Save Swine, Eat a TLT

The last thing you are probably pining for this very moment is a warm plate of ... tofu.  But seeing these narrow bodies neatly lined up in rows made sharing this recipe hard to resist.  

Save a pig.  Eat a soybean.  The slogan still needs work.  Luckily, the tofu does not.

This idea is inspired by the ever-enchanting site, 101 Cookbooks.  The original recipe was for a “TLT,” a take on the beloved classic BLT.  It featured tempeh though, which—try as I might—I just cannot endorse. Tempeh and I are not friendly.  So I’ve been making the sandwich with tofu ever since.

The thin strips soak in a marinade that is meant to recall an essence of bacon.  If you really want a BLT, you had better use swine.  But the liquid, which is smoky and a little spicy from the chipotle, sweet from the maple, and salty from the tamari, can easily hold its own.

Thus, if you welcome the TLT as a singular entity, it makes a wonderful vegetarian-friendly counterpoint, employing the usual sidekicks: lettuce, tomato, and mayo.  The sandwich itself is not far off from the soy BLT MIT-based Clover Food Lab sells.  Their mantra being, local fast food done a la vegetarian.

I’ve used the Clover menu for inspiration on more than one occasion by tucking TLT components into a pita, roasting up some shoestring rosemary fries, and downing a pint of Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project’s Jack D’or.  The tofu, native.  The beer, home-based in Somerville.  And the meal, made in my kitchen.  A local fast food feast all its own.

So, perhaps, save a BLT.  Eat a TLT.  It is not meant as a substitute for the adored piggy classic.  But it makes a t.asty l.ittle t.ofu sandwich all its own.

TLT Tofu
Inspired by 101 Cookbooks


1½ tbsp olive oil (plus more for the pan)
¼ cup tamari (soy sauce)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp brown sugar or maple syrup
4-5 tbsp adobo sauce (from a can of chipotle peppers)
about 14 ounces firm or extra firm tofu (1 block)


In a rectangular baking dish, mix together the oil, tamari, vinegar, brown sugar (or maple) and adobo sauce.  (Use less adobo if you don't like spice.) Slice the tofu into 4-5 rectangular slabs and then slice each slab into 3 pieces lengthwise, so you get long strips.  Lay the strips into the baking dish with the marinade, cover with plastic wrap, and let marinate in the fridge overnight.

Heat a medium saut√© pan on medium to medium-high heat and add a glug of oil to the pan.  Add half the tofu (or all of it, depending on the size of your pan) and half the marinade to the hot pan.  Cook the tofu for about 5-7 minutes, or until the tofu starts to gather color on its underside; flip the tofu and cook until fairly firm to the touch (about 10 minutes in total).  If the tofu starts to burn, turn the heat down.  Wipe down the pan and repeat the process, if cooking in two batches.

Makes 12-15 strips

- For the sandwich: I don’t need to tell you, you know how to make a BLT.  Use your favorite bread with tomatoes, lettuce, and mayo.  Sometimes I put a little lemon zest in the mayo. I like the TLT either on a brioche bun (if you’re feeling it, see here for a recipe) or in a pita (see here for a recipe).

-21st Century Tofu and Chang Shing Tofu are two local brands.

-The original recipe uses oven-dried tomatoes, which is brilliant in winter.  However, I found the sandwich too cloying for me, too one-notey.  It needed some brightness and the fresh tomatoes provided that.

-The sauce has a tendency to burn on you, so be sure to watch it and turn down the heat (or add a little more sauce to the pan) if needed.

-I like tamari (made solely from soybeans), so that’s the sauce I stock.

-Clover Food Lab now has food trucks and standalone units in Cambridge and Boston.  I like their restaurant in Harvard Square.  They have colored drawings done in crayon or marker tacked up on the walls and a vine growing up the back of their indoor space.  They also have beer.

-Please note: the BLT is one of my favorite sandwiches on earth.  I love pig.  But I also eat soy.   There.  I said it.  I feel better now.


  1. Just love your writing. It always provides vivid images and emotions.
    And I'm with you - tofu and pig/meat. It's alright to eat them both!

  2. I cannot, for the life of me, get on the tempeh bandwagon. The taste, the texture. Just, ugh. Love the sound of this, though.

  3. Admittedly, since letting the pig back into my kitchen, the soy bean has been pretty well absent. (As a vegetarian, I was always much more of a beans and seitan kind of girl anyway.) But I can see how this would be nice on one of those PDC buns.

    I actually prefer tempeh to tofu, but maybe it depends on the brand? Unfortunately, I can't make any recommendations. I don't think I've actually bought any tempeh since moving to Chicago, and I can't remember the name of the brand I bought in Canada. In any case, it was this other 101 Cookbooks tempeh recipe that won me over eventually.

  4. Ashley: Thank you!! What a lovely, lovely thing to say. Can't think of a better compliment ... :)

    Molly: Glad to hear I'm not alone. I want to like tempeh and all its fermented goodness. I really do. But I've yet to be convinced.

    Katie: If you ever come across any tempeh you deem worth trying please let me know! I tried the recipe you linked to with tofu instead of tempeh and found it a wee bit underwhelming with the former. I'm betting the tempeh might soak up the flavors better. Any who, I trust your palate, so keep me posted!