These Lemon Pepper Tofu Cutlets are the perfect meal prep staple! Tofu is frozen, thawed, sliced and soaked in a bath of zesty lemon pepper flavor. Then, they’re slow-baked to achieve that perfect meaty texture. Slice ‘em up for salads, use them for sandwiches, or serve ‘em over a mountain of rice for a filling and easy vegan dinner!
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These delightful little lemon pepper tofu cutlets have become lovingly known as “salad chicken” in our house.
This is mostly because they are delicious and wonderful and absolutely perfect when they are when diced up and thrown into salads, but also because they are actually getting me excited about the salads in the first place!
That’s right, friends. The pickiest eater I know (me) is actually enjoying the pants off some salads this summer, and these lemon pepper tofu cutlets play a HUGE part in that!
For as much as I go on and on about how I’m not a huge fan of salads or vegetables, that’s only partly true.
Tofu Cutlet Inspiration
Before going vegan, one of my most favorite summer meals was a BIG salad (usually Caesar or at least some kind of creamy rich dressing) with fresh grilled chicken and croutons…ALWAYS croutons. I. LOVED. THAT. STUFF.
And these lemon pepper tofu cutlets have totally taken me back to those days!
The taste is exquisite and goes with almost any flavor combo. And thanks to a killer freeze + press method, this texture is meaty beyond belief.
I’ve served these cutlets in a variety of ways and to a variety of people this summer (most weren’t vegan and a few were self-proclaimed tofu-haters) – ALL with stellar results.
Needless to say, I’m pretty pumped to be sharing this recipe with you today!
The Tofu Freezing Method
Have you ever tried freezing tofu before cooking with it?
This is actually one of the first tricks I learned about tofu back in my vegetarian days, although I wasn’t skilled enough in the kitchen yet to really put it to good use.
(These were the days when I could barely boil water, friends. Dark times.)
In the past couple years though, I’ve been putting this to work on a wide variety of recipes (like our heavenly Chicken(less) Parm), and I have to say: The meaty, firm texture of the tofu is incredible when you follow this method.
It does take some time (not effort, just time), but trust me when I tell you it is worth it. This trick will change your life and relationship with tofu forever!
How to Freeze Tofu
Okay, enough about that; let’s talk about how you do it:
First, go to the store and buy extra firm tofu.
When you get home, place the tofu in the freezer.
Do not open the container. Just take it from your shopping bag and place it in the freezer and shut the door. Leave it there overnight. You got this.
The next morning, remove the tofu from the freezer and place it in a shallow dish on your counter or in the fridge until it thaws completely.
From here, open and press your tofu as you normally would. You can also give it a gentle squeeze over the sink to get out even more liquid.
You’ll notice the tofu is tougher and more porous at this point, and that’s exactly what we want. This means it’s ready to soak up any marinade you want (like a CHAMP, I might add) and give you the meatiest possible texture.
That’s it! That’s the freeze + press method. And it’s magic.
How to Make Lemon Pepper Tofu Cutlets
To complete this particular recipe, you’ll take your pressed tofu and slice it into 8 cutlets. I do this by slicing the long rectangle in half, and then slicing those rectangles in half, and then slicing those rectangles in half.
Don’t be too worried if you don’t have perfectly equal cutlets though (warns the perfectionist). Just do the best you can!
Oil-Free Note: If you want to make these cutlets oil-free, you could sub water for the olive oil, but remember this will add liquid to the tofu and affect the overall texture. This could be remedied by adjusting the baking time, but keep that in mind!
Add the cutlets to a shallow dish or bowl and pour alll that marinade on top. Then, set them to soak up all that flavor in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight.
Finally, after your cutlets soak up allll that delicious flavor, you’ll bake them until tender on the inside and crispy on the outside.
And, voila! You just made lemon pepper tofu cutlets which makes you pretty incredible in our book!
How to Freeze Lemon Pepper Tofu Cutlets
And for the truly ambitious meal-preppers out there, you can even freeze the cutlets IN the marinade. (Like, BEFORE you bake them.)
That way, you can make a big batch of these at the beginning of the month to make weekly meal prep easy AF.
What?! I know, I know. I get so nerd-ily excited about this stuff.
To use the cutlets after they’ve been frozen like this, simply remove them from the freezer and let them defrost in the fridge overnight. The next day, they’ll be ready to pick up with the recipe where you left off!
How to Use Lemon Pepper Tofu Cutlets
As previously stated, my FAVORITE way to use these tofu cutlets is to slice them up and throw them in a big vegan Caesar salad with homemade croutons and our favorite NZ Sauvignon Blanc. I crave this meal at least once a week in the warmer months!
But, I’ve also really loved serving the above salad in sandwich form. Like, long roll, meet tofu cutlet, meet lettuce + vegan Caesar dressing.
Oh! They also make a killer vegan chicken Caesar wrap. But OKAY, I’ll get off my Caesar salad kick (can you tell I’m the BIGGEST fan?).
These lemon pepper tofu cutlets also make a killer make-ahead lunch, paired with rice or couscous and seared green beans.
And last but certainly not least, these tofu cutlets are awesome served over pasta in a lemony (vegan) butter sauce and sautéed spinach! They’d even be great served atop our vegan alfredo. YUM.
There are so many uses for these marinated tofu cutlets which is why they’ve quickly become a go-to recipe in our home!
Other Tofu Recipes You’d Dig:
I honestly cannot wait to hear all the fun and creative ways you find to use these lemon pepper tofu cutlets!
They are a total meal prep staple in our house, and I really hope you and your family will love them as much as we do. 🙂
If and when you give the recipe a try, don’t forget to let us know!
You can rate the recipe and leave a comment below or tag us in your creative and delicious photos on Instagram! If you’re not already following along, we’re @theplantpowercouple with the “the”.
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Yield: 8 cutlets
Serving Size: 2 cutlets45
These Lemon Pepper Tofu Cutlets are the perfect meal prep staple! Frozen + thawed tofu is sliced and soaked in a bath of zesty lemon pepper flavor. Then, they’re slow-baked to achieve that perfect meaty texture. Slice ‘em up for salads, use them for sandwiches, or serve ‘em over a mountain of rice for a filling and easy vegan dinner!
5 based on 5 review(s)
- 1 (16-oz) block extra-firm tofu (do not use silken tofu)
- 1/3 cup olive oil (see notes for oil-free)
- 2 Tbsp vegan chicken-style bouillon powder
- 1 lemon, zested
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- PREP THE TOFU: First, you’ll want to freeze your tofu. Place the whole container (do not open it) in the freezer overnight. In the morning, remove it from the freezer and set it in a shallow dish on your counter to thaw. This will take several hours. When the tofu is thawed, squeeze it gently over the sink and press it with a tofu press or on paper towels to remove any excess liquid.
- MARINATE: Place your tofu on a cutting board and slice it into 8 equal “cutlets.” Use a fork to mix all the marinade ingredients in a large measuring cup. Place the cutlets in a shallow container and pour the marinade over them, making sure each cutlet is coated. Cover and place them in your fridge for at least an hour or overnight.*
- BAKE: When you’re ready to bake your cutlets, preheat your oven to 350F and grab a large baking sheet. Place the cutlets on this baking sheet and bake them at 350F for 40 minutes, flipping them halfway through. Depending on the thickness / brand of tofu you’re using, you may want to flip and cook them another 10 - 20 minutes until they are browned and meaty. We end up cooking ours an extra 10 most times.
- SERVE: Finally, let your cutlets cool slightly before slicing them up for all your salads or pasta or bowls throughout the week. They will firm a bit as they cool. You can store them in an air-tight container in the fridge or freeze them for up to 8 weeks!
*Since these cutlets are such a staple in our kitchen, I will usually marinate a large batch of them at a time, separate them into several containers and freeze them in the marinade BEFORE baking. This makes it easy for me to defrost and pop a batch in the oven for salads each week, AND I’ve found it gives them an even better texture. Highly recommend this method!
FOR OIL-FREE: You can replace some or all of the oil with water, but remember this adds more moisture to the tofu which will affect the texture. Your baking time might need to be adjusted as well.