Why You Should Be Smoking Your Tofu

Vegetarians and vegans are often overlooked when it comes to the smoked-filled tradition of barbecue, but that shouldn't be the case. Smoking is a method of cooking and preserving food. It's typically low-temp, long-time, and imparts a smoky flavor that is sought after in cuisines around the world. While it is commonly used on meat, cheese, vegetables, condiments, and even cocktails, plant-based proteins sometimes take the back seat. But no more. Prepare yourself for a game changer: smoked tofu.

Smoked tofu can easily be made at home with a smoker or grill, or you can find it in pre-smoked packages at the grocery store. This plant-based protein is phenomenal at soaking up flavors (meaning you can use less wood) and will be ready in about 30 minutes. Use extra firm tofu to ensure it won't fall apart during the cooking process. With smoking, you can say goodbye to flavor enhancers like liquid smoke and enjoy natural barbecue flavors.

We know what you're thinking – "Is it really that good?" After putting in all of the effort to use the smoker, you want to be sure it's worth it. Smoking helps the tofu develop a rich, complex flavor while the cooking process creates a tougher, meat-like texture. Layer on a marinade or rub and some people may not be able to tell it's tofu. If you've turned away from meat but still miss the flavors of barbecue or bacon, this is your solution.

Behind the smoke

Tofu has been a smoking hot ingredient for centuries, especially in Asia. In recent years, Vox Magazine reports a recent spike in tofu popularity after the COVID-19 pandemic, as people stuck at home started spending more time cooking and baking. This soybean product was first created in China and has since become a staple of the cuisine, appearing in dishes like mapo tofu and braised tofu. It was traditionally smoked over tea leaves – an ancient Chinese technique that was used to gently impart flavors to the food. While it is unclear when the smoked version came about, it was first mentioned in Western countries at the beginning of the 20th century. By the end of the century, smoked tofu was sold commercially throughout the world.

Smoked tofu can be incorporated into a wide array of dishes – throw it onto a salad or stew, eat it in a sandwich, or add it to a rice bowl. You can eat it as is or take it one step further by pan-frying to crisp up the exterior to create tofu bacon or add it to stir-fry dishes for extra protein. Try using it in some of your favorite tofu recipes to see what happens. When smoking it yourself, it's better when fresh, but leftovers can easily be reheated the next day. Whether you eat a plant-based diet or not, smoked tofu is something that you should experiment with the next time you throw a barbecue.