Meaty and chewy, this plant-based snack or sandwich filler has all the smoky-sweet flavor of “real” jerky.
1 1/2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
1 Tbsp. liquid aminos
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu, pressed 8+ hours and drained
1/2 cup canned pinto beans, rinsed and drained
3 1/2 Tbsp. liquid smoke
3 Tbsp. liquid aminos, such as Bragg
1 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
2 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. dried onion flakes
1 tsp. ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp. vital wheat gluten
In a small bowl, whisk together the maple syrup and the liquid aminos and set aside. You’ll be sprinkling on the black pepper, so you don’t need it just yet.
Preheat the oven to 350-degrees F and line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Mix together the 1 tablespoon maple syrup and liquid aminos in a small bowl; set aside. You’ll also need two large pieces of plastic wrap – several inches longer than the baking sheet – a rolling pin and a brush.
Crumble the tofu into the bowl of a food processor and add the pinto beans, liquid smoke, liquid aminos, maple syrup, spices and garlic. Process until the tofu is smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice.
Add the vital wheat gluten and process again until the dough forms a ball.
Scrape the mixture onto the center of the baking sheet and form the dough into a thick rectangle. Drape the two sheets of plastic wrap (overlapping them a little) to completely cover the rectangle of dough. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough until it nearly covers the baking sheet. It should be about 1/4-inch thick, but don’t worry about the thickness being exactly even; this will give the jerky more texture.
Remove the plastic wrap. Now comes the creative part. Brush the maple syrup/liquid aminos mixture over the jerky and sprinkle the black pepper over the surface. Using the back of a fork, swirl and press into the dough to create stripes of texture. You’re going for a “meaty” look. Once you’ve done that, take a knife or pizza cutter and divide the dough into rough strips. Think about what real meat jerky looks like – – that’s what you’re recreating here, so there’s no need for perfection.
Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and re-cut along the strips. If the pieces along the edge seem to be crisping up and browning too much, remove them from the pan and return the rest to the oven for another 10-15 minutes. Remove and let cool completely before cutting again and separating the pieces. See Notes before indulging in your newly-cooked jerky! Store in an air-tight container.
Do not skimp on the pressing time for the tofu. It’s important to extract as much liquid as possible so that the tofu absorbs all the good smoky flavors – – and so that it bakes up properly.
I prefer liquid aminos here over tamari or soy sauce because of the added smokiness, but tamari/soy sauce can be subbed.
You’ll be tempted to eat the jerky straight out of the oven because it smells so darn good as it bakes. But wait! The jerky texture happens once the strips cool. Even if you overcook the jerky and it’s initially crispy, it will soften once it’s been stored in the refrigerator for a while.