Summer can be a tough time for meat-free foodies. While everyone else is enjoying smoked ribs and grilled dogs, you probably find yourself with a boring old veggie burger. If you’re looking to mix things up, give these smoked tofu burnt ends a try. They are a great meat substitute, and I promise every bite will be full of sweet and smokey flavor! And if you don’t have a smoker, no worries – you can make these on a traditional charcoal grill, which I’ll explain below.
The Low and Slow Tofu Smoking Process
The process for cooking these tofu burnt ends is pretty much the same as classic, low and slow barbecue. We’ll first add a dry tub, then smoke them at a low temperature, and finally add a delicious BBQ sauce towards the end to add even more flavor.
Typically smoking is a long process – if you’re working with meat, you’re waiting several hours for the fat and muscle to break down and become tender. With tofu you obviously don’t have to worry about tenderness. Instead you should focus on getting the perfect level of smokiness. The surface of the tofu should become a nice golden color. If it gets too dark, then the smokey flavor will become overwhelming. Using my pellet smoker, which is fairly mild in the amount of smoke it produces, I found that 1.5 hours was a good amount of time.
During the smoking process you’ll want to keep the temperature around 250° F, but don’t worry if it bounces around a little bit. Just make sure the temperature doesn’t get too high. If the temperature gets into the 300°+ zone for too long, you will be in danger of overcooking and really drying out your tofu.
Is a Smoker Necessary?
A proper smoker is ideal for this recipe just because it will make the process easier, but you can also use a regular charcoal grill. This can be done by putting your charcoal and wood on one side of the grill and indirectly cooking your tofu on the other side – here’s a helpful guide. These burnt ends are great with grilled pineapple (or any other fruits and veggies you might enjoy!), so you can throw some on the hot side of your grill just before your tofu is finished.
For wood, you can use chips or chunks. I used cherry wood for this recipe, which worked wonderfully and was fairly mild, but any type of wood should be fine. If you like big smokey flavor, go for something like mesquite.
And if you don’t have a grill or a smoker, you could even use your oven – the dry rub and sauce will still make these delicious. If you do go that route, try to use smoked paprika or another smoked spice to make up for the lack of real smoke.
Ingredients for Smoked Tofu Burnt Ends
In addition to some sort of smoker setup, here’s what you’ll need to make these burnt ends:
- 1 12-16 oz. block of firm or extra-firm tofu
- 1 tablespoon mustard
- 3 tablespoons BBQ dry rub*
- 1/4 cup barbecue sauce**
*The dry rub is something you can purchase or make yourself. This Killer Hogs rub is one of my favorites. However, if you have a good selection of spices at home, I would recommend that you throw something together. Here is a nice basic rub recipe.
**Like the dry rub, the barbecue sauce is something you can get at the grocery store or make yourself. If you’re vegan, you’ll be happy to know that most BBQ sauces you’ll find at the store are vegan. If you want to make your own vegan sauce, check out this recipe from Making Thyme for Health.
- Press your tofu to get rid of extra moisture and cut it into roughly 1-inch squares.
- Add the mustard to your tofu and toss the pieces around a bit so that all surfaces of the tofu are covered.
- Add your dry rub to all sides of your tofu pieces. Be generous and try not to waste any since this is a source of a ton of flavor.
- Carefully place the tofu pieces on your grill grates and smoke at 250° for roughly 1.5 hours, or until the surface indicates your desired level of smokiness. Turn the pieces occasionally to make sure they don’t stick.
- Remove the tofu and toss the pieces in your BBQ sauce.
- Place the sauce-covered tofu back on your grill or smoker and cook for an additional 15-30 minutes. This will allow the sauce to thicken and adhere nicely to the tofu.
- Serve the burnt ends with additional sauce, if desired.
Other Meatless Grilling and Smoking Ideas
If you’ve felt uninspired after looking for other vegan and vegetarian recipes you can make on your grill, don’t fret! There are lots of really unique, meat-free barbecue recipes if you do some digging. Here are some of the more interesting techniques and recipes that I’ve found:
- Certain types of mushrooms can be smoked and then pulled like pork. This vegan mushroom sandwich video demonstrates the technique.
- You can grill up carrots and serve them like hot dogs.
- Grilled cauliflower is a great meat substitute that works perfectly in tacos.
- The meat substitute seitan can be used to make awesome vegan ribs.
I hope you’ll give this smoked tofu recipe a try! If you do, let me know how it goes and if you made any adjustments. I’d also love to hear about any other vegetarian grilling and smoking recipes in the comments below. Thanks for reading and have a great day!