How to Press Tofu Without a Press

tofu pressed

How to Press Tofu Without a Press

If you’re just starting to eat tofu or don’t feel like spending extra money on a tofu press, you can press tofu using only household items!

While this is the simplest way to press tofu without a press, it’s not the only way. If you don’t have all of the materials listed in this guide, get creative! Many of these household items can be swapped with similar items, so don’t get discouraged if you can’t recreate this makeshift press exactly as shown.

Keep reading to learn how to press tofu without a press, or jump to some of the most commonly asked questions about pressing tofu.

Step 1: Puncture tofu package and drain water

Tofu is primarily made out of soybeans and water. So, when it is sold in stores, it is stored in a sealed package filled with water so that the tofu keeps its moisture and shape.

Therefore, don’t just rip open the package because water will go everywhere. Instead, poke a hole in the corner of the package and drain the water.

how to press tofu step one: puncture the package and drain the water

Step 2: Make a makeshift tofu press from household items

When you don’t have a tofu press, you have to get creative. Find these items around your house or find similar items that will get the job done.

You will need:

  • 2 solid cutting boards (or other hard, flat objects)
  • paper towels (or tea towels)
  • something small and heavy (about 5–7 pounds)

Here’s the general setup for the perfect makeshift tofu press. No matter what specific items you use, as long as you are generally following this setup, you’ll be able to easily press your tofu.

makeshift tofu press guide

Step 3: Change paper towels and adjust the weight

Depending on how much weight you use, the tofu should take about 30 minutes to press completely. During this time, you need to keep an eye on the tofu so that it presses completely and the weight stays even.

If you notice that your cutting board is leaning, adjust the location of the weight so that it presses evenly. When you don’t have the weight directly in the center of the cutting board, it will press one side of the tofu faster than the other, leaving you with a block of tofu that has a different consistency throughout. Make sure the weight is even.

If you notice that your paper towels are soaked, change them! Wet paper towels won’t be able to absorb any more water from the tofu, so even if you press it for longer, it won’t change the consistency. Keep changing the paper towels until they no longer become damp.

makeshift tofu press

By this time, your tofu has probably reduced in size (maybe even by half), and this is normal. When the paper towels are no longer absorbing moisture, your tofu has been completely pressed — time to get cooking!

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to press tofu?

The time can vary depending on how often you change your paper towels and how much weight you use. Generally, it takes about 30–45 minutes to press tofu.

If you press your tofu for less time, it will be moister and less firm. For firmer, drier tofu, press for as long as possible and with a heavier weight.

How to Press Tofu without Paper Towels

Even though it’s the easiest way to press tofu without a press, using paper towels to do it can be extremely wasteful. When I do this, I typically use around 10 sheets! If you don’t want to use paper towels, there are other options:

Option 1: Use towels instead

The simple solution to reducing paper towel waste is to use regular towels. Regular towels will do the job just fine. The reason that many people use paper towels is because of convenience, but if you don’t mind soaking about four towels, go for it!

The other reason that paper towels are most often used is because they are flat. When you use regular towels (like kitchen towels), there are sometimes grooves or other patterns that end up transferring to the tofu. If you have this problem, use tea towels. They are much flatter and won’t give your tofu weird textures.

Option 2: Don’t use anything absorptive. 

Don’t want to use paper towels and don’t have any suitable towels for pressing? Don’t use anything! Pressure alone will press it just fine; it just might be slightly inconvenient.

If you are pressing tofu without towels, make sure the bottom is not completely flat so that it will contain all of the squeezed out water. If you use a cutting board, the water will go everywhere. Instead, try using a plate.

The pressure will slowly squeeze more and more water out, so make sure you drain this frequently. If you don’t, the tofu won’t be able to release any more water. It will be like trying to squeeze out the water while it’s underwater!

Can you Press Tofu Overnight?

While in theory, you can set up a makeshift tofu press in the refrigerator to leave it longer, I recommend not pressing tofu overnight.

One reason I recommend not pressing overnight is because it might change the flavor of the tofu. Tofu is so versatile because it doesn’t really have a flavor and is great at absorbing other flavors. If you leave it out in the refrigerator, the tofu might start to absorb the flavors of the other food in the refrigerator — gross.

The second reason I advise against doing this is because of the possibility of contamination. You wouldn’t just leave something random, such as pasta, uncovered in the refrigerator. This promotes bacteria growth, and because tofu easily absorbs whatever is surrounding it, it is particularly susceptible to bacteria growth.

You might get away with pressing your tofu overnight, but next time you might not be so lucky. One time I was pressing my tofu in the refrigerator just to keep it cool, and I forgot about it. It stayed in the refrigerator all night, and when I woke up the next morning, I noticed that it actually changed color. The outsides were a concerning yellow color, and it felt way too dry. Needless to say, I tossed it.

Do you need to press tofu?

You might be wondering, “why do I even need to press it in the first place?” The answer is you don’t have to press it. Pressing tofu just makes it drier and tougher, which makes its texture more meat-like. There is nothing wrong with not pressing tofu, but people who are using it as a meat substitute tend to like it better when it is pressed.

There are also types of tofu that cannot be pressed, such as silken tofu. If you try to press silken tofu, it will just fall apart. Only press the kind that is refrigerated and stored in water.

Should you rinse tofu?

You do not have to rinse your tofu, but I like to. There is nothing wrong with the water that it is stored in, but some people feel better about giving their tofu a fresh rinse before pressing. It only takes a couple of seconds, so if it will make you feel better, do it! Otherwise, it doesn’t really make a difference.


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