Marinated and grilled or baked, this Vegan Souvlaki made out of tofu or your favorite meat alternative makes for a great main dish, especially when loaded into a pita with your favorite toppings. This easy vegetarian souvlaki is great any time of year and is great for meal prep or serving to guests.
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Hey Internet, today I’m bringing you some grilled tofu souvlaki, though there’s plenty of other ways to cook it and I’ve included all those instructions too.
This recipe is most similar to my vegan gyros. The main difference between gyros and souvlaki is that gyros are shredded meat and souvlaki are grilled chunks of meat. And obviously, we’re not using any meat, but we’re using tofu in it’s place.
That fact that I’m giving you a grilling recipe today is kind of hilarious, considering it’s October 4 and probably the end of grilling season.
Though, if you know my husband, he’ll be grilling all year long. We finally have a grill after waiting for many, many years!
Of course, you can also bake this tofu souvlaki in the oven, or you can even air fry or pan fry it. We’re giving you ALL the options.
I really love tofu, if you haven’t noticed. My favorites are salt and pepper tofu, panko tofu, tofu adobo, sweet and sour tofu, tofu poke bowl, and this cool sheet pan bbq tofu meal. But check all my tofu recipes and all my vegan meat recipes if you’re interested in more.
The great thing about this recipe is that you can cook the tofu in any way you like. My husband loves to stick the marinated tofu cubes on skewers and grill them since we recently got our first grill.
But since I’m trying to eat less oil lately, I took half of the cubes and baked them on a lined baking tray in the oven. We tried each other’s and both agree that both methods work great!
I also tested pan frying the tofu souvlaki and air frying it and both those methods are great.
The pan fried was a little too much oil for my tastes, and I’ll say that I think the tofu souvlaki are more succulent from the oven or grill, since the air fryer makes things crispy by drawing out all the moisture in them.
But no matter what method you use, I know you’re going to love this vegan souvlaki.
Why This Recipe Works
Anyway, back to this vegetarian souvlaki (it’s totally vegan too, don’t worry). It’s really easy, it’s really delicious, and it’s been one of my favorite ways to prepare a plant based protein lately.
You can even use the marinade on a different meat alternative. To learn more about meat alternatives, check out my article on plant based proteins which includes 100 vegan meat recipes.
So this simple tofu souvlaki is really easy, I promise.
First, you’re going to start with super firm tofu, the kind that comes in a vacuum-sealed package. If all you can find is firm tofu or extra firm tofu (the kind packed in a small tub of water), that’s fine. But since we are marinating our tofu, I recommend you press your tofu to get the water out so it can absorb the delicious marinade.
You can use a tofu press, or you can use two cutting boards or plates and some heavy weights like a cast iron skillet, kettlebell, or heavy books. If you are pressing your tofu, remove it from the package and use a clean kitchen towel (or paper towel) to blot off the excess water. I recommend pressing it for an hour before cutting it and putting it in the marinade.
Anyway, we'll very quickly make up an extremely flavorful marinade for our vegan souvlaki. Then we’ll marinate the tofu for a minimum of 2 hours, but I’ve done it overnight and had even more delicious results. So the choice is yours. You could also set it up in the morning and then cook it when you get home at night.
Then you just cook the tofu souvlaki according to your preferred cooking method (grill, oven, air fry, pan fry), and serve it up in a warmed pita with vegan tzatziki sauce, tomatoes, onions, kalamata olives, or whatever else you like.
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Ingredients and Substitutions
- 16-ounce package of super firm tofu: For this vegan souvlaki recipe, the best tofu is the kind that is sold in vacuum-sealed plastic, not a tub of water. I can usually find it in my local supermarket, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, other specialty markets, sometimes Asian markets, and sometimes even Costco. If you can only find firm or extra firm tofu (that comes in water), you can still make this dish. You’ll want to drain the tub of tofu and press the block of tofu, using either a tofu press or two plates or cutting boards, paper towels, and a heavy weight (like books or a cast iron pan) for 20-30 minutes. Otherwise your tofu will have a hard time absorbing the souvlaki marinade and won’t be as flavorful.
- 3 cups vegan chicken broth: We won’t be using all 3 cups; the reason the amount is so high is so all the tofu gets submerged. It depends on the volume of your container that you’re marinating the tofu souvlaki in. For vegan chicken broth, I love to use Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base mixed with hot water. This is the best flavor (in my opinion), it’s economical, and it lasts forever in the fridge. Your other options are carton imitation chicken broth or vegetable broth. If you do use vegetable broth, I recommend adding a teaspoon of poultry seasoning for flavor.
- 2 tablespoons souvlaki seasoning: I used a premade souvlaki seasoning purchased from my regular supermarket. Greek seasoning will also work, and if you can’t find it you can follow a greek seasoning recipe online.
- 8-10 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced: Use less garlic if you prefer, but we’re just using this garlic to flavor our marinade. I’ll tell you later on what we can do with all that garlic from the marinade so it doesn’t go to waste.
- Juice of a small to medium-sized lemon, about 3-4 tablespoons lemon juice: I highly recommend fresh squeezed lemon juice because the flavor is much better. If you must use bottled, the Volcano Bursts Organic Italian Lemon Juice (I’ve gotten it at Costco for a good deal) is much better than typical bottled lemon juice (and the only ingredient is lemon juice). I use this in my iced green tea every day as fresh lemons would get expensive for a drink.
- 2 bay leaves: We’ll remove and discard these when we’re done marinating the tofu souvlaki.
- Pita bread and sandwich fillings: Your choice of sliced onions, tomatoes, cucumber, vegan tzatziki sauce (highly recommend!), a few sliced kalamata olives, a sprinkle of fresh parsley, etc. Basically whatever you like!
How to Make Vegan Souvlaki
- Note if you’re grilling: If you’re using wooden skewers, you’ll need to soak them in water for 30 minutes before grilling with them. I prefer to use flat stainless steel skewers because they’re more convenient and they’re easier to handle with my grilling tongs.
- Note about tofu: If your tofu comes packed in a tub of water, drain the water, blot excess water off the tofu, and I highly recommend pressing the tofu for 30-60 minutes. You can press tofu easily with a tofu press or between two cutting boards or plates and with a heavy weight on top such as a cast iron skillet, kettlebell, or heavy books. This will enable the tofu to better absorb the marinade and be much more flavorful.
- Cube your tofu. If you are grilling (and skewering) the tofu, I highly recommend your cubes be around an inch or more. I got about 24 1-inch cubes out of my block of super firm tofu.
- Mix together the marinade ingredients: vegan chicken broth (or vegetable broth, plus I recommend a teaspoon of poultry seasoning if going that route), souvlaki seasoning blend, sliced garlic, lemon juice, and bay leaves.
- To a just-big-enough container, add the tofu and pour the marinade on top. Stir or shuffle the tofu so that it’s covered by the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour or two, up to 24 hours in advance. I usually marinate my tofu souvlaki for about 12 hours and get a very flavorful result. It will still be tasty if you’re in a hurry and only marinate for an hour or two though.
- Drain the tofu after marinating (save that marinade! We’ll baste the cooked tofu with it, and then see my notes section below for how to use the leftover marinade).
- Prep the tofu: If grilling, place them on skewers (soaked for 30 minutes if using wooden skewers) and brush (or spray) the tofu souvlaki with a neutral oil with high heat tolerance (I used grapeseed). If baking, place on a silicone baking mat or parchment paper lined baking tray (you can oil or not, your choice. I do not.).
- Grill method: Heat your grill to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (218 degrees Celsius) (about medium high). Carefully place the skewered tofu on the grill plates and cook covered for 2-4 minutes, then use grilling tongs to carefully flip the tofu. I don’t do all 4 sides (you certainly could if you like), I just do front and back. If your grill has gotten hotter, you may want to lower the heat. Close the lid again and cook for 2-4 more minutes. Remove from the grill and brush with some of the leftover marinade. Let cool a bit before removing from skewers and serving.
- Oven method: Bake the tofu on a lined baking tray at 400 degrees Fahrenheit (205 degrees Celsius) for 20-25 minutes (or until desired doneness), flipping the tofu and rotating the tray halfway through. I highly recommend using a metal spatula (I like to use a metal cookie spatula because it’s small and convenient) to flip the tofu in case it’s sticking to the liner on your baking tray, which can happen if you’re not using oil especially. Brush with some of the leftover marinade.
- Air fryer method: Note that the air fryer achieves crispy food by drawing out the moisture. Your vegan souvlaki will be less moist and succulent, but instead will have a chewy texture. Still tasty; just letting you know. Air fry a single layer of tofu for 10-16 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit (205 degrees Celsius), shaking the basket vigorously halfway through. If you have a small capacity air fryer, you may need to do multiple batches. The reason for the single layer of tofu is that the air can circulate and cook the tofu evenly. Brush with some of the leftover marinade
- Pan fry method: Preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add a neutral oil with a high heat tolerance. Once the oil is heated you can add the tofu. Very carefully add the tofu to the pan. For a 12” skillet, I would cook 6-8 pieces at a time, depending on how big each piece is. If you have a much smaller skillet, you may only want to cook one at a time. It’s important not to crowd the pan, otherwise the tofu may cook unevenly. Cook each piece for about 3-5 minutes on each side. Flip very carefully. Place each fully cooked tofu on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil. Repeat with remaining tofu. Brush the cooked tofu with some of the leftover marinade.
- Assemble your vegan souvlaki: In a warmed pita, place a good dollop of vegan tzatziki sauce, 3-5 cubes of cooked tofu, sliced onions/tomatoes/cucumbers, a few sliced kalamata olives, a sprinkle of fresh chopped parsley, and/or anything else you like.
- Serve your vegan souvlaki immediately and enjoy! If serving a crowd, I recommend creating a buffet line of the warmed pita, cooked tofu, veggies, and vegan tzatziki.
- Store leftover tofu souvlaki in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
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Frequently Asked Questions
You can make vegan souvlaki with many different plant based proteins. Soy curls would work quite well (I would rehydrate them straight in the marinade!). Other options include seitan chicken chunks, store bought vegan meat alternatives, and even white beans if you aren’t grilling them. I think souvlaki baked beans would be yummy.
Souvlaki is basically grilled pieces of meat. Though many Greek people also mean the actual sandwich with grilled meat and vegetables in a pita, usually with tzatziki. So this recipe for vegan souvlaki consists of grilled tofu pieces, vegetables, homemade vegan tzatziki sauce, and pita. And it’s really good! I provide the other cooking methods so you can enjoy tofu souvlaki all year round. Personally, my favorite is the oven method. Though my husband is adamant he will grill all winter!
Olive oil is a staple in Greek cuisine… I know this! However I have found that oil hinders marinade absorption, so I stopped adding oil to my marinades. You could definitely add the oil before grilling, but I’m worried about the temperature, so I used grapeseed oil. If you’re cooking at a lower temperature or if you’re used to cooking with olive oil, please be my guest and use some.
I’m so glad you asked! I take my leftover vegan souvlaki marinade (I discard the bay leaves) and I pour it into the blender using a sieve or strainer (for a reason, hang on). Set the garlic and herbs in the sieve aside. To the marinade in the blender, add either raw cashews, raw sunflower seeds, or white beans (if you’re trying to lower your fat intake like me). Blend until smooth and somewhat thickened. It doesn’t need to be super thick. Now you can briefly blend in the garlic and herbs. I do this so the dressing doesn’t turn a murky color from the seasoning. But if you don’t care just blend it all together. This turns into an amazing Greek salad dressing that I use on my salads and grain bowls all week.
Pro Tips for Success
- If you can only find tofu in a tub of water (not the vacuum sealed super firm tofu) by you, you can still make this recipe. I highly recommend buying a tofu press. Mine was like $10 and I love it. So useful. But you can press tofu without a press too! Sandwich the tofu between two cutting boards or plates and place a heavy weight on top (like a cast iron skillet, kettlebell, heavy books, etc.). Press the tofu for 30-60 minutes. Drain any remaining water, and lightly dry off the tofu with a clean kitchen towel or a paper towel.
- If you’re grilling, and are using wooden skewers, you’ll want to soak the wood skewers in water for 30 minutes before grilling. I like these stainless steel skewers because I don’t have to soak them and also because they’re flat.
- Don’t neglect brushing them with some of the excess marinade after they’re finished cooking. This adds back more of the flavor.
- Definitely try my vegan tzatziki for topping your vegan souvlaki sandwich.
- Can’t find souvlaki seasoning? It might also be called Greek seasoning. You can also make your own!
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