Arugula Salad – Pepper Grilled Tofu

arugula salad with pepper Grilled Tofu

Arugula Salad with Pepper Grilled Tofu is a result of the garden burgeoning with young arugula this week. So far, I have made arugula pesto and have plans for Asian potstickers filled with tender, steamed arugula folded in sesame and ginger.

However, this morning the thinnings from the garden just begged for a baby Arugula Salad. Hmmmm, what to pair with the enticing fresh greens? It didn’t take long to come up with meaty, charred tofu with black pepper rub. But extra care would need to be taken preparing the tofu. That’s because boring, bland tofu is not allowed. No, we want grill-worthy tofu brimming with flavor.

To infuse the tofu with loads of flavor, it is cooked in a savory broth with a top rating for umami. Add to that warm spices, maple syrup, and just the right amount of apple cider vinegar, and the simmered tofu is delectable. But then there is texture, right? That’s why the tofu is baked briefly after boiling. When you oven-dry the tofu before grilling, the finished medallions char on the outside while remaining juicy inside.

Of course, to offset all this spicy, savory goodness, I had to include sweet grape tomatoes. Don’t you think their bright red color makes the plate lovely as well?

The dressing for this salad couldn’t be more straightforward. You won’t have to do any mixing. That’s because you can dress the salad right on the plate. All you need is a drizzle of fine, fruity olive oil, a swirl of syrupy balsamic reduction, and a sprinkle of flaked sea salt.

arugula salad pepper grilled tofu

Arugula Salad With Pepper Grilled Tofu

Baby arugula salad, sweet tomatoes and savory grilled black pepper tofu. Dressed right on the plate with olive oil, balsamic reduction and flaked sea salt.
Print Recipe Pin Recipe
Course Appetizer, Salad
Cuisine Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Plant-Based, Whole Food
Cooking Skill Intermediate
Servings 4
Author poppyswildkitchen


Black Pepper Grilled Tofu

  • 8 oz. block extra firm tofu
  • 2 TB olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce or tamari
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 TB sliced raw beet optional
  • 2 tsp. maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. coarse cracked black pepper

Arugula Salad

  • 6-7 cups baby arugula greens
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup thin sliced red onion


  • 3 TB extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 TB balsamic syrup
  • Maldon flaked sea salt to taste


Prepare Grilled Tofu

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Slice the tofu lengthwise into 3 thin slabs. Then cut into 12 rectangles about 1 x  3 inches. 
  • Reserve 1 tablespoon(s) of olive oil and place the rest in a saucepan. Add water and remaining seasonings except cracked black pepper. Bring to a gentle boil and slide tofu medallions into the broth. Cook for 10 minutes at a low boil.
  • Line a baking tray with parchment paper and use a spatula to carefully transfer the seasoned tofu to baking tray. If desired, strain marinade and save for a future recipe.
  • Bake the tofu 10-15 minutes, flipping half way through. The tofu should dry out and toughen up just enough to handle with tongs without breaking. Remove tray from oven and let cool on a rack.
  • Heat a grill to medium high. Brush both sides of the baked tofu with remaining olive oil. Press both sides with cracked black pepper. Lay the tofu diagonally across the hot grill and press the top with cracked black pepper. 
  • Cook on both sides until charred with grill marks. When both sides are charred, remove from grill and set aside while preparing salad plates. Alternatively, sear on both sides in a hot cast iron skillet.

Assemble Arugula Salad

  • Divide baby arugula onto 4 plates. Top with grape tomatoes and sliced red onion. Top each salad with 3 slices of grilled tofu.

Dress Arugula and Grilled Tofu Salad

  • Drizzle each salad with 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil and 1 teaspoon of balsamic syrup. Sprinkle with flaked sea salt.


Make sure you use balsamic syrup and not balsamic vinegar to dress the salads. If you don’t have balsamic syrup on hand, you can make your own by boiling balsamic vinegar until it is reduced by half. Homemade balsamic reduction has the advantage of no artificial additives unlike many store-bought brands. It will thicken slightly as it cools and can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 months. Great to have on hand for all sorts of recipes.
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