We are often asked at the fairs and festivals across the UK how best to marinate tofu. The answer is: there are no hard and fast rules to creating a good marinade but there are some general guidelines which are helpful to follow. It should be a liquid and a marinade is essentially made up of ingredients taken from 4 different categories, see box below.
Before you marinade, press your tofu according to this pressing guideline. When pressed, cut the block into cubes (good for stir-fries and salads) or strips, about ½ cm thick. Mix the ingredients for your marinade together in a sealable container and add tofu pieces, making sure they are fully covered by the liquid. Leave in the fridge and return to the marinating tofu at least once to shake the container. How long to marinade? As a general rule, the longer the better – ideally from a few hours to overnight, but if you only have half an hour that’s still better than no time at all.
We’ve shared lots of our favourite marinades at the end of this article, but it is easy and fun to invent your own. The advantage of creating your own marinade is that you end up with your very own, bespoke tofu, flavoured to suit you and compliment whatever you’re making. Genius.
Play around with the ingredients, however choosing at least one from each group below gives a perfect balance of flavours. Adjust your choices to cater for your own taste preferences, or those of your guests, the region around the world your dish originates from, or at times (if you are anything like us) simply whatever you can find in the cupboard.
|Oil||The oil, olive, sesame, ground nut or other fat such as soya yoghurt or coconut milk will help the other flavours infuse and help the tofu to crisp when cooking|
|Acid||Acts as an enzyme which allows the ingredients to mingle citrus juices such as lemon, lime, orange, wine, or a vinegar for example balsamic, red wine, apple cider.|
|Salty/Sweet||Salty: tamari or soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, capers, miso paste. Sweet: maple syrup, agave nectar, brown sugar, molasses, date syrup|
|Aromatic||Onion, garlic, ginger, mustard, or kelp. Sauces: hot pepper sauce, liquid smoke, hickory, tomato purée, olive paste, or nutritional yeast. Herbs such as thyme, basil, rosemary, or oregano. And spices like paprika, cayenne, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and red pepper flakes can all work really well and bring serious flavour|
You are now ready to start cooking, you can cook the tofu any way you like; bake, grill, barbeque, shallow or deep fry or griddle.
If you are baking, think 180 deg C. for 35 minutes, turning halfway through. You can also add the marinade to the dish you’re cooking to act as a sauce; the tofu will continue to absorb flavour as it cooks. If you are barbecuing or grilling, brush your tofu with the extra marinade as it cooks to increase the flavour.
Avoid adding salt directly to your marinade, use tamari or soy sauce, capers, miso or olives, as an alternative way to provide the salty taste as regular salt can quickly overwhelm your marinade and extract moisture from the tofu rather than introduce flavour.
And if you have any marinade left, the good news is, as all the ingredients above are plant-based, you can re-use it for another few days so you are covered for tomorrow’s kebabs, and the next day’s roasted veg (just keep it in the fridge). Hooray.
Oh, and in case you are as confused as I was before I wrote this blog: marinade, with a ‘d’, is the noun and marinate, with a ‘t’, is the verb. And the emphasis is different. I thought I’d mention that as I can’t tell you how long it took me to get that right.
There are no exact quantities here, play around with them starting with 1 tbsp for liquids and 1 tsp for powders and increase from there. Add a little water if you need more liquid but not too much as this will dilute the intensity.
|Asian||Mirin, brown rice vinegar, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, lemon juice, garlic granules, ground ginger, cayenne pepper, agave nectar|
|BBQ||Tamari, maple syrup, liquid smoke (a dash, it’s very strong), onion powder, garlic powder, sumac, smoked paprika, ground black pepper|
|Canadian||Chipotle smoked hot pepper sauce, a dash of Bourbon, maple syrup, smoked paprika|
|‘Chicken’||Red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, nutritional yeast, hot chilli powder, olive oil|
|Ethiopian||Olive oil, ground cumin, coriander, cardamom, turmeric, chilli, cloves, all spice, fenugreek, cayenne pepper, ginger, dried apricot|
|‘Fish’||Soya milk, kelp flakes, lemon juice, crushed garlic, black pepper|
|French||White wine vinegar, olive oil, white wine, Dijon mustard, crushed garlic, black pepper, fresh or dried thyme|
|Greek||Natural soya yoghurt, chopped spring onion, minced garlic, lemon juice and zest, olive oil, fresh oregano|
|Indian||Warm water, ground coriander, turmeric, ground cumin, ginger, all spice, cinnamon, celery salt, chilli powder|
|Italian||Olive oil, lemon juice, garlic powder, oregano, fresh or dried Italian herbs, nutritional yeast, balsamic vinegar, pepper|
|Malagasy||Natural yoghurt, tomato ketchup, lemon juice, finely chopped green chillies, dried parsley, mild curry powder, ground cumin|
|Mediterranean||Balsamic vinegar, red wine, shallots, dried rosemary, dried thyme, olive oil, minced garlic, pepper|
|Mexican||Chipotle sauce, lime juice, tomato purée, garlic powder, onion powder, chilli powder, cayenne pepper|
|North African||Olive oil, lemon juice, cumin seeds, sweet paprika, fresh coriander, fresh parsley, cayenne pepper|
|Polish||Groundnut oil, juniper berries, black pepper, crushed garlic, onion powder, sweet paprika, brown sugar, oregano, thyme, marjoram, mint, mustard seeds|
|‘Pork’||White wine, lime juice, tamari, apple cider vinegar, crushed garlic, agave nectar|
|‘Sausage’||Rapeseed oil, onion powder, nutritional yeast, celery salt, ground coriander, ground black pepper|
|Scandinavian||Lemon juice, mustard seeds, dill, dried parsley, chives, agave nectar|
|Spanish||Hot chilli sauce, olive oil, tomato ketchup, crushed garlic, pinch of saffron, dried oregano, cayenne pepper|
|‘Steak’||Veg stock diluted in hot water, vegan Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, dried basil, dried parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, ground white pepper|
|Tandoori||Natural soya yoghurt, lemon juice, minced garlic, freshly grated ginger, turmeric, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, paprika, black pepper|
|Teriyaki||Soy sauce, molasses, or Hoisin plum sauce, lemon juice, crushed garlic, grated ginger, 5 spice powder|
|Thai||Coconut milk, tamari, kelp flakes, sugar, lime juice, crushed garlic, freshly grated ginger, crushed lemon grass|
|Tropical||Pineapple juice, rice vinegar, tomato ketchup, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, maple syrup|
|Turkish||Tomato paste, hot pepper sauce, water, chopped onions, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, crushed garlic|
|Zesty Orange||Orange juice, tomato ketchup, soy sauce, minced garlic, freshly grated ginger|