Many people who dislike tofu claim it’s bland and flavorless.
But the blandness of tofu may be an advantage because it allows it to absorb and enhance the flavors of all the other foods it’s prepared with.
But, does tofu absorb flavor? It does, and it does it very well. It has very little flavor and a porous structure, so other flavors can easily penetrate into tofu and change how it tastes.
Tofu is considered a flavor “sponge,” soaking up the taste of spices, seasonings, and ingredients.
Read on to learn more about how to make tofu more delicious and flavorful in all your recipes.
What Does Tofu Taste Like on its Own?
By itself, tofu has very little flavor of any kind.
Tofu is made from soybeans, so it tastes like soy milk.
But remember that commercial soy milk, sold for consumption on its own, almost always has flavor enhancers like salt, sugar, vanilla, and other ingredients to make it taste more like milk.
Tofu tastes mildly sour because it is usually coagulated with acid and very mildly vegetal.
But most people would struggle to describe it as having any real flavor.
Does Tofu Absorb Other Flavors?
Yes, tofu absorbs other flavors.
Tofu is naturally porous and spongy, with tiny spaces between the curds.
It’s packed in water to keep it moist and fresh, and the water fills up all the tiny cavities in the tofu.
When tofu is drained and pressed to remove the liquid it is packed in, those small spaces and openings will act like a sponge, soaking up any ingredients with which the tofu comes in contact.
Even when tofu is not drained or marinated, cooking tofu evaporates the water inside it and allows it to absorb other flavors.
But draining and pressing out the water, followed by marinating, is the best way to impart more of your desired flavors to tofu.
Should You Always Marinade Tofu?
Tofu is safe to eat right out of the package, so it does not need to be marinated (or cooked).
However, tofu eaten this way is bland and not very flavorful.
Marinating tofu is the best way to impart flavor and make it more delicious. Therefore, most people who eat it regularly or incorporate it into a recipe choose to marinate it.
Tips for Making Tofu More Flavorful
If you want to have the best, most flavorful tofu, here are some great tips:
To make tofu the most flavorful, it needs to be pressed and then marinated.
Depending on your recipe, this may take up to 8 hours or overnight, so it’s best to plan ahead and know when your tofu needs to be ready.
Don’t Drain Tofu Earlier Than Necessary
It may seem like the best thing to do is immediately drain and press tofu, so it’s ready to be marinated whenever you want.
But the liquid and the sealed container that tofu comes packaged in exclude air, protecting the tofu from bacteria and from spoiling by oxidation.
So keeping tofu in its original packaging until you are ready to use it is the best way to make it last longer.
Drain and Then Press Your Tofu
Draining tofu allows the water it is packaged in to naturally drain away.
Pressing tofu actively squeezes the water out, making more room for the flavors of your marinade or other ingredients.
Doing both gives you the most flavorful tofu.
Press Tofu for 30-60 Minutes
Halfway through pressing, change the towel to increase the liquid absorption.
Consider Using the Microwave
Many claim that microwaving a block of tofu for 2-5 minutes is another great way to cook off any excess liquid and dry it out.
Marinate Your Tofu
Marinating replaces the water tofu is packed in with a more flavorful liquid that the tofu will soak up and absorb.
The drier the tofu is after draining and pressing, the better it will absorb a marinade.
Tofu should be marinated for 1-24 hours, depending on whether you are marinating the whole brick or have cut the tofu into slices or cubes.
The smaller the tofu pieces, the less marination time is required.
Be Mindful of Your Ingredients When Timing Your Marinade
For example, if you use a flavorful marinade, like soy sauce, and your tofu is extremely dry, it will absorb the liquid and flavor and can be cooked after 30 minutes of marinating.
On the other hand, if you use a very acidic marinade, like lemon juice, the acid will begin to break down the texture of the tofu over time.
Cook Tofu in a Way That Adds Flavor
After marinating, consider using cooking methods that impart even more flavor to your tofu.
For example, steaming or microwaving doesn’t impart as much flavor as grilling or stir-frying. Allowing tofu to gather flavor from a soup broth works too.
While tofu is naturally bland and almost flavorless, that neutrality allows it to absorb and combine with a vast range of dishes, flavors, seasonings, and recipes.
Tofu is a kitchen chameleon: available in almost any texture, simple to cook with virtually any recipe or preparation method, and absorbs nearly any flavor.
Because of this versatility, tofu can be a healthy, high-protein addition to almost any meal.
Tofu is also affordable, so you can experiment with the marinades, recipes, and cooking methods that work best for you.
If you thought you didn’t like tofu, experiment with a marinade and see if the ways that tofu absorbs flavor help to change your mind.