This marinated smoky tofu is super easy to prepare and perfect for sandwiches (BLT style), buddha bowls or even with noodles. Made by soaking slices of tofu in a simple smoky marinade, then roasting in a pan until crispy and caramelized. It is SO flavorful and a much easier and accessible version compared to an actual smoked tofu recipe.
If you are just so-so about tofu in general or only beginning to use it in the kitchen, then you have got to try this recipe. This recipe is actually one of my favorite way to prepare tofu. It is SO simple, but has such a good punch of flavor that transforms a tasteless tofu into a bomb of deliciousness.
The unique smoky flavor really makes the whole recipe, but I might be biased since I love smoky-everything. I always make sure I have a chipotle mayo or smoky BBQ ketchup in the fridge so I can generously smother some smoky yumminess over just about everything that's in need of extra flavor. Or these smoky vegan TVP bacon bits, they have a permanent spot in my pantry! And this tofu really works well with these flavors as well.
You can batch-prepare this smoky tofu to use in sandwiches, grain bowl or replace bacon at breakfast. It always disappears fast when I make it and now I double the recipe so we can use it for more than once.
The marinade is super simple, only you will need to have liquid smoke to make it. It is very easy to find in any grocery stores and is a fairly cheap ingredient. It is the key ingredient in the marinade, so don't omit it!
What is liquid smoke?
Liquid smoke is made by burning wood and condensing the resulting smoke. It is then purified and concentrated into what we call liquid smoke. It has a very intense smoky flavor, so you only need a tiny amount to reach strong smoky flavors. You can use it to make marinades, BBQ sauces, smoky mayo or anytime you want to add a smoky flavor to a dish without having to actually smoke it.
What kind of tofu to use when making smoky tofu
Regular extra firm tofu will give the best result for this recipe. Softer types of tofu would simply fall apart when cooking in the pan. I use our local tofu from Maine (Heiwa tofu), but any kind should work well. The soybeans to make tofu often are heavily sprayed by pesticides, so try spending the extra dollar to get organic tofu whenever possible.
How to make marinated smoky tofu
The marinade only requires 6 simple ingredients and you can do a quick marinade of 1-2 hours or make it in the morning and let the tofu sip on the sauce until dinner time.
Press and prepare the tofu
- Start by pressing your tofu to remove as much water as you can. Pressed tofu will then act as a sponge and soak up the marinade easier, which will make it more so much more flavorful.
I usually drain the package of tofu, then wrap the block in a few layers of paper towel (or clean hand towel) and add something heavy on top for at least 20-30 minutes, but aim for 1 hour.
When done pressing, slice your tofu in about 8 slices of ¼-1/2 inch thick. This is the best way to cut it if making sandwiches, but you can also cut in cubed to add to bowls or salads. If looking for a bacon-like tofu, especially for breakfast, then you can also cut your tofu even thinner, although it might break more as you cook it, which is fine.
Marinate the tofu
- In a wide shallow dish, combine together the soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, garlic, maple syrup and liquid smoke. Give it a good whisk and add the slices of tofu. Let it marinate for at least 30 minutes, but 2-3 hours will give you an even more flavorful tofu (overnight is better).
Cook the tofu
- Once the tofu is done marinating, transfer the slices to a large warmed up pan over medium heat leaving the extra marinade back in the container. Use a small amount of oil to prevent the slices from sticking to the pan or can also be cooked without oil is using a non-stick pan.
Flip the tofu with a spatula to help keep the slices intact and use a spoon to coat the tofu once in a while with some of the marinating liquid that was left in the container.
I prefer adding a tiny bit of sauce back to the tofu at intervals instead of pouring all the juice at once so it doesn't burn. The tofu should be done within 10 minutes.
Smoky tofu serving suggestions
My favorite way to eat this tofu is by making a smoked tofu sandwich. You can make a Vegan BLT or TLT (tofu-lettuce-tomato). In this case, the marinated tofu replaces the smoky flavor from the bacon. Ok, sure, it won't be the same as real bacon. But, the chewy and smoky intense flavor slice of tofu, especially when paired with the classic mayo, tomato, lettuce, will turn off a bacon craving, I'm sure.
This roasted tofu also makes for a great topping for buddha bowls or simply to top any bowls of rice and veggies. Keep the remaining sauce from the marinade (or double the recipe of the sauce) to drizzle over your bowl. Keep the tofu in slices or cut in bite size cubes. Add also to salads to boost its protein content.
Variation to the recipe
You can use the marinade as a base and adjust it the way you want. Again, the recipe would not be the same without liquid smoke, so try not to omit this ingredient. But if you must do, then try adding a generous pinch of smoked paprika to the marinade to at least get some smoky flavor (just like in this pan-fried tempeh recipe).
Also, you can use different sweetener, like agave nectar. I haven't tried making it with a non-liquid sweetener, but I would think that coconut sugar would work too. Simply whisk until the sugar is completely dissolved before adding the tofu.
You can make a spicy smoky tofu by adding a squeeze of sriracha to the marinade and also add more spices if you want, like garlic or onion powder.
How to store the leftovers
The leftovers can be kept in the fridge for up to 4 days.
The smoky tofu is delicious cold, especially if preparing your sandwich to-go. But if you want to warm it up, simply roast the tofu once more in the pan for a few minutes on each side. If in a rush, then simply pop in the microwave for a few seconds (the tofu will be softer, but still so tasty).
Other tofu recipes you might like
- Silken tofu scramble
- Tofu bolognese
- Tofu tikka masala
- Crispy coconut tofu
- Tofu-carrot spread
- Vegan feta cheese
- Sweet and sour tofu
- Panko tofu nuggets
- Balsamic tofu wraps
I hope you will love this smoky tofu as much as we do! If you try it, please leave a comment below and rate the recipe to let us know how it was. Your feedback is so helpful!
Marinated Smoky Tofu
- 454 g extra firm tofu
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 ½ tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 ½ tsp liquid smoke
- 2 tsp dijon mustard
- 1 large clove of garlic - crushed
To make the smoky tofu:
- Do a quick tofu press: Roll the block of tofu in a few layers of paper towel or a clean hand towel, keep in between 2 plates and add an few heavy books on top. Set aside for at least 30 minutes, but try pressing for 1 hours if you can.
- While the tofu is pressing, make the marinade by combining the rest of the ingredients in a large shallow dish.
- When the tofu is done pressing, slice it in 8 equal slices (about ¼-1/2 inch width). Then, transfer them to the marinade and move/flip the slices around to make sure every sides have been covered. Let sit for 1-2 hours, flipping the tofu once in a while. Can also be marinated overnight.
- When done marinating, warm a large pan on medium-high heat. You can use a small amount of oil to prevent the slices from sticking to the pan and make the smoky tofu a little crispier or you can cook without oil by using a non-stick pan. When warmed up, transfer the tofu to the pan leaving the extra marinade back in the dish. Cook the slices on each side for a few minutes until browned and a little caramelized, while adding some more of the marinade once in a while (this is better than pouring the whole marinade in the pan as it will burn). This should take 10-15 minutes.
- Serve in sandwiches, buddha bowls or at breakfast to replace bacon.
- Store the leftover tofu in a air-tight container for up to 4 days.
- Re-heat the tofu by roasting the slices once more in the pan until warmed up (or if in a rush, then use the microwave)
- Make a Vegan BLT Sandwich: spread some dijon, vegan mayo or your favorite spread, then top with the smoky tofu, lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber.
- Make a bowl with the tofu: top brown rice and roasted vegetables with the tofu and drizzle with the leftover marinade. You can cut your tofu in cubes before adding to the marinade.
- To serve at breakfast: pairs very well with scramble tofu, toast and roasted potatoes.
- The total prep time was estimated at 2 hours including 1 hour for pressing the tofu + 1 hour minimum for marinating.