Vegan tempeh bacon is the perfect companion to your Saturday tofu scramble. Crumble it for homemade meatless bacon bits on top of a salad or baked potato. Use it to make a BLT (or TTLA) sandwich for breakfast or lunch. This recipe is super easy to make, and it can be made gluten-free with tamari and grain-free tempeh.
Bacon is one of those things that most people say they can never go without once they find out someone is vegan. “Oh, your vegan? I could never do that. I love bacon too much.”
Bacon contains a rare taste combination of fat, salt, and smoke, and comes with a bit of crunch. I guess this is what makes people think they can’t live without it. The good news is that you don’t have to. There are plenty of pre-made meatless varieties available, and more vegan and vegetarian recipes than you can even imagine. You can make vegan bacon from tofu, tempeh, carrots, eggplant, chickpeas, and even those rice paper wrappers for spring rolls. There’s even an entire cookbook dedicated to the subject!
Tempeh bacon is one of those things that’s so simple, you almost don’t need a recipe for it. Sure, you can buy it premade in the grocery store, but I prefer to make it myself, as I can control what goes into it.
Store-bought tempeh bacon is usually made with soy sauce, so it's not gluten-free. I like to cook with tamari, which is a wheat-free soy sauce. I don't follow a gluten-free diet – I just prefer the taste of tamari.
What is Tempeh?
Pronounced “TEM pay,” tempeh is a traditional Indonesian food. It probably originated on the island of Java, where it is still very popular today.
It's made by culturing soybeans. The soybeans are partially cooked, soaked, and hulled. A fermentation starter is mixed in with beans, which are then spread into a thin layer and left in a warm area (usually around 88 degrees) for 24 to 48 hours. The fermentation process binds the beans together to form a patty or a cake.
Sometimes cooked whole grains such as rice or barley are added to the beans before the fermenting process.
Because it’s fermented, it can have discolored spots that almost look moldy. It’s perfectly safe to eat, though.
What You Need
You only need a few ingredients to make this recipe!
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Maple Syrup
- Liquid Smoke
See the recipe card for exact measurements.
How to Make Vegan Tempeh Bacon
It couldn't be easier to make Tempeh Bacon!
- First, you slice a block of tempeh into thin strips.
- Then you marinate it in a mixture of tamari, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, liquid smoke, and paprika
- And finally you bake it!
It’s super easy, and super delicious.
If you follow a gluten-free diet, make sure your tempeh is gluten-free. Also make sure your tamari is gluten-free.
If you'd like your bacon to be extra smokey, use smoked paprika instead of regular paprika.
Serving Your Tempeh Bacon
Tempeh bacon is delicious on sandwiches, salads, baked potatoes, soups, and just about anything that could use a dose of smoky goodness.
How to Make a Vegan BLT or TTLA
I love to serve tempeh bacon with tofu scrambles on weekends. I also love to use it as the “meat” in sandwiches—both lunch and breakfast sandwiches. I’ve been using it in BLTs for years, and since it’s so magical, I almost always add an avocado.
A few years ago Whole Foods' version of a BLT (called a TTLA for tempeh, tomato, lettuce, and avocado), went viral, which caused a temporary tempeh shortage. The horror!
Whole Foods makes their TTLA sandwich vegan garlic aioli on ciabatta bread. I’ve just been using plain old vegan mayo, but I can see how adding a little roasted garlic to it would add a little extra oomph. My Roasted Garlic Cream would be really nice on a sandwich.
To make your own TTLA at home, just spread some mayo on your favorite bread and then layer on tempeh bacon, avocado, tomato slices, and lettuce leaves. And voila—you just saved yourself 8 bucks!
- 1 (8-ounce) package tempeh
- ¼ cup tamari
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspooon maple syrup
- 1 teaspoons liquid smoke
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- Thinly slice the tempeh and place in a shallow baking dish.
- Mix the tamari, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, liquid smoke, and paprika together in a small bowl. Pour over the tempeh. Let marinate for at least 6 hours. It can be marinated overnight in the fridge, if you like.
- Heat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and carefully place the tempeh strips on it, making sure they don’t overlap. Bake for 15 minutes, then flip the tempeh and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until crisp and brown.