Today’s BBQ tofu sandwich is a slam dunk of vegan summer recipes! It’s a leaner and much healthier vegan take on the legendary McRib sandwich from McDonalds made with baked BBQ tofu, pickles and onions. I’m using my easy homemade vegan BBQ sauce recipe here (included below), but you can use your favorite store-bought BBQ sauce instead.
Just take my word: this BBQ tofu sandwich recipe is going to become your go-to for when you’re craving some comfort food deliciousness but don’t want to put in a ton of effort.
Bring a batch of this BBQ tofu to an omnivore cookout, and you’ll lose count of how many times you’re going to hear, “I had no idea tofu could taste this good!”
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Here’s how this recipe was born. I’ve been testing a baked BBQ tofu recipe for my upcoming book of easy family-friendly vegan recipes, and ended up with way too much barbecue tofu in my fridge.
To use it up, I decided to make a BBQ tofu sandwich for lunch the other day. I didn’t have it in me to make something complicated, so I took an easy approach: I just topped my barbecue tofu slices with pickles and onions, McRib-style.
Then I thought that this sandwich might come out even tastier If I added a creamy component like avocado or vegan mayo.
I mashed a few slices of ripe avocado right onto the top of the bun and closed the sandwich. Let me just say – it was love at first bite (pun intended)!
To make the BBQ tofu, I used my easy vegan BBQ sauce recipe (see below). I’ve been using it exclusively for years now – I don’t even remember the last time I bought barbecue sauce at the store.
My vegan BBQ sauce is made entirely from pantry ingredients, and is as easy as put everything in a measuring cup and whisk it all up.
Why Bake the Tofu Instead of Frying?
I decided to bake the tofu for this recipe to make it a bit healthier and to ensure that the texture and flavor are perfect. I generally like fried tofu, but through lots of testing I discovered that it’s not the best method to make BBQ tofu.
What’s wrong with frying tofu? If we add barbecue sauce into the pan as the tofu is frying, the sauce can easily burn long before the tofu slices achieve that deliciously toothsome crispiness.
That’s why baking is the way to go. It’s gentle enough on the barbecue sauce as long as you don’t add it right in the beginning (and don’t crank the oven temperature up to the max).
Another benefit of baking tofu: some of the BBQ sauce will get absorbed by tofu if we add it about halfway (or two thirds of the way) through baking.
Add the sauce right away – and the tofu will stay soggy and never crisp up. Wait too long – and the tofu will develop a firm, crispy surface that will be too thick for the sauce to penetrate, so it will just sit on top.
So here’s exactly what I do to get perfect oven-baked barbecue tofu.
How to Make Baked BBQ Tofu
To make baked bbq tofu, we need one 14-16 oz block of extra firm tofu.
First, the tofu needs to be drained and pressed to squeeze out the extra liquid. This can be done by wrapping the tofu block (extra firm for this recipe) in paper towels and putting it between two heavy cutting boards. Alternatively, we can use a tofu press.
(By the way – I have a separate post on baking tofu without oil for use in various recipes. The process is similar, but there are some differences since there’s no sauce involved.)
While the tofu is being pressed, we preheat the oven to 425° F (220° C), and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Once the tofu is pressed, we slice the tofu block crosswise into ⅓ inch thick rectangles. We’ll have about 12-14 slices. The slices need to be arranged in a single layer on the parchment-lined baking sheet.
We bake the tofu pieces for 12 minutes, then take it out of the oven, flip, and bake 8-10 more minutes until it just begins to develop crispy, slightly golden edges.
We take the tofu out again, and brush the top of each slice with barbecue sauce. Things might look messy but that’s OK.
The tofu goes back into the oven for another 5-6 minutes.
We take the tofu out one more time, flip, and brush the other side with the sauce. Back into the oven for another 4-5 minutes.
The tofu is done once its edges are firm to the touch (i.e. they don’t break if we press down with a finger).
Now it’s time to take the tofu out and rub with a bit more barbecue sauce if you like it extra saucy.
This baked BBQ tofu is perfect for use in sandwiches, wraps, meal prep bowls, or just eaten as is. Whip up a batch or two in advance, and store it in the fridge for up to a week to quickly put together delicious comfort food lunches or dinners.
How to Make Vegan BBQ Tofu Sandwich
Once we have baked the barbecue tofu, it’s time to assemble our vegan copycat McRib sandwiches.
Take your favorite type of bread roll (the original McRib is served on a hoagie bun, but my family loves using square ciabatta rolls we stock up on at Costco. You can use any bun you want – I won’t judge ?).
Split the bun and toast it lightly. Put 3-4 BBQ tofu slices on the bottom half. Top the tofu with dill pickle slices and onions.
If you’d like a creamier texture, smear some vegan mayo or mash a few slices of avocado onto the top half (those aren’t 100% authentic McRib ingredients, but then neither is tofu).
Voila – you have yourself a delicious baked BBQ tofu sandwich that will help you feel like you’re not missing out a beat at non-vegan barbecue cookouts! Plus, it’s super easy to put together if you make the barbecue tofu in advance.
What to Serve with BBQ Tofu Sandwich
The possibilities are endless! This sandwich will be complimented really well by my vegan chipotle coleslaw (pictured below – you can even use some of it instead of pickles and onions to make a different but equally delicious sandwich), easy mayo-free vegan macaroni salad, or easy potato salad.
If you’d like to serve the BBQ tofu separately, it will go well with my 5-ingredient vegan mashed potatoes, Southern-style slow cooker collard greens, smoky roasted Brussels sprouts, or simple oven-roasted butternut squash.
I hope you enjoy my simple baked BBQ tofu sandwich recipe as much as my family has!
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