This vegan Caramelized Tofu & Onion Sandwich is not only the most delicious sandwich ever. It's also rich in vitamin B12 and protein, and made with all budget and pantry-friendly ingredients.
I have a great relationship with tofu. It's good for my heart, helps me grow stronger, and unlike my three teenagers, it doesn't talk back to me! What's not to love?
Tofu takes center stage in this ultimate vegan sandwich. You'll be hard-pressed (no pun intended) to find a more delicious one out there –except maybe my White Bean Avocado Sandwich. And my Tofu Pastrami Sandwich is definitely worth a mention.
👩🏼🌾📖 Ingredients & Instructions
Budget and Pantry-Friendly Ingredients:
Press the tofu for about 20 minutes before slicing. To skip this step, buy pre-pressed tofu. I use super firm tofu (Nasoya), or extra firm sprouted tofu (Wildwood), where the pressing is already done for you!
Alternatively, invest in a tofu press (Tofuture). Press the tofu in the morning, and refrigerate in the press until ready to use. It is very easy to clean, and the excess water conveniently collects in the bottom.
Meanwhile, prepare the marinade. This easy 5-ingredient marinade is made with nutritional yeast, which is typically supplemented with vitamin B12. (Read the nutrition label to be certain.) Vegans often fall short of this essential nutrient. In addition, nutritional yeast is high in protein, and contains all nine essential amino acids.
Marinate the tofu in the same dish for easier clean up.
Cook the tofu in a large nonstick skillet, with a drizzle of oil, for about 5 minutes on each side.
Alternatively, for oil-free, bake the tofu rectangles at 400ºF for about 15 minutes, flipping them over half way.
Remove the tofu from the skillet. Set aside.
Truly caramelized onions take much longer to cook and become much more jammy. However, this faux method using coconut aminos works perfectly well for this recipe, and speeds up the process.
Once the tofu is done browning, use the onions and tofu to make a sandwich or burger.
See recipe card for quantities.
🧅 Substitutions & Variations
- Tofu - Substitute with tempeh to change things up. Simmer the block of tempeh for 3 to 5 minutes before slicing and marinating. This removes its slightly bitter flavor.
- Coconut aminos - Substitute with soy sauce, dark soy sauce, or tamari as desired. The onions will not be quite as caramelized, but they will still be very flavorful.
- Onion - White onions are slightly sweeter and milder in taste than yellow onions. They are great for sandwiches and salads. However, feel free to substitute for yellow onions as needed. Both work in this recipe.
- Lettuce - instead of green leaf lettuce, you can use romaine lettuce, iceberg lettuce, or spinach
- Bun - use gluten-free buns instead of wheat bread buns to make this sandwich gluten-free
- Sriracha - Omit the sriracha for no spice. Or add more for a spicier marinade.
I use the Tofuture brand tofu press for pressing my tofu. It is easy to use and works really well.
Otherwise, press the tofu by wrapping the block in a kitchen towel, or between several layers of paper towel. Place the block onto a large cutting board, and place a smaller board on top. Top with a heavy fruit bowl and press for 20 minutes. Change the paper towel as needed, when it becomes soaked.
Refrigerate any remaining tofu and onion in separate air-tight containers. Good for 2-3 days.
You can also freeze the tofu. Freezing changes the internal structure of tofu, producing a texture very similar to chicken.
Caramel comes from the simple cooking of sugar. Onions are naturally sweet, and when cooked slowly for an extended period, their natural sugars caramelize, and they become intensely flavorful.
Coconut aminos (made from the sap of the coconut tree) is also naturally sweet. When cooked together, the coconut aminos quickly produces a faux caramelization of the onion. It is not quite the same jammy quality of traditional caramelization, but it works great for this recipe.
The traditional method for caramelizing onion is to cook them slowly in a little oil or butter until they are richly browned. This can take up to 1 hour.
A neat trick to speed up this process is to add baking soda during cooking. Baking soda changes the pH, which increases the Maillard reaction, causing the onions to brown more quickly. Use ⅛ teaspoon baking soda per 1 pound of onions.
Packaged tofu has a high water content, and water prevents browning. If you marinate tofu straight out of the packet, it does not soak up much of the marinade, and steams upon cooking. For tofu to brown and develop a delicious flavor and chewy texture , remove excess water prior to cooking.
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Caramelized Tofu & Onion Sandwich
- 14 ounces extra firm tofu pressed
- 1 ½ tablespoons nutritional yeast
- ¼ cup plus 1 ½ teaspoons coconut aminos plus more as needed
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 ¼ teaspoons sriracha or kimchi sriracha
- 2 teaspoons neutral flavored cooking oil
- ½ large white onion thinly sliced
- 4 hamburger buns
- Vegan mayonnaise to taste
- 4 large leaves green leaf lettuce or iceberg, or romaine
- Cut the tofu into 8 rectangles of equal size.
- Make the marinade: In a large, rimmed baking dish, mix the nutritional yeast, coconut aminos, onion powder, garlic powder, and sriracha.
- Marinate the tofu: Place the tofu rectangles in the marinade in a single layer. Coat both sides generously with the marinade and set aside for at least 15 minutes, flipping them over after 10 minutes and brushing with more marinade.
- Cook the tofu: Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Remove the tofu from the marinade and cook for about 5 minutes on each side, or until browned. Remove the rectangles from the skillet. Set aside.
- Cook the onion: Add the onion and remaining marinade to the skillet. Cook over medium-high for about 10 minutes, or until the onion has softened and turns golden brown. Add more coconut aminos as desired to taste.
- Assemble the burgers: Meanwhile, warm the buns in a toaster oven. Spread mayonnaise onto both sides of the bun. Add two tofu rectangles, and a large lettuce leaf. Top with one fourth of the onion. Repeat for each bun. Serve immediately.
- For oil-free: Bake the marinated tofu on a nonstick baking sheet at 400ºF for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown, flipping half way. Omit the cooking oil and cook the onions in the remaining marinade, plus a generous drizzle of coconut aminos, until caramelized. Substitute the vegan mayonnaise with an oil-free condiment of your choice.
This information is provided as a courtesy and is an ESTIMATE only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased can change the nutritional information in any given recipe.