Ok ok, let’s clear the air. This isn’t one of those you’d-never-guess-it-wasn’t-real-bacon kind of recipes. It’s not exactly the same. But this vegan tempeh bacon is smoky, crispy, and full of umami flavor. Tempeh is loaded with protein and it’s delicious wrapped up in a taco. It’s perfect piled onto a sandwich or crumbled into a salad. You could add lettuce and tomato and make a sandwich, or you could mix it into a stir fry. Basically, this tempeh bacon can do just about anything.
What is tempeh?
If you haven’t tried tempeh before, it’s a soy based food made from fermented soybeans, similar to tofu. It’s usually sold in the refrigerated part of the natural foods section, near the tofu. It doesn’t have a strong taste on its own, but it’s fabulous at absorbing flavors. With a little marinating, we can transform tempeh into a deliciously umami-packed protein.
Does tempeh taste like tofu?
I personally think the texture of tempeh is much better than tofu and it’s easier to work with because there is no draining or pressing required. If you’re looking for a good source of plant-based protein, but you’re not a fan of tofu, give tempeh a chance. In fact, 3oz of tempeh contains 16g of protein and just 140 calories.
The trick to delicious tempeh? Marinate it! Tempeh absorbs flavors really well, but it can take some time. Let it marinate overnight, if possible. If you don’t have time to let it marinate, you can steam it first, to help open up the tempeh to absorb the flavors better.
Sure, it’s not bacon, but it’s crispy, smokey, and delicious!
- 1 package 8 oz. tempeh
- ¼ cup tamari OR soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon liquid smoke (see note)
- 1 teaspoon avocado oil (or another neutral cooking oil)
- Slice tempeh into thin strips. You want to slice them as thinly as possible.
- If you have a steamer basket, steam the tempeh for 10 minutes over a pot of boiling water. This will cut its bitter edge and will make it more tender and absorbent. The tempeh will get lighter and will expand slightly. If you don’t have a steamer basket, you can skip this step!
- In a shallow dish, whisk together all the ingredients.
- Place the tempeh (in a single layer, or double layer, if possible) and gently tilt the dish until all the tempeh has been covered with the marinade.
- Marinade for at least an hour, or overnight.
- Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat and spread the tempeh in a single layer.
- Cook for 5-7 minutes over medium heat and let it brown before flipping to the other side.
- Cook on the other side for another 3-5 minutes until brown on both sides. It should get nice and crispy.
Liquid smoke might sound weird, but it’s made from a concentration of smoke from wood. Chips or sawdust from hardwoods like hickory are burned at a really high heat, and particles of the smoke are collected in condensers. That’s how they make liquid smoke! It really gives this tempeh the perfect flavor.
Keywords: Tempeh Bacon
This vegan tempeh bacon is so good. Sure, it’s not the real thing, but it’s delicious. Try it in these vegan tempeh tacos or add it to this broccoli fried rice. You can make the tempeh ahead of time and heat it up when you’re ready to enjoy it, although it won’t be quite as crispy as when it’s freshly made. It can be a great vegan protein to make during your weekly meal prep!
Have you ever tried to make vegan tempeh bacon?
This post was originally published in January 2015. Updated April 2018.