Flavorful, meaty tofu steak grilled to perfection takes center stage in this vibrant and satisfying salad. Served in strips over a bed of fresh arugula and juicy tomatoes, the charred black pepper-crusted vegan steak is a hearty plant-based delight.
🏆 Top tip
Use an oven to firm up marinated tofu. It intensifies the flavor, and you won't need a tofu press to make steaks that hold up on a grill or barbecue.
⭐ Why it works
- Plant protein - tofu is a nutritious source containing all nine essential amino acids.
- Flavorful - a good intro for folks who generally don't like bean curd.
- No tofu press is required.
- Grill lines make the vegan strips attractive and deliciously smoky.
- Balsamic glaze - sweet and sticky is so good.
- Extra firm tofu - start with extra-firm to ensure the finished steak will be sturdy enough to flip on a grill without breaking.
- Soy sauce - can be replaced with Bragg's Liquid Aminos or tamari for gluten-free.
- Spices - a unique blend of garlic powder, onion powder, clove, and cinnamon.
- Beetroot - is optional but enhances color.
- Black pepper - fresh cracked makes a difference.
- Maple syrup and apple cider vinegar - round the spices and soy sauce for better-than-beef flavor.
- Slice tofu into medallions.
- Boil in deeply flavored marinade.
- Bake long enough to dry the surface and intensify flavors.
- Grill strips to give them a charred and smoky taste.
💭 What is tofu steak?
Rather, tofu is called steak because it can be pan-seared or grilled in thick slabs or strips like cuts of meat. It's essential to start with an extra-firm style and prepare it properly before cooking.
You'll be happy to know that you don't have to run out and buy any special equipment for this recipe. Your oven replaces a tofu press for the necessary task of extracting water from the bean curd.
The first step is infusing the bean curd with loads of flavor. I like to boil slabs in an umami-rich broth to hasten the marinating process and briefly oven-dry them before grilling.
Then, the flavor is concentrated, and the texture is superb; toughened on the outside and juicy inside.
Teriyaki is a popular seasoning used with Japanese tofu steak, and many recipes add a glaze or gravy-like sauce after cooking. My Hawaiian Huli Huli Sauce makes a tasty barbecue sauce to brush on during and after cooking.
While tofu vegan steak doesn't taste like beef, it's utterly delicious and has a smoky, meaty flavor when it's charred on a grill.
The result is a hearty and satisfying substitute for meat, perfect for Meatless Mondays.
♨️ How to cook tofu steak
You can use an outdoor barbecue, stove-top grill pan, electric grill, cast-iron skillet, or air fryer. You won't have the lovely grill lines and charcoal flavor with the last two, but you'll still get a nice crust and roasty flavor if you keep a few things in mind.
Preheat your grill or pan until it's good and hot. Unlike raw beef or chicken, tofu is already cooked, and you only need to sear it for 5-10 minutes at a high temperature.
Use oil that has a high smoke point. Brush both the tofu steak and your cooking appliance with avocado, sesame, safflower oil, or similar oils recommended for frying at high temperatures .
Brown well before flipping. Capture extra flavor by getting a good sear on your steaks before flipping them in the pan or on the grill. You can use a thin metal spatula to loosen one edge and check the steaks.
🍽 How to eat tofu steak
One of my favorite ways to enjoy grilled tofu steak is hot and sizzling on top of a simple arugula salad, with sweet grape tomatoes to offset all that savory goodness.
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 - baby arugula is awesome, but you can substitute other fresh greens.
- Grape tomatoes - are extra sweet and can be used whole.
- Red onion - is preferred but feel free to substitute Vidalia or Maui Sweet onions.
- Olive oil - use an extra-fine grade for the best flavor.
- Balsamic reduction - you can make your own with the directions in my balsamic-glazed Beet Bruschetta recipe if you like.
- Maldon flaked salt - a pure, flaked sea salt is delightfully crunchy sprinkled on the salad.
You might like to double this recipe and try some of these other ways to eat this flavorful, nutritious plant-based protein.
- As an entree - Cook large slabs and serve on a plate with roasted potatoes or quick basmati rice and sauteed snow peas. Top steaks with brown or mushroom gravy.
- Buddha bowl - build a one-bowl meal with your favorite grain or noodles, nestle in vegetables with grilled tofu steak strips, and top it all with creamy sesame sauce or spicy aioli.
- Vegan burger - Cook as a slab or strips and choose the freshest ciabatta roll or hamburger bun to make a sandwich. Add thick slices of tomato, onion, pickle, and any spreads you like.
- Tacos - slice or chop after cooking and pile into soft tortillas with shredded cabbage, avocado, and red salsa fresca or fire-roasted green salsa.
👩🏻🍳 Expert tips
- Choose extra-firm style tofu for making steak, as other types won't work.
- Decide on slabs or strips before slicing according to your final dish.
- Slide tofu into seasoning broth carefully so it won't break.
- Brush both sides with oil before grilling and press into cracked pepper.
- Use balsamic reduction or syrup, not vinegar, to top the salad.
- Go easy with finishing salt. You can always add more after tasting.
To make homemade balsamic reduction:
- Pour one cup of premium balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan.
- Simmer at a low boil for 20-30 minutes until the vinegar has reduced by half. I recommend using a measuring cup to determine when the mixture has reduced enough.
- Watch carefully towards the end, as it can burn suddenly.
Silken-style bean curd has a delicate, almost custard-like texture and won't hold up to grilling. Due to its high moisture content, it is prone to breaking apart or sticking to grill grates. It's best suited for blending into smoothies, using in desserts like vegan cheesecake, or making creamy sauces.
Yes, you can. Freezing tofu changes its texture by making it firmer and more chewy. In the case of grilled tofu steak, this is a plus. For best results, marinate the tofu and cook it before freezing since raw tofu has a less desirable texture when frozen and thawed. Thaw frozen grilled tofu steak overnight in the refrigerator or for a couple of hours at room temperature. Then reheat it briefly on a hot grill or in an oven, skillet, or microwave.
🍲 More tofu recipes
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Grilled Tofu Steak Arugula Salad
(Double amounts to make large slabs of tofu steak)
- 8 oz. block extra-firm tofu
- 1 TB avocado oil plus more for grilling
- 1 cup filtered water
- ½ cup soy sauce or tamari
- 3 whole cloves
- ½ tsp. onion powder
- ¼ tsp. garlic powder
- ¼ tsp. cinnamon
- 2 TB sliced raw beet optional
- 2 tsp. maple syrup
- ½ tsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp. coarse cracked black pepper
- 6-7 cups baby arugula greens
- 1 cup grape tomatoes
- ¼ cup thin sliced red onion
- 3 TB extra virgin olive oil
- 2 TB balsamic syrup
- Maldon flaked sea salt to taste
Prepare Grilled Tofu Steak Strips
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Slice an 8 oz. block extra-firm tofu lengthwise into 3 1'2 inch slab slabs. Then cut it into 12 rectangles about 1 x 3 inches.
- Place 1 TB avocado oil in a wide, shallow saucepan. Add 1 cup filtered water, ½ cup soy sauce or tamari, 3 whole cloves, ½ tsp. onion powder, ¼ tsp. garlic powder, ¼ tsp. cinnamon, 2 TB sliced raw beet, 2 tsp. maple syrup, and ½ tsp. apple cider vinegarBring to a gentle boil and slide medallions into the broth. Boil for 10 minutes, turning halfway through if the broth doesn't fully cover tofu.
- Line a baking tray with parchment paper and use a spatula to carefully transfer the seasoned medallions to the baking tray. If desired, strain the marinade and save it for a future recipe.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes, flipping halfway through. (Larger steaks may take a little longer). The tofu should dry out and toughen up just enough to handle with tongs without breaking. Remove the tray from the oven and let it cool on a rack.
- Heat a grill to medium-high. Brush both sides of the baked tofu with avocado oil. Use 1 tsp. coarse cracked black pepper to coat and press into both sides. Lay the tofu diagonally across the hot grill.
- 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.
Make Large Slabs of Tofu Steak
- Double amounts in the recipe and slice into 4 thick slabs. Follow the rest of the instructions above as with making grilled strips.
Assemble Arugula Salad
- Divide 6-7 cups baby arugula greens onto 4 plates. Top with 1 cup grape tomatoes and ¼ cup thin 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. (You'll need a total of 3 TB extra virgin olive oil and 2 TB balsamic syrup.) Sprinkle with Maldon flaked sea salt to taste.
- Arugula and grilled tofu steak salad can be made in advance and dressed at the table just before serving. Store well covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Freeze seasoned and fully cooked grilled tofu steak for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator or for a few hours at room temperature. Then reheat it briefly on a hot grill or in an oven, skillet, or microwave.