Baked tofu crisps up in the oven and can be taken in so many directions flavor-wise. This recipe features simple ingredients and makes a healthy vegetarian protein option.
Tofu is one of those “love it or hate it” kind of foods, but with the right method of preparation, there’s hope to convert those in the latter category to the former. Well, that might be a bridge too far, but I’d say a “like it” is within the realm of possibility, speaking from experience with my husband.
Lately when I buy tofu I’m split between prepping it this way or making air fryer tofu. They’re both easy recipes and produce fairly similar results, just with the air fryer being quicker. The choice of appliance is all yours!
Why This Recipe Works
- A cornstarch coating helps produce pieces with a crisp exterior, even while being oven-baked and not fried.
- Baking tofu pieces on a wire rack lifted off of a sheet pan allows all sides to crisp up without the need for flipping.
- There’s plenty of wiggle room with the seasonings to keep the tofu neutral-flavored and work into other recipes, or to spice it up to enjoy on its own.
- Tofu: Either extra-firm or firm tofu work for this recipe. Both varieties still benefit by being pressed prior to cooking, so it’s not a huge deal either way. Do not use medium or silken tofu as they are too delicate and will fall apart.
- Cornstarch: An MVP for crisping up not-fried foods, cornstarch is crucial to this baked tofu recipe.
- Sesame oil: The nuttiness from sesame oil adds a welcome flavor component to tofu, which is bland by itself. Olive oil or cooking oil of your choice can be subbed in if you’ll be using baked tofu in other cuisines.
- Soy sauce: This is another ingredient that adds big flavor, but can be omitted if it wouldn’t work with your intended final dish flavors. I’ve included images below of batches made without soy sauce.
Technically step zero is pressing the tofu. Loosely wrap the block of tofu in paper towels or a clean dish towel, put it on a plate, and place something heavy on top, such as a frying pan or large canned goods, for at least 30 minutes. This rids it of excess water and helps it crisp while cooking.
- Start by pressing the block of tofu, then slicing in half.
- Then cut each side in half, and then half again. Slicing each strip into four equal pieces will leave you with approximately one-inch cubes.
- Place the cubes in a bowl and drizzle the oil and soy sauce (if using) over top.
- Gently stir to evenly coat the tofu. Even after pressing you still want to be careful not to be too rough when handling tofu. Though don’t worry if small bits crumble off as it doesn’t affect the recipe.
- Coat the tofu with cornstarch and dry spices by sprinkling it through a fine mesh sieve. This prevents the cornstarch from sticking to the tofu in big clumps, instead coating everything finely and evenly.
- Spray an oven-safe wire rack with cooking spray and set over a sheet pan. Place the tofu on it in a single layer, leaving a bit of space between each cube.
Bake at 400°F for 30 to 40 minutes, or until browned and firmed to your liking. You can flip each piece over about halfway through if you want the most even browning, but since the tofu is elevated off of the pan it’s not entirely necessary. Air can circulate around it and crisp up all sides.
If making baked tofu with soy sauce, it’s delicious on its own, or served simply with rice, noodles, quinoa, vegetables, turmeric cauliflower rice, etc. This tofu also makes a delicious vegetarian protein option when substituted in place of the beef in this beef stir fry with balsamic peanut sauce. Just stir it in at the end.
If omitting the soy sauce in the coating, the sky is your limit. See some of my favorite suggestions in the Recipe FAQ section below.
- Press the tofu well before beginning this recipe, even if you have extra-firm tofu. This expels water, both making room for flavorful marinades and liquids and firming the tofu up even more so it can crisp as it bakes.
- Using soy sauce imparts an Asian-inspired flavor that shines through in the finished dish, while omitting the soy sauce allows you to use baked tofu in a variety of cuisines. I make it either way depending on what it is I’m making.
- Using a wire rack lifts the tofu off of the pan and prevents the bottom-side from becoming soggy. Be sure to spray it well with cooking spray so the tofu doesn’t stick.
Extra-firm tofu is the best variety for baking as it’s the sturdiest. Firm tofu also works well, though you may wish to press it for longer to press out as much water as you can. Medium and silken tofu types are too soft and will not hold up well in baking recipes.
You can use an all-purpose blend of salt, pepper, and garlic powder, or you can go wild depending on cuisine. If using a neutral oil and omitting the soy sauce, this taco seasoning makes a great homemade southwestern blend.
Baked tofu adds a filling touch to a breakfast burrito, increases the protein in a taco salad, replaces chunks of chicken in chicken salad recipes, can be coated in buffalo sauce for spicy vegetarian Game Day fare, and so much more.
More Vegetarian Main Dishes
If you’ve enjoyed this recipe, I’d love for you to leave a star rating in the recipe card and/or a comment review below!
Crisp Baked Tofu
- 14-oz block extra-firm tofu or firm
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil or oil of your choice, see note
- 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce optional, see note
- 2 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Open the tofu package and drain out the liquid. Loosely wrap the tofu block in paper towels or a clean dish towel and put it on a plate. Place a heavy cast-iron pan (or a 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes, or something else weighty with a flat bottom) on top of it and press the tofu for at least 30 minutes.
- Once tofu is pressed, preheat oven to 400°F. Spray an oven-safe wire rack generously with cooking spray and place over a large rimmed baking sheet.
- Slice the pressed tofu into cubes about 1-inch thick, then add tofu cubes to a bowl.
- Drizzle sesame oil and soy sauce (if using) over tofu and gently toss to coat. Sprinkle cornstarch, garlic powder, salt, and pepper over tofu through a fine mesh sieve (this prevents clumps), again gently tossing to ensure everything is coated evenly.
- Place tofu cubes in a single layer on the prepared rack, leaving a little space between cubes.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the tofu has browned and firmed up considerably. While flipping isn't necessary, if you would like the most even browning you can turn the tofu over about halfway through bake time.
- Served baked tofu with rice, noodles, vegetables, etc. or use in your favorite recipes.
- Pressing is beneficial to help tofu hold together and crisp up, even if you have the extra-firm variety. Set aside at least 30 minutes for pressing, but up to an hour is even better.
- Soy sauce adds an Asian-inspired flavor that makes itself known in the finished dish. Leave it out (instead increase the oil to 1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons total) if you’d like to use baked tofu in a variety of cuisines. I make this recipe both ways and we enjoy it.
- Baking tofu on a wire rack allows air to circulate around all sides the entire time it bakes, leading to a crisper surface. Be sure to spray the rack well with cooking spray so the tofu doesn’t stick.
Nutritional information is provided as an estimate. As it can vary due to many factors (brands used, quantities, etc.), we cannot guarantee its accuracy.
This recipe was updated for content in April 2021 from its original publish date in January 2018.