Garlic-Sesame-Ginger Baked Tofu and Bonus! Peanut Sauce Recipes

For some reason I am kind of nervous about giving you my tofu recipe, mainly because what if you make it and you don’t like it? Eeep! I know a lot of meat eaters who are all “I HATE TOFU. I DON’T KNOW HOW YOU CAN EAT IT. IT’S SO DISGUSTING. [GAGGING NOISE]”
Hating tofu is like hating, say, noodles or rice or lettuce. It is mainly just a vehicle for other flavors, not so much a thing in itself.  So the best way to make it is to give it a lot of flavors that you like.  Here’s how I do it:
1. Prepare your tofu to accept the awesome wealth of flavors you are about to bestow on it.
Freeze it at least overnight.  That’s right, just take that block of tofu floating in the watery stuff and pop it in the freezer as is.
Then thaw it out the day you want to use it.  I leave it in the sink when I leave for work in the morning.
When you’re ready to start cooking, you now have to drain the tofu.  Put the block on a plate or some such and just press down with your hands. Maybe give it a little squeeze from the sides, too.  Tons of water should be pouring off that plate, so I hope you’re standing near the sink.
What you’re doing here is giving it a more spongy texture by freezing and then emptying out all the little holes in the sponge-like structure to make room for the marinade to soak in.  Get that tofu primed and ready, people, or the marinade just won’t work as well.
2. Marinate it in excellence.
I use:
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
a thumb-sized hunk of ginger root, minced
a splash of soy sauce (I don’t like things too salty or too overwhelmed by soy, so I go easy. Use your judgment here.)
a squeeze of Sriracha (dude, it goes with everything)
Mix this all up in a big bowl.
Take your tofu block and cut it into cubes about 3/4 inch to 1 inch in size. I get 40 cubes per block; 8 cubes is a serving size.
Toss the tofu cubes carefully in the marinade, trying not to break them up. They’ll be kind of fragile from the freezing and squeezing ordeal but if they break up it’s no biggie. You can call it rustic.
The tofu should be soaking up the marinade like crazy – in a few seconds there won’t be any liquid left in the bowl.  Guess what? You can pop that in the oven right away! Thanks to your freezing, squeezing, and general spongification of the tofu, it soaks the marinade right up and you don’t need to leave it sitting in the fridge all day like you have nothing better to do than wait.
3. Bake it up!
450 degrees F, 20-25 minutes.
I use a baking sheet lined with foil. No need to grease or spray it with anything. Just dump the cubes and go. They won’t stick. Isn’t this easy?
If you enjoy things that are high maintenance, feel free to flip the cubes over halfway through or something, or organize them in neat rows.  But if you don’t do that it won’t matter.
The cubes should be golden brown with maybe some darker brown edges here and there, soft on the inside and crisper/chewier on the outside.
4. Serve it up!
I like to serve it with either brown rice or quinoa plus roasted or steamed veggies.  I can steam the veggies in the steamer tray that goes on my rice cooker or I can put some veggies alongside the tofu on my baking tray.  Baby carrots take the exact same amount of time as the tofu, so just dump some on that baking tray and have at it.  It’s all very low maintenance – just use what you have on hand and then either use the oven that’s already baking your tofu or the rice cooker that’s already steaming your rice or quinoa.
My favorite other thing to serve with this stuff is a quick peanut sauce!
BONUS PEANUT SAUCE RECIPE:
big honkin’ glob of peanut butter
small splash of soy sauce
big splash of rice vinegar
big squeeze of Sriracha
big squeeze of honey
Stir together, even though it looks like they aren’t going to come together and you think you might have a messy disaster on your hands, don’t worry. It will come together.  When it combines smoothly, thin it out with as much water as you want to make the desired viscosity. Taste and adjust ingredients as necessary.  It’s not highly scientific or anything, just highly delicious.
I eat variations on this meal all the damned time.  The tofu cubes work really well in salads, wraps, sandwiches, and so on, too.  You can also vary the flavor profile however you like — the important bit here is the freeze-and-squeeze technique.  That’ll get you everywhere.

For some reason I am kind of nervous about giving you my tofu recipe, mainly because what if you make it and you don’t like it? Eeep! I know a lot of meat eaters who are all “I HATE TOFU. I DON’T KNOW HOW YOU CAN EAT IT. IT’S SO DISGUSTING. [GAGGING NOISE]”

In my opinion, hating tofu is like hating, say, noodles or rice or lettuce. It is mainly just a vehicle for other flavors, not so much a thing in itself.  So the best way to make it is to give it a lot of flavors that you like.  Here’s how I do it:

1. Prepare your tofu to accept the awesome wealth of flavors you are about to bestow on it.

Freeze it at least overnight.  That’s right, just take that block of tofu floating in the watery stuff and pop it in the freezer as is.

Then thaw it out the day you want to use it.  I leave it in the sink when I leave for work in the morning.

When you’re ready to start cooking, you now have to drain the tofu.  Put the block on a plate or some such and just press down with your hands. Maybe give it a little squeeze from the sides, too.  Tons of water should be pouring off that plate, so I hope you’re standing near the sink.

You can squeeze out this much water about 4-5 times.
You can squeeze out this much water about 4-5 times.

What you’re doing here is giving it a more spongy texture by freezing and then emptying out all the little holes in the sponge-like structure to make room for the marinade to soak in.  Get that tofu primed and ready, people, or the marinade just won’t work as well.

2. Marinate it in excellence.

This is all you need right here.
This is all you need right here.

I use:

2 tbsp sesame oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

a thumb-sized hunk of ginger root, minced

a splash of soy sauce (I don’t like things too salty or too overwhelmed by soy, so I go easy. Use your judgment here.)

a squeeze of Sriracha (dude, it goes with everything)

Mix this all up in a big bowl.

This looks ... attractive, right? Right?
This looks ... attractive, right? Right?

Take your tofu block and cut it into cubes about 3/4 inch to 1 inch in size. I get 40 cubes per block; 8 cubes is a serving size.

Toss the tofu cubes carefully in the marinade, trying not to break them up. They’ll be kind of fragile from the freezing and squeezing ordeal but if they break up it’s no biggie. You can call it rustic.

It took about 4 seconds for these guys to soak up all the marinade.
Flavorization in progress.

The tofu should be soaking up the marinade like crazy – in a few seconds there won’t be any liquid left in the bowl.  Guess what? You can pop that in the oven right away! Thanks to your freezing, squeezing, and general spongification of the tofu, it soaks the marinade right up and you don’t need to leave it sitting in the fridge all day like you have nothing better to do than wait.

3. Bake it up!

450 degrees F, 20-25 minutes.

I use a baking sheet lined with foil. No need to grease or spray it with anything. Just dump the cubes and go. They won’t stick. Isn’t this easy?

Ready to bake.
Ready to bake.

If you enjoy things that are high maintenance, feel free to flip the cubes over halfway through or something, or organize them in neat rows.  But if you don’t do that it won’t matter.

The cubes should be golden brown with maybe some darker brown edges here and there, soft on the inside and crisper/chewier on the outside.

These look ready to me!
These look ready to me!

4. Serve it up!

I like to serve it with either brown rice or quinoa plus roasted or steamed veggies.  I can steam the veggies in the steamer tray that goes on my rice cooker or I can put some veggies alongside the tofu on my baking tray.   It’s all very low maintenance – just use what you have on hand and then either use the oven that’s already baking your tofu or the rice cooker that’s already steaming your rice or quinoa. Just be sure not to overcook the veggies – they only need 5-6 minutes in the steamer tray or the hot oven.

Dinner is served.
Dinner is served.

My favorite other thing to serve with this stuff is a quick peanut sauce!

BONUS PEANUT SAUCE RECIPE:

Peanut sauce is waiting to happen.
Peanut sauce is waiting to happen.

Here’s all you need:

big honkin’ glob of peanut butter

small splash of soy sauce

big splash of rice vinegar

big squeeze of Sriracha

big squeeze of honey

You could just leave it like this and call it a "deconstructed" peanut sauce, but I wouldn't.
You could just leave it like this and call it a "deconstructed" peanut sauce, but I wouldn't.

Stir together, even though it looks like they aren’t going to come together and you think you might have a messy disaster on your hands, don’t worry. It will come together.  When it combines smoothly, thin it out with as much water as you want to make the desired viscosity. Taste and adjust ingredients as necessary.  It’s not highly scientific or anything, just highly delicious.

I caution you against just eating all this with a spoon. You might want to, but don't.
I caution you against just eating all this with a spoon. You might want to, but don't.

I eat variations on this meal all the damned time.  The tofu cubes work really well in salads, wraps, sandwiches, and so on, too.  You can also vary the flavor profile however you like — the important bit here is the freeze-and-squeeze technique.  That’ll get you everywhere.

8 thoughts on “Garlic-Sesame-Ginger Baked Tofu and Bonus! Peanut Sauce Recipes

  1. clarabella November 8, 2009 / 9:00 pm

    Ok, so my problem with tofu is usually the texture. As in, I don’t eat the togu in miso soup b/c the texture is too mushy to me. This recipe seems like it crisps up the tofu? Sounds delicious anyway.
    P.S. If you come to WV Thanksgiving, we can make Thanksgiving Tofu! Tofurkey!

  2. Vague November 8, 2009 / 9:36 pm

    Yeah, this recipe will definitely give you a more crispy and chewy texture. Tofu in soups is often pretty mushy. With baking it, though, it totally changes the texture. You can even make the cubes smaller and/or bake them longer to get them crispier. The little broken bits left on the baking tray, for example, are effing awesome. I should try a whole batch of little broken bits some time. HMMMM.

  3. pea November 9, 2009 / 12:26 pm

    Okay, this sounds pretty awesome. Is it the firm tofu that you start with?

  4. harriet November 9, 2009 / 12:31 pm

    This looks delicious, and also like a solution to my own tofu-texture-distaste problem… (I always like it eaten out, when you get the crispy outside/chewy inside thing, but home cooked tofu, when the home in question is mine, is always just a bit damp and depressing. Well, not anymore!)

    But I have a question: if a block is about 40 cubes, and 8 cubes is a serving, what do you do with the other 32 cubes once you’ve eaten your delicious dinner pictured above (I love broccoli and brown rice, I don’t care how puritan it makes me sound)? Is it nice cold? Does it reheat? Questions, questions.

  5. Ian November 9, 2009 / 1:09 pm

    Mmmmm that recipe sounds delicious! I would never have thought to freeze the tofu beforehand. Though, I generally just stirfry the cubes up rather than bake them. I shall have to try this!

    Oh – and this is entirely inappropriate but I figure you’ll find it mildly humourous anyway – I call the Sriracha sauce ‘cock’ sauce; I didn’t even know what the actual name of the sauce was until I read the recipe!

  6. Vague November 9, 2009 / 8:02 pm

    P – yes, it’s the firm. It actually might be super-firm or something. I just buy the firmest they have. Why does this all sound so full of double entendres?

    H – that was my problem, too! It always stayed too soft or slimy until I got this method down. So, leftovers: I usuallly wind up eating the same dinner 2-3 times in a week, which I don’t mind. Then the other bits get tossed into salads or sandwiches or just used for general snacking. I think they’re pretty good cold!

    I – I have heard people call it “rooster sauce” before. In fact, I think there is a facebook group under that name for fans of the stuff.

  7. jair November 11, 2009 / 10:56 pm

    8 cubes is a serving? So, you’re talking 2 cubic inches, right?

    Either a) I eat a lot (true) or 2) I have a big mouth (also true), but that sounds woefully inadequate for a meal. Is this part of your whole diet-to-svelte plan? Or am I actually a greedy porcine individual?

  8. vague November 12, 2009 / 9:02 am

    Well, that’s actually the serving size according to the package (1/5 of the block = 1 serving). But it does jibe with the common rule about protein sizes: a serving of protein is supposed to be 3-4 ounces or about the size of a deck of cards. Of course in restaurants they will serve you a 12-ounce steak, which is like 3-4 times the appropriate size. This is why we are all fat here.

    (I have no idea what this all is in grams!)

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