Kid-friendly Five-Minute Marinated Tofu Marvel Recipe - Sticky Fingers Cooking
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Recipe: Five-Minute Marinated Tofu Marvel

Recipe: Five-Minute Marinated Tofu Marvel

Five-Minute Marinated Tofu Marvel

by Dylan Sabuco
Photo by Gajus/
prep time
5 minutes
cook time
4-6 servings

Fun Food Story

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Five-Minute Marinated Tofu Marvel

Enjoy the crispiness of pan-fried tofu marinated in umami flavors. This recipe is not just about cooking—it's a lesson in patience for kids. They'll watch as the tofu transforms, resisting the urge to flip it too soon. The reward? Perfectly crisp tofu that effortlessly and marvelously releases from the pan.

Happy & Healthy Cooking,

Chef Erin, Food-Geek-in-Chief

Fun-Da-Mentals Kitchen Skills

  • marinate :

    to soak food in a seasoned liquid to add flavor and tenderize it before cooking.

  • measure :

    to calculate the specific amount of an ingredient required using a measuring tool (like measuring cups or spoons).

  • stir :

    to mix together two or more ingredients with a spoon or spatula, usually in a circle pattern, or figure eight, or in whatever direction you like!

Equipment Checklist

  • Skillet
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Liquid measuring cup
  • Measuring spoons
  • Wooden spoon
  • Cutting board
  • Kid-safe knife
  • Heat-resistant spatula


Five-Minute Marinated Tofu Marvel

  • 1 block extra firm tofu **(for SOY ALLERGY sub 1 1/2 C mushrooms)**
  • 1/4 C soy sauce **(for GLUTEN/SOY ALLERGY sub coconut aminos)**
  • 1 T granulated sugar
  • 1 T cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 T sesame oil **(for SESAME ALLERGY sub 1 tsp ginger + 1 T vegetable oil)**

Food Allergen Substitutions

Five-Minute Marinated Tofu Marvel

  • Soy: For 1 block extra firm tofu, substitute 1 1/2 C mushrooms. Substitute coconut aminos for soy sauce.
  • Gluten/Wheat: Substitute coconut aminos for soy sauce.
  • Sesame: For 1 T sesame oil, substitute 1 tsp ginger + 1 T vegetable oil.


Five-Minute Marinated Tofu Marvel

measure + marinade

In a large bowl, measure and combine 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and 1 tablespoon sesame oil. Then, open 1 package of tofu and drain all the water. Place the block of tofu in the large bowl with the soy sauce mixture. Toss the tofu around a few times in the mixture to get it fully coated. Marinate for 5 minutes, flipping the tofu once halfway through.

slice + sauté

Remove the tofu from the bowl and place it on a large cutting board. Slice the tofu into large rectangular pieces or triangular pieces. Heat the skillet to medium and place the sliced tofu in the pan. The tofu may stick at first, and that's okay. Cook for 5 minutes on the first side, or until the tofu is no longer sticking to the pan. The natural process of cooking the tofu without any stirring will unstick it from the pan.

stir + serve

Stir and flip the tofu in the pan and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes on the other side. Remove the tofu from the pan and reserve to serve along with Colorful Thai “Rad Na” Noodles!

Surprise Ingredient: Tofu!

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Photo by KatMoy/

Hi! I'm Tofu!

"I'm also called "bean curd" because Tofu (TOH-foo) is made from soybeans. I'm a great substitute for meat and eggs in many recipes, while my spongy texture absorbs the flavors of a dish's marinade, sauce, or seasoning!"

History & Etymology

  • Sources disagree on when the making of tofu began. Some say it was discovered about 2,000 years ago in China during the Han dynasty, and some say it was closer to 1,000 years ago. Legend says that Prince Liu An found the process for making tofu during the Han dynasty. Whether he did or the invention was just attributed to him, the Han dynasty tofu may not have resembled what we have now.
  • Another theory for tofu's discovery is ascribed to the addition of impure sea salt to a boiled soybean mixture that caused the concoction to curdle. Some also believe the credit goes to borrowed milk-curdling techniques from the Mongolians or East Indians.
  • Zen Buddhist monks introduced "Chinese tofu" to Japan in the late 8th century, where it was used as a replacement for meat and fish. Chinese immigrants brought tofu to Southeast Asia sometime between the 10th and 11th centuries. 
  • In the United States, tofu was first mentioned by Benjamin Franklin in letters written to two different people. He had tried it in London and referred to it as Chinese "cheese" made from soybeans.
  • The first tofu factory in the United States was established in 1878. The oldest currently running tofu company is Ota Tofu in Portland, Oregon, founded in 1911. 
  • The word "tofu" comes from the Japanese "tōfu," from the Chinese "dòufu," from "dòu" ("beans") and fŭ ("rot").

How to Select & Eat

  • The types of tofu you can buy are silken or soft, medium (regular or medium-firm), firm, and extra firm. 
  • Silken or soft tofu has not been pressed and has a higher moisture content than firmer tofu. It is similar to yogurt or pudding or a soft, early cheese. You can use it to make smoothies or as a replacement for eggs.
  • Medium tofu is a popular type, referred to as just "tofu" on some labels. It has a porous texture that is good for mopping up sauces. 
  • Firm tofu has been drained and pressed but still has a high moisture content. Its outside texture is similar to raw meat, and when you press it, it will bounce back. The inside is similar to a firm custard. Firm tofu is versatile to cook and can be pan-fried, deep-fried, or stir-fried. 
  • Extra-firm tofu has had a larger amount of liquid pressed out, and its texture is closer to fully-cooked meat. Therefore, it is a suitable replacement for meat and can be pan-fried, deep-fried, or stir-fried. You can also serve it cold or add it to soup. Extra-firm tofu does not absorb liquid as well as firm tofu, so if you use a marinade, choose medium or firm tofu. 
  • Tofu benefits from being frozen before cooking. Freezing tofu removes more of the liquid and gives it a stronger, firmer, and more meat-like texture. When you cook with frozen tofu, it will not fall apart as easily. Freezing also helps tofu to last longer, and it works with most forms but may be more difficult with the silken type.
  • To freeze tofu, drain the liquid from the package, then remove the block and gently squeeze out any remaining liquid with a paper or kitchen towel (you do not need to press it). Cut it into the size needed for your recipe. If you will be using a portion of a tofu block, separate what you are using, then put the pieces, not touching, on a tray covered with plastic wrap. After the tofu freezes, in about five hours or overnight, you can transfer it to a freezer-safe airtight container or bag. Frozen tofu may not need to be thawed before cooking, depending on your recipe. If you want to thaw it first, let it sit in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight, or if needed more quickly, run warm water over it.


  • Tofu is high in protein, which makes it a great meat substitute. Firm tofu has more protein than silken or soft tofu. It also has a higher fat content. 
  • Tofu is considered a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids.
  • Tofu has a good amount of calcium, iron, potassium, and manganese. It can help strengthen bones, lower cholesterol, and prevent coronary heart disease.  
  • People allergic to soy should not consume tofu, which is made from soybeans.

Fun Facts About Marinating Tofu!

Photo by Julia Wave/ (marinating tofu in soy sauce)
  • Tofu (soybean curd) does not have much flavor on its own, so marinating it before or during cooking is beneficial. The tofu will absorb the marinade and take on its flavors.
  • A good tofu marinade will include an acidic ingredient, like lemon juice, rice vinegar, rice wine, or soy sauce. These ingredients break down the tofu's protein, letting the marinade penetrate deeper into the tofu.
  • On the other hand, it is best to avoid using a marinade with oil as it can coat the surface of the tofu and prevent the flavors from being absorbed. 
  • Adding sugar to a marinade can create more flavor and a crusty exterior through caramelization. You will get the same result if you include a sweet acid, like balsamic vinegar syrup, hoisin sauce, or rice wine. Use a medium heat to avoid scorching the sugar, which produces a bitter taste.
  • Marinating your tofu makes a huge difference in taste. It will convince people nervous about eating tofu that it can be a delicious and healthy protein alternative to eating meat!

Let's Learn About China!

Photo by XiXinXing/
  • China's official name is The People's Republic of China. It became a republic in 1912; however, the first Chinese dynasty appeared around 2100 BCE. China is one of the largest countries in the world, and it has the most people!
  • The official language of China is Mandarin. However, various dialects are spoken in different regions of the country. For example, in Shanghai, they speak Shanghainese.
  • China is around the same size as the continental United States but only has one official time zone. The continental US has four.  
  • China's capital city is Beijing, while the most populated city is Shanghai.  
  • The Great Wall in China is the largest man-made construction on Earth, stretching an incredible 5,500 miles. Its builders used mortar that included sticky rice to bind the Great Wall's stones! 
  • China's land is diverse, with high mountains, low coastal lands, deserts, and damp tropical areas. Just like the United States!
  • The Chinese are known for their papermaking, porcelain, and silk cloth. In addition to paper, they also invented the compass during the Han dynasty (202 BCE to 220 CE), woodblock printing in the Tang dynasty (by 7th century), gunpowder in the Tang dynasty (9th century), and movable type made of porcelain (for printing) between 1039 and 1048 CE, during the Song dynasty.
  • Chinese cuisine varies by region. Climate, local agriculture, ethnic and class backgrounds, and outside influences all contribute to China's food diversity. There are eight major regional Chinese cuisines: Anhui, Cantonese, Fujian, Hunan, Jiangsu, Shandong, Szechuan, and Zhejiang.
  • Wheat is farmed in northern China, so noodles and other foods made from wheat are consumed more in the North. On the other hand, rice is cultivated in southern China; therefore, rice is a staple in the South.  
  • Tea has long been part of Chinese culture across all parts of society. China was the first country to grow and drink tea and, today, it exports the most green tea worldwide.

What's It Like to Be a Kid in China?

  • School success is greatly emphasized in China. Chinese kids go to school five days a week (six days before 1995), and their school day runs from 7:30 or 8 am until 4 or 5 pm. After school, they might do homework for three hours.
  • In primary school, kids learn the Chinese language, which is made up of about 7,000 characters, not letters. The characters represent words. By the time they finish primary school, they will have learned about 4,000 characters. They will also learn a foreign language, especially English.
  • Kids may not have aunts, uncles, or cousins because, at one time, the Chinese government allowed couples to have just one child due to the high population. That later changed to two, and in May 2021, the policy changed again to allow three kids, so now a child may have a sibling or two. 
  • Some of the holidays that kids celebrate with their families are Chinese New Year, the Dragon Boat Festival, and National Day. National Day is celebrated with fireworks and parades to commemorate the formal proclamation of the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949. 
  • Kids enjoy playing ping pong, basketball, volleyball, and badminton. They also play video games and ride their bikes. 
  • Rice and noodles are staples, and kids may eat these at every meal. They'll eat their food using chopsticks, not forks!

That's Berry Funny

My cell phone got wet, so I put it in rice, but I don't think it's working.

The soy sauce just made things worse!

The Yolk's On You

Why did the Tofu cross the road? 

To prove he wasn’t chicken!

Lettuce Joke Around

What is a foots’ favorite food? 


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