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grilled tofu on a plate

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

If there’s a food that’s not improved by grilling, I’ve yet to find it. The open flame and sizzling grill grates add flavor, complexity, and gorgeous grill marks to meat, veggies, fruit, and tofu (what we’re talking about today!).

With just a few smart steps — including dredging the planks in a simple spice rub and finishing them with a punchy herb sauce — tofu can be one of the most flavorful foods to come off the grill. Here, I’ll show you how to how to turn tofu into a summer grilling staple.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

What’s the Best Type of Tofu for Grilling?

Tofu comes in a variety of textures, and not all of them can hold up on the grill. For gilling, you’ll want to opt for non-silken (or regular), extra-firm tofu. The soft texture of silken tofu is great for adding creaminess to soups and shakes, but it’s too soft for the grill.

Since much of the water has already been pressed out of extra-firm tofu, you only need to press the slabs for about 15 minutes, which will make them easier to maneuver on the grill. Dusting them with a spice mix adds flavor and absorbs any lingering moisture. Moisture is the enemy of grill marks, so the spice-mix toss is extra insurance that the tofu will come off the grill with beautiful caramelized stripes.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

How Do You Keep Tofu from Sticking to the Grill?

Even extra-firm tofu is rather delicate, but these simple steps will help make sure that it doesn’t stick.

  1. Clean your grill grates. Clean grill grates are your best defense against sticking. Scrub the grates well once the grill has preheated — any food bits or residue from past grilling sessions will burn off easily with the high heat and some elbow grease.
  2. Think thick. When grilling tofu, go for 1/2-inch-thick slabs, which make for a hearty serving and are easier to maneuver on the grill. Thin slices can fall through the grates, or rip when flipped.
  3. Leave it alone. It’s tempting to poke and prod, but it’s best to leave the tofu pieces alone until the grill marks form. The tofu will release easily from the grill when it’s ready — no need to use force.
  4. Flip with a fish spatula. A fish spatula has a thin metal edge that can easily slip under the tofu, making flipping a cinch. Tongs are another good option, because they allow you to firmly grip each plank.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

Flavoring the Tofu

Tofu is a blank canvas, so you can flavor it up with any spice mix, marinade, or sauce. Here I took a two-step approach to maximize its flavor potential.

  1. Pre-grill spice rub. Sprinkling all sides of the pressed and sliced tofu slabs with an all-purpose spice rub – salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and ground coriander — gives the tofu a hint of smokiness and a ton of flavor. Serve it on its own or on salads, grain bowls, or sandwiches.
  2. Post-grill sauce. While the tofu is still warm from the grill, you’ll spoon an herby vinaigrette on top. The tofu will absorb the fruity flavor of the olive oil, the tart lemon juice, and fresh herbs, infusing the tofu with flavor from the outside-in. A mini food processor makes quick work of assembling the marinade, but if you don’t have one you can just chop the herbs by hand and then whisk the sauce together.

How to Grill Tofu

YieldServes 2 to 4

Prep time 20 minutes

Cook time 6 minutes

Ingredients

For the tofu:

  • 1 (14- to 16-ounce) package

    extra-firm tofu

  • 1 teaspoon

    garlic powder

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    paprika

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground coriander

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

For the fresh herb sauce:

  • 1/2 cup

    packed fresh basil or parsley leaves or a combination, plus more for garnish if desired

  • 1

    medium lemon, plus more wedges for garnish if desired

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/4 cup

    olive oil

  • Vegetable oil, for the grill

Equipment

Instructions

  1. Slice the tofu. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a few paper layers of paper towels. Drain 1 package extra-firm tofu. Cut crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices, then arrange in a single layer on the towels.

  2. Press the tofu. Cover the tofu with another few layers of paper towels and a second baking sheet. Weigh it down with a heavy object such as a skillet, saucepan, or large can. Let drain at least 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the grill and prepare the seasoning and herb sauce.

  3. Heat the grill. Prepare an outdoor grill for direct, medium-high heat (about 400ºF).

  4. Make the seasoning blend. Place 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, 3/4 teaspoon paprika, 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a medium bowl and stir to combine.

  5. Prepare the herb sauce. Pick 1/2 cup fresh herb leaves and place in a mini food processor. Juice 1 medium lemon until you have 2 tablespoons juice and add to the food processor. Add 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and pulse until the herbs are finely chopped, 10 to 12 pulses. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in 1/4 cup olive oil and process until combined and emulsified. (Alternatively, make this by hand: finely chop the herbs, then add to a jar with the lemon juice, salt, pepper, and oil, and shake to combine.)

  6. Grill the tofu. When the grill is ready, scrape the grates clean if needed. Oil the grill grates with a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil. Coat all sides of tofu slices lightly and evenly with the spice mixture, brushing off any excess. Place the tofu on the grill, cover, and cook until dark grill marks appear, about 3 minutes. Flip the tofu with a thin metal spatula, such as a fish spatula. Cover and grill until dark grill marks appear on the second side, about 3 minutes more.

  7. Serve the tofu. Transfer the tofu with the thin metal spatula to a serving platter. Drizzle the hot tofu with the herb sauce and more chopped herbs, if desired.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Refrigerate leftover tofu in an airtight container for up to 3 days. The herb sauce can be refrigerated separately for up to 1 week.

 

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