Baked balsamic tofu cubes are one of my favorite versatile, everyday plant proteins to keep in my fridge. I use them in salads, bowls, pasta dishes, in wraps, and even as a nutritious snack food. Learn how to prepare this easy and flavorful vegan staple!
“This tofu is really good. How did you prepare it?”
This is what a friend of mine asked me two Fridays ago, as we dug into simple grain bowls together at her place. The protein in those bowls was this baked balsamic tofu.
The tofu went perfectly with the farro and roasted beets and pickled onions and greens that we were eating that night. But I’ve learned that the balsamic tofu cubes work well with a lot of other accompaniments, too.
I’m all about simple, versatile food lately. My emphasis is on plant proteins that can work in a variety of ways, because protein tends to be the nutrient that I give most conscious thought to when I plan meals.
Some recent highlights have been chickpeas heated up with salsa (instant flavor and seasoning!), lentils simmered with date-sweetened barbecue sauce, revisiting some of my favorite tofu scramble recipes, tempeh meatballs, and smashed lentils with tahini and veggies—a great wrap filling.
This balsamic tofu is the latest addition to my protein staple family. It’s not a new recipe, per se—I’ve used balsamic marinade for tofu in the past. But I’ve finally come up with just the right formula, and I know that I’ll be making these cubes all the time now. My friend was right: they may be simple, but they’re really good.
The process of making the balsamic tofu is pretty easy, so long as you don’t mind some inactive wait times. Those are for a) pressing the tofu and b) marinating the tofu.
Pressing tofu has two purposes. The first is to remove excess moisture from the tofu, which will help the tofu to absorb marinades and seasoning easily. The second is to give it an even firmer, sturdier texture.
I used to press tofu for long periods of time. I’d pop it into my Tofu Xpress (not necessary, but a handy appliance for those who cook with tofu often) for a few hours before cooking it.
Now I’m more relaxed about pressing tofu. I find that thirty minutes or so is enough to take care of moisture. I still have my Tofu Xpress, but you certainly don’t need one to press tofu.
The marinade for the balsamic tofu was inspired by the marinade that I use for these summery, balsamic grilled vegetable burgers. It’s a simple mix of:
The marinade can be prepared and refrigerated a full day before you marinate the tofu. You’ll have some leftover after the tofu cubes bake, and if you like, you can drizzle it onto a salad.
I almost always marinate tofu cubes in a storage container of some kind. Sometimes I use a rectangular, glasslock container for this, and sometimes I use one of my large Weck jars. A Stasher bag is also useful for marinating the balsamic tofu, or other ingredients.
I recommend marinating the tofu for at least two hours. If you have more time, the tofu will absorb more flavor as it marinates. If you feel like it, you can prepare the tofu in the evening, leave the tofu in the fridge overnight, and then bake it in the morning.
The balsamic tofu cubes bake for 30-35 minutes, and I recommend flipping them once halfway through baking, so that the sides can darken evenly.
Sometimes I brush the cubes a little with the marinade right after I flip them. I do this if the cubes look at all dry as they bake. I often find that it isn’t necessary.
When the tofu is ready, it will be darkened and have a nice, glazed appearance. The edges will be crisping up. At this point, you can enjoy the cubes right away, or you can store them to eat later.
You can use any balsamic vinegar for the baked tofu, though different vinegars will have slightly different results. A syrupy balsamic or Balsamic vinegar of Modena will give you darker, more glazed cubes. A thinner balsamic vinegar will give you cubes that are a little less sticky/glazed, but they’ll still have plenty of balsamic flavor.
I often use a less expensive balsamic vinegar for marinades, and I save syrupy balsamic for salads and breads. However, when I do add the syrupy stuff to a marinade, I love how glazed and dark whatever I’m roasting or baking becomes. It’s up to you!
The baked balsamic tofu can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days. You can also freeze the cubes for up to four weeks.
If you freeze the tofu, know that the texture will be a little chewier after defrosting. Not in a bad way (in fact, some people intentionally freeze tofu before cooking it), but different!
The leftover balsamic tofu can be eaten hot or cold. If you’d like to warm it, you can sauté it over low heat in a nonstick pan, microwave it, or re-bake it on a lined baking sheet for ten minutes at 325F.
There are plenty of ways that you can serve the balsamic tofu once it’s ready.
You can also try any one of the following ideas:
If you’re also on the make-ahead, easy vegan protein train, here are a few more options for you to play around with.
With the busy winter holiday season approaching more quickly than seems imaginable, it’s good to have simple, reliable, versatile food in the fridge.
These tofu cubes are an especially good one. They’ll be easy nourishment for me—and maybe for you, too—as we head into the winter months. Hope you enjoy them.