Cumin-spiked Tofu Recipe

Slabs of tofu marinated in a cumin, garlic, yogurt slather and cooked on a grill or in a grill pan or skillet.

Cumin-spiked Tofu

My friends are a diverse lot. Some are sixteen, others are seniors. They are technophiles and technophobes. On the culinary front they run the spectrum from honey-shy vegans to those who hunt and butcher their own meat. I'm not at all interested in spending my time with people who are just like me with interests and beliefs that are just like mine, and when it comes to mealtime, more times than not, I'm the only vegetarian in the room. As you can imagine, all this mixing and intermingling leads to lively conversation. On occasion the topic is tofu. There is a subset of my friends that can't be convinced tofu is anything other than flavorless, amorphously textured, hippie food. Trying to convince them otherwise is an exercise in futility for me. But as I was going about making the fragrant cumin-yogurt slather for this recipe, the heady smell of the cumin and crushed garlic wafted up at me and I thought to myself - this is one of those recipes. I think of them as gateway recipes, where an ingredient (in this case tofu) is featured in a way that is appealing across the board. Even those who think they might not like tofu find comfort and familiarity in the grill marks and are willing to give it a go. And as I mentioned last week, the cumin-spiked tofu and this carrot salad make a great pair.

It is a bit early in the year (even here in California) for grilling, so I use my Le Creuset grill pan. It leaves great marks and because there is minimal surface contact between the tofu and pan, you keep much of the marinade/cumin-slather intact throughout the cooking process. That being said, there is no reason you can't bake the tofu slabs on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Try 350F degrees for 20-30 minutes.

If you are new to tofu, it is important to know not all tofu is alike. There is a wide range available and they vary widely in taste and texture. I encourage you to try a range over time. For a recipe like this, look for an extra-firm tofu that will hold its shape and not fall apart in the cooking/grilling process. I use more delicate, creamy tofus for other recipes, but structure is important for a recipe like this (or for kabobs). While I'm using tofu here in a more elaborate fashion, I'll also mention that a simple piece of high-quality, artisan tofu, with just a touch of salt, it wonderful. It's hard to beat simple preparations when using the best tofu you can find.

Other favorite tofu recipes:
- Caramelized Tofu Recipe
- Garam Masala Tofu Scramble Recipe
- Garlic Soba Noodles
- Lazy Day Peanut Noodle Salad Recipe
- Grilled Kabob Recipe with (outrageously good) Muhammara
- The Otsu recipe in Super Natural Cooking

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Cumin-spiked Tofu Recipe

It is important to let the marinating tofu do its thing (at the very least) for a few hours - preferably overnight. I'll also mention that I always seek out organic soy products.

12 ounces extra-firm organic tofu

1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon garam masala spice blend
6 medium cloves garlic, crushed then chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 7 or 8-ounce container of Greek yogurt

Unwrap the tofu. Dry it off by patting and pressing with a few paper towels. Cut the tofu into slabs roughly the size of a business card, with the thickness of a pencil.

In a wide, shallow rimmed dish (a tart pan or pie dish works great) whisk together all the remaining ingredients. Place the tofu in the marinade in a single layer and gently coat the tofu with the yogurt. Cover and refrigerate for (at least) a few hours. I sometimes leave it marinating for a few days, cooking the tofu when needed.

In a grill pan, or on a grill, cook the tofu (retaining some of the yogurt slather on each piece) over medium heat until the tofu is cooked through and the surface of the tofu has nice color. Flip once along the way. If the pan/grill is too hot the outside of the tofu will overcook before the inside is hot, so be mindful of this.

Serve over this carrot salad.

Serves about 4.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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If one were vegan - could she use soy yogurt in place of that lovely greek yogurt with similar results? I'll probably try it, but just wondered if anyone had insight.


I like that phrase "Cut the tofu into slabs roughly the size of a business card, with the thickness of a pencil." Nice food writing :-)


Not to be a wet blanket but I'd just like to temper some of the ideas about tofu in these comments. Tofu certainly is low in saturated fat and a great meat alternative. But it is a highly processed food nonetheless. Don't get me wrong–I use plenty of soy milk and tofu all the time, and this recipe sounds great! But it's not necessarily the most 'whole' or 'natural' food to eat. That's all :-)


I plan to do this and smoke them at about 275 for an our with alder or apple. I'll post when I do. Maybe this week.


when executed well and with the finest of ingredients there is nothing that i won't love... i think that is the key to making anything truly delicious. although well, that and i'm an eater...

Claudia (cook eat FRET)

I didn't know that tofu can be eaten grilled. It's always an experience to come and read you Heidi.


Oops! My previous comment should read : Mountain View and Palo Alto FARMER's markets!

Jen (Modern Beet)

If anyone happens to live around the Bay Area, I've found homemade tofu at both the Mountain View and Palo Alto (both California Ave and Gilman St) markets that is SUPER DELICIOUS! If I can't make it to the market to get my tofu, I tend to go with Wildwood Organic tofu, which (I believe) is widely available. Just as cuts of meat vary widely in quality, so do different brands of tofu -- if you don't like one, I'd recommend you try another because it will probably taste different and have a different texture

Jen (Modern Beet)

First, I'm glad to hear you have the same Le Creuset grill pan as I do. It's the most versatile (at least the most used) pad I own, and I don't know what I'd do without it. I've grilled sliced tofu like this (both my fiance and my vegetarian daughter like tofu), and I've been wanting some ideas for new ways to flavor it. This recipe sounds excellent. I love the way you can create those lovely criss-cross sear marks. And may I say finally I am jealous of your abundant and apparently high-quality citrus. Here in northern New England we've been getting horrible citrus (and expensive) since the big freeze happened in FL more than a year ago. Dried, brusied, and discolored lemons and limes cost nearly a dollar apiece, and they're all that's available. Sigh.


I grew up as a meat-eating Ohioan and I'm proud to say that my children have an eclectic appetite that includes snacking on tofu instead of twinkies. Maybe I can use this recipe the next time my brothers are in town.

RookieMom Heather

My palate has also found pleasure in the simple uncooked slab of tofu, but I can't say I've ever come across an artisanal variety.. can anyone recommend one?


Thanks for the tofu lesson. I really have enjoyed it in restaurants but at home it's just been off. I think I'm going to give it another go.


I must admit I'm one of those people that thinks tofu is flavourless. Not hippy food, just flavourless! I did try some a few weeks ago from my local health food store, I cooked it up with soy, ginger and other asian flavours but it just didnt do it for me. I'm not vegetarian though so I guess it might be nice to eat something with a meaty texture if you are a veggie. Perhaps I should experiment with it more, especially considering it is so good for you.


I never though I'd touch tofu, but now I'm buying a soy-based sausage regularly mostly because it tastes great but it's super healthy to boot. Tofu is fairly flavorless, but so is chicken breast. Even a cheap cut of beef is fairly flavorless. It's all about the seasoning and cumin is definitely the way to go. Cumin and chipotle chile powder are now my favorite spices to use when seasoning. - The Peanut Butter Boy


I recommend taking a 12-oz package of extra-firm tofu, freezing it overnight in its packaging, and then thawing it completely before marinating. As it freezes, the water expands inside the 'fu, making little air pockets and a nice spongy texture when it thaws. This makes pressing it super-easy, and it allows the tofu to more easily absorb whatever marinade you're using, which of course ups the overall flavor. I tried this technique recently and haven't looked back! [I love your site by the way!]


I love cumin and garam masala! This is perfect for the carrot salad you posted on Friday. Even though I'm a meat eater, I love tofu. In fact, I've got some in my lunchbox right now. I love the way it soaks up the flavor of whatever's around it. Anyway - can't wait to try it!


I've never been all that keen on tofu but I am starting to experiment a little more with it lately. I'll keep this on my list of things to try.

Paula from Only Cookware

My boyfriend's mother makes homemade garam masala for us. It's the best. I think I'll try using it in this recipe! Thanks.


I'm definitely not new to tofu but I'm always looking for new ways to spice it up... this sounds so good, and gives me an excuse to buy the garam masala I've been wanting to experiment with for months. I might try using the frozen/thawed tofu method though, since I have had trouble grilling it straight out of the package before. Thanks for the recipe!


Tofu is one of my favorite foods, and cumin is one of my stand-by spices, so I'm looking forward to this one. I can never quite get my tofu to get that nice, grilled, meaty texture and density that this image shows though. I've tried grilling, broiling, and pressing the heck out of it -- I wonder why that consistency eludes me? I may actually try putting it in the smoker, doing a slow smoke -- could be interesting.

Becky And The Beanstock

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