The actual best marinated tofu recipe, and how to turn it into a vegan twist on spam musubi! Tofu musubi will win over your heart and become your new favorite thing to snack on. We're talking marinated tofu wrapped in tasty sushi rice held together with nori seaweed.
You can easily make the tofu or musubi these ahead of time (packing the seaweed on the side so it doesn't get soggy) and enjoy this as an easy lunch or grab one as an afternoon snack!
Why This Recipe Works
This recipe requires very few ingredients, so it's a quick and convenient option.
As much moisture as possible is removed from the tofu to help keep it from sticking to your pan.
The marinade combines sweet, acidic, and savory flavors for the perfect balance.
You can use this recipe as a tofu marinade without the rice and seaweed and it's a delicious way to enjoy your tofu!
Ingredients & Substitutions
Extra firm tofu – You will need firm or extra firm tofu for this recipe so it holds it's shape on the rice.
Brown sugar - You can substitute with another dissolvable sweetener in a pinch.
Soy sauce - This adds a salty element to the dish. You can use either dark or light soy sauce.
Rice vinegar - This adds an acidic element to the dish. Do not substitute. You can use regular or brown.
Ginger – Use fresh, grated ginger rather than dried.
Garlic - Use fresh, minced garlic if you can. Minced garlic from a jar will also work.
Scallions - You can substitute with minced shallots.
If making the musubi, you will also need:
Sushi rice – Do not substitute with other rice. It is short-grain Japanese rice.
Seaweed - I use Nori seaweed sheets that you can buy in packs online or at the store.
How to make the tofu
Start by draining the water out of your tofu. Wrap the tofu in a paper towel or kitchen towel and top it with a cutting board and then a book to press the tofu and drain out the water. Leave for at least 10 minutes.
The longer you wait, the more dense the tofu will become.
Slice the block of tofu into 8 even strips, ~¼ inch thick. Add the rest of the marinade ingredients to a baking dish and mix them together.
Top with the sliced tofu, and make sure the tofu is laying flat in the marinade. After 15 minutes, flip the tofu so both sides absorb the marinade. Marinade for another 15 minutes.
Next, wipe off all the garlic, ginger, and scallions. These will burn in the pan if you leave them on the tofu.
Cook the tofu ~3 minutes per side in a lightly oiled non-stick pan until browned.
Save the leftover marinade and scallions and toss it with any veggies that you are cooking for extra flavor!
Turn the tofu into musubi
If making this into musubi-style treats, you can make the rice while your tofu is marinating.
To cook the sushi rice, rinse 1 cup of sushi rice in cold water until it runs clear, ~3 times. Then place the rice and 1 cup of water in a small saucepan over high heat.
Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer and cover. Cook 15 minutes, then remove from heat, and let stand for 10 more minutes.
In the meantime, combine 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and ½ tablespoon of sea salt in a bowl. Mix until dissolved. You can use the microwave to help melt the sugar and salt by microwaving on high for 30 seconds.
When the rice is cooked, transfer to a bowl, add the vinegar mixture, and mix/fluff with a fork. Let it cool to room temperature before making your sushi.
Assemble the musubi-inspired tofu
Split the cooked rice into 8 equal parts. With wet hands, press each part into the sidewall of the tofu container (using it as a musubi mold) as shown in the photo. Pack it in firmly so it comes out as one piece. Repeat 7 more times.
Top each rice rectangle with one piece of the cooked tofu. Wrap each with one of the nori strips.
Or you can skip the rice mold and add some rice to a whole sheet of seaweed. Top with the tofu rectangle and wrap like a burrito.
Prep-Ahead Tofu Musubi Tips
The tofu and rice can be made the up to 3 days in advance. You can stack the tofu and rice in advance and store in the fridge.
The only thing you cannot do in advance is wrap the musubi in seaweed. The seaweed will get soggy and will taste rubbery. The best time to wrap the musubi in seaweed is just before eating.
Marinate the tofu for a minimum of 30 minutes, or as long as 24 hours. If you leave the tofu marinating in the fridge for longer than 24 hours the tofu has a tendency to break down. From a food safety standpoint, the tofu is ok to marinate for 48 hours.
You can pan cook, bake, or grill tofu after marinating it. For a block of tofu cut into 8 strips:
In a pan, cook for 3 minutes per side until lightly brown.
In the oven, bake for 15 minutes per side at 400F until lightly brown.
On the grill, cook for 5 minutes per side making sure to get some beautiful grill marks on the tofu.
Use a heated non-stick pan and lightly oil the surface to prevent tofu from sticking in the pan. Also, draining the water out of the tofu before marinating it helps the tofu not stick.
Yes, you can bake the slices of tofu for 15 minutes per side at 400F. You can also grill the tofu slices for 5 minutes per side.
Enjoy More Tofu Recipes
If you love this recipe, you'll also love these inventive tofu recipes.
Marinated Tofu & Tofu Musubi
- 1 lb. extra firm tofu save the container
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger grated
- 1 tablespoon fresh garlic minced
- 2 scallions finely sliced
- 1 cup sushi rice or short grain rice
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ½ tablespoon sea salt
- 2 sheets nori seaweed cut into 1.5" strips (8 strips needed)
- Rinse your rice in water until it runs clear, ~3 times.
- Place the rice and water in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer and cover. Cook 15 minutes, then remove from heat, and let stand for 10 more minutes.
- In the meantime, combine the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Mix until melted. You can use the microwave to help melt the sugar and salt by microwaving on high for 30 seconds.
- When the rice is cooked, transfer to a bowl, add the vinegar mixture, and mix/fluff with a fork. Let it cool to room temperature before making your sushi.
- Slice your tofu into 8 even strips ~¼ inch thick.
- Mix your marinated tofu ingredients (except the tofu) in bowl. Transfer to a flat dish that can fit all your slices of tofu laying flat. Add your tofu slices. Let marinade 15 minutes, then flip and marinade for another 15 minutes. Then, wipe off all the ginger, garlic, and scallions. If not, they will burn in the pan when you cook the tofu.
- Lightly oil a non-stick pan and heat over medium heat. Cook the tofu on both sides until it begins to brown, ~3 minutes per side.
- Split your rice into 8 equal parts. With wet hands, press each part into the side wall of your tofu container as shown in the photo. Pack it in firmly so it comes out as one piece. Repeat 7 more times.
- Top each rice rectangle with one piece of the cooked tofu. Wrap each with one of the nori strips.
This post was originally published in April of 2019, but was republished with answers to tofu cooking questions, new photos, and a video in September of 2020. It was updated in March 2023 with a "Why This Recipe Works" section, "Ingredients and Substutions" section, additional detail added throughout, and a revised FAQs.