Balsamic Braised Tofu with Tomato, Olive, Fennel Relish (GF/V)

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    Balsamic braised tofu on a white plate.

    This Balsamic Braised Tofu with Tomato, Olive, and Fennel Relish was born out of the desire to create a vegan meal that is simultaneously satisfying and hearty, but also light and bursting with tons of fresh flavors. About this time every winter, I start really missing some of those summer flavors. Things like tangy tomatoes, zippy lemons, and fresh herbs especially make my mouth water. Therefore, I created this recipe to respond to those cravings, and to give us all a break from the heavier dishes that typically dominate wintertime fare.

    This easy vegan dinner may look like it has a lot of ingredients and steps, but if you own an oven and know how to sauté veggies, you’ll be just fine. We marinate our tofu in a herby and delicious mixture of balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, fennel seeds, garlic, and basil, and then give it a braise in the oven. Then, we top that with a lovely, super-fresh relish made with grape tomatoes, lemon zest, fennel, fresh dill, and kalamata olives. And the best part? This recipe only takes 45 minutes to put together, and it has tons of fiber, potassium, vitamins C and A, and protein! This balsamic braised tofu is a total winner!

    Tofu garnished with lemon and fennel fronds.

    Why this balsamic braised tofu works.

    If you’ve followed the blog before this post, you already know that my husband calls me the Tofu Evangelist. That’s because I literally love tofu so much that it’s become a bit of a passion of mine. If I can convert one tofu hater into a tofu tolerator or, better yet, a tofu lover, I will consider myself successful!

    The marinade

    This recipe is a great one to try if you are skeptical about tofu, or if you just want to do something different with it. However, to give you a quick tofu basics lesson, there’s one important thing to remember: tofu absorbs basically any flavor you put in it. So, for this recipe, we created a marinade for our tofu that has a diverse set of fresh flavors that all marry well. Our two main ingredients are balsamic vinegar and soy sauce. Now, it may seem like these two things don’t go together. Just trust me here. The vinegar is naturally acidic while the soy sauce is rich in umami. Putting them together creates a lovely balance of acid, salt, and richness that is hearty and satisfying. We also add some herbs like basil and fennel that create some more complex top notes.

    Additionally, instead of just leaving the tofu to marinate before tossing it in the oven, we go a step further. We use the marinade to braise the tofu. Going this easy extra mile helps infuse the tofu with even more flavor.

    The tomato, olive, and fennel relish
    Ingredients like fennel, tomato, garlic, and olives for a tomato relish.

    The best part about this vegan dinner recipe is that you can make the tomato relish while the tofu is in the oven. Therefore, this dish comes together very quickly.

    We start with halved grape tomatoes. I like to use cherry or grape tomatoes in the winter since they tend to be more flavorful and reliable this time of year. They are also slightly sweeter than larger tomato varieties, which is important when you’re working with a plethora of other acidic ingredients like balsamic vinegar and lemon zest.

    Next, we add some chopped fennel. I LOVE fennel. It caramelizes like an onion when sautéd, but it is sweeter and has that signature licorice-like flavor, which I find really appealing. Some people like this, and some people don’t. If you don’t like fennel, feel free to replace it with a nice red onion instead. Your relish will still be just as delicious.

    We also add kalamata olives for a salty, savory kick that balances out the relish. Then, we add lemon zest and a dash of cumin seeds for some smokiness. We lightly sauté all of these things together, and the result is a bright, slightly sweet, well-balanced relish that is perfect when served on top of the braised tofu!

    See? Tofu is the best!

    This is a recipe that you can serve just for two as an elegant, but easy date night dinner. Or, you can double it and serve it for company! Another great thing about this vegan, gluten-free dinner is that it’s easy to double and use for meal prep. We’ve done meal prep often with both this recipe and with our Braised Tofu with Brothy Beans and Kale. It keeps for about 4 days in the fridge, freezes well (more on frozen tofu later!!), and is easy to portion out for meal prep purposes. Healthy, vegan meal prep for the win!

    Let us know how you like this recipe, and go here if you want more creative vegan dinner ideas featuring tofu. Bon Appetit is also a great place to find tofu ideas! Oh, and happy Veganuary!

    Balsamic Braised Tofu with Tomato, Fennel, and Olive Relish

    This easy, fresh, gluten-free and vegan tofu recipe is the perfect thing to make for date night or meal prep. The tofu is marinated and braised in a delicious, herby balsamic sauce, then topped with a zippy, slightly sweet, and flavorful tomato, olive, and fennel relish.
    Prep Time: 15 minutes
    Cook Time: 45 minutes
    Total Time: 1 hour
    Course: Main Course, Entree
    Cuisine: Italian, American, Vegan, Healthy!
    Diet: Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian
    Keyword: gluten free vegan recipes, baked tofu, olives, tomatoes, Gluten-free, meal prep, Vegan option, tofu, fennel, easy recipes, tofu ricotta, easy vegan recipes, vegan dinner, tofu recipes, vegan dinner ideas, tomato relish, vegan dinner recipes
    Servings: 4 people
    Calories: 247kcal
    Author: LM


    Tofu and Marinade:

    • 14 oz. extra firm tofu drained and pressed
    • 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
    • 1/4 cup gluten-free soy sauce
    • 2 tsp. fresh garlic finely minced
    • 1 tsp. fennel seeds
    • 1 tsp. ground basil
    • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
    • 1/2 lemon thinly sliced

    Tomato, Olive, and Fennel Relish:

    • 2 cups grape tomatoes halved
    • 1 1/2 cups fresh fennel chopped with some fronds reserved for garnish
    • 1/2 cup kalamata olives pitted and halved
    • 1/2 cup fresh dill roughly chopped
    • 1 tsp. raw sugar
    • 1 tsp. whole cumin seeds
    • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
    • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
    • salt and pepper to taste


    For the tofu and marinade:

    • Preheat oven to 400ºF. Press tofu for a few minutes by wrapping it in a clean towel and placing something heavy on top of it. While the tofu is pressing, combine the balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, fennel seeds, ground basil, and black pepper in a small bowl. Whisk until thoroughly combined.
    • Cut tofu into eight equally sized steaks. They will be about the size of the palm of your hand and about 1/2 – 1 inch thick.
    • Grease a 12 X 10 glass baking dish with olive oil and place the tofu steaks in it, making sure they are equal distances apart and not touching each other.
    • Spoon about 1/3 of the marinade over the tofu steaks, making sure each piece is has been covered. Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
    • At the end of the 15 minutes, remove the tofu from the oven, flip it to the opposite side using tongs, and spoon another 1/3 of the marinade over the tofu steaks, making sure to coat each steak. Place back in the oven and bake for another 15 minutes.
    • Finally, once the 15 minutes are up, remove the tofu from the oven, flip it again to the opposite side, nestle the lemon slices amongst the steaks, spoon the rest of the marinade over the lemons and tofu, and place back in the oven for a final 15 minutes.

    For the tomato, olive, and fennel relish:

    • While the tofu is baking, place olive oil in a large cast iron or other heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat.
    • Add chopped fennel and sauté until it just begins to become translucent.
    • Add halved tomatoes and sauté until they release their liquid and the skins become slightly wrinkled.
    • Add olives, sugar, cumin, and lemon zest, and toss to combine. Sauté for about 1-2 minutes longer.
    • Add fresh dill and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine and immediately remove from heat.

    To serve:

    • Place 2 tofu steaks on the plate and spoon desired amount of relish over them. Place one lemon slice on top and garnish with a few reserved fennel fronds. Serve this dish by itself or with a light salad. It also goes well with brown rice or quinoa.


    Calories: 247kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 1175mg | Potassium: 696mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 1200IU | Vitamin C: 28mg | Calcium: 156mg | Iron: 5mg
    Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!