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Jerk Tofu Bowls: Jamaican Style Vegan Jerk Chicken Recipe

Forget smoothie bowls and put aside the poke bowl; we’ve got the next best healthy bowl, and the main ingredient is Jamaican jerk tofu!

This healthy Jamaican inspired dish is completely vegan and guaranteed to transport you across the ocean to the Caribbean. It’s fiery and spicy, but fruity and filling. You take a base of coconut rice, marinate your tofu with Jamaican jerk sauce and add in a few extra Caribbean ingredients to top off the bowl.

This is one of our all-time favourite vegan Jamaican recipes, so get ready to prepare the ultimate jerk tofu bowl!

What is Jamaican jerk sauce?

Let’s start by delving into the Jamaican jerk sauce itself because unless you’ve travelled to the Caribbean, you might be unfamiliar with the primary ingredients of this delicious yet spicy seasoning. 

‘Jerk’ is both a type of sauce or seasoning, as well as a style of cooking. Jerk cooking involves marinating food with jerk seasoning or jerk sauce, before frying, barbecuing, or slow cooking to release the infused flavours. 

The jerk sauce or seasoning can vary from one chef to the next, but there are 3 primary ingredients that all jerk sauces need to have. These are Scotch bonnet peppers, thyme, and a Jamaican ingredient known as ‘allspice’, which is a type of berry that’s native to the island. 

While it’s traditional for meat to be marinated, vegetarian Jamaican food is also becoming more common. In this case, we’re using tofu instead of any meat products. Tofu works particularly well because it readily absorbs the flavours of the marinade. 

For the best Jamaican jerk tofu, you need to use firm or extra-firm tofu. It would be best if you also used tofu press to squeeze out the excess water content; otherwise, your Jamaican tofu isn’t going to absorb the flavours of the jerk sauce. 

Our Jamaican tofu recipe uses jerk sauce as the base for seasoning the tofu, which is then added to a bowl full of rice, beans, and pineapples!

How to make jerk tofu bowls

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients for the coconut rice

  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 diced onion
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 ¼ cups water
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 chopped scallions
  • 1 tbsp frying oil

Ingredients for the jerk tofu

  • 14 ounces extra firm tofu*
  • 2 cups pineapple chunks
  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 ½ tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 ½ tsp grated ginger
  • 1 minced Scotch bonnet pepper
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 tbsp frying oi

* It’s important to press and drain your tofu before seasoning if you want the best flavours. We recommend using a tofu press for the best results.  

Directions for the coconut rice 

  1. Add a dash of frying oil to a large pot and heat it on the stovetop.
  2. Add in your chopped onions and fry them in the oil until they have begun to soften. Add minced garlic and fry for an extra minute. 
  3. Next, pour water and coconut into the pot. Mix everything together before adding thyme, allspice, and salt to taste. Allow the liquid to heat up gently before adding your rice and pans to the pot. Bring the pot to boiling, then lower the heat and allow to simmer. 
  4. Your coconut rice should take around 15 minutes to cook through. Leave it to sit for an additional 5 minutes before serving.*

*While your rice is simmering away on the stovetop, you can move onto the next stage and start preparing your jerk tofu. 

Directions for Jerk tofu

  1. Start by pressing your block of tofu to remove the excess liquid. The firmer and drier your tofu is, the more flavour it’s going to absorb. Once pressed, slice your tofu into small, bite-sized chunks.
  2. Jamaican vegetarian dishes need a great jerk tofu base. Mix together your molasses, soy sauce, lime juice, minced garlic, grated ginger, and cinnamon together in a large bowl before stirring in your chopped Scotch bonnet and allspice for the jerk finish. 
  3. Place a large skillet on the stovetop and heat up a dash of frying oil in the bottom. Layer your tofu chunks across the bottom of the skillet and allow them to fry in the oil for at least 10 minutes, frequently turning until they have a golden brown coating.
  4. Take the tofu out of the skillet and place on towels to absorb excess oil. Add your chunks of the pineapple to the same skillet and fry for 6 minutes, frequently turning until the pineapple is soft and starting to brown. 
  5. Add your tofu back into the skillet and mix it with the pineapple before adding your jerk sauce. Make sure everything is well coated, then cook for another 2 minutes. 
  6. By now, your rice should be cooked. Build your jerk tofu bowl by first adding a layer of rice to each serving bowl. Add your jerk tofu, and top with freshly chopped scallions! 

Jerk tofu bowls FAQs and tips

Jerk tofu bowls are one of the best Jamaican vegetarian recipes you can prepare at home. With the right spices, it’s fairly simple to make, even if with no prior Caribbean cooking experience.

To help you to improve your Caribbean culinary skills, however, we put together some quick FAQs and a roundup of our top tips! Keep reading to find out more!

What tofu is best for jerk tofu?

For this vegetarian jerk recipe, the most important ingredient (sauce aside) is the tofu. To prepare the best jerk tofu bowls, you need to select extra-firm or firm tofu from the store. 

Extra-firm and firm tofu hold flavour and shape better than soft or silken tofu, which can often fall apart when subjected to high temperatures in the frying oil. 

Firm tofu absorbs the surrounding flavours well, but this only happens if you’ve pressed out any excess liquid before cooking. If the tofu is too watery, then it won’t have space to absorb that spicy jerk sauce you’ve prepared!

The best way to press tofu is by using a tofu press, which makes life much easier for you in the kitchen. If you don’t have a tofu press, then the next best option is to wrap your block of tofu in paper towels before pressing down firmly using a heavy object such as a chopping board. 

Can I marinate the jerk tofu in advance?

If you have time, then you can seriously add to the flavour-levels of the tofu by marinating it in advance. This gives the tofu much more time to absorb the flavours of the sauce.

We’d recommend trying to prepare the marinade a minimum of 4 hours before serving. If you can, leaving the tofu in the jerk sauce overnight is ideal. Remember to press your tofu well before you add it to the jerk sauce.

Can I prepare other fruits for the jerk tofu bowl?

We love to use pineapple as the main fruity addition to our jerk tofu bowls, but there are a lot more options to consider in your own recipes. 

Pineapple adds a sweet, soft element to the bowl, but it also adds that extra tropical kick to the dish. Other fruits that work similarly well include mango or papaya, but don’t be afraid to try any other tropical fruits that might be in season or that are readily available at your local market. 

Now you know how to prepare jerk tofu bowls at home!

That’s the end of our jerk tofu recipe; now you can prepare your own jerk sauce infused tofu at home. This great vegan dish is fun to prepare and tastes both spicy and fruity.

Jerk tofu bowls make for a great starter or snack if you’re dishing up in small quantities, or with a larger bowl, you have a filling yet healthy meal. Why not bring a taste of Jamaica back home, and give our Jerk tofu recipe a go?