Tofu is a vegan staple. Everyone, even the most avid carnivore, knows about it. Unfortunately, many turn their noses up in disgust. The reason that so many people eat bad tofu is because they don’t know the basics of how to prepare it; and pressing it is always the first step. If you’ve been neglecting this, and you want to up your tofu game, getting the best tofu press is a must.
In a hurry? You can check out any one of our top five picks for tofu presses here or continue reading for the entire buyer's guide.
**Click any of the links above to check them out on Amazon.
Tofu is actually nothing but a block of bean curd. While most commonly made with soybeans, it can also be made from other legumes such as chickpeas.
Notice that word curd is short for "curdle" which is defined as causing something to coagulate or congeal. Tofu is simply or congealed soy milk that's been formed into a block using a coagulant.
If you're not familiar with these terms, a coagulant is a substance that helps transform something from a liquid to a gel. In the case of tofu, the most common coagulant is Nagari (magnesium chloride).
Although it might seem like tofu is just starting to gain popularity, the truth is that tofu has been around for a long time. The earliest known origins of the word were from 1182 in Japan, but the product itself is said to have originated in China at around 122 BC.
It was also most likely discovered by accident when someone curdled a pureed soybean soup by seasoning it with Nigari and unrefined sea salt.
In many Asian countries, tofu is more highly regarded than cheese, meat, and milk. Estimates from the 1980's state that there are nearly 250,000 tofu manufacturers worldwide with the bulk of them in China and Japan.
While this article isn't going into extreme detail about how to make tofu, it is important to understand the process. This will help you better understand the differences between each type of tofu press. As you'll see, some presses are geared more towards draining excess water from store-bought tofu while others are meant for forming blocks of tofu.
Making tofu can be broken down into three simple steps:
How to make Tofu by Peaceful Cuisine
The above video breaks down the process in a bit more detail if you're interested.
There are two main reasons to buy a tofu press:
There are different presses or molds for each application. The word "press" is sometimes use interchangeably to describe both functions, but the device for the second function or more like a tofu mold. You'd only really want to use the mold if you were making fresh tofu at home.
Note: a few of these devices can be used for both molding and draining.
The most common tofu presses will greatly enhance the texture of any tofu block. In our guide on how to press and drain tofu where we found that pressed tofu has a much denser texture. This creates a much more pleasant mouth-feel for some dishes, especially if you're trying to replace meat or making a tofu feta "cheeze".
Additionally, if you drain all of the water out of tofu, it allows you to re-hydrated it with flavorful marinades. Draining the flavorless excess water from blocks of tofu is really the only way to allow other seasoned liquids to make their way into the tofu.
Finally, if you're trying to get your tofu to be crispy, pressing all of the water out as a must. Your tofu will fry to a delicious crispy texture much easier, especially if you use some cornstarch, once the water is out.
Before you decide which tofu press you want to buy, it's important to understand the different designs that are on the market today. We've classified the different types of tofu presses into 4 categories:
Tofu presses that utilize pressing plates are probably the most common types of tofu presses on the market today. They're extremely simply to use and some are even large enough to accommodate two regular sized blocks of store-bought tofu.
Pictured above is the Super Tofu Press.
Here's how they work:
Using a single pressing plate, boxed tofu presses operate a bit differently than the dual-plated models. Rather than having to tighten the tension on these models, the spring loaded single plate provides enough tension to drain the tofu.
Pictured above is the TofuXpress.
The main brand that makes these types of presses is TofuXpress and it works like this:
Its easy to use with very little manual work involved.
Stainless steel tofu presses are also a viable option for pressing your tofu. Rather than having any sort of spring or tension mechanism, they operate using a weighted top. The function is similar to a tofu press you might make at home with cans or dumbbells, but is manufactured to be a lot more ergonomic and user friendly.
The main model on the market is the Tofu Ninja Press by Raw Rutes. The way it works is extremely simple:
There's pretty much no work involved other than placing the weight on the tofu.
When someone is talking about a wooden or Japanese tofu press, they are likely talking a product that also functions as a tofu mold. They function similar to a stainless steel press, except that they're wood or plastic and don't tend to come naturally weighted.
Additionally, they can come in wood or plastic.
You wouldn't really want to buy them to press store-bought tofu as they tend to be rather small and wouldn't be as efficient as some of the other models on this list.
However, some of the tofu presses we've featured below can double as a tofu mold!
Check them out!
Any of these awesome tofu presses below will get the job done. At the same time, they each have unique features, thus their own set of pros and cons.
The TofuXpress is great because of its versatility and ease of function. It has several qualities that make it stand out from the crowd.
The first quality is its ability to "set it and forget it". Unlike some other models, there's no need to adjust the tension once you have it going. While it does prevent you from getting the tension as hard as some of the double-plated models, it also means you're not as prone to squish it (which we've done before with other models).
The second reason we chose this one as the first pick is because it can also be used to marinate the tofu after it has been pressed. There's no reason to take out separate containers or waste plastic bags. This was a huge plus for us.
Finally, the TofuXpress has the option to get a secondary lighter tension spring. You can use this lighter tension spring to make delicious items like cheese made out of soy yogurt. The design of the unit makes it far more ideal for such recipes than a double plated press. The lighter tension spring can also be used for medium firm or even silken tofu. You can even use the light tension spring as a tofu mold.
If you want the lighter tension spring – please note that it is sold separately in this package.
The EZ Tofu Press is more of a budget model designed with one thing in mind: getting the water out of blocks of tofu.
While it doesn't have all of the bells and whistles of the TofuXpress, the EZ Tofu Press does what its designed to do. It gets the excess water out of tofu very quickly as you have full control over the tension knobs.
This also means that you can press down on the tofu really, really hard. You can press down on super firm tofu quite a bit before it starts to break apart. You can also do it really lightly if you're draining a more delicate tofu.
It's also pretty big. We've even managed to press two blocks of tofu in ours, but it's probably better suited to press one and 3/4 blocks. A portion of the tofu was colliding with the metal screws, but that's okay!
There is one major downside to this unit that might not be that obvious, but notice that it doesn't have anywhere for the water to go! This means that when you drain your tofu, you need to keep it in the sink or on top of another plate. It would make a mess if you put it directly onto your counter top.
All-in-all, though this is a really solid tofu press. It's also made in the USA.
Much like the EZ Tofu Press, this model has full tension control and gets the excess water out of a tofu block quickly and easily.
One thing you'll notice about the EZ Tofu Press is that it doesn't have any springs, only tension knobs. The Super Tofu Presser has the same basic design as the EZ Tofu Press, but actual has springs as well.
These springs serve the function of preventing the plates from collapsing onto each other. If you've never seen either of these models in person, you can imagine how this might occur.
While we've never had any issue with our EZ Tofu Press doing this, it is something to consider. We've found that once you get the tofu in, you don't really need to worry about the plates being loose anymore, but the initial set up can be a bit flimsy without the added springs.
Depending on your budget as well as the current pricing of either double plated tofu press, it's probably wise to check out both these models before making your final decision.
We like this stainless steel tofu press for its simplicity. The top of the press is actually a weight. All you need to do is place the tofu in and place the weight on top.
The Raw Rutes is great because its designed to last a life time. Being that its stainless steel it won't absorb any odors or flavors over time and its super easy to clean. Also, some people don't want plastic touching their food - so naturally this would be their first choice.
It's also got the most beautiful aesthetic on this list in our opinion. If you want something that can sit directly on your counter-top then this is the model to go for.
It can also be used in the final stage of the tofu making process so long as you have a cheesecloth, so it does double duty!
The Tofurture Tofu Press actually has three parts that makeup its overall design:
Overall, it's a well designed and affordable compact tofu press.
The adjustable tension on the model is great for pressing the tofu to your desired level of dryness in an even fashion.
Because it comes with a container to hold the water, you don't have to worry about getting out a plate or using this tofu press in the sink. A definite plus.
You can also make your own tofu with this model - making it a viable tofu mold.
While it's great that you can control the tension, we've seen that the rubber bands could be a bit difficult to use. It could result in potentially slipping and dropping the unit.
Because all of these models can get the job done, the final decision comes down to your person preference.
We've created a few guidelines to help you narrow down which one you might want.
Want something where you have complete control over the tension?
If you fancy a super easy to use press with top-notch quality go with the Raw Rutes Tofu Ninja
Hey! I’m Michelle and I write product reviews for ThriveCuisine.com. I’m always preparing healthy / plant based foods and I’ve developed a knack for helping people get the best bang for their buck.