Friday, January 27, 2012

Tofu Burgers with Cayenne-Black Pepper Aioli

The toasted spice rub used for the tofu here is the same as the one used in these grilled mangoes. Make sure you use a good quality bread that will hold up to the aioli, tofu, and whatever toppings you'd like. Wimpy, soggy bread makes a horrible sandwich.

Makes 2 servings
Total Time: about 15 minutes

  • 1 lb firm tofu, drained and dried well
  • 1 1/2 tsp Toasted Spice Rub, recipe follows
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 2 buns or slices of hearty bread
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 C light olive oil
  • 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Sliced tomato
  • Spinach leaves
  • Grilled onion

First, make the aioli. Crush and peel the garlic clove. Roughly chop the garlic, add the salt, and smush it with the flat side of the knife repeatedly to make a fine paste. Add the garlic paste to a medium bowl, along with the egg yolk, lemon juice, black pepper, and cayenne. Whisk together. Slowly add the olive oil, first drop by drop, and then in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly so as to create an emulsion. Set aside while you cook the tofu. (If making the aioli ahead of time, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. It should last about a week in the refrigerator.)

Heat a large skillet (I used a cast-iron skillet) over high heat and brush with the tablespoon of canola oil. Cut the tofu into block or rounds that will fit nicely on your bread; the slices should be about 1/2-inch thick. (I had leftover tofu, but not enough to make another burger. I plan on using the extra scrambled up with an egg and some pesto.) Coat the large sides of each tofu slice with the toasted spice rub. When the pan is very hot, add the tofu and sear each side until brown and a bit crispy (about 2-3 minutes per side). Meanwhile, construct your burger with toppings of choice and the aioli. Add the tofu burgers and dig in!

For the Toasted Spice Rub:

  • 1 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 tsp Szechuan peppercorns
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Toast the peppercorns, cumin seeds, and coriander seeds in a dry skillet, tossing or stirring frequently to keep from burning. Transfer to a spice grinder and add the red pepper flakes, cinnamon, and salt. Pulse the spices until finely ground. Store in a closed spice container.


  1. Hey Zippy, This looks delicious and I'm looking forward to try it. But I need to make it gluten free. Do you have any recommendations on gluten-free breads or rolls that toast up nicely and work well for sandwiches? Zephyr

    1. I have never tried any GF breads that have a nice texture for making sandwiches with wet-ish ingredients (since gluten development is important in creating a nice crumb) but I haven't done much research on it. You could use grilled portabello mushrooms instead of bread. Maybe there are some GF breads that you could slice thickly and toast so that they don't get soggy?