Of all the vegan bacon, tempeh bacon may be king. Why? It’s hard to compete with the health perks of tempeh, mainly the protein, which makes it a true bacon substitute.
To ensure a smoky, salty, sweet flavor, we infused the tempeh with lots of tamari, liquid smoke, black pepper, maple syrup, and a dash of cayenne for a bit of heat. Once baked, you have tender bacon strips with crisp edges and major flavor ready for brunch, scrambles, sandwiches, and beyond! Just eight ingredients are required. Let us show you how it’s done.
Origin of Tempeh
Fun fact: Tempeh originated in Central or East Java, Indonesia, sometime around 1800 (source). It’s a fermented soy product that’s made of cooked, dehulled soybeans that are inoculated with mold, packed, and incubated until the mycelium binds the beans together. Sounds like weird science, but this fermentation process makes nutrients more available to your body. Plus, tempeh is rich in prebiotics, which are known to promote gut health. It also boasts a whole range of other health benefits, including its iron and calcium content (source).
How to Make Tempeh Bacon
It all starts with the marinade. Made with a combination of savory, sweet, and smoky elements, it infuses the tempeh bacon with so much flavor!
Tamari is the salty, savory component; maple syrup adds a subtle sweetness, and liquid smoke and paprika make it smoky. While avocado oil adds richness and prevents sticking, black pepper and optional cayenne provide a little heat that’s reminiscent of pepper bacon.
After marinating, the tempeh strips are baked, flipped, brushed with additional marinade, and baked once more.
- 8 ounces tempeh (ensure gluten-free as needed)
- 1 Tbsp oil (avocado oil // if oil-free, omit or add slightly more tamari and maple syrup)
- 3 Tbsp tamari (or coconut aminos if soy-free; use a bit more as it’s not as salty as tamari)
- 2 1/2 Tbsp maple syrup
- One healthy pinch of sea salt
- 1 1/2 tsp liquid smoke
- 1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper (plus more for coating)
- One dash of cayenne (optional // omit for less heat)
- Slice the tempeh in half widthwise (so you have two even squares), then thinly slice each square in thirds, so you have six very thin yards (it’s easiest to do this by placing the tempeh flat on your cutting board and holding the knife horizontally for an even cut). Then, slice each square into three rectangular strips. You should have ~18 pieces of tempeh (as the original recipe is written).
- In a shallow bowl, rimmed plate, or baking dish, whisk together the oil, tamari, maple syrup, salt, liquid smoke, smoked paprika, black pepper, and cayenne (optional). Taste and adjust flavor as needed. It should be quite salty, smoky, a little spicy, and plenty sweet (even a little too sweet, as it needs to balance the bitterness of the tempeh).
- Add the tempeh and toss to coat (using a pastry brush is helpful for full coating). Marinate for 10-15 minutes, flipping once for even flavor dispersion.
- Preheat the oven to 400degF (204degC) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Transfer tempeh (reserving excess marinade for brushing) to the parchment-lined baking sheet and arrange in a single layer.
- Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven, flip, and brush generously with reserved marinade. Bake for 8-10 minutes more or until browned and slightly crispy.
- Enjoy immediately or store cooled leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for five days or in the freezer for up to 2 months. Reheat in a 350degF (176degC) oven or on the stovetop over medium heat until hot.