Tofu adobo may not be classic Mexican fare but it does have classic Mexican flare thanks to an authentic made-from-scratch sauce. Full of peppers, cumin, garlic, cinnamon, and paprika, it’s flavorful, smoky, and good for you.
Adapted from Shannon Martinez | Mo Wyse | Smith & Daughters | Hardie Grant, 2017
Adobo—that tangy, smoky, spicy sauce made with dried chiles, earthy spices, and garlic galore—can be harnessed as a marinade for virtually anything. And yes, it’s the same adobo sauce that bathes chipotle chile peppers in those little cans containing chipotle en adobo. If you’re not already familiar with the sorta-but-not-too-fiery sauce known as adobo, trust us, you’re going to want to slather it on everything. Even tofu. Although if tofu isn’t your thing, rest assured, the sauce can be used to marinate or sauce virtually anything—pork, chicken, steak, shrimp, you get the idea. Serve it as a taco filling or spoon it on top of rice, tortilla chips, even a Southwestern-style salad. Versatile, right? No time to marinate? Spoon the adobo sauce on rice, black beans, burritos, enchiladas, eggs, or just about anything. And then kindly let us know in a comment below how you chose to use it.–Monica L. Helton
For the adobo sauce
- 2 medium (16 oz) red bell peppers
- 2 medium (2 oz) jalapeños
- 1 garlic head cloves separated
- 1 medium (7 oz) red onion quartered
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 dried chipotle peppers roughly chopped
- 2 dried guajillo peppers roughly chopped
- 2 canned chipotles in adobo
- Small handful fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 1/3 cup sherry vinegar
- 3 cups store-bought or homemade chicken stock
- Salt to taste
For the chargrilled adobo tofu
- 16 ounces extra-firm tofu* patted dry with paper towels and pressed to remove excess water
- Oil such as vegetable oil to coat the grill pan
Make the adobo sauce
- Grab a grill pan and brush it with neutral oil. Put it on the stove on medium-high heat. After the grill pan is hot, add the red peppers, jalapeños, garlic, and onion and cook, turning occasionally, until blackened, about 15 to 20 minutes.
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, add the olive oil and dried chipotle and guajillo chiles. Cook until slightly darkened, about 5 minutes.
- Squeeze the garlic from their skins. Roughly chop the blackened vegetables. To the saucepan, add the grilled vegetables and garlic, as well as the chipotles in adobo, oregano, spices, sherry vinegar, and chicken stock. Cover and gently simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat. Let the mixture cool for at least 10 minutes before pouring it into a blender and processing until smooth. (We know it’s tempting to reach for your immersion blender, but don’t. It won’t create as smooth a purée as your countertop blender.) Taste and add more seasoning and salt if needed. You should have about 5 cups adobo sauce. Although this recipe makes more adobo sauce than you’ll need for the tofu, it lasts for about 2 weeks in the fridge.
Make the chargrilled tofu adobo
- Slice the tofu into short strips about 1/2-inch thick.
- In a bowl or resealable plastic bag, combine the tofu and just enough adobo sauce to coat all the surfaces of the tofu. (Save the remaining adobo sauce for other uses—of which there are so, so many. If you’re lacking ideas, look at the note above the recipe for inspiration.)
- Use a paper towel to remove any remaining roasted vegetable bits from the grill pan. Again, brush the grill pan with neutral oil and put it on the stove on medium-high heat. When hot, add the marinated tofu, and cook, basting with leftover adobo sauce, until dark char marks develop on all sides, about 10 minutes. You may find that the tofu crumbles a bit, but the flavor remains spectacular and actually the crumbles work particularly well for tacos, as pictured here. The tofu adobo is also adept at being served in any number of ways, including atop rice or tossed in a southwestern salad or wrapped in a burrito or…well, you tell us.
*Do I have to press extra-firm tofu?Firm and extra-firm tofu is still moist but has been pressed enough that it will hold its shape fairly well, especially if you’re going to use it in tacos, where a crumbly texture is preferred. In a recipe where you want the tofu to keep its shape in fingers or slices, you might consider pressing out even more moisture. Pressing is essential and will only improve the texture of firm or extra-firm tofu if it’s going to be fried or grilled. Place your tofu in between layers of paper towel, rest a cutting board or plate on top, and then weigh it down with a large can of tomatoes, beans, whatever you can get your hands on. Change out the paper towels once they get too wet. After 30 minutes or so, your tofu should have released enough liquid that you can now confidently carry on slicing, dicing, and cubing.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This adobo sauce is incredibly delicious and very versatile. The roasted flavor from grilling the peppers and vegetables sets this sauce apart. The tofu fell apart while cooking but it still made an outstanding taco filling.
I also used the adobo on steak and leftover roast chicken for taco fillings and southwestern salad. It really elevates leftovers and makes a quick weeknight dinner into something special. I think it would make a really delicious version of shrimp and grits.
One whiff of this adobo sauce and it’s clear that you’re really onto something. It was hard to tell when the chiles darkened since they’re already dark, so once they smelled good, I dumped in the minced veggies and stepped back as they sputtered and spit. Then I added the stock, spices, and vinegar. When the house smelled fantastic, it was time to blend. A taste told me I’d achieved a nice medium-low thrum of spice.
A few tablespoons of the sauce worked nicely stirred into some Mexican rice. The tofu adobo, in contrast, was less easy to get along with. I pressed firm tofu for 30 minutes, then sliced it into fingers and marinated them for 2 hours. The tofu wanted to stick to my cast iron grill pan and gave me a headache about developing “dark char marks.” Once ready to eat, the adobo marinade was tasty only on the outside and the tofu hadn’t taken on the flavor nearly enough. Next time I think I’ll marinate it longer to get more adobo flavor.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
This tofu adobo recipe makes a big batch of adobo sauce, more than you’ll need for this tofu recipe, but that’s good because it tastes great. I cut the tofu into fingers, marinated them for the minimum 2 hours, and grilled them. As the tofu cooks and the sauce cooks and blackens along with it, the flavor develops and it makes for a very nice vegetarian taco filling.
Because I had a lot of marinade left over, I tried this again a couple nights later but broiled the tofu to see how that would work. I wouldn’t recommend it. You really need the char that a grill, grill pan, or cast iron skillet imparts to the tofu, both for the sake of texture and flavor. I puréed the adobo sauce in a Vitamix and I’d recommend that or even a regular blender over an immersion blender to make sure the dried chiles get broken down and incorporated into the sauce. Something interesting to try with this in the future would be to use tofu that has been frozen and then thawed. I think the spongelike texture would absorb more sauce than fresh tofu does.