Let Tofu be Squishy, ​​for God’s sake

I get it – it’s hard to resist the lure of crushingly crunchy tofu. That’s why we’ve come up with so many hacks to achieve that, with everything from starchy dredges to wringing out tofu like a sponge to freezing and thawing the entire block until it’s porous and bakeable. But here’s what no one wants to tell you: Unless you’re okay with sticking to the sizzling mess of deep-frying, it’s nearly impossible to replicate that restaurant-level golden crispy tofu. While you can certainly get close with clever cooking techniques, the obsession with bringing tofu to its crispiest, crunchiest realm is a bit limiting.

If crispy isn’t the end goal, there’s a huge world of textures: creamy silken tofu, springy firm tofu, springy extra firm tofu. Tofu comes in many forms and longs to become many things – and no, it doesn’t always have to be forced, wrung, or beaten into submission. Turn to these four techniques for tofu that’s not crispy but just as deserving of the spotlight.

For custard spoonable tofu:

Make Japanese hiyayakko for soft tofu that is soft and velvety. It’s a cooling, refreshing, dead-simple side that’s all about the jiggly delights of silken tofu. It’s as easy as searching your fridge and pantry for toppings like scallions, sesame paste, and roasted veggies, then piling them high on a cold block. It’s also endlessly adaptable and a textural delight, especially when paired with crunchy garnishes like sesame seeds or fried onions.

Silken Tofu Topped With Toppings Is My Ideal Meal

Hiyayakko is cheerful, decadent, endlessly adaptable, and also non-boiling.

For creamy soft tofu:

When gently tossed into a pan of sizzling aromatics and veggies, the texture of silken tofu transforms into a soft scrambled egg curd like in this Ginger-Scallion Tofu Scramble With Spinach and Chili Oil. Gentle heat and gentle stirring are key here – you’re not cooking the tofu, just heating it through and you still want separate pieces. A silicone spatula is a great tool to have on hand: it’s flexible and soft enough not to overload the tofu into a mushy mash.

GingerScallion Tofu Scramble With Spinach And Chili Oil
Ginger-Scallion Tofu Scramble With Spinach And Chili Oil

Spicy, creamy silken tofu with all the crunchy toppings your heart desires.

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For springy, springy tofu:

In this cozy, comforting stewed tofu and chiles recipe, the extra-firm tofu texture is the main event. Keeping the cubes large and firm keeps the texture pleasantly bouncy with a little bite, without getting into soggy territory, which can happen when tofu releases its moisture and makes for a watery sauce.

Stewed Tofu

In this 30-minute dinner, tofu is smothered in soy sauce, mirin, and vinegar until rich in flavor.

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For squeaky, chewy tofu:

In salads that could use a little texture, cut extra-firm tofu into thin sticks and toss them into the mix. Fresh tofu adds just the right amount of crumbly texture, similar to fresh cheese like halloumi or paneer. Try this Celery, Green Bean and Tofu Salad With Chili Crisp. And because tofu is a shape-shifter and takes on flavors from whatever it’s paired with, it’s versatile enough to be tossed into all kinds of salads.

Image may contain food Dish Meal Plant Dish Salad Products and Vegetable
Salad of celery, green beans and tofu with crispy chili

If you have a batch of our Chile Crisp ready, you can make this summery, easy pantry salad in just 5 minutes.

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Look for the good stuff:

Whatever recipe you’re making, high-quality tofu really makes all the difference. The fresher the tofu, the more pronounced the nutty, slightly sweet and milky flavors will be. Keep an eye out for local tofu shops and sources, but we’re also big fans of Hodo and Phoenix Bean.