What Is Tempeh? Where to Buy Tempeh?
Tempeh is a high-protein, soy-based food with its origins in Indonesia. It’s made of cooked and fermented soybeans (sometimes with other grains) that are shaped into a cake or patty.
It’s highly nutritious and a great alternative to tofu if you are looking for different vegan-friendly protein options. Tempeh makes a great vegan bacon because its texture is much more firm than tofu, so it can be easily sliced into thin strips and crisped up. It is not at all mushy
In the States, you can generally find tempeh at regular grocery stores in the same area where you would find tofu. If you’re having trouble finding it, I recommend checking a health food store like Whole Foods or Sprouts. I can also find it at my local Trader Joe’s.
Ingredients for Tempeh Bacon
Tempeh — I generally purchase Lightlife Original Tempeh but really any variety should work.
Soy sauce — This makes the tempeh bacon salty and super savory. Feel free to use low-sodium soy sauce to make it a bit less salty. To make the recipe gluten-free, simply substitute in gluten-free tamari, gluten-free soy sauce, or Bragg’s liquid aminos. I haven’t personally tested the recipe with coconut aminos so I can’t vouch for that substitution.
Maple syrup — This adds a nice sweetness to balance out the salt and smoke. You can also substitute in brown sugar or agave.
Liquid smoke — A great ingredient to have on hand for making any vegan bacon recipe, or smoked turkey style vegan cold cuts. If you prefer not to cook with liquid smoke, you can try using 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika instead. The flavor won’t be exactly the same, but it should come close.
Garlic and onion powder — Both are technically optional, but I love the depth of flavor they add. They make the marinade even more savory.
Black pepper — Optional; add as much or little as you like for a little kick.
Olive oil — You can use any neutral-tasting vegetable oil. This helps the sauce to coat the tempeh and caramelize into a beautiful, delicious glaze.
How to Cook Tempeh Bacon
I specifically designed this tempeh bacon recipe to be quick and easy, so you don’t have to marinate it for several hours or bake it for a long time. It can be made on the stove in one pan.
Step 1: Slice the Tempeh
Unwrap the tempeh and slice it into strips. I typically cut it widthwise into short, 1/4″ strips because I find them easiest to stir without breaking. If you want to slice it thinner, or cut it lengthwise for longer strips, feel free; you might just want to be a bit more careful while cooking/flipping them to keep them intact.
Alternatively, you can cut the tempeh into cubes or steaks. You can even crumble it to make bacon bits to top salads. Any shape is fine.
Step 2: Quick-Marinate the Tempeh
Combine all the marinade ingredients in a medium-sized skillet. Give them a quick stir, then add in your tempeh slices and stir to coat them with the marinade. Arrange them in one layer and let them marinate for 5 minutes. Give them a flip and marinate for 5 more minutes. Now we’re ready to cook.
Step 3: Cook the Tempeh Bacon
Once the tempeh has marinated, heat the skillet on the stove over medium heat. The sauce will eventually begin to bubble. Begin stirring. As the marinade starts to thicken, keep pushing the tempeh around the pan and flipping it occasionally. The goal is to get the sauce to coat the tempeh to form a nice glaze, so there is no extra marinade in the pan.
Once the tempeh is coated with the marinade, allow it to cook on one side till golden brown. Depending on your stove, you might want to lower the heat at this point, since the sugars in the marinade can go from a nice golden brown to burnt pretty quickly. Once one side is golden brown, flip and repeat. Then your bacon is ready to serve.
Stovetop Tempeh Bacon
- 1 8 oz package tempeh, cubed or cut into 1/4" slices
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup or agave
- 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- black pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Add all marinade ingredients directly to a medium skillet and stir to combine.
- Add the tempeh and toss to coat in the marinade. Arrange tempeh in an even layer in the pan and allow to marinate for about 5 minutes. Flip the slices and marinate for 5 more minutes.
- Place the skillet on the stove over medium heat.
- When the sauce begins to bubble, start stirring. The sauce will gradually thicken; keep stirring and occasionally flipping the slices to coat them with the sauce.
- Once the sauce has thickened to the point where it's mostly coating the tempeh, it should begin to caramelize and become a nice golden brown. Give the tempeh a flip to brown both sides. You may want to reduce heat to low or medium-low near the end, as the sauce can go from nicely browned to burnt quite quickly.
- When the tempeh is browned on both sides, remove it from heat and enjoy.