The Best Tofu

I’ve been vegan for a little while now (*cough* nearly two decades *cough*), so I should hope that by now I’d know my way around a block of tofu!

This is my favorite recipe for making delicious slightly-salty-slightly-sweet-and-definitely-garlicky tofu. These tasty cutlets go great with everything, so this is pretty much the only way I cook tofu these days.

The method is quite simple. Just take a block of extra-firm tofu (if using water-packed, it’s best if you press it first, as detailed in the recipe below) and cut into slices like so:

1. Cut in half widthwise. 2. Turn each half on its side and cut into 4-5 thin slices. 3. Cut in half lengthwise.

Instead of marinating the tofu beforehand, I always fry it first and add the marinade at the very end. This results in a crispier texture, and the marinade gets absorbed very effectively in those last few moments of cooking.

tofu browning in a frying pan

All you have to do is cook the tofu with a little oil in a single layer in the pan, waiting until it looks dry on top before flipping it. Once both sides are toasty-brown, it’s time to add the marinade! The mixture only has three ingredients: soy sauce (or tamari for gluten-free-friendliness), pure maple syrup, and garlic. Bonus: it smells SO GOOD when you add it to the hot pan to coat the tofu cutlets.

The marinade can also be switched up as desired. I often use this same method to cook tempeh, and will add a little fennel and smoked paprika to give it more of a “breakfast sausage” flavor profile, or caraway seeds if I’m making tempeh Reubens. I’ll add pomegranate molasses and sumac to the mix if I’m cooking Middle Eastern food. The possibilities are endless!

Serving Suggestions

  1. Slice the cutlets into thin strips and add to stir fries, salads, or grain bowls.
  2. Try it in a sandwich! It’s the perfect filling for banh mi’s. Just take a baguette or roll, spread with vegan mayo, top with shredded carrots, pickled radishes, heaps of cilantro, and plenty of tofu slices.
  3. How about a Hawaiian-style bowl? Combine the sweet/salty tofu with sauteed cabbage, pickled radish, fresh mango and sliced avocado on a bed of rice, and sprinkle liberally with toasted sesame seeds.

Bland, flavorless tofu is a thing of the past. When cooked like this, you won’t be able to get enough of it!

Sweet & Salty Tofu Cutlets

This is my go-to method for cooking tofu. Easy, satisfying, and flavorful – no overnight marinade required. I always double this recipe for my family of four enthusiastic tofu-eaters so that we'll have leftovers to enjoy.
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Pressing time (optional)1 hour
Total Time1 hour 15 minutes
Course: Main Course
Keyword: gluten free, vegan, vegetarian
Servings: 4 people
Author: Alanna Peterson


  • 1 package extra-firm tofu, drained and/or pressed
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil


  • 1 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced


  • If your tofu is water-packed, it's a good idea to release some of the excess moisture by pressing it before cooking. To do this, wrap it in a towel and place on a plate, then put a heavy pan on top (cast-iron skillets are well-suited for this job). The longer it sits, the better, but I've often forgotten to do this ahead of time and have found that letting it sit for even just a few minutes helps.
  • When you're ready to start cooking, cut the tofu in half widthwise, then turn each half on its side and cut into 4 or 5 thin slices. Cut in half one more time (lengthwise) so that you have 8-10 thin rectangular cutlets. Repeat with the other half.
  • Add about 1 Tbsp olive oil to a pan and turn the heat up to medium. Once oil warms up a bit, add the tofu slices. Let them sit there for a while without flipping them; shake the pan every so often to make sure they don't stick.
  • While the tofu cooks, mince your garlic and mix up the marinade ingredients in a little bowl.
  • Once the tofu slices begin to look a bit dry on top, they are ready to flip! They should be nicely golden brown when you turn them over.
  • Cook the other side until it browns too. In total, it will take ~10 minutes to cook both sides.
  • This is the fun part! Add the marinade to the pan and shake it around so that it coats all the pieces. They soak it up really quickly, so you can turn off the heat shortly after you add the yum sauce.
  • That's it! Serve and enjoy.


If doubling the recipe, you will need to fry the tofu in two batches to make sure all the pieces brown nicely. Just fry the first batch, then set it aside while you fry the other batch. Return it to the pan before adding the marinade (make sure to double that too!).
A good substitute for pure maple syrup, if you don’t have it around or it’s not in the budget, is to use 1 Tbsp of brown sugar dissolved in a little hot water. 

Your Thoughts

Are you a tofu fan? What’s your favorite way to cook it? Any questions about ingredients or prep? Let me know in the comments!

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Amanda

    Not everyone in my family is convinced that tofu is edible, hopefully this will change their minds!

    1. Alanna Peterson

      Yes, I sure hope so! This one has always been a hit with our kids (and their friends). That hint of sweetness is hard to resist 🙂

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