Tofu Steak Is The Meat Alternative You've Been Looking For

Steak might be a traditional mainstay on American dinner plates, but as the popularity of plant-based dining grows, tofu is carving out a spot for itself not just as a side, but as the main event. Tofu steak might have elicited an eye roll or dose of skepticism in years past, but it's 2023, and a large, thick, well-seasoned piece of tofu makes a delicious meat alternative. Not a dupe or copycat for traditional steak, mind you, but a protein-rich entree in its own right complete with an umami flavor profile and satisfying chewy, hearty texture.

Whether you're a full-fledged vegan or looking to steer clear of red meat in favor of more plants on your plate, reconsider any old thoughts you might have about tofu. It's widely accepted and easy to incorporate into dishes like stir-fry, but using it in less conventional ways, like as steak, takes a little finesse. A good tofu steak starts with choosing an extra firm variety — even better if you can get your hands on a pre-drained block rather than one submerged in liquid. This yields a sturdier, firmer texture more akin to that of steak. Season a thickly-cut slice of tofu on the stovetop as you would any other meat, and you'll have a satisfying main that will become a weeknight dinner staple.

Create tofu steak with firm tofu and seasonings

Anyone can quickly sauté or grill a slab of extra firm tofu, but to make an alternative steak that resembles the real thing, first make sure that yours is very well-drained. If you can't find the pre-drained kind, you can drain it yourself using a tofu press or some paper towels and a stack of books or plates for weight. Use the largest slice of tofu you can, in order to mimic the look of a hefty steak.

For a simple marinade that delivers the smoky, meaty flavor profile of actual steak, combine liquid aminos (a soy sauce alternative), liquid smoke, and sesame oil. A bit of maple syrup, mirin, or agave syrup will add sweetness, and don't forget garlic powder, salt, and pepper. If you have a steak seasoning spice blend, you can also use that. Marinate the tofu for at least 30 minutes; letting it stand overnight lends to a richer more intense flavor. Then heat up some oil and cook your tofu until browned. Because we don't just eat with our mouths but also our eyes — and presentation plays a large role in the dining experience — you might try cooking a tofu steak on a grill or searing it in a grill pan to achieve those trademark char lines.

Tofu is the ideal replacement for steak

Anyone who knows tofu knows the fermented soybean protein source is a bit of a chameleon, morphing into countless dishes and taking on just about any desired taste or texture. Really, how many other foods can be blended into a creamy pie filling, slathered in BBQ sauce, or scrambled like eggs, and be equally delicious each time? This is why tofu makes the ideal steak, as it's essentially a blank canvas for all the smoky, hearty, umami flavors provided by the marinade. It also takes on the look and feel of steak with the size, cut, grill marks, and prep. 

Another reason tofu makes the ideal replacement for steak is that, unlike other plant-based "meats" that deliver flavor but lack protein (sorry jackfruit, we're looking at you), tofu packs a nutritional punch. A 6-ounce serving contains a respectable 18 grams of protein plus zero cholesterol and almost none of the saturated fat found in steak. Of course, if you're choosing to eat more plants, there are numerous potential benefits not just for your own health, but for the wellbeing of animals and the health of the planet. We'll take seconds of that, please.