It’s easy to think that when you embrace a vegetarian or vegan diet you have to give up the delicious taste of smoked foods.  Not so!  Just think past the meat and go for the smoke. It’s as simple as adding a few new products to your pantry and learning a new technique or two.

Baba ghanoush
This traditional Mediterranean dip, made from grilled eggplant, adds a wonderful smoky flavor to an appetizer platter. It’s also a tasty addition to cooked pasta, rice, or other grains.

Smoked Olive Oil
This ingredient is new to me, and I’m addicted.  Enjoy it straight from the bottle with small cubes of bread, or sprinkle it on vegetables before roasting them. Combined with lemon juice, a spoonful of mustard, and a smashed garlic clove it makes a lovely, smoky dressing for all kinds of salads.  Find purveyors online.

Smoked Paprika
Warning! This earthy red spice is downright addictive. It takes vegan mac and cheese to a whole new level and works its magic on home fries and in bean dishes, stews, curries, dressings, and marinades.

Smoked Salt
A number of online companies sell salt that has been smoked over apple, hickory, alder, or other woods. My favorite is hickory and I use a pinch or two almost daily, to add a hint of smoked flavor to dressings, roasted or steamed vegetables, and dips. Online it costs about $10 for 3 to 5 ounces. You can also make your own, using a charcoal grill. (See instructions below for smoking tofu). Pour the salt into an aluminum foil tray and put it in your smoker for about an hour. Let it cool completely and store in a jar with a tight fitting lid.

Smoked Tofu
 It’s always good for a laugh to tell someone that you’re in the backyard smoking tofu. But of all the plant-based foods you might want to experiment with, tofu takes very nicely to smoke.  I smoke it outdoors, on a grill. Here’s my method:

  1. Soak a serious handful of wood chips in water to cover for at least two hours – four is even better.  My favorites are apple, cherry, and pecan.  (I don’t like mesquite for tofu.)
  2. Wrap about two pounds of firm or extra-firm tofu in several clean kitchen towels or several thicknesses of paper towels and put it on a baking sheet or a tray. Put a cutting board on top of the wrapped tofu and put a heavy frying pan on top of the cutting board.  Leave it alone for about 1 hour, to press out as much water as possible.
  3. Build a fire in your grill and get the coals white-hot.
  4. Unwrap the tofu and arrange the whole blocks in an aluminum foil pan. (You can use the pan several times.)
  5. Add the soaked chips to the hot coals, put the pan with the tofu on the grate, and immediately cover the grill, leaving the vents on the lid about one-quarter open.  (Add a pan of coarse salt, about ¼ inch deep, if you want to experiment with smoking your own salt, too.)
  6. Smoke the tofu for about 30-40 minutes, until it turns a nice golden color.

Note: If you’re using a gas grill, take a look at these suggestions or check the instructions that came with it for tips on smoking.

This winter I’ll be experimenting with smoking tofu indoors, on my stovetop. Click here to learn about that.


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