Basic Tofu

Here’s an easy recipe for tofu that’s good hot or cold. Tofu is made from soybeans and packed with protein, which makes it a great addition to a grain bowl or salad. Plus, this version will add a lot of delicious flavor to your meal. 

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Hands-on time: 10   |    Total time: 60   |    Makes: 1 and 1/4 cups


Cutting board
Sharp knife (adult needed)
Paper towels
Measuring spoons
Large nonstick skillet
Tongs or heatproof spatula


2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 unit (14- to 16-ounce) container of firm or extra-firm tofu
2 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar


Wash your hands with soap and water, then gather all your kitchen gear and ingredients and put them on a clean counter.

  1. Pull the plastic off the tofu container (you may need to cut it with a knife) and pour the liquid out of it into the sink. Put the block of tofu on the cutting board, gently press it with paper towels to dry it a bit, then cut it into 12 thin slices. (Approach it like a math problem: Cut the block in half; then cut each half in half; then cut each quarter into 3 slices.)
  2. Put the skillet on the stove and turn the heat to medium. Add the oil.
  3. When the oil is hot (add a crumb of tofu and see if it sizzles right away), carefully add the tofu slices in a single layer (they might splash and steam a bit. Fry the tofu until it’s brown and crispy on the bottom, about 5 minutes. Use the spatula or tongs to flip each piece over and cook until the other side is brown and crispy, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the soy sauce and vinegar to the skillet and continue cooking, gently shaking the pan back and forth and turning the tofu over with the spatula or tongs, until the liquid has evaporated and the tofu is shiny and looks coated with sauce.
  5. Put the tofu on the cutting board and cut it into thin strips. Use right away or cover and refrigerate up to 2 days. 


Tofu is also called “bean curd,” because it’s made from soybeans in a process similar to making cheese: first the beans are soaked, ground, and strained to make soy milk. This soy milk is curdled, just like you would for cheese, to get all the protein to stick together in curds (this is called “coagulation”). Afterward, the curds are pressed into blocks of tofu.