This sweet and smoky tempeh bacon can be made in the oven or on the stove in just over 30 minutes. It's perfect in sandwiches, crumbled into soups or enjoyed with breakfast!
- diet-friendly: vegan, vegetarian, nut-free, gluten-free optional
- filled with sweet, salty and smoky flavor just like bacon
- can be made crisp and pan-fried in 30 minutes or baked in the oven
- perfect as a vegan protein in sandwiches or with breakfast
- Tempeh: One package usually has 8 ounces of tempeh. You can find tempeh in the refrigerated "plant-based" section at most grocery stores.
- Maple syrup adds that classic sweeteness. If you prefer a less sweet bacon, this ingredient can be decreased or omitted.
- Soy sauce adds a rich, deep flavor and saltiness. Replace with tamari to make gluten-free. Coconut aminos also work but have a slightly sweeter flavor.
- Apple cider vinegar adds acidity. Regular vinegar can be used in a pinch.
- Smoked paprika contributes to the smokiness, as the name implies! Chipotle chili powder is probably the most similar seasoning to use if you can't find smoked paprika.
Slice tempeh width-wise into 20-22 pieces about ½ cm each. Thinner tempeh = crispier tempeh!
Optional: Steam sliced tempeh in a steamer basket for 10 minutes (see tips below if you don't have a steamer basket).
Why steam? Steaming tempeh removes the bitter flavor that it can sometimes have. It also helps the tempeh better absorb the marinade.
Step one: Whisk together the marinade in a small bowl.
Step two: Line the tempeh up in a 2-3 quart baking dish. Pour the marinade over the tempeh. Marinate for at least 15 minutes and up to 24 hours. The longer it marinates, the more flavorful it will be.
You can either pan-fry or bake the tempeh. I personally prefer the pan-fried tempeh over baked because it gets a little crispier and is quicker.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, with enough oil to coat (you can use canola or olive oil). Once hot, add the marinated tempeh. Reserve the marinade for later.
- Sauté until lightly browned on one side. Flip the tempeh.
- Pour in the reserved marinade. It will look like a lot of liquid, but should cook off completely within 3-5 minutes. This will get the bacon extra crispy and adds a lot of extra flavor.
- Continue sautéing until the liquid is evaporated and bacon reaches your desired crispiness, flipping again as needed. Turn the heat up to medium-high if the liquid isn't evaporating.
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line tempeh up on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet (full or half sized will work), careful to not overlap.
- Bake for 10 minutes. Baste the bacon with leftover marinade. Return to the oven and bake another 10 minutes, until golden and almost crisp.
Note: This is an oil free option. If you prefer a crispier result, simply toss the marinated bacon in a bit of olive oil before baking.
Recipe FAQ and expert tips
- DIY steamer: You can use an all-metal colander or metal sieve in place of a steamer basket. Simply fill a similarly sized sauce pan with 1 inch simmering water. Place the colander on top the of the pan. Cover with that pan's lid to steam.
- Marinating: Marinating the tempeh isn't required but it makes the end result so much more delicious. You can marinate the tempeh for up to 24 hours for maximum flavor.
- Smoke flavor: Don't have smoked paprika? Liquid smoke can be used to add smokiness to the bacon. Start with ¼ teaspoon -- this stuff is strong!
- Sweetness: Decrease maple syrup for a less-sweet bacon.
- Shapes: For longer pieces of bacon, simply slice lengthwise instead of widthwise. This will yield about ⅓ as many pieces.
- Spice: Add hot sauce or cayenne pepper to the marinade for a spicier result.
Serve anywhere you would traditional bacon. Crumble tempeh bacon up on baked potatoes, in soups, or even as a pizza topping. I love a classic TLT (tempeh, lettuce, tomato sandwich) with avocado added. Or you can keep things classic by pairing with a tofu scramble and vegan pancakes for the ultimate veg-friendly breakfast.
Keep refrigerated in a closed container for 3-4 days. Reheat in a pan over medium heat to make crispy again.
Tempeh has an earthy, nutty flavor. It does not taste similar to tofu, which is more neutral. It sometimes has an astringent/bitter flavor that can be removed by steaming.
Use tamari and make sure your tempeh is certified gluten-free. Sometimes tempeh is processed with gluten-containing ingredients even though the tempeh itself is gluten-free.
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Vegan Tempeh Bacon
- Slice tempeh widthwise into 20-22 thin pieces. Optional: Steam sliced tempeh in a steamer basket for 10 minutes (see tips below if you don't have a steamer basket). This removes the bitter/astringent flavor that tempeh sometimes has.
- Meanwhile, mix together the marinade: vegetable broth, soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika.
- Line the tempeh up in a 2-3 quart baking dish (any dish will do as long as the tempeh fits in a single layer). Pour the marinade over the tempeh. Marinate for at least 15 minutes and up to 24 hours.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add enough oil to coat.
- Add the marinated tempeh without the marinade. Reserve the marinade for later.
- Sauté until golden on one side, about 2-3 minutes. Flip the tempeh. Pour in the reserved marinade. It will look like a lot of liquid, but should cook off completely within 3-5 minutes. Turn the heat up to medium-high if needed.
- Continue sautéing until the bacon reaches your desired crispiness and the marinade is evaporated, flipping again as needed. Enjoy hot.
- Steaming: You can use an all-metal colander or metal sieve in place of a steamer basket. Simply fill a similarly sized sauce pan with 1 inch simmering water. Place the colander on top the of the pan. Cover with that pan’s lid to steam.
- Baking instructions: Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line tempeh bacon up on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet, careful to not overlap. Reserve the marinade. Bake for 10 minutes. Flip the tempeh and baste or brush with reserved marinade. Bake another 10 minutes, until golden and crisp.
- Storage: Keep refrigerated in a closed container for 3-4 days. Reheat in a pan to recrisp.
- Gluten-free: Use tamari and make sure your tempeh is certified gluten-free. Sometimes tempeh is processed with gluten-containing ingredients even though the tempeh itself is gluten-free.
Note: This recipe was originally shared February 2020 and was updated with new photos and writing in April 2021.