Over the years, our family has traveled to Jamacia often. When we stayed at Beaches or Sandals Resorts, eating plant-based was never a problem. In fact, I purposely stayed at these resorts knowing eating plant-based is possible. One of my all-time favorite Jamaican foods is jerk tofu and jerk veggie burgers.
Even though Jamacia is famous for their jerk chicken, it isn’t the chicken, but the jerk sauce! In Negril, on the beach, I ate the best jerk veggie burger ever in a little hut style grill. Over the week we visited, I visited the hut often, making friends with the jerk grill master. And, with that friendship, I scored the Jamaican jerk sauce recipe.
Of course, my Jamaican friend’s recipe contained oil and a bit more sugar than I prefer, so I made a healthier version.
WHAT IS JERK SAUCE AND MARINADE? WHAT IS JERK SEASONING
In Jamaica, there are many versions of jerk sauce, but the one common ingredient is scotch bonnet peppers. The difference between a sauce and a marinade, however, is a game-changer. One of the first mistakes I made, for instance, was attempting to buy a bottle of sauce and attempt to use it to marinate my jerk tofu.
Because jerk sauce is so spicy, trying to eat tofu marinated in a jerk sauce is like eating fire! Before knowing the difference between my Jamaican friend’s jerk marinade recipe and the bottle of Pickappa Jamaican Sauce I bought at a Jamaican store to take home caused a disaster. Not only did I ruin an entire bottle of sauce and a package of tofu, but my first attempt at jerk tofu was an epic fail. Then, my friend pointed out the difference between the potent sauce which is used sparingly, and a marinade to cook with.
Jerk seasoning, on the other hand, is made of a combination of spices that is used as a rub on meats. What I learned through trial and error, however, is to use jerk sauce to add a little more spice to food. Jerk marinade is for vegetables, tofu, and veggie burgers. And, keep the jerk seasoning for meat.
HOW TO MAKE SPICY, TANGY AND DELICIOUS JERK TOFU
Despite the number of ingredients, Jamaican jerk tofu is marinaded in jerk sauce overnight. In order to achieve the authentic taste of Jamacia, I make a homemade oil-free sauce. Although my kitchen is far from a jerk hut on a beach, the sauce is right on!
If you prefer to skip this step, I highly suggest Walkerwoods Jerk Marinade, which is authentic to Jamacia. But, be careful! Walkerwoods also makes a bottled seasoning (wet not fry) and a sauce. Again, make sure you buy the marinade!
HOMEMADE JERK SAUCE FOR JERK TOFU RECIPE
- 1 cup white onion, coarsely chopped
- 4 green onions (scallions), chopped
- 2 scotch bonnet peppers, stems and seeds removed, chopped (habaneros can be used instead if you can’t find scotch bonnet peppers)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tablespoon all-spice powder
- 1 teaspoon dry thyme
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons maple syrup
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 1/4 inch fresh ginger
HOW TO PRESS TOFU FOR JERK TOFU RECIPE
First, carefully remove the tofu from the package, discarding the fluid from the package.
Then, place the tofu in the middle of the tofu press and turn both knobs equally about four turns. I usually place the tofu press in the sink on its side, but for this visual post, I placed it on a plate to drain.
- Turn the knobs every two minutes, equally until you have the end result (the last picture).
- Most people stop here…NOT YET. Keep turning until the knobs are screwed as far as they can to almost touch the end like this:
- Although I have never tried this, I decided this time, I would measure the amount of water I got from the bottom of the plate at the end.
- The amount was 3/4 cup fluid
- Now, remove the press from the plate, and I give it another press with some paper towel for excess fluid removal.
HOW TO MARINATE AND GRILL JERK TOFU RECIPE
Once the tofu is pressed and the water is removed, cut the tofu into 4 equal-sized slabs. Next, 1/2 cup of marinade at the bottom of a container, add tofu, and repeat the process until the tofu is covered with marinade. For the best results, I suggest marinating overnight.
- Preheat the grill to low-low
- Place a grill mat on the grill (you can also use a grill pan, or if you are careful, you can place the tofu directly on the grill.
- Cook for about 16 minutes total, flipping every 4 minutes.
- Remove from the grill and place back in the marinade until ready to use.
- Then, cut it into strips or cubes
BAKING TOFU IS JUST AS EASY
In the event, you don’t have a grill, you can still make this jerk tofu recipe.
- Simply follow the same pressing and marinating process.
- Then, preheat oven to 400 degrees
- Place cut or uncut tofu on a silicone baking mat or parchment paper
- Cook for 15 minutes
- Remove from oven and flip tofu over; cook for an additional 15 minutes.
Or, you can also air-fry jerk tofu, but I suggest air-frying and adding the jerk marinade after.
- Simply follow the same pressing and marinating process.
- Set air fryer temperature at 375 degrees
- Cook 10-15 minutes, shaking the basket a couple of times through the cooking process
Whenever I shop, I look for seasonal produce in order to buy fresh produce, as well as save money. And, the available produce leads my menu for the week. For instance, this week, fresh pineapple was on sale for 2 pineapples for $3.00. As a result, fresh pineapple salsa tops my tempeh tacos.
WHAT INGREDIENTS ARE NEEDED FOR FRESH HOMEMADE PINEAPPLE SALSA
- 3 Roma tomatoes, diced
- 1 jalapeño pepper, deseeded, deveined and diced
- 1/2 cup red onion, diced
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- 1 cup diced fresh pineapple
- 1 Tablespoon lime juice
- 1 cup black beans
Not only is pineapple salsa perfect on top of jerk tofu bowl, but pineapple salsa is also great for a variety of other recipes:
- Vegan Fajitas
- Tempeh Tacos
- Roasted Broccolini and Sweet Potato Tostados
- The Best Ultimate Vegan Lentil Black Bean Burrito Ever
- Sweet Potato Tacos
- Mushroom Chorizo Tacos
- Skinny Roasted Cauliflower Tacos with Avocado-Cilantro Cream
- Roasted Vegetable Tacos
- Vegan Oil-Free Lentil Tacos
ANOTHER GREAT IDEA FOR JERK TOFU IS A JERK TOFU LAVASH WRAP
If you don’t like jerk tofu in a bowl, how about a lavash wrap sandwich. Since we had leftovers, I made jerk tofu wraps with the same ingredients. All I did was add a little spinach and the jerk tofu bowl is now a jerk tofu sandwich.