Bento Box Basics: How to do fancy tofu cut-outs

by Wendy Copley on August 18, 2011

Tofu Food Art

You know what people ask me about a lot? Tofu.

My kids really like tofu. They like it a lot. They started eating it when they were babies and never stopped. And their numero uno favorite kind of tofu is baked teriyaki flavored tofu. They each eat it at least once per week — sometimes more often — when I pack it in their lunches and sometimes they beg me to give it to them for breakfast.

Baked tofu can be hard to find, depending on where you live. Wildwood makes a bunch of flavors and I can often find it in our local grocery stores, but sometimes I can’t. It’s usually located in a refrigerator case near the produce section along with other soy products and egg roll wrappers. Sometimes it’s in a “health food” section too. I buy our tofu at Trader Joe’s. Each package has two blocks of tofu and it looks like this:

Tofu Food Art

I love to pack tofu in the boys’ lunches because it’s fun to work with. I cut it into cubes, sticks and slabs, but my favorite thing to do with is is make fancy tofu cut-outs.

Tofu Food Art

To start, I turn the block of tofu on its side and cut a quarter inch slice off the broad side.

Tofu Food Art

While the outside of the tofu is brown from the marinade, the inside is still creamy white and quite firm. I often take advantage of this contrast in colors for decorative purposes.

Tofu Food Art

Next, I slice the bigger chunk of tofu into slices so it’s easier to eat.

Then I start in on the fun part! For this technique, you need a small cookie cookie cutter. The cutter should either be symmetrical or you should plan on cutting out two shapes with the same cutter. In this example, I’ll be making two cuts with a small giraffe cutter.

Tofu Food Art

Start by cutting a giraffe shape out of the thin slice of tofu.

Tofu Food Art

Then flip the tofu slice over and cut another giraffe out.

Tofu Food Art

You should have two giraffes now and the slice of tofu should basically be maintaining its rectangular shape.

Tofu Food Art

fit the giraffes back into the slice of tofu like a puzzle.

That’s pretty cute as it is, but we’re going to take it a step further and decorate it with food markers.

Tofu Food Art

Start off by patting the tofu dry with a paper towel. This will help the ink from the markers adhere better.

Tofu Food Art

Now use your food markers to draw on the giraffes.

Tofu Food Art

I find it’s helpful to wipe the tips of the markers off with a paper towel pretty frequently because the moisture from the tofu can make them stop working. You’ll also want to take care to clean the tips of the markers  thoroughly when you’re finished because if you leave food residue on them they’ll get moldy.(Ask me how I know.)

Tofu Food Art

Once your tofu shapes are decorated and hella cute, slide your knife under the shapes and the background and place it on top of the sliced tofu.

Tofu Food Art

Carefully place your block of tofu on the box and continue packing the rest of your lunch!

One more thing: I’m often asked if I have a recipe for baked tofu and the answer is…sorta. I attempted to make it once myself a few years ago with mixed results. I liked it, but my son hated it. He actually tried to wipe his tongue with a towel after tasting it! Ha ha!

Do you eat tofu? Do your kids?

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  • Jen

    Our whole family eats tofu. They even like it uncooked and with no seasoning (weird, I know) as well as sauteed. I’m definitely going to try this when the kids go back to school next week.

  • I might try this on KC.  Thanks!!

  • Plume

    I love tofu, my husband so so, my son, not so much.  I eat it a whole buch of ways (but I’m vegetarian).  One of our favorites, though, is toasted (crispy?) in a lightly greased pan and add it to pad thai.

  • Autumn

    Thank you so much for this entry!!!  I have been reading/ learning from your blog for a couple weeks now and I was SO SO curious about the tofu!!  My girls have never had it (me either!) but I’m gonna try it if I can find it!  Thank you much!  This is one of my very favorite Bento blogs!

  • Michelle Stedman

    I’m a new fan of your blog!  I put together bento box lunches for my son’s daycare and now that he eats more than just mush, it’s getting so much fun!  and he LOVES tofu too!  Can’t get enough of it!

  • Megan Leschly

    hey, i’m so glad i came across your website- i’m starting bento-ing this year- my son has just started kindergarten and it has been going just great so far.  was wondering if you could shed some light on bento box bags…  i have several boxes of various sizes and shapes- so wondered if you ever got to make your own bags or buy for your bento boxes?   🙂 and thank you so much for having this website exist on the internet! i’ll be back to check your updates often more.  🙂

  • Hi Megan — I don’t use the bento bags. I prefer to use thermal lunch bags from Thermos and the like because they help keep the lunches cold longer.

  • Joanne

    I love tofu, as does my dad, but my mum and sister not so much (no kids yet). I’m vegan so I guess it’s kinda obligatory to like it :p, but I’ve been known to eat it raw and unflavoured because I actually do really like it.

  • Dina

    Thanks for the tutorial. My kids have been eating tofu since they were babies and in turn love it! I have wondered about the darken tofu when I saw it previous photos. I will have to give it a whirl next week.

  • Oh this is so cute!!! I eat tofu (love it) but so far, my toddler has not been a fan. I’m waiting eagerly for him to catch on.

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