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Ultimate Vegan Barbecue: The Secret to Grilling Tofu

Ultimate Vegan Barbecue: The Secret to Grilling Tofu

Shhh. Don’t tell anyone—especially not our hardcore carnivore friends—but I have been know to eat grilled tofu. Willingly. Even with gusto.

So it’s with pleasure that I introduce fellow Workman Publishing authors Nadine Horn and Jörg Mayer, the writers behind VBQ—The Ultimate Vegan Barbecue Cookbook.

The authors are not only vegetarians. They’re vegan, which in some BBQ circles makes them heretics. But listen up, because they also have the chops when they fire up the grill.


Basically anything you can put on the barbecue can be smoked. However, we must admit that the aroma of the various types of wood do not suit all foods.

Of course, tofu, seitan and tempeh are very suitable, and these products are readily available.

“I hate the taste of tofu, even when it isn’t barbecued,” “I simply don’t like the texture of tofu” or simply “Tofu always burns on the barbecue.” We often hear these and other similar arguments. Our reply is typically, “You’ve just never tried really good tofu.” And this is true in most cases.

There is tofu and there is tofu. By this we do not only mean the difference between soft silken tofu, which is not suitable for barbecuing, and firm tofu. As far as texture is concerned, there is a big difference between them. But also with regard to flavor. Essentially, tofu is not made from standard soybeans, and each tofu maker has their own particular recipe, which gives the final product its own distinct flavor.

For barbecuing, it is better to use firm but moist and elastic tofu that does not crumble.

Tofu contains a lot of liquid, which means that it can be stored without drying out, but this also makes it difficult to put flavor into it.

You can very easily press it to remove the excess water. There are special tofu presses available, which makes sense if you eat a lot of tofu and eat it often. However, you can also just use two plates, paper towels and a heavy pot. Line a plate with paper towels and put the tofu block on it. Cover with more paper towels and with the second plate. Weigh the whole thing down with a pot or other heavy object. Take off the weight after about 20 minutes and the tofu is ready for the next step.

Here’s an insider’s tip from Japan that you have to try: Whole, well-drained tofu blocks are completely frozen, and then left to thaw on a plate lined with paper towels. The excess liquid is released during thawing and the tofu becomes firmer and more absorbent. It is quite normal for tofu to turn yellow when frozen.

You should not cut tofu into thin slices. The soft bean curd can barely offer any resistance to hard barbecue tongs, so turning thin tofu slices over will be more exciting than a James Bond film. You cannot go wrong if you cut the tofu into slices about 1¼ inches (3 cm) thick.

The rest of the tips can be found in VBQ—The Ultimate Vegan Barbecue Cookbook.

Ready to get started? Try a recipe from the cookbook: Tofu Sandwiches with Marinated Fennel.

To read more from the authors, check out their blog Eat This.

Content excerpted from and © VBQ—The Ultimate Vegan Barbecue Cookbook, May 2018.