flavor after as few as 15 minutes of infusing; but if you have time, leave the tofu in the marinade for several hours for a more intense flavor.
- What should I do with the leftover marinade?: Each marinade recipe will have some leftover that can be used for stir frying, basting or drizzling over the cooked tofu doubling the flavor! See Notes for how to thicken a thin marinade in 5 minutes to use as a drizzle.
- Million Dollar Tip: At the beginning of the week, I press a few blocks of extra firm tofu for ~30 minutes - 1 hour by wrapping the tofu block in a kitchen towel and stacking a few heavy cookbooks on top. Then I replace the wet towel with some fresh paper towels and store the wrapped tofu in a zip top bag in the fridge for up to 3 days. That way it's ready to whip up your favorite high protein vegan meals in minutes!
Store any leftover, cooked tofu in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. It's delicious reheated or straight out of the fridge in grain bowls or rice bowls, salads, vegan tacos, and sandwiches!
More Tofu Recipes
If you're a new vegan, new to tofu or plant based curious, here's more tasty, high protein tofu recipes to try:
- Spicy Peanut Tofu Noodle Bowl - THE best tofu recipe ever! It's easy to make and the tofu is finger licking good (we call it the tofu whisperer - because after the first bite, everyone is hooked).
- Delicious Tofu Tacos
- Quick Teriyaki Tofu
- Easy Tofu Taco Bowl
- Fluffy Tofu Scramble
The BEST Tofu Marinade (6 flavors!)
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Spicy Maple Mustard Tofu Marinade (the best!)
- 3 tablespoons dijon mustard
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 clove garlic
- 2-3 teaspoons sriracha
- black pepper to taste
Asian Tofu Marinade
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 1 ½ tablespoons ketchup
- 1 ½ tablespoons mirin
- 1 tablespoons maple syrup / brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon sambal oelek
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons ginger, grated/minced
- 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
Nashville Hot Tofu Marinade
- 2 tablespoons hot sauce (eg. Valentina, sriracha)
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup or vegan honey
- 1 teaspoon smoky paprika
- 2-3 tablespoons pickle juice (or vinegar)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon butter (optional - see recipe note)
Smoky BBQ Tofu Marinade
- ⅓ cup bbq sauce, bold smoky
- 1 tablespoon sriracha sauce
- 1 teaspoon lime juice (more to taste)
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup (if needed)
Greek Tofu Marinade
- 3 - 4 tablespoons white (or red) wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
- 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon sweet paprika powder
- 1 tablespoon oregano, dry (or fresh to taste)
- 1 tablespoon shallot, chopped
- 2-4 cloves garlic, minced
- salt and pepper (to taste)
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup (more to taste)
- red pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoons olive oil (skip if oil free)
Vietnamese Lemongrass Tofu Marinade
- 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons shallot, chopped
- 1 stem lemongrass (white part only), minced
- 2 tablespoons orange/tangerine juice (freshly squeezed)
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 4 teaspoons soy sauce
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- ½ teaspoon black pepper, coarsely ground
- 1 teaspoon olive oil (more or less to taste)
- Press the tofu: First press the tofu by wrapping the block in a kitchen towel or paper towels then stack some heavy cookbooks on top. Or use a tofu press if you have one (15 - 30 minutes).
- Mix up the marinade: While the tofu is pressing, mix the marinade ingredients together in a bowl or jar.
- Cut the tofu: Cut or break the pressed tofu into bite size pieces (1" cubes) or any desired shapes ie. slabs, slices or triangles.
- Marinate the tofu: Add the tofu cubes to a zip top bag, pour in the marinade then gently massage to coat each piece thoroughly. Halfway through, massage again and flip the bag to make sure the tofu is evenly soaking up marinade.
- Cook the tofu: Remove the tofu pieces from the bag (save the remaining marinade for drizzling). Shake off any excess marinade before cooking.
- To Pan Fry: Heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the marinated tofu pieces in a single layer with space between. Fry the tofu until golden brown, flip using a fork or slotted spoon and fry the other side (~5-6 minutes total or until golden). See recipe post for other cooking methods.
- To Store: Store any leftover cooked tofu in the fridge in an air-tight container for up to 5 days. The texture and flavors are amazing the next day (hot or cold!).
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