Here’s my go-to recipe for easy seared tofu — mildly sticky, sweet, savory — with caramelized edges. Seared tofu is great because you can flavor it in so many different ways — it absorbs seasonings like a sponge. And it only takes a few minutes to cook. About five minutes from heat on to heat off. This recipe calls for a very simple maple-tamari marinade/searing liquid for the tofu. I layer these rectangles on top of salads, in sandwiches, wraps, over rice or quinoa – or simply eaten on their own! Get my recipe and master the art of searing tofu!..
Easy Maple-Tamari Seared Tofu
vegan, makes 5-6 rectangles
1 14-ounce block of firm or extra firm tofu (drained weight = 4oz)
2-3 Tbsp tamari*
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp liquid smoke
*I use tamari instead of soy sauce because tamari retains its flavor better after high heat cooking compared to soy sauce which can weaken in flavor. Tamari also has a smoother, slightly less abrasively salty flavor.
2 Tbsp safflower oil for saute
1. Drain the water from your tofu. Squeeze dry with paper towels.
2. Slice tofu into 3/4 inch thick rectangles. Pat each individual rectangle dry with paper towel. Set aside on paper towel lined plate.
3. Mix together your marinade.
4. Dunk the tofu strips into the marinade and allow to sit for a few minutes. Longer marination will result in bolder flavored tofu.
5. When ready, add 2 Tbsp safflower oil to a large nonstick skillet. wait until the oil is very hot – usually about a minute. Then add the tofu to the pan. It should sizzle loudly from the salt/sugar/oil. Do not move the tofu around. Just let it sit in pan uncovered so it gets that nice browned sear on the bottom. In about 1-2 minutes, flip the tofu. Repeat on other side.
6. If the pan begins to get too dry you can add the leftover marinade in small spoonfuls. But only do this after you have a achieved a nice sear of color. Keep adding the marinade to the pan until most has been used up. The maple should form a nice mildly sticky crust on the tofu. Add some salt/pepper at the end of the cooking process – use one piece as a taster slice and season the remaining tofu to taste with fine black pepper, salt and any other dry fine spices you’d like to add.
7. Remove tofu, place on plate to cool for a minute before serving.
When you first toss the tofu into the sizzling hot pan you don’t want to set the tofu anywhere where it will start off too “wet” — in fact I will purposefully lay a few slices of tofu along the hot and dry edges of the pan just to get a nice crusty sear – then move over to the center of the pan (where more oil/marinade gathers) to sit and fully cook.
..Yes the oil helps to intensify the heat of the pan (high heat is important to achieving a crusty on the outside, soft on the inside texture) – but you also want some dryness to the pan and tofu. “Wet” tofu does not sear well.
And lastly, you really want to get that deep sear in the first few seconds of laying the tofu in the pan. If you miss out on that, the tofu may become more spongy and “rubbery” throughout. Remember: practice makes perfect!