How To Properly Season Tofu Before You Roast It

Tofu has long been the gold standard for vegan and vegetarian protein because of its uncanny ability to take on any flavor. While roasting is famous for caramelizing and enhancing the taste of any ingredient, tofu's nearly undetectable palate will need considerable seasoning to reap those benefits. Luckily, you have many avenues for proper seasoning.

Packaged tofu comes as blocks submerged in water. You can roast the blocks whole, cut them into cubes or strips, or even crumble or shred them. Coating the tofu in oil or liquid seasoning will infuse it with flavor and keep it from drying out in the oven. However, prior to seasoning, you need to drain and press the tofu, removing as much moisture as possible so it can thoroughly absorb your chosen flavor mixture. To maximize the taste of a baked block or tofu steak, you can place it in a marinade for as little as 30 minutes. Unlike thick cuts of meat, tofu soaks up marinades quickly, and roasted tofu will deliver a burst of caramelized flavor with every bite. But one of the most important steps for both flavor and texture in roasted tofu is to stir or flip it during the baking process. Flipping (or stirring) is essential for even cooking, resulting in a uniform taste.

Our favorite ways to roast tofu

While many roasted tofu recipes will have you creating elaborate marinades with countless aromatics, seasonings, oils, and liquids, you can save yourself time and effort by using your favorite bottled sauces. Whether shredded or whole, coating tofu fully in a sauce will render flavorful and moist results. Popular sauces for baked tofu include barbecue, teriyaki, and hoisin. Or make a simple blend of soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar for a trifecta of salty, tangy, and umami. 

Similarly, for dry mixtures, you can choose your favorite store-bought seasoning blend — from taco to Cajun seasoning. The tofu will need a drizzle of oil to help the flavors infiltrate the tofu and to create a seal to lock in moisture while the tofu bakes. We like to make shredded tofu tacos by using a blend of dry and wet seasonings to create a saucy dish that transforms tofu into a vegan version of pulled pork.

You can bake any type of tofu, from silken to extra-firm. Firm tofu is popular for roasted, savory dishes due to its sturdiness and capacity to absorb seasoning. For chunks, steaks, or blocks, roasting firm tofu will also create a pleasant textural contrast of a crisper outer layer and a chewy, meaty interior. To maximize this contrast, you can add cornstarch to a dry seasoning blend.