Korean Barbecued Tofu

Chicago chef Bill Kim created this recipe for his cookbook, Korean BBQ, to show how well tofu takes on flavors when marinated and grilled. He uses his Korean BBQ Sauce as a marinade, adding a jolt of spice with sambal oelek and light fruit flavors with kiwi and Asian pear. The Blackening Seasoning used to season the tofu before it is grilled balances chili powder with sweet paprika. Save any leftover Blackening Seasoning and BBQ Sauce to use on grilled tofu or meat.

Korean BBQ Tofu
Photo: Johnny Autry
Active Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
35 mins


Korean BBQ Sauce

  • 1 cup dark brown sugar

  • ½ cup water

  • 1 cup soy sauce

  • 1 small white onion (6 ounces), peeled and coarsely chopped (1 cup)

  • 1 Asian pear (8 ounces), peeled and coarsely chopped (1 cup)

  • 1 kiwi (3 ounces), peeled and coarsely chopped (1/3 cup)

  • 8 medium cloves garlic

  • 1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger (1/2 ounce), peeled and sliced (1 Tablespoon)

  • ¼ cup dark sesame oil

Blackening Seasoning

  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika

  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic or garlic powder

  • 1 teaspoon chili powder

  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt


  • 2 (1-pound) blocks extra firm tofu, drained and sliced crosswise into 6 pieces (12 pieces total)

  • ½ cup sambal oelek


Make the Korean BBQ Sauce:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine brown sugar, water, and soy sauce and whisk until sugar dissolves. Pour soy sauce mixture into a blender or food processor, add onion, pear, kiwi, garlic, ginger, and sesame oil. Process until smooth, about 1 minute. Reserve 1 cup of the Korean BBQ Sauce, transferring remaining sauce to an airtight container to refrigerate up to 2 weeks or freeze up to 2 months.

  2. Place Korean BBQ Sauce in food processor and add sambal oelek. Pulse until well combined, about 5 pulses.

  3. Pat tofu dry with paper towels, then place in a large baking dish or a rimmed baking sheet.

  4. Pour sauce over tofu and marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Make the Blackening Seasoning:

  1. Combine paprika, garlic powder, chili powder, and salt in a small mixing bowl and stir to mix.

  2. Preheat grill to medium-high, 400°F to 450°F. Transfer tofu from the marinade to a baking sheet or large plate, allowing excess marinade to drip off. Reserve marinade. Season tofu with Blackening Seasoning. Place tofu on oiled grates; grill, covered, until grill marks appear and tofu does not stick to the grates, about 3 minutes. Flip tofu and brush with reserved marinade. Cook, covered, until grill marks appear, another 3 minutes. Serve tofu with remaining marinade.


Reprinted with permission from Korean BBQ. Copyright © 2018 by Bill Kim with Chandra Ram. Photography © 2018 Copyright by Johnny Autry.

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