Moosewood’s Classic Tofu Burgers

This image courtesy of Jim Scherer

Our all-time favorite, luscious burgers the way we make them now: Vegan and wheat-free. Tofu burgers have been a favorite at the restaurant since we can remember. Our customers often call to ask, “Are tofu burgers on the menu today?” They love ’em! In the early years, we almost always served them on a thick slice of whole wheat toast with lettuce, tomato slices, and Russian dressing. Now we serve them various ways; some suggestions follow the recipe. Because of the increase in the number of our customers who are either gluten intolerant or trying to reduce their consumption of wheat, we’ve developed ways to make our various kinds of tofu burgers without the bread crumbs we used to use in our published recipes and in the restaurant, Dicing the vegetables small, finely grating the tofu in a food processor, and grinding the walnuts all help to make a mix that will hold its shape. This recipe makes eight large burgers, or you can shape the mix into smaller patties or “meatballs,” We’re happy when we have extra burgers and can freeze them for later.

NotesHow to Press Tofu

Whether or not you need to press tofu depends on both how it’s used in the recipe and the quality of the tofu. Soft and silken tofus are never pressed. Firm, and even extra-firm, tofu may contain a lot of moisture, and that can affect the outcome. It may not matter too much in some recipes, for instance baked tofu-you may just have to bake it longer. But the extra liquid that some tofu holds may make something like a filling or burger mix too wet. Pressing tofu expresses some of that water, making the tofu denser and more firm. It’s surprising how much liquid pools around some tofu during pressing.

At the restaurant, we almost exclusively use firm fresh tofu, and we usually press it for an hour or so before using it to make it even firmer. We put the blocks of tofu in a flat-bottomed baking pan and put another flat pan on top of it. Then we put weight in the top pan, usually a stack of plates. In our home kitchens, depending on the recipe and if we have firm fresh tofu, we often don’t press it at all. Some-times we simply press it gently between our hands, held over the sink, and that’s fine for many uses. If the tofu you have isn’t a firm fresh tofu, we suggest that you always press it, Whatever tofu you have, if you’re going to grate it, we recommend that you press it.

Place the block of tofu in a broad, flat bowl or casserole dish, put a plate on top of the tofu, and balance a heavy can or book on the plate. After the tofu has pressed for about 30 minutes, drain the liquid that has accumulated in the bowl. If you’re not yet ready to use the tofu or if you want to press it more, refrigerate it.

How long the tofu should be pressed depends on the tofu you have. To be safe, if a recipe needs dense, firm tofu, press it until no more liquid has accumulated ten minutes after you poured the water off. In our recipes that call for firm tofu, we tell you when pressing is probably not necessary, and when you need quite firm tofu, in which case, you should press it well.

We can’t think of an instance in which tofu would be pressed too long, even if it were all day or overnight. On the other hand, if you’re pressed for time, just press it until you’re ready for it and it will probably be ok. If you use the same kind of tofu regularly, you’ll come to know how firm or wet it is.

8 burgers

Preparation Time45 min

Preparation Time - Text45 minutes

Cooking Time30 min


Total Timeunder 2 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

OccasionFamily Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, lactose-free, vegan, vegetarian

Equipmentfood processor

Mealdinner, lunch

Type of Dishsandwich


  • Two 14 to 16 ounce blocks firm tofu
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cups diced onions
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 1/4 cup seeded and diced bell peppers (any color)
  • 1 cup coarsely ground toasted walnuts
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil


  1. First press the tofu for at least 30 minutes (see Notes).

  2. While the tofu presses, prepare the rest of the burger mix, and when you’re ready to grate the tofu, discard the expressed liquid.

  3. In a covered skillet on low heat, warm the oil. Add the onions, sprinkle with the salt and oregano, and cook on low heat for 7 or 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the carrots and bell peppers and cook, covered, until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a large bowl.

  4. Finely grate the pressed tofu in a food processor and add it to the bowl of cooked vegetables along with the walnuts, soy sauce, mustard, sesame oil, tahini, pepper, and basil. Mix well and add more soy sauce to taste.

    Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a baking sheet. Using about a cup per burger, shape the mix into 8 burgers. Set the burgers on the prepared baking sheet and bake until firm and browned, 30 to 40 minutes.

  5. Notes

  6. The burgers will be a little sturdier if you use bread crumbs, about 2/3 cup for this recipe, especially if the tofu you use if soft. Gluten free bread and bread crumbs are available, so if you're avoiding wheat and gluten you have that option.

    To freeze these burgers, simply wrap cooled, bake dburgers in plastic warp and put them in the freezer. To reheat, bake on an oiled baking sheet, right from the freezer, at 350° F for 20 to 30 minutes until heated through--the time will depend on how fat your burgers are.


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