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Tofu is a soy-based meat alternative frequently used by culinary professionals and home chefs alike. “The ability to store tofu products for a longer period of time and a lesser level of perishability are key factors” driving the surge of its popularity, according to a recent report by Market Research Future. However, many struggle with learning how to make this alternative protein source as palatable as the tasty morsels others masterfully serve up.
A common prep misstep involves failing to remove the excess water inside many pre-packaged tofu blocks prior to marinating, baking, or grilling, which causes it to lose its shape, fall apart, and fail to absorb additional flavor. For optimal taste and texture—especially when frying—those looking to regularly incorporate this plant-based staple into meal planning would be wise to opt for a tofu press.
“Tofu pressing is a very easy process that will help your tofu absorb flavor and hold its shape while cooking,” states Lauren Montelbano, personal chef and holistic nutritionist at The Vibrant Veg.
Ahead, our list of the best tofu presses.
Best Overall: Yarkor Tofu Press
Full press takes at least 2 hours
Simple functionality, compact size, and a drainage feature make this BPA-free tofu press a solid buy. A built-in spring mechanism will gradually press the moisture out of standard 8- to 12-ounce tofu blocks. Most users recommend allowing the tofu to remain overnight or at least for two to four hours before cooking, as once the block is fully secured inside, no other hands-on action is needed. Another favorite feature is the bottom tray, which collects surplus water as it drips out, preventing spills on counters or in the fridge.
Some things to note: While Yarkor claims this is dishwasher safe, some users experienced warping after running a cycle on the top rack, so hand washing may be best; and, like all tofu presses, it shouldn't be used with silken tofu because it's too soft and will crumble. This works best with firm, extra firm, and super firm tofu.
Best Budget: EZ Tofu Press
Larger surface area
Tofu fully pressed in 15 minutes
No drainage plate or area
Saving time is a major selling point of this budget-friendly model. The EZ Tofu Press can press a small or large block of tofu in under 15 minutes, thanks to the ability to increase its pressure level every two to three minutes via hand-controlled knobs. Product components are made of USDA-approved BPA-free plastic (users equate the feel to cutting board material) and stainless steel. Other major pluses include easy cleanup, centering marks to ensure proper placements, and doubling as a press for paneer. This press is dishwasher safe, but hand washing is recommended.
Best Wooden: Lzttyee Homemade Wood Tofu Maker/Press Set
Doubles as a maker for homemade tofu
Easy to assemble
Assembly instructions not in English
Made of sycamore wood, this is a prime choice for foodies who dig making tofu from scratch. The interior box can be used to make up to 3 pounds of homemade tofu per batch. The next steps involve adjusting the pressure of the top screw in the lid to compress homemade (or store-bought) tofu until the desired level of firmness is achieved. Consumers have also used this to prepare other vegetarian foods, like dried bean curd and bean skin.
Best Bamboo: Grow Your Pantry Bamboo Tofu Press
Drip tray included
Tofu fully pressed in 15 minutes
Hand wash only
An assortment of extras, such as a storage bag and a recipe e-book, are useful accessories bundled with this pick. The product also comes with easy-to-follow instructions in addition to all necessary tools, which makes putting it together and taking it apart a cinch. Better yet, the earthy aesthetic prevents it from being an eyesore for those who prefer to leave the press in a ready-to-use position on the countertop. While it does conveniently come with a drip tray, this press is not dishwasher safe, and although the stainless steel hardware is anti-rust, it does need to be disassembled before hand washing the bamboo features only.
Best Plastic: TofuXpress Gourmet Tofu Press
Can be refrigerated
Extra tension springs sold separately
Drain and marinate in the same compartment with this dual-purpose spring press. Users rave about the convenience of being able to tip the container to drain the accumulated water from the tofu and then simply flip the bottom tray to the top, creating a space for sauces and seasonings to add in with the newly pressed tofu. The model’s design also lends itself well to withdrawing liquid from yogurt, spinach, eggplant, and cabbage.
Best Stainless Steel: Raw Rutes Ninja Tofu Press
Easy to clean
More expensive than other models
With no springs, screws, or rubber bands, the design of this tofu press not only results in a more minimalist look, but it also streamlines the pressing process. The magic is in the weighted top, which does the heavy lifting in terms of pushing out up to 35 percent of the tofu's total water weight. It can also be used to make homemade tofu and paneer cheese. Another perk? The food-grade stainless steel is actually partially composed of recycled material.
For the most hassle-free tofu making, we recommend the Yarkor Tofu Press (view at Amazon), thanks to its simple functionality, affordability, compact size, and drainage feature. We also love the dual functionality of the TofuXpress Gourmet Tofu Press (view at Amazon), which removes moisture and marinates tofu all in the same compartment.
What to Look for in a Tofu Press
The majority of tofu presses are constructed with two flat plates or in the shape of a box. Ideally, look for one that has small recesses that will allow the bolt heads to sit flush into the bottom plate. This will result in the press being able to sit flat on the counter. Some presses are not manufactured with such recesses, so plastic or metal bolts are then in direct contact with the surface it's sitting on top of, making it easy for scratches or dents to occur on countertops when used.
Many presses have plastic knobs or tiny wing nuts that can be difficult to grip when tightening to apply pressure on tofu blocks. Look for ones made out of brass, steel, or bamboo, and are large enough that your hand will be able to get sufficient leverage to turn tightly.
How do you press tofu?
Here are the specific steps Lauren Montelbano, personal chef and holistic nutritionist at The Vibrant Veg, recommends following:
Step 1: Wrap the tofu block in the tea towel to absorb the moisture as it releases or prior to placing in a press.
Step 2: Place the wrapped block in the press or on one of the plates/baking sheets and cover with the second plate or baking sheet.
Step 3: Press for at least 30 minutes, although the longer, the better. It can even be left overnight so that it's ready and waiting for you in the morning.
Step 4: Remove the tofu, slice or cube it, and marinate.
Optional step: You can also slice the block in half before pressing if desired. This helps to get more moisture out of the tofu.
Do you have to press tofu?
“If you are trying to have a delicious, flavorful tofu, I would highly recommend pressing your tofu before you marinate it,” explains Montelbano. “This will remove the water and allow you to replace it with flavor. Tofu isn't as absorbent before you press it because it's waterlogged, so once you remove that excess moisture, it becomes like a dry sponge ready to soak up additional liquid.”
How do you store tofu after pressing?
Montelbano says pre-pressed tofu can be stored in an airtight container for a few hours if need be. “However, in my opinion, it is best to get it into a marinade right away because it will need to remain in the marinade for at least 30 to 60 minutes,” she says.
Do you have to press every type of tofu?
Medium and extra firm tofu both do well with pressing, but Montelbano does not recommend pressing silken or soft tofu ever, “unless you want a mushy mess on your hands.”
Can you buy tofu that's already been pressed?
“Yes. Tofu that is vacuum-sealed is almost always pre-pressed,” Montelbano says. “It's usually already marinated, too.”
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Rachel Werner is an eco-conscious vegan and culinary writer who has been profiling farmers, chefs, restaurants, and food-based businesses for over seven years. Her enthusiasm for plant-based cooking is evident in the content she’s created for a variety of regional and national publications, such as TheKitchn, Fabulous Wisconsin, BRAVA, and Hobby Farms Magazine. See examples of Rachel’s work behind the camera via the vegan lifestyle Instagram account @trulyplanted.