It all started about a year and a half ago. A friend of mine said she was looking to learn more vegetarian recipes and I wanted to help by using this blog to make vegetarian versions of recipes that would be familiar to her. One of my first ideas for her was a faux BLT (bacon lettuce tomato) sandwich, so I got going developing a recipe.
It was not easy. Creating and testing new recipes is a lot of work, especially when you’re taking a food that is wet, soft, and flavorless (tofu) and trying to turn it into something that is crispy, chewy, fatty, and meaty (bacon). I thought this idea would be one of the simple ones. It wasn’t. I think I’ve tried six or seven iterations of it over the past year plus.
I’m now convinced that some things aren’t meant to be. Tofu isn’t meant to be bacon. But this sandwich? You won’t even be thinking about it. You’ll enjoy it for what it is, not what it isn’t – a vegan riff on the BLT, with crunchy baked tofu, iceberg lettuce, fresh tomatoes, hummus, and the bread of your choice. I achieved the tofu texture by combining my marinade with the baking technique from the Mississippi Vegan’s tofu bacon, and this was definitely the best result by far. And because it isn’t a BLT, what is it? Who cares! It’s a really good sandwich. And it’s really easy, too.
Selecting the right ingredients for your really good sandwich is key. For the tofu, select extra firm. Go for iceberg lettuce, vine-ripened tomatoes, and your favorite hummus. I used brioche bread here, which is not vegan with its high egg and butter content, but I encourage you to pick whatever bread you like best.
Start by slicing the tofu width-wise into rectangles. You want to go as thin as possible without the slices falling apart – I recommend 1/4″ or less if you can manage it. Don’t go too thin, though, because you will need to handle the slices a few times. Once you’ve cut your rectangles, slice them in half length-wise. Dry the slices (carefully!) by pressing paper towels gently over them.
Make your marinade by whisking oil, soy sauce, maple syrup, liquid smoke, nutritional yeast, and spices. Liquid smoke and nutritional yeast are relatively new ingredients to me. Nutritional yeast is when the yeast cells are killed rather than active, and it has a cheesy flavor, making it a popular ingredient for vegans to make food taste cheesy. Liquid smoke is exactly what it sounds like – condensed smoke from burning wood. This is also a useful ingredient for vegans and vegetarians to get food to taste meaty and smoky.
Dip the tofu slices in marinade and put in the oven for approximately 40 minutes, flipping them over halfway. I recommend always picking up the slices with both hands as they can be fragile and fall apart. I also strongly advise keeping a close eye on how the tofu cooks in your over because, well, I burned the first batch. The pieces should sizzle and be crispy on the outside when done, but shouldn’t be burnt.
Sandwich assembly is also important. First, toast your bread. Next, the order of the ingredients matter. Have you even bit into a sandwich only to have everything fall out? When you pack slippery ingredients next to each other, this is more likely to happen. The optimal order from top to bottom is hummus, tomato, lettuce, tofu. Strategically placing toothpicks in your sandwich before cutting it in half also helps it hold together.
I recommend only cooking up the amount of tofu you’re going to eat because it is best fresh. Hang on to the extra tofu and marinade for a few days and roast it whenever you get a craving for this sandwich…which you will.
A Really Good Sandwich
Makes 4 sandwiches, 1 hour
- 1 package extra firm tofu (14 ounces)
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 2 teaspoons liquid smoke
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 8 slices of bread, toasted
- 1/2 cup hummus
- 4 slices tomato, halved
- 4 iceberg lettuce leaves, torn into quarters
- Baking sheet
- Parchment paper
- Small bowl
- Heat oven to 375˚ F. Prepare baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice tofu width-wise into 1/4″ slices, then slice again once length-wise (see photos, they should be roughly the same size as bacon slices). Remove the moisture from the tofu by patting the slices dry with paper towels.
- Whisk together maple syrup, oil, soy sauce, nutritional yeast, liquid smoke, onion powder, and garlic powder in a small bowl.
- Pick up the tofu slices using two hands, and dip into the bowl until covered in marinade, then lay on the baking sheet. (Only cook the amount of tofu slices you plan to eat at the moment, preserve the rest with the marinade for later.)
- Bake for 20 minutes, then flip each slice and bake for an additional 20. In the final 10 minutes, check regularly to ensure no burning. The tofu is done when it is crispy and sizzling on the outside but not burnt.
- Layer the sandwich, from top to bottom: hummus; 1 tomato, halved; 1 leaf of lettuce, torn into quarters; and 6 slices of tofu. Use toothpicks to hold the sandwich in place. Cut in half diagonally.