You might think of these easy sweet and savory tempeh strips as a recipe for homemade tempeh bacon, though they can be used in all kinds of ways.
For recipes calling for plant-based bacon, prepared strips (made from tempeh or other plant proteins) are available, of course, and some are quite good. But this DIY option will save you at least a couple of bucks per batch, and you control the sodium content.
Besides, they’re super easy and quick to make and satisfy a tempeh fan more than a prepared product can. Here are a few ways to use these:
- They’re delicious made into TLT sandwiches or wraps
- They’re a nice side-by-side with veggie-filled tofu scrambles
- Use as a topping for soups
- Add to grain bowls along with plenty of vegetables, as shown here. No recipe needed! Simply line the bottom of shallow bowls with cooked rice, quinoa, or other grain; arrange some sautéed or roasted vegetables over the grain, followed by the tempeh strips. Sprinkle them with sesame seeds for extra crunch and flavor!
- 8-ounce package tempeh, any variety, cut into 1/4-inch thick strips
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 to 2 tablespoons soy sauce, to taste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 to 3 teaspoons barbecue seasoning (see Note)
- Have the tempeh cut and ready to go before starting.
- Combine the syrup, 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce, and oil in a medium skillet. Stir to combine.
- When the mixture start to bubble, arrange the tempeh strips in the skillet in a single layer. Turn the slices over once all are in the skillet.
- Cook over medium-low heat for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the under side is starting to brown, then turn the slices over again. Continue to cook until the second side starts to brown as well.
- Taste a small piece to see if you’d like to drizzle in a little more soy sauce. Sprinkle half of the seasoning over the tempeh strips. Flip them again and sprinkle with the remaining seasoning. Use as suggested in the headnote or serve as a protein-packed side dish.
Barbecue seasoning is available in the spice section of most supermarkets. Varieties include smokehouse maple, mesquite, chipotle, and there are lots of others. Discover your favorites, and keep a couple on hand.
What is tempeh, anyway?
Tempeh (pronounced tem-pay) is made of cooked and fermented soybeans formed into firm blocks. A traditional food of Indonesia, it has long been adopted in the west as a good source of plant-based protein — it’s even higher in protein than tofu, another traditional soy food. A 3-ounce serving of tempeh contains about 16 grams of protein.
Like tofu, tempeh is also versatile, though perhaps not as much, since it has a more distinct flavor and chewy texture. Though somewhat of an acquired taste, if you do take a liking to it, you’ll find it quite useful. Tempeh is usually sold in 8-ounce cellophane-wrapped packages, and though you’re more likely to find it in natural foods stores, it has made its way into supermarkets as well.
How does tempeh taste?
It’s challenging to describe the flavor of tempeh. I’ve heard it being compared with chicken and mushrooms, but that’s hardly the case. Its taste defies comparison, but depending on the variety, it can taste mildly nutty to distinctly fermented.
Some people enjoy the fermented flavor, while others are somewhat put off by it. Tempeh may be an acquired taste, but with careful and creative preparation, it’s a taste worth acquiring.
Tempeh comes in a number of varieties, but honestly, they don’t taste very much different from one another. Some combine the main ingredient —soybeans — with grains like brown rice, and barley, and quinoa.Other varieties of tempeh include flaxseeds as well.
How can tempeh be used?
Some cooks like to steam tempeh briefly, which gives it a more tender texture and reduces its fermented bite. However, this step is entirely optional. Here are a few of its best uses:
- Diced and sautéed, tempeh can be tossed into grain and noodle dishes or vegetable stir-fries
- Diced and sautéed, it can also be used as a salad topper in place of croutons.
- Mashed with vegan mayonnaise, and with some finely diced celery and minced scallions added, it makes a good sandwich spread or wrap filling. A bit of curry powder is a nice touch.
- Tempeh can be sliced and sautéed like cutlets or roasted with barbecue sauce.
- And of course, it can prepared as directed here to make delicious homemade tempeh bacon.
More recipes using tempeh on this site: