How to Press Tofu

Transforming soy curd with a couple plates and a freed mind


Admit it, carnivores. You still think tofu is some kind of meat-substitute for hippies; a wan, quivering excuse for a protein foisted upon the culinarily conscientious.  But that ain’t the whole story.

Tofu's a culinary as much as conscientious staple (evidence: the cuisines of China, Japan, Korea, etc.). And that’s owing to its incredible versatility—it's adaptive to a variety of preparations, able to soak up flavors and transform texturally with just the right amount of coaxing.

We won’t get ahead of ourselves with some misguided “tofu-is-cool” conversion effort. Instead we’ll just share a technique that’ll help non-tofu eaters understand just how malleable and useful an ingredient it can be. It’s called pressing tofu, and all you need is tofu, a plate, something heavy, and an open mind.

Tofu image via Shutterstock

Step One: Purchase Tofu

Seems easy, and it is. Just be sure to find a tofu that’s firm—pressing soft or silken tofu will end up in a mushy mess. Medium or firm work best. If you’re lucky enough to have access to freshly made tofu, go a little gentler on the weight, as fresher tofu is bound to be more delicate.

Step Two: Plate the Tofu

Home with your new block of tofu?  First, a celebratory fist pump. Now, open your tofu, drain it, and pat it with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. Place your tofu in a plate with high rims or a wide shallow bowl. The liquid from the tofu will collect in here, so the longer you plan on draining it, the more room you should have for the liquid. Some people recommend placing a paper towel beneath it to encourage absorption.

Step Three: Weigh that Tofu Down

Retrieve a second plate; this will hold your tofu weight. Go for something as wide as the plate your tofu is on—distribution of weight makes for more even pressing. Now select a tofu weight. This is important (not like save the whales important, but it’s up there): too heavy and it’ll crack your tofu, too light and you won’t extract much liquid. Good options are wide books (avoid Tolstoy, something hardbound and not too thick). Want some irony with your pressed tofu? Use other packages of tofu, side by side, to press it. Now walk away.

Step Four: Check Your Tofu

Check your tofu, lest you wreck it. Come back about 30 to 40 minutes later. You should see moisture starting to seep out of your tofu—that’s good! Depending on the level of dryness desired (drier tofu will have a chewier, “meatier” texture) drain your tofu for anywhere from 20 heavily—carefully—weighed-down minutes to several hours. If you’re not leaving your tofu to drain for the day, feel free to periodically drain the liquid as it collects—but that’s not necessary.

Step Five: Flavor that ‘fu

Okay, now we are trying to make it sound cool. Properly pressed tofu has a great, toothsome texture. It does not, however, contain much in the way of flavor (unless, like some of us, you love the ghostly, milky nuttiness of plain tofu). Fortunately, by pressing tofu, you have just prepped it to absorb a variety of flavors—whatever (oil-free) marinade your heart desires. Slice your tofu for maximum surface area and faster absorption, and marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Step Six: Prepare Your Tofu

Take your newly pressed, flavor-packed tofu and do just about anything with it. Slice it up for a classic stir fry, coat it and toss it into a health-be-damned pan fry, or throw it on the grill for some meatiness-upping char. The possibilities are endless. 

Mentioned in this article


  • This may as well say, "How to press horse poo"! Why would anyone want to eat more soy? For those interested in better health, it's full of estrogen mimickers, increasing risk for breast and reproductive cancers, and goitrogens, interfering with normal thyroid function. It's high in omega 6 fats which cause inflammation and we already consume too many of them. The American Heart Association withdrew its recommendations to eat more soy citing an utter lack of evidence that it was heart-healthy. For those interested in animal rights, as a row crop, harvesting it decimates hundreds of lives per acre.

    If you want something meaty, eat some meat. Ideally humanely raised and organically pastured.


    Feb 06, 2013 at 3:18 PM

  • Snooth User: Emily Bell
    1177900 519

    Appreciate your passion, and your points, but for 'horse poo,' that is. Not advocating mass consumption of tofu, either from an environmental or health perspective. Have heard some of what you say regarding tofu and health issues, very important stuff; I assume readers take their health into account when eating any product. Fortunately (for readers) I don't presume to offer lifestyle/nutritional advice, only culinary techniques. As for environmental impact, you raise important points, some of which align with this Guardian article from 2010, citing the World Wildlife Fund study on reducing meat consumption in the UK. (they recommend lentils and chickpeas as protein substitutions, as opposed to soy). Also worth checking out is James McWilliams reaction to the WWF study anti-tofu backlash in The Atlantic:

    Feb 06, 2013 at 4:36 PM

  • Snooth User: Emily Bell
    1177900 519

    As for my calling it "conscientious," I'm not trying to qualify tofu as the "right" choice but rather characterizing why some people might choose it, whether correctly or incorrectly, which is clearly up for debate.

    Feb 06, 2013 at 4:38 PM

  • Snooth User: Dan1962
    1185828 8

    Glad to see that Laurie is a Doctor and knows her stuff, Laurie if you are a nediucal doctor please advise, otherwise do not make medical advice. Soy ike all other foods are good when eaten in moderation!

    Feb 07, 2013 at 9:02 AM

  • Snooth User: TofuDad
    1186198 8

    Pressing tofu is simple and easy using a new type of appliance called the EZ Tofu Press. It presses tofu in 10-15 minutes; firm and extra firm tofu absorbs marinade and other flavors better. Saves on paper towels and stacking plates and cans! More information on this at a must have for tofu lovers!

    Feb 08, 2013 at 10:27 AM

  • @Emily: I appreciate that people already eat it and you're trying to present a way to make it palatable. I suppose there's nothing innately wrong with that and I certainly don't think you evil or conspiratorial in doing it. Frankly though, making a toxic substance more palatable hardly seems in line with the spirit of good food and good eating. The fast food and processed food industries have spent billions making soy more palatable to us so that they could add it to tacos and burgers and breads and desserts... and all kinds of fake meats that those who crave meat can eat instead of, you know... MEAT. it's CHEAP. I imagine that those individuals think similarly to you- they're just trying to provide a food that people enjoy (and therefore will buy).

    @Dan1962: Do you know what a logical fallacy is? The one you just shared is called the "appeal to authority" fallacy. It suggests that because an individual doesn't have alphabet soup next to their names that they must be wrong- but frankly, science speaks for itself, and fortunately no one needs to be a doctor to understand that the science says soy is bad for us.

    FWIW, traditionally, Asian cultures consumed about 2 tsp of soy foods per day and it was usually fermented. Now that they're beginning to eat cupfuls like Americans they're beginning to show the same health problems associated with it. The glut of soy protein in American foods is a byproduct of the soybean OIL industry and is considered a toxic waste product until they repackage it and sell it to you as "health food". It's also full of protease inhibitors, so the supposed protein substitute doesn't provide much protein because it inhibits the action of the enzymes need to assimilate it.

    There was a study done in France that was just published a few days ago, it actually found that plant based diets produce as much greenhouse gas as junkfood diets, full of salt and sugar.

    "Growing fruit and vegetables doesn't produce as much greenhouse gas as raising cattle or livestock, the study confirms, but people who eat a primarily plant-based diet make up for that by eating more of those foods." ~High nutritional quality is not associated with low greenhouse gas emissions in self-selected diets of French adults | Am J Clin Nutr March 2013 ajcn.035105

    They're not better for the environment than even conventional meat eating. But if you raise a cow on an acre of pasture, you get 1000 lbs of the highest quality, protein, fat and mineral rich organ meats. You don't need to till, harvest or water. It will cost ONE life. For the same amount of protein from soy, hundreds and perhaps even THOUSANDS of animals will give their lives to the tillers, the combines, etc. A single harvest kills half the field mouse population, and that ranges from 100-1000 animals per acre. The main difference is that we don't eat the mice, or the snakes or the other small animals we killed in those fields. And they don't have big sad eyes to appeal to us. But the fact is, if saving lives matters to you, pastured beef takes a FRACTION of the lives that soy does.


    Feb 11, 2013 at 4:33 PM

  • Snooth User: Emily Bell
    1177900 519

    Huntress - respect your passion and extensive research, glad if an article brings important issues to the fore.

    Feb 12, 2013 at 2:44 PM

  • Emily, that was very gracious of you. I'm inspired by your diplomacy.

    Be well.


    Feb 13, 2013 at 12:19 PM

Add a Comment

Search Articles

Best Wine Deals

See More Deals

Snooth Media Network