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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Nona, the "greek yogurt" we have here is sort of a recent fad, I think. It is thick (about as thick as American sour cream, if that helps), unsweetened and tangy. I would guess that your homemade yogurt would be a good substitute. Heidi note: yes, homemade yogurt would be great. Alternately you can drain regular plain yogurt that you buy here in the US through cheesecloth for a couple hours, and that will thicken it right up.Thanks for the comment Angela.


I have the same problems with my friends and tempeh. It's usually all over when they ask for the description. I wish I could say something other then compressed soybean cake. . . Great recipe, I'm always looking for more tofu ideas!


Hi Heidi - I just love your approach to cooking and have been lurking on this blog for months now - even though I live halfway across the globe... pl tell me, what is Greek Yoghurt? I live in India and its not availble here. Here we make yoghurt at home. We call it "dahi", its reasonably firm (can be made firmer by hanging it up in muslin), its fresh, and unsweetened. Will this do?


i was one of those tofu-haters until i started hanging out with vegetarians and became curious. so one day i was out at a local burrito/wrap chain here in boston (it's called boloco) and decided to get my usual summer wrap (White Tortilla, Jack Cheese, Lime Rice, Black Beans, Mango Salsa, Cilantro) with baked tofu in it instead of chicken. heavenly! i order tofu when i go out because there's no way my husband will eat it... but maybe grilling could fool him into trying it!


How can one make soy yogurt if access to these products is limited? I live in northern Ontario, Canada and vegetarianism (let alone veganism) is a very revolutionary concept. I find that I have a very limited supply of ingredients, yet these recipes look so wonderful. Usually I have to substitute tofu and soy for some ingredients, but it certainly wouldn't make sense to substitute plain tofu for a yogurt marinade! Thank you for any advice that I can get. And thank you for these great recipes. They open up a whole new world for my husband and I.


This recipe looks DELICIOUS, not to mention Easy AND Gluten-Free!! Thanks so much for sharing - I've only recently discovered 101 Cookbooks and I'm so glad I did. Amber :)

amber :)

Too early for grilling in S.F.? No, ma'am! I survived last Friday night's gale force (ok, slight exageration...) winds on a west-facing Potrero deck to grill-up the tastiest ribs. I cube, marinate (usually garam masala + extra cumin) and then bake (425 for 30 min) a big loaf of Wildwood super-firm tofu once a week and add it to a variety of dishes. You were my inspiration for this - although I rarely grill it. The yogurt slather sounds good - no, very good. Thank for all the superb recipes - you've inspired me on many occasions.


I loved the tofu recipe. I am a vegetarian and I am always in the lookout for new ways to try tofu. I also wanted to say I love your blog... and now that I am starting my own blog, its an inspiration!!


This looks tofu & luckily have a meat eating bf who actually likes it too! I just tried your caramelized tofu last night, which was great, and looking forward to trying this soon too.


Citizen Jane and in Berlin: I've experiemented with soy yogurt in place of regular in recipes and things turned out fine. Silk makes a plain soy yogurt-I think the consistency is similiar to regular. I've used it for dips like tzatziki sauce and dressings for pita salads.


Heidi -- I realize you don't generally respond to comments, but I'm hoping you might make an exception in this case... Could you suggest a way of making this vegan? What else might achieve what the yogurt does? best, your biggest expat fan p.s. we have wonderful tofu here in Berlin!

in Berlin

Tofu is one of those foods that tends to be in the limelight quite a lot recently - for good and bad. Sure, you can call it a processed food (just as one might consider beer a processed beverage, or homemade ricotta a processed food) - I'm easily able to explain to individuals the general steps that go into making good-quality tofu. You can even make it at home: Much different in my mind than what you find in power bars, cereals, many veggie burgers, and the like - soy isolates, etc. I'll let everyone inform themselves on the nutrition front, but tofu has been enjoyed in moderation since ancient times in many cultures.


ALL tofu is just so yummy, and this will be no exception! Heidi, can you see if you can locate a recipe for "Rotten Tofu"? Sounds nasty, I know, but 'tis so good. Tasted some on a trip to China a few years back, didn't get the recipe - my bad. I guess one might liken it to a pickle? Slightly fermented, firm & dry enough to stay on a stick like a popsicle. It's sold on the street as a snack...


wow Heidi, that sure looks like something I'd like to try! I don't like tofu as much as cottage cheese, so I'm always looking for ways to make it taste better:)


I'm with Michelle,Tofu is one of those foods eaten in moderation but a healthy alternative for frequent use? Not really I don't think.Nutritionally the jury is still out on the pros and cons. Some things to ponder; as Michelle said, it's a highly processed food, also it is high in phytoestrogens which can have oestrogen like effects. There needs to be caution before consumption by possibly vulnerable groups.Men, pregnant women, breast cancer victims, and definitely infants. That said, there is probably no reason why healthy people can't eat it in moderation. Finally it is also a byproduct of the soya bean oil process, which is partly the reason it needs to be so highly processed


It's funny how split people are when it comes to tofu. It's almost like Marmite...Been looking for a tofu recipe to try on my tofu despairing boyfriend. This one fits the bill brilliantly: heady spices with "masculine" cooking technique.Thanks!


I am in the never have tried it camp. I bought some a couple of months ago to try. I pressed it and marinated it, while it was marinating my husband called with a dead battery so I had to go pick him up. The tofu was in the marinate for about 2 hours on the counter by the time I got it home so I threw it out not knowing if it was safe to eat. Will definately have to try this.


I love tofu and am also a meat eater. My "gateway" to tofu recipe is also grilling it. Cut very firm tofu into slabs at least 1/2 inch thick and marinate with tamari (I use a wheat free variety), dark roasted sesame oil, fresh grated ginger and garlic. Marinate some red onion, green or red peppers and zucchini slices along with it and then grill th the tofu slices until they are crisp on the outside. For extra zing, I add a little asian red pepper sauce. In Michigan most of the food co-ops have a homemade version of tofu available. Oryana in Traverse City is hands down the best stuff around! For the pescatarians, the same recipe is great with shrimp.


We love tofu. For years, I have cut firm tofu into chunks (first in half through the center making two flat slabs, then cut into cubes about 1"x1") marinated it all day in the classic Asian marinade: soy sauce,lots of garlic, toasted sesame oil, honey, a little plum wine, optional ginger. Then skewered it onto two skewers for each kabab, like you do shrimp so it won't swivel around when you turn it, and grilled it on hot hot hot until pronounced grill marks and toasted surface. Sprinkled with minced scallion and served with a pile of rice and sauteed garlic boc choy, or yau choy or some other chinese vegetable, it is fabulous. Use the reserved marinade, as it hasn't been contaminated, as a sauce!


This is a good follow-up for the lazy day peanut noodles! The tofu in that was too bland for me, though I browned it with some garlic first. I'm not sure how the cumin flavor of this would work with the peanut sauce, but I'll try it, and maybe experiment with some other seasonings, too. Thanks for the recipe!


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