Vegan burger technology has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years. Even so, sometimes it’s nice to mix things up with a different protein option, especially if you’re trying to eat a little healthier. These grilled tofu skewers are the perfect solution!
If you’ve never given grilled tofu a chance, I highly recommend it! Its neutral flavor serves as the perfect canvas for countless marinade options. This balsamic marinade is easy and flavorful — the perfect balance of tart, savory and sweet. With a slight char from the grill, tofu takes on a delicious smoky flavor and satisfying texture.
This dish is naturally vegan and gluten-free.
Ingredients for Grilled Tofu Skewers
Extra-firm tofu – Extra-firm is key! Tofu is fragile by nature, so you’ll want the extra-firm to ensure it can hold up to being marinated, skewered and grilled. You can also use the super-firm high protein tofu (the kind that comes vacuum-packed rather than in liquid), but note that it’s much more dense and will take longer to absorb the marinade.
Olive oil – This helps keep the tofu and veggies from drying out on the grill, and helps the other marinade ingredients adhere. You can substitute a neutral-flavored oil as well, but I love the flavor that olive oil adds to this grilled tofu.
Balsamic vinegar and mustard – These bring tartness, acidity, and a hint of sweetness and spice into the mix. Balsamic vinegar has a unique and complex flavor that adds so much to the marinade, so I recommend against substituting in a different vinegar if at possible! In a pinch, however, you could try red or white wine vinegar.
Maple syrup – You can also use agave, brown sugar, or another sweetener of choice. This serves as a nice counterpoint to the tartness of the vinegar, and also caramelizes slightly on the grilled tofu to encourage that beautiful char.
Garlic, basil and oregano – This flavor combo gives a slight Italian flair, and I think they complement the balsamic flavor. But feel free to substitute in or add any of your favorite dried herbs: thyme, rosemary, parsley, etc.
How to Press Tofu (without a Tofu Press)
Even though we’re using extra-firm tofu for this recipe, I highly recommend taking the time to press out the extra liquid. This step will help to improve the texture, and also help the tofu to absorb more of the marinade. You don’t need a tofu press or any special equipment to do this.
Simply cut your tofu into cubes and lay it flat on half of a clean kitchen towel. Fold the other half of the towel over the tofu, then place a flat object such as a cutting board or a baking tray on top to gently weigh it down. You can place one or two heavy cans on top to add some additional pressure if you like (but not too much; we don’t want to crush the tofu).
Press the tofu for 10-15 minutes. This is a great time to prepare all the ingredients for the marinade.
How to Make Grilled Tofu Skewers
- Press the tofu: Cube the tofu and press out the extra liquid by wrapping it in a clean kitchen towel and gently weighing it down. Press it for at least 30 minutes. This step will allow the tofu to absorb more of the marinade, as well as improve the texture.
- Prepare the marinade: Whisk together all the marinade ingredients in a large bowl and toss the pressed tofu gently to coat. Marinate the tofu for at least an hour (longer if you’re using the super-firm high protein tofu, which is more dense). If you’ll be using wooden skewers, this is a good time to soak them so they don’t burn on the grill.
- Thread the skewers: In the meantime, chop your veggies into large pieces. When the tofu is done marinating, add the vegetables into the bowl and toss them to coat with the extra marinade. Then thread your skewers, alternating vegetables and tofu.
- Grill: Preheat the grill and scrub the grates clean. It’s also helpful to lightly brush the grates with some oil to ensure that the tofu doesn’t stick. Grill for 8-10 minutes or until the tofu has nice grill marks, rotating the skewers every few minutes for even cooking.
Grilled Tofu Skewers with Balsamic Marinade
For the Balsamic Marinade
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 4 cloves fresh garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper or to taste
For the Skewers
- 1 14-16 oz block extra-firm tofu
- 1 red bell pepper cut into 1" pieces
- 1/2 red onion cut into 1" chunks
- 1 zucchini cut into 1/2" slices
- Press the tofu: Cut tofu into cubes roughly 1" in size. Lay out a clean kitchen towel and arrange the cubes on one side. Fold the other half of the towel over the cubes and weigh it down gently with a cutting board, baking tray or other flat object. Press the tofu for 10-15 minutes. This is a great time to prepare the marinade.
- Make the marinade: Whisk together all ingredients for the balsamic marinade in a large dish. Add cubed tofu and toss gently to coat. (Tofu is fragile, so take care not to crumble it.)
- Marinate the tofu: Cover and place in the fridge to marinate for at least 1 hour. (You can also prepare this in advance and let it marinate overnight.) If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes to keep them from burning while grilling.
- Thread the skewers: Remove marinated tofu to a tray. Add chopped veggies into the bowl with the marinade and toss thoroughly. Thread tofu and vegetables onto skewers and place on tray to bring to the grill. Reserve the leftover marinade.
- Prepare the grill: Preheat and prepare grill. It's helpful to lightly oil your grates with a basting brush or paper towel, since tofu has a tendency to stick.
- Grill the tofu: Place the skewers on the grill and cook until grill marks are well-browned, turning once. This usually takes 8-10 minutes for me, but it will vary from grill to grill, so keep an eye on it. The tofu should take on some color but not blacken.
- Remove tofu from the grill and baste with remaining marinade. Serve.