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What are the Different Tofu Marinades?

Donn Saylor
Donn Saylor

Tofu marinades transform the flavor of tofu by offering a variety of different tastes, textures, and cooking styles. Asian-inspired marinades, curry marinades, and smoky-flavored marinades for tofu are just a few of the types of sauces that can enhance the entire soybean curd experience. Whether vegetarian, vegan, or meat-eater, the right marinated tofu concoction opens the taste buds to new and refreshing worlds of flavor.

Before marinating tofu, many cooks first freeze and thaw the bean curd. This practice helps the tofu release much of its water content, allowing tofu marinades to be better absorbed by the curd. It also provides a meatier texture and greatly reduces the amount of time the tofu has to soak in marinade to achieve maximum flavor. When tofu prepared in this manner is fried, it is called dry-fry tofu.

A plate of tofu.
A plate of tofu.

Asian-inspired tofu marinades like Szechuan and Thai sauces can add an exotic tang to standard bean curd. Since tofu absorbs the flavor of the spices and foods in which it is marinated and cooked, an Asian fusion works well to really bring out the flavors of the Orient. Typical Szechuan marinades are made with soy sauce or tamari, ginger, garlic, and a spice with a bit of heat, like cayenne pepper. Thai marinades are also extremely popular. These recipes mix the flavors of soy sauce, lime juice, basil, and red pepper flakes to capture the unique zest of Thai cooking; peanut sauce is another staple of Thai cuisine and makes an ideal marinade.

Thai basil is often used in tofu marinades.
Thai basil is often used in tofu marinades.

Other Asian-derived tofu marinades are influenced by the flavors of India. Curry is a common way to prepare tofu, and traditional techniques employ the unique flavors of curry powder, cumin, garlic, fenugreek, ginger, and garlic. Curried tofu is especially tasty when prepared with an array of fresh vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, peas, and even raisins.

Fenugreek is a spice used in cooking and a dietary supplements.
Fenugreek is a spice used in cooking and a dietary supplements.

There are also tofu marinades that are more Western in taste. Barbecue sauce, for example, makes a zesty, smoky marinade for bean curd. Connoisseurs of that smoky flavor can also enjoy a homemade marinade consisting of Bragg's Liquid Aminos — similar to soy sauce but with a slightly smokier taste — garlic, and onion.

When it comes to the marinating process and the actual cooking of the tofu, there are several effective preparation methods. Before placing the curd in the marinade, it can be cut into steak-like slabs, triangles, or tofu cubes. Baked tofu, grilled tofu, and fried tofu are among the most popular ways to cook up this one-of-a-kind meat alternative.

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Discussion Comments


@ankara-- Whatever kind of tofu marinade recipe you're making, I suggest using liquid as a base instead of dry ingredients. It's best to start with a type of oil, and then add the spices for flavor. Tofu will absorb this kind of marinade best. My friend makes a killer lemon tofu with olive oil, lemon juice and lemon zest marinade. You can follow the same outline and experiment with different flavors.

Barbecue tofu is super easy! Use your homemade barbecue sauce or store bought and marinate the tofu in it. Last weekend, I discovered that I can freeze the tofu with the barbecue sauce and then thaw it whenever I'm having a barbecue. It turns out great! Like the article said, freezing and thawing increases the absorption capacity of tofu. And freezing it with the marinade will save you time when it's time to cook.


@ankara-- I agree with you. To me, tofu that is not marinated is not even edible. I make curry tofu a lot and I use both dry curry powder and store-bought curry sauce to make it.

When I use dry curry mix, I just add some water to make a sauce consistency. Then I marinate the tofu in it for a couple of hours to overnight depending on how much time I have.

Sometimes I also pick up curry sauce and marinades from the Indian grocery. There is a spicy mustard one that is delicious and makes for a perfect marinade. I'm sure you could make a spicy marinade from scratch by grinding all the dry and fresh spices together, but I'm too lazy to do it.

I've never made bbq tofu, but I'm sure someone here can share some bbq marinade recipes with you.


My favorite tofu marinade is a combination of peanut oil, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and chili. I absolutely love this marinade. Tofu in general is flavorless and really hard to eat. But when it's marinated properly in this combination, it turns out amazing. The transformation is incredible, it's sort of like a sponge absorbing all the flavors.

I have never tried Indian style tofu marinades before although I do love curries. Curry and tofu might be an interesting combination.

Has anyone tried curry tofu recipes? Do you use ready-made powder curry mix or make fresh curry at home for the marinade?

What about barbecue tofu? I'm sure that's a very unique flavor too.

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    • A plate of tofu.
      By: Norman Chan
      A plate of tofu.
    • Thai basil is often used in tofu marinades.
      By: S.White
      Thai basil is often used in tofu marinades.
    • Fenugreek is a spice used in cooking and a dietary supplements.
      By: jedi-master
      Fenugreek is a spice used in cooking and a dietary supplements.
    • Many marinade recipes call for red wine vinegar.
      By: quayside
      Many marinade recipes call for red wine vinegar.