This flavorful Jamaican-inspired Jerk Tofu is marinated with a unique blend of aromatics, soy sauce, vinegar, peppers, and warming spices. You’ll have this recipe on repeat during summer grilling season! Serve it with my Coconut Rice, beans and fried plantains for a satisfying meal.
I grew up in a small town without much exposure to cuisines from other cultures. When I tried Jamaican food for the first time in college, I was lucky that the restaurant (Back-A-Yard Grill in Menlo Park, CA) offered grilled Jerk Tofu!
Their Jerk Tofu (which I always ordered with a side of Jamaican fried cornbread) instantly became one of my absolute favorite treats. When I moved out of the vicinity of the restaurant, I made it a goal to devise my own recipe so I could keep enjoying Jerk Tofu at home.
Table of Contents
- Ingredients for Jerk Tofu
- How to Make Jerk Tofu
- How to Serve Jerk Tofu
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Storage and Reheating
- More Tofu Recipes
Ingredients for Jerk Tofu
- Tofu: The star of this dish! I recommend using firm or extra-firm tofu, especially if you’re planning to grill this tofu. Softer varieties won’t hold up as well. Super-firm (high-protein) tofu is also an option, though it tends not to absorb the marinade as readily.
- Garlic, Green & Red Onions: These form the aromatic base for the jerk marinade and pack a ton of flavor. Add as much garlic as you like! Red onion is slightly sweeter than yellow onions and has a milder flavor, but yellow or white onion will work fine too.
- Jalapeño Peppers: Jerk sauce is traditionally made with Scotch bonnet peppers. Typically I use jalapeño peppers in my jerk tofu marinade because they are much easier to find at grocery stores, and are milder in flavor (Scotch bonnets can be up to 40x more spicy than jalapeños!) Feel free to use Scotch bonnets if you’re a spice fiend. If you don’t have much of a spice tolerance, use 1 or 2 jalapeños and make sure to remove the ribs and seeds.
- Soy Sauce: Soy sauce adds a rich, umami flavor to the marinade.
- Olive Oil: Olive oil adds a bit of richness to the marinade and helps to evenly coat the tofu. You can use another type of vegetable oil if you prefer.
- Brown Sugar: Brown sugar adds a touch of sweetness to the marinade and helps to balance out the salty and spicy flavors.
- White Vinegar: White vinegar adds acidity to the marinade. White vinegar is the traditional vinegar used in Jamaican-style jerk marinade, but you can also use apple cider vinegar if you prefer.
- Cinnamon, cloves, and allspice: This unique blend of spices adds a warm, sweet flavor to the marinade.
- White Pepper: White pepper is milder than black pepper and adds a slightly floral, earthy flavor to the marinade. Black pepper can be used too.
- Dried Thyme: Use fresh thyme if you have some!
How to Make Jerk Tofu
- To make jerk tofu, start by prepping your tofu. Make sure to thoroughly press it to remove any excess moisture. This step is important because it allows the tofu to absorb the marinade better.
- Next, cut the tofu into 1/2″ steaks and arrange them in a wide baking dish. Alternatively, you can marinate the tofu in a gallon-sized sealable bag.
- To make the marinade, add all the ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. If you prefer a milder marinade, make sure to remove the ribs and seeds from the jalapeño peppers. For a spicier marinade, leave them in.
- Pour the marinade over the tofu in the baking dish or into the gallon bag, and give it a good flip or gentle toss to ensure the tofu is evenly coated. Cover and let the tofu marinate in the fridge for at least an hour, or overnight for even more flavor.
- Grill the tofu or pan-fry in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until deep golden brown on both sides.
How to Serve Jerk Tofu
Jerk tofu is a versatile dish that can be served in a variety of ways. Here are a few serving suggestions to help you enjoy your flavorful Jamaican-inspired tofu:
- Rice and Beans: Serve your jerk tofu with a side of rice and beans for a satisfying and filling meal. This is a classic Jamaican dish that pairs perfectly with the bold flavors of the tofu.
- Salad: Top your favorite salad with slices of jerk tofu for a protein-packed and flavorful lunch or dinner. This is a great option for those looking for a lighter meal that still packs a punch.
- Sandwich: Use slices of jerk tofu in place of meat on a sandwich or wrap for a delicious and filling plant-based meal. Add some avocado, tomato, and lettuce for extra flavor and texture.
- Tacos: Fill a tortilla with jerk tofu, shredded cabbage, and your favorite toppings for a tasty and easy-to-make taco. This is a great option for a quick weeknight meal or a fun party dish.
No matter how you choose to serve your jerk tofu, it’s sure to be a hit with vegans and non-vegans alike. Get creative and enjoy the bold flavors of this dish!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use extra-firm or firm tofu instead of pressing it?
It is not recommended to skip the pressing step when making jerk tofu. Pressing tofu removes excess water and allows it to absorb the marinade better, resulting in a more flavorful and firm texture. If you don’t press the tofu, it may turn out soggy and bland.
Can I make the jerk marinade in advance?
Yes, you can make the jerk marinade in advance and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. This can save you time when you’re ready to cook the tofu.
Can I make this recipe without a blender?
Yes, you can make the marinade without a blender by finely chopping the green onions, red onion, jalapeño peppers, and garlic and mixing them with the other ingredients in a bowl. However, using a blender will ensure a smoother and more even marinade.
Storage and Reheating
If you have leftovers of your flavorful Jamaican-inspired jerk tofu, you can easily store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Alternatively, you can freeze the tofu and marinade together in a freezer-safe container or bag for up to 2 months. Make sure to label the container with the date so you can keep track of how long it’s been in the freezer.
When you’re ready to reheat your jerk tofu, there are a couple of options. Pan-frying the tofu will give it a crispy texture, while baking it will make it more tender and juicy. To pan-fry, simply heat a bit of oil in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat and add the tofu. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, until heated through and crispy on the outside.
To bake, preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C), place the tofu and marinade in a baking dish, and bake for 20-25 minutes, until heated through and tender. If you’re reheating frozen jerk tofu, make sure to thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
More Tofu Recipes
- 4 green onions
- 1 small red onion peeled and quartered
- 2-4 jalapeño peppers see notes
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1/3 cup white vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
Prep the Tofu
- Drain the tofu and thoroughly press using your preferred method. This step is key, as pressed tofu will absorb the marinade better.
- Cut the pressed tofu into 1/2" steaks. Arrange in a wide baking dish in one layer. (Alternatively, you can marinate in a gallon-sized sealable bag.)
Marinate the Tofu
- See the notes regarding spice level. For a mild jerk marinade, make sure to remove the ribs and seeds of the jalapeños. For a spicier marinade, leave ribs and seeds in; simply trim off the stem.
- To a blender, add all ingredients for the jerk marinade and blend until smooth. At this point, feel free to give it a taste and adjust the spices to your exact preferences.
- Pour the marinade over the tofu in the baking dish and give the tofu a flip to evenly coat. (Or, pour the marinade into the gallon bag with the tofu, seal the bag, and gently toss and massage the marinade in the tofu.)
- Cover and let the tofu marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour. You can also prep this ahead and let it marinate in the fridge overnight. You may wish to give the tofu another flip (or give the bag a gentle toss if using) to help it marinate evenly.
- Pan-fry the tofu in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes per side, or until deep golden brown.
- Preheat grill between 375°F to 400°F.
- Grill tofu about 3-5 minutes per side, until tofu releases from the grates.