Tofu Asada With Caramelized Onion Refried Beans


Tofu is the perfect canvas for a bold spice blend, and even better, it grills up in a flash.  

Tofu Asada with Caramelized Refried Beans
Photo: Victor Protasio
Hands On Time:
40 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs 20 mins

This vegetarian twist on carne asada, a classic Mexican dish of beef marinated in a mix of spices and lime juice and then grilled and sliced, is not one to miss. This plant-based recipe takes advantage of the perfect canvas that is tofu—it absorbs marinades beautifully. A simple yet bold spice blend made with chile powder and spiked with onion and garlic powder infuses the slabs of tofu with flavor. Don't skip dressing up canned beans with caramelized onions for an irresistible sweetness; these DIY refried beans make a perfect sidekick to this tofu asada.


  • 2 14-oz. pkg. extra-firm tofu, sliced crosswise into 8 slices (about 1/2 in. thick)

  • 1 tablespoon chipotle or ancho chile powder

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1 teaspoon onion powder

  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed

  • 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided

  • cup olive oil

  • 1 small white onion, finely chopped, divided

  • 2 cloves garlic, grated (preferably on a Microplane)

  • 2 15-oz. cans black beans or pinto beans, drained and rinsed

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

  • 1 to 2 serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded, and sliced

  • ¼ cup cilantro leaves and tender stems

  • Canola oil, for the grill

  • Flour tortillas (grilled or warmed) and lime wedges, for serving


  1. Arrange sliced tofu in a single layer on a towel-lined baking sheet. Place another towel and baking sheet on top; press down to remove excess water.

  2. Stir together chile powder, garlic powder, onion powder, sugar, oregano, and 2 teaspoons salt in a small bowl. Pat seasoning mixture on both sides of tofu slices. Arrange tofu in an even layer on a cooling rack set inside a baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

  3. During final 20 minutes of tofu marinating time, heat olive oil and half of onion in a large skillet over medium, stirring occasionally, until deep golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic; cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add beans and 1/2 cup water (be careful, as beans will splatter); bring mixture to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced slightly, about 5 minutes. Using a potato masher or wooden spoon, mash beans until almost no whole beans remain and mixture is thick, smooth, and creamy. Remove from heat, stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt, and let cool slightly (refried beans will thicken as they sit).

  4. Make pico de gallo: Toss tomatoes, chiles, cilantro, and remaining onion in a medium bowl. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt.

  5. Preheat grill to medium-high (400°F to 450°F) and grease grates with canola oil. (Alternatively, heat a grill pan over medium-high and brush with oil.) Grill tofu slices, uncovered, until golden and charred, about 3 minutes per side. Serve grilled tofu with beans, pico de gallo, flour tortillas, and lime wedges.

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