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BBQ Tofu: A Vegan Recipe You’ll Love

The most common smells of summer we experience wafting from the BBQ are burgers, steaks, and hot dogs. But for those of us that look to incorporate more plant-based options into our diet, BBQ tofu is a fantastic meal to grill up.

Tofu is low in fat and calories and heavy in protein. It’s made by pressing soybean curds into the blocks we see at the grocery store. Fortunately, tofu is easy to work with and delivers big on taste once you know the proper way to prepare it.

BBQing tofu transforms it from a soft, creamy texture into crispy, smoky bites that pair well with other summer favorites like grilled corn and fresh green salads. 

This homemade barbecue sauce is sweetened with pure maple syrup and features a spicy garlic kick from the added Sriracha. It pairs perfectly with tofu, but can also be used to glaze tempeh, veggies, chicken, or pork.

Quick Tip for Tofu Prep

The trick to nailing this recipe is in the preparation. You need to press the tofu to remove excess moisture and marinate it to fill the tofu with flavour. 

This barbeque tofu takes about an hour, with the time mostly spent waiting for the tofu to press, drain, and marinate from start to tabletop. Active preparation time is incredibly quick. 

You should start your tofu in the afternoon, let it marinate until dinner time rolls around, and pop your tofu on the grill for a fast finish!

BBQ Tofu recipe

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 (14-ounce) packages, extra firm tofu

Barbecue sauce

  • 2 cups organic ketchup
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp molasses
  • 2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp Sriracha, or other hot sauce
  • 2 Tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce

Cooking Directions

  1. Press your extra firm tofu in a tofu press for 15 minutes. If you don’t own a press, wrap your tofu blocks in clean, dry kitchen towels. Place the blocks between two cutting boards and place something heavy on top. Wait 2-3 hours and then remove the towels.
  2. Slice the tofu into six 1-inch thick blocks.
  3. Mix all of your sauce ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. 
  4. Place the tofu pieces in a shallow baking dish. Add in ¾ cup of your barbecue sauce. Keep the rest of your sauce for brushing on the tofu during and after grilling time.
  5. Using a pastry brush, evenly coat the tofu pieces with the sauce.
  6. Allow the tofu to marinate in the BBQ sauce for 30 minutes.
  7. Preheat the grill to medium heat. Oil the grates with vegetable oil.
  8. Place your tofu on the oiled grates. Grill for 6-7 minutes per side, brushing the tofu on BBQ with the leftover sauce periodically.
  9. Brush the grilled tofu with one final coat of the barbecue sauce. Serve warm, straight from the grill. 

BBQ Tofu FAQ

Do I need to press the tofu?

Tofu always needs to be pressed before cooking, especially when you’re marinating it beforehand. Tofu naturally contains a lot of water, which will leach out while you cook and leave it with a soggy texture afterwards. 

By pressing your tofu first, you’ll remove that water and end with beautifully crispy tofu, grilled to perfection. Pressing to remove the water also leaves space in your tofu block to soak up more moisture from your marinade.

Should I marinate tofu before cooking?

Marinating tofu isn’t necessary, but I suggest marinating for 30 minutes so that your tofu will absorb the flavours throughout the block. You can marinate the tofu for longer, but you may need to whip up a bit more BBQ sauce, as the tofu will absorb more of the liquid over time.

If you don’t marinate first, your BBQ tofu will have flavourful sauce on the outside, but will remain relatively bland and flavourless inside. 

How do you grill tofu without sticking?

When grilling meats, you usually don’t need to use any oil – the natural fats are enough to keep the meat from sticking. Tofu, on the other hand, is relatively low in fat. 

It’s important to oil your grill before your tofu BBQ dish becomes a huge, sticky mess. To keep things moving smoothly, oil your barbecue grates with vegetable oil or any other high smoke point oil, right before you toss the tofu on your grill.

I don’t like BBQ sauce. Can I use a different sauce instead?

If you don’t like barbecue tofu recipes, you can use a different sauce instead. There are many delicious Asian recipes for BBQ tofu with a much different flavor profile than BBQ sauce. They can incorporate sesame, ginger, garlic, hoisin, and more! 

One of my favorites is to take dubu jorim (Korean tofu) and cook it on the grill instead of pan-frying. 

What type of tofu is best for grilling?

The best type to use for grilling is extra firm tofu. It holds up to the marinade and heat, which can make softer tofu fall apart. 

You still might be able to get away with using firm tofu if you can’t find extra-firm, but stay far away from soft and silken when you make BBQ tofu. 

Can I use this recipe on other proteins?

This BBQ sauce is incredibly versatile. Use it on tempeh, another soy-based protein. You can also smother it on vegan “meats,” portobello mushrooms, vegetables, chicken, pork, or beef. Make a BBQ pizza with this sauce as the base, add it to nachos, warm potato salad, or turn it into a smoky salad dressing. 

The options are endless!

Is this recipe gluten-free?

When using gluten-free soy sauce or tamari, this recipe is completely free of gluten. 

If you use packaged BBQ sauce instead, some may contain gluten as a thickening or coloring agent. 

How long can I store this barbecue sauce recipe?

This BBQ sauce will last in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. 

Once marinated and cooked, this tofu will last in the fridge for 2-3 days. Tofu continues to release water over time, even after pressing. The longer you leave your BBQ tofu in the refrigerator, the soggier it will get. This dish is best consumed immediately or within 1-2 days after cooking.

Final Word

Enjoy this tasty BBQ tofu on its own, with roasted vegetables, or on a bed of rice. Put the grilled tofu on a toasted bun and top with lettuce, onion, and tomato for a great vegetarian burger option.

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