Crispy Baked Tofu with Marinara

April 25, 2012

Last week when I posted a picture of the tofu I had in my lunch from dinner the night before, I got a lot of requests for the recipe. Honestly, I haven’t had much success preparing tofu at home in the past. Usually it ends up getting stuck to the skillet or ends up tasting soggy and tasteless. Unless, of course, you cover it in a bunch of browned butter or calorie-dense sauce, but I guess that really negates the benefit of heating tofu for a healthy meal, doesn’t it?

Instead of sticking to what wasn’t working, I mixed things up. After consulting a few online sources, I realized that my main problem with making tofu in the past was that I wasn’t buying the right type of tofu, and even when I was, I had no idea how to prep it for cooking. 
First, the type of tofu you buy is key. For dishes like this one, you’re looking for firm or extra firm tofu that is packed in water. Don’t make the mistake of buying silken tofu, which works great in smoothies and healthy desserts but will not make a tasty addition to this dish.

Second, you need to drain some of the water from the tofu in order for it to become firm and crispy in the oven. To do this, line a dinner plate with a couple paper towels. Place the tofu block atop the paper towels and top with a couple more paper towels. Place another dinner plate atop the tofu, followed by a couple heavy cookbooks for weight. This will help drain some of the water and moisture from the tofu. Allow the tofu to drain for about 20 minutes.

My other complaint about tofu? The taste and texture. Coating the tofu in a spiced cornmeal mixture and baking the triangles in the oven was the perfect remedy to both of my complaints. The cornmeal imparted a slightly nutty, crunchy texture to otherwise soft and mushy tofu, and adding a handful of spices made all the difference in the flavor department. If you’re really a fan of bold flavor, I wouldn’t hesitate to boost the spice level a bit more to suit your tastes.

Do you all eat tofu? If so, what’s your favorite way to eat and prepare it?

Crispy Baked Tofu with Marinara

*1 large block of extra firm tofu
*1/2 cornmeal
*1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
*1/2 teaspoon salt
*1/2 teaspoon cumin
*1 teaspoon ground mustard
*1/2 teaspoon Spanish paprika
*1 teaspoon chili powder
*1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
*1/2 cup Egg Beaters liquid egg whites or two large eggs, beaten well 
*2/3 cup purchased marinara sauce

*Place two paper towels on a large dinner plate. Place the block of tofu on the paper towels. Top with two additional paper towels and another dinner plate. Put a cookbook atop the dinner plate and allow the water to drain out of the tofu (this will help the tofu crisp up in the oven) for about 20 minutes. Discard paper towels.
*Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray or coat lightly with olive oil. Set aside. 
*Cut tofu lengthwise into two rectangles. Cut each rectangle into two triangles to form four triangles total.
*Place Egg Beaters or eggs in a shallow bowl. In a second shallow bowl, combine the cornmeal, graham cracker crumbs, salt, cumin, ground mustard, paprika, chili powder and ground black pepper. Stir until evenly combined.
*Dip each tofu triangle into the egg mixture, followed by the cornmeal mixture, coating evenly with the dry crumbs. Transfer coated tofu to the lined baking sheet. Bake tofu for 20 minutes, turning once halfway through.
*Serve with the marinara sauce. Makes 2 servings

Happy Cooking!

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  • Reply Amy April 25, 2012 at 11:07 am

    Looks good! I pinned this 🙂

  • Reply Lauren at Keep It Sweet April 25, 2012 at 11:19 am

    I definitely need to try this! I like tofu but always cook it the same way.

  • Reply Sara @my less serious life April 25, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    this tofu sounds great. my boyfriend may even approve!

  • Reply Jennifer April 25, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    I might have to try this because it looks really tasty! My issue with tofu, when it’s sliced or diced, is the interior texure. The outside may be crispy, but the inside doesn’t appeal to me.

    I cook mine like a scramble, crumble it all up, mix in some marinade or seasonings, and saute it or broil it (sometimes both if I want it extra crispy). Eating it that way, I love it and it’s easy to throw on a salad, in a stir fry, etc.

    Trader Joes has the best extra firm tofu and doesn’t require as much pressing.

    • Reply MadisonMayberry April 30, 2012 at 1:27 am

      Jennifer – The inside texture is still a bit of an issue with me, too, but if the outside is crunchy enough I can usually get over it. And yes, TJ’s tofu is the best! It has it’s own texture, mush less mushy. I love the teriyaki flavor.

  • Reply Emilie April 25, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    I’ve had the same issues with tofu but also found that pressing it was KEY! This looks great!

    • Reply MadisonMayberry April 30, 2012 at 1:26 am

      Exactly! I made the mistake one too many times to skip out on the pressing process, which was a huge mistake!

  • Reply Kristin April 25, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    This looks interesting! I’ve only recently tried experimenting with tofu. I tried putting it in hot and sour soup once and didn’t like it, though I enjoy it in miso soup at restaurants. But I’ve used silken tofu for smoothies. Tofu is so cheap too. A perfect protein replacement.

  • Reply Danielle Sasaki April 25, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    I love tofu! I’m half Japanese, so tofu in all forms was a something we’d have on a weekly basis usually. I only eat it in Asian dishes, like noodle broths with Japanese Soba buckwheat noodles, stir fries, Thai curries or salad rolls. I get my tofu from Asian grocery stores (not sure if there’s any close to you), and also buy cubes that are already deep fried. We also deep-fry or shallow fry them at home in vegetable oil, or even just cube it for stir fries and soup. I should make some salad rolls, they’re delicious and nutritious!

    • Reply MadisonMayberry April 30, 2012 at 1:26 am

      Danielle, I should have you be doing a guest post on how to prepare and enjoy tofu! It sounds like you have the whole thing down.

  • Reply natalie April 25, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    I’ve tried cooking tofu a couple of times – I really want it to be good but I’ve always had the same issues with it as you, too mushy and not enough taste. This recipe looks great though, I might have to give tofu another chance!

  • Reply UrbanWife April 25, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    Ok, I need to try this recipe for my husband (#notafanoftofu) and not tell him what it is until he’s at least tried it. And yes, pressing it dry makes a huge difference. Love the spice mix you came up with!

  • Reply Amanda April 25, 2012 at 11:18 pm

    I make tofu tacos… I bread with pinko flour and Cajun seasoning then bake… top with cabbage cilantro jalapeño tomatoes and Greek yogurt.

    • Reply MadisonMayberry April 30, 2012 at 1:25 am

      I’ve never had tofu tacos but they sound amazing!

  • Reply Colleen @ Miss Petite Sweets April 25, 2012 at 11:30 pm

    Hi Madison! I just nominated you for the Most Versatile Blogger Award: http://misspetitesweets.com/2012/04/25/pumpkin-blueberry-banana-bread/

    • Reply MadisonMayberry April 30, 2012 at 1:24 am

      Thank you, Colleen! I’m heading over to check it out!

  • Reply Chelsy Ethridge April 26, 2012 at 12:01 am

    I love tofu, but I am afraid I might have a slight allergy to soy. I used to be addicted to Cilantro Pesto Tofu at whole foods. It is sooooo yummy and flavorful. This looks soooooo delicious.

    • Reply MadisonMayberry April 30, 2012 at 1:23 am

      We are finally getting a Whole Foods in Des Moines soon and I’m dying to hit up their hot bar. Although I like making it at home, Whole Foods always does things better than I can. 🙂

  • Reply lmr April 26, 2012 at 12:42 am

    I take the firm or extra firm block out of the water, cut it lengthwise into two rectangles, then cut those two rectangles into small rectangular blocks. I put those on paper towels on my counter top, top with paper towels, put a cutting board on top of all that, & then put something heavy on top of the cutting board. I let that drain for 30 minutes. The last 10 minutes, preheat the oven to 425. Then I put the tofu rectangles on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray, spray the tops of them with cooking spray, and cook them for 15 to 20 minutes, until they’re golden. They have a great texture. Then I add them to anything–stir fries, onions & peppers, etc., that are already cooked, just enough to mix all the flavors, & serve.

  • Reply Natalie April 26, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    Before making Mama Pea’s Tofu Dippers, the only tofu I had consumed was from Pei Wei. I absolutely loved the taste in Pei Wei’s Mongolian and was determined to recreate it at home. The Tofu Dippers were perfect! I’m obsessed!

    • Reply MadisonMayberry April 30, 2012 at 1:21 am

      I’ve never made Mama Pea’s tofu dippers, but every recipe I’ve made from her site is amazing, so I’m sure that recipe is great, too, Heading over to find it now…

  • Reply rachelle r. m. April 28, 2012 at 11:20 pm

    I like the idea of adding the graham crackers! I’ve never had much luck with blackening or baking tofu. I experimented with marinating it and them broiling the tofu and I haven’t attempted any other method since!

  • Reply Marissa May 1, 2012 at 1:37 am

    I often just pan fry it with hot sauce. Or cut it into cube and put it on salad plain. But I guess I dont mind the taste!

    Ive seen pressed tofu in grocery stores (usually asian grocery stores). If I used that, could I skip the pressing step in this recipe? (which looks amazing by the way! thanks for sharing!)

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