Hello! This recipe for BBQ tofu sandwiches comes to you from vegan cookbook author extraordinaire Robin Robertson’s newest volume, Cook the Pantry. I was fortunate to receive a review copy of the cookbook and had the chance to try several recipes – so before I get sharing the one for these BBQ tofu sandwiches, I’ll spend a little bit of time discussing what’s inside.
The premise of Cook the Pantry is simple: recipes (which are 100% vegan!) can be made with almost entirely pantry (or frozen) ingredients, and are intended to take 20 minutes or less to make. This is a concept near and dear to my heart, since (as evidenced by my sustained difficulties with posting on this blog frequently) I have been struggling to find very much time to cook recently. One of the other biggest advantages of pantry-friendly cooking is that by stocking up on non-perishable ingredients when they’re on sale, and always having ingredients ready to prepare a quick meal (rather than turn to takeout food), one can save quite a bit of money on food. So I was very excited to receive this particular cookbook.
You’ll find Cook the Pantry divided into a few different sections and chapters. First, a chapter on pantry stocking and kitchen equipment, similar to what you see in many other vegan cookbooks. Chapter 2 focuses on soups and stews, including curry-spiced pumpkin bisque, Moroccan-spiced vegetable stew, and chipotle corn chowder. Chapter 3 highlights pantry-friendly salad recipes, like avocado goddess potato salad, hearts of palm ceviche, and taco salad with black bean salsa.
Chapter 4 features pizza, burgers, and sandwiches, and was probably the most delicious-sounding chapter of the book. Here you’ll find artichoke muffaleta po’boys, samosadillas, and more (including the BBQ tofu sandwiches, recipe below!). As a tip from me, buy active dry yeast sold in a glass jar, and store it in the freezer. It’ll last pretty much forever in there and then (assuming you keep flour on hand), you’ll pretty much always be ready to make your own pizza dough. Store-bought pizza dough can be used, but I prefer to make my own when I can because the store-bought version often contains ingredients that I avoid and is more expensive.
Chapter 5 is titled “Stovetop Suppers”. Some of the most delicious-sounding entries include the Asian-style vegetable pancakes and the layered tortilla skillet. I also prepared, and loved, the Tuscan chickpea frittata (not pictured), which is a vegan frittata made with chickpea flour, and featuring sundried tomatoes, kalamata olives, and spinach. (Note: many of the recipes in the book call for frozen spinach. I personally don’t care for the taste and texture of frozen spinach so I usually wait for fresh spinach to go on sale or arrive in my CSA share, and then eat a lot of it at once. Another good way to keep fresh greens in stock is to buy heartier, longer-lasting green vegetables like cabbage.)
Chapter 6 comprises pasta dishes, such as puttanesca in a pinch (though I daresay my own One Pot Spaghetti Puttanesca takes the trophy and is very pantry-friendly to boot), Manchurian black bean noodles, and giardiniera mac and cheese, which I prepared and photographed.
The recipe notes mention something that is part of a frequent theme throughout the book: feel free to swap out the giardiniera vegetables (which are tangy Italian pickled vegetables) for other veggies or mix-ins of your choice. I could not actually find jarred giardiniera vegetables at either of the grocery stores I frequent, so instead I used marinated artichoke hearts, and I also added steamed broccoli and kohlrabi greens (thank you, CSA!). This may not be the best vegan mac and cheese I’ve ever had (and my coworkers did not particularly appreciate the nutritional yeast-y smell coming from the microwave when I brought leftovers for lunch), but it’s quite tasty and I love how adaptable it is.
I used dry-roasted whole wheat breadcrumbs in place of the panko, and I toasted them in a skillet without any oil, stirring frequently until they browned evenly (the recipe calls for them to be fried). I also used whole wheat pasta. I prepared the “cheese” sauce as written. In the future I would add just slightly more acid – or use the pickled vegetables, which I imagine would provide the right amount of tanginess to balance out the dish. Even with all the extra veggies I added the result was fairly saucy (not a complaint, just an observation!).
Chapter 7 rounds out the book with desserts. Some promising recipes include the raw baklava, fudgy mug brownie, and easy chocolate pie.
My overall impression of Cook the Pantry? It’s another winner from Robin Robertson, with a wide variety of easy, appealing, approachable recipes. Probably the biggest drawback – and I will be the first to acknowledge that this is inherent to the concept of the book – is the relative lack of fruits and vegetables in the dishes. Going forward I will most likely use this book by selecting recipes from it as a base, and adding vegetables that I have on hand as either a quick side dish, or incorporating them into the recipe like I did with the mac and cheese.
Nevertheless, this is an extremely solid cookbook. All of the recipes that I tried worked as intended and had great flavors. The ingredients used are found at most stores and the recipes are written with simple instructions. You’ll find full-color photos for around 1/3 to 1/2 of the recipes. This is a great book to have around for quick meal ideas, especially ones that would also please non-vegan guests.
BBQ Tofu Sandwiches
My favorite recipe from Cook the Pantry that I made was the BBQ tofu sandwiches, so I chose to share that recipe with you today. The recipe is originally titled ‘BBQ Jack Sandwiches’ and calls for jackfruit, but suggests using tofu or tempeh, among other choices, as a replacement if jackfruit is unavailable. It’s a bit of a trek to the Asian supermarket from where I live, so rather than pick up canned jackfruit I did in fact substitute extra-firm tofu, which I cut into strips and lightly pan-fried before simmering in the BBQ sauce. P.S. if you’re looking for a homemade BBQ sauce recipe, the roasted garlic sriracha barbecue sauce recipe on my website is a household fave.
I served my sandwiches with a quick slaw of finely-shredded green cabbage seasoned with rice vinegar, mustard, black pepper, and cilantro. These can get a bit messy, so keep a napkin handy!
BBQ Tofu Sandwiches
- 16 oz extra-firm tofu drained
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 4 oz chopped green chiles drained
- 1 cup barbecue sauce (I used homemade)
- 1 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
- 2 tsp prepared mustard
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp liquid smoke
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 sandwich rolls split and toasted (I used Trader Joe's whole wheat sandwich buns)
- other toppings for serving as desired such as cabbage slaw, chopped green onion, or lettuce
Wrap the drained tofu in a clean kitchen towel and place on a cutting board. Use a heavy object to press the tofu for at least 20 minutes, then slice into slabs. Prepare a plate lined with paper towels.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. When hot, place the slabs of tofu into the skillet, and cook until browned and crisp on the bottom, 3-5 minutes. Gently flip and continue cooking until the other side is also crisp, 3-5 more minutes, then transfer to the paper towel-lined plate to absorb any excess oil.
When the tofu has cooled, slice into thick matchstick shapes. Add to a saucepan along with the rest of the ingredients, and cook over medium-low heat until heated through and the tofu has absorbed some of the barbecue sauce.
Adjust seasoning to taste, and serve hot on toasted sandwich rolls with other toppings of choice.
To make gluten-free, use your favorite gluten-free sandwich buns (or other gluten-free serving vessels), and be sure to choose gluten-free tamari rather than soy sauce, as well as a gluten-free barbecue sauce.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the product for review. All writing and opinions are my own.