Food

Freaked out by tofu? Don't be! Try these 3 tasty dishes under $4 a serving

Tofu gets a bad rap: Straight out of the package, it looks like a white, spongy block of blandness. And if it's not cooked correctly, that's exactly what it is. But tofu's texture and mildness make it a fantastic ingredient in many recipes, because it easily soaks up whatever delicious flavors you add to it. Plus, it's a healthy and inexpensive source of meatless protein.

Maggie Shi / TODAY
Spicy Chinese Tofu with Scallions and Peanuts

Willing to give tofu a try but not sure what to do with it? Keep these tips in mind when cooking with tofu—then try our three easy recipes — and you'll get tasty results every time.

1. Press your tofu before cooking

Straight out of the package, tofu — just like a sponge — is filled with water. In order for it to readily absorb whatever liquids and seasonings you add to it, you'll need to squeeze that water out. This takes a little extra time, but it's well worth it. Simply lay a clean dishtowel or a few paper towels on a baking sheet or plate. Slice the tofu widthwise into slabs (I like to create 6 slices) and lay them on the baking sheet. Cover with another dishtowel or set of paper towels, then place another baking sheet or plate on top. Then place something heavy on top to help press out the water — books, a stack of bowls or a cast-iron pan all work well. Let sit for at least 30 minutes.

2. Marinating tofu is a great way to infuse it with flavor

Now that your tofu is nicely pressed, it will easily soak up (almost) any tasty liquids you add — broth, soy sauce, vinegars. It doesn't absorb oils as well so don't use an oil-based marinade. Because tofu is so porous, it marinates quickly — 15 minutes should be plenty of time.

3. Add tofu to sauces and soups

Don't feel like marinating? Toss cubed tofu into soups, or let it simmer in a boldly seasoned sauce to let it take on those flavors.

4. Toss tofu in cornstarch for crisp results

If you're looking for browned, crispy tofu, try tossing it with some cornstarch before pan-frying it. A light coating is all you need to help create that golden crust.

5. Use a nonstick pan

Tofu is a delicate ingredient, even when it's extra-firm and has been pressed. It has a tendency to stick, so use a nonstick pan to keep things mess-free.

Here are three delicious tofu recipes to try:

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