Of all of my favorite, intensely flavored, Mediterranean style dishes, anything containing shawarma has to be a favorite. While traditionally seen as grilled chicken shawarma, this grilled tofu shawarma is an awesome variation for the flexitarians, vegetarians and anyone else hungry for great meatless options.
You might be familiar with the NY Times shawarma recipe that was quite popular about a year ago. That’s a perfectly fine dish which uses spices most everyone has on hand. However, there are a couple of key flavors missing that you’ll find in my variation.
That, and it’s also meant for chicken, and uses an oven. If you’re looking for a killer summer bbq recipe, I think this grilled tofu shawarma is a winner.
How to Make Grilled Tofu
Because tofu, like grilled fish, loves to stick to your grill grates, it takes a little bit more effort than your average grilled meat. Here’s the game plan to keep the grilled tofu from sticking:
- Use a wire brush and scrub your grill grates really well. Ideally after the grates have started to warm up
- With a piece of paper towel and tongs, rub the grates liberally with vegetable oil
- Turn the heat up and cook off any remaining food on your grates. They should be shiny and smooth before the tofu goes on the grill
- Make sure the tofu is oiled up as well by spraying it with cooking spray
Make Your Own Shawarma Spice Mix
This is an upgraded version of a chicken shawarma that I made in the early days of this blog. It was pointed out, by many, that my dish wasn’t really true to its name.
So for this version, I heavily researched the core spices common to most shawarma recipes, simplifying down to eliminate ones you’re unlikely to ever use again. What’s left are the spices that give great shawarma it’s distinctive flavor and smell. Namely, cumin coriander and allspice.
To get the absolute most flavor possible, use whole spices. Whole cumin seed, whole coriander seed and whole allspice. Toast them first in a dry skillet for 3-5 minutes until the become fragrant, but not burnt
If your grocery has a bulk bin with spices, this is the best place to buy the ingredients. You can, for example, get a few tablespoons of cumin seed for about 60 cents instead of buying an entire jar of ground cumin for $6.
And that ground cumin in the jar will be far less fragrant and far less flavorful than freshly ground toasted cumin seed.
Making the Best Shawarma Possible
After you get the perfect spice blend, mix in the wet ingredients: garlic, ginger, lemon juice and olive oil.
Freshly squeezed lemon juice is also essential here. It’s far brighter and more flavorful than the concentrates that come in a bottle.
Interestingly, it’s possible to buy ginger juice in a bottle. I’ve tried it and found it’s a great substitute for fresh ginger.
Liquid Smoke is an optional ingredient here that can really amp up your dish. Especially if you won’t be grilling out.
Once you make a nice shawarma paste, pour this over your tofu and let it marinate for at least an hour before putting on the grill.
Enjoy!! If you tried the grilled tofu shawarma already, I’d love to hear how it turned out and any variations you might have made.
It's easy to make Grilled Tofu Shawarma with this simple shawarma marinade. It makes amazing grilled chicken shawarma as well!
- 2 Tubs Extra Firm Tofu, Drained and Sliced
- 2 Tablespoons Ground Cumin Seed
- 2 Tablespoons Ground Coriander Seed
- 2 Teaspoons Ground Allspice
- 1 Tablespoon Za'atar
- 2 Teaspoons Turmeric
- 2 Teaspoons Kosher Salt
- 1 Teaspoon Black Pepper
- 1 Tablespoon Ginger
- 8 Cloves Crushed Garlic
- 1 Teaspoon Liquid Smoke optional
- 1 Ounce Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
- 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Remove Tofu blocks from their container, slice horizontally (two large rectangles) and carefully press to drain. Slice each in half, then in half again. You should have 16 total large pieces.
The flavors will be the most intense if you start with whole cumin seed, whole corianders seed and whole allspice, then toast in a dry skillet and grind them all together.
Combine the cumin, coriander, allspice, za'atar, turmeric, salt and pepper in a small container and shake well to mix
In a mixing bowl, combine spices with the ginger, garlic, liquid smoke, lemon juice and olive oil. Mix really well and use this as the marinade for either tofu or chicken
Clean your grill grates extremely well as your grill is heating up and then rub them liberally with vegetable oil.
Grill the tofu for 20 minutes at 450 degrees, turning one quarter of the way every 5 minutes