The title of this post is an oxymoron because tofu is vegan and definitely not a steak. However, tofu is an excellent substitute for animal protein. Firm tofu has the texture of meat when prepared properly. Tofu also takes on the flavors of a marinade and smoke much the same way beef, pork, chicken, and fish do.
I have grilled, sauteed, baked, and air-fried tofu steaks and cubes. In this recipe, we will be smoking tofu steaks or slabs. This is a little different from the recipe for smoked tofu skewers but equally as delicious. The main difference is that the steaks hang out in the smoker a little longer than the skewers.
You can buy packaged smoked tofu, but doing it yourself on your Masterbuilt Smoker is so much better. Sometimes, commercial “smoked” tofu isn’t really smoked. It is marinated with a flavoring condiment known as liquid smoke.
Smoking tofu is one of the best methods to infuse tons of flavor into an otherwise bland protein. You can use an Italian-style marinade with plenty of fresh herbs and garlic. A Middle Eastern, Indian, or North African style marinade is also tasty. Try a curry spice blend or za’atar with a little cayenne added. For this recipe, I used more of an Asian blend of flavors because I wanted a deeper brown color from soy, balsamic, and toasted sesame oil to give the tofu a really smoky appearance and deep flavor profile.
What makes Firm Tofu a Good Meat Substitute?
Tofu is a plant-based protein that is derived from soaking, cooking, and pressing soybeans. Tofu is 100% vegan. It is low in carbohydrates and fat, non-dairy, cholesterol-free, low-sodium, and gluten-free. Tofu is high in protein.
Tofu is available in silken, soft, firm, and extra-firm textures. Silken tofu is used in vegan puddings, eggless quiche, creamy sauces, and as a dairy substitute in baking. Firm tofu has less water content and is denser in calories and nutrients. Firm tofu also holds its shape when cooked just like animal proteins.
80 grams of firm tofu is 115 calories, 14 grams of protein, 7 grams of fat, 2.2 grams of carbohydrates, and 2 grams of fiber. Tofu is considered a complete protein with 9 essential amino acids. The fat in tofu is polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. Unlike animal protein, this fat is the heart-healthy kind. Tofu is an excellent source of calcium with adequate amounts of iron. This sounds like a pretty good meat substitute to me.
The best attribute of firm tofu might be the texture. It grills and smokes well. It also stands up to marinades and sauces quite nicely.
Just to be clear, tofu has often gotten a bad reputation for being made from genetically modified soybeans. There are plenty of producers who make tofu from non-GMO, organic, and pesticide-free soybeans. You simply need to read the package label.
Marinated and Smoked Tofu Steaks Recipe (Vegan, Gluten-Free)
- 2 (16 ounce) blocks of firm or extra-firm tofu
- 1/2 cup liquid aminos or tamari (gluten-free soy sauce)
- 1/4 cup mirin (sweet rice wine)
- 2 TBS balsamic vinegar
- 2 TBS toasted sesame oil
- 2 TBS minced or grated fresh ginger
- 2 tsps garlic powder or 1 tsp minced fresh garlic
- Wood chips of your liking
- Vegetable oil
Total time:2 hour 45 min – Prep time:1 hour 15 min – Smoke time:1 hour 30 min – Serves:6 people
1. Drain the water from the tofu. Cut each block of tofu into 1/2 inch thick slices. Place a double layer of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel on a sheet pan. Place the tofu in a single layer on top of the towels. Cover with another double layer of paper towels or a kitchen towel. Place a cutting board or another sheet pan on top of the tofu and press down to release any excess moisture. Set aside while you make the marinade.
2. In a mixing bowl or pitcher, whisk together the aminos, mirin, balsamic vinegar, sesame oil, ginger, and garlic. Pat dry the pressed tofu pieces. Place these in sealable plastic bags and pour the marinade over the tofu. Seal the bags and refrigerate for 45 minutes and up to 8 hours.
3. Remove a rack from the smoker. Place wood chips in the tray of your smoker. Fill the water bowl halfway. Preheat the smoker at 225°F with the top vent open for at least 5 minutes.
4. Spray or brush the rack with vegetable oil. Place the tofu steaks directly on the rack, leaving room between each for smoke to circulate.
5. Place the rack inside the smoker and cook until the tofu is a smoky brown color, approximately 1 hour 30 minutes.
6. Serve smoked tofu warm or room temperature with your favorite side dishes.
How to Enjoy Smoked Tofu Steaks
I like smoked tofu steaks served just like a beef steak paired with a sweet potato mash and a green salad or steamed vegetables, such as bok choy or asparagus.
Smoked tofu makes a terrific sandwich. Serve it in place of bacon in a BLT. Make a Ruben sandwich with sauerkraut and Russian dressing on rye bread. I have a friend who makes a mock meatball sandwich with tomato sauce and vegan cheese on a crusty roll that is delicious.
I almost always have leftovers, so I will cube the tofu and add it to stir-fries, fried rice, or vegan paella. I have also crumbled the smoked tofu so that it resembles ground beef or sausage and use it to make lasagna.
You can also vacuum seal the tofu in plastic bags to preserve it just like you would preserve smoked fish. It will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of months.