When I told D that we needed to use the tempeh soon before it went bad, he got this far-off, dreamy expression on his face. I thought for a minute he was having some type of male menopausal seizure, but no, he was just thinking about tempeh “bacon.”
The first place D ever had tempeh bacon was with me in the little vegetarian restaurant we went to on our first date. It became a tradition for us to go there every Sunday for brunch, and their plate of tempeh bacon, grits, and biscuits was D’s favorite. After E came along, those Sunday morning outings became less convenient, though I still remember her sitting in a high chair, raining down biscuit crumbs and grits on everyone nearby. We were sad to hear that the restaurant closed after we moved away, but thinking of it brings back happy memories. So my apologies to D for my uncharitable thoughts of male menopause. Memories of tempeh bacon have been known to inspire rapturous looks on my face, too.
When I have lots of time, I like to steam or simmer tempeh before marinating it to improve its flavor, but in this recipe, I’ve shortened the prep time by combining the simmering and marinating. The result is an all-purpose tempeh that’s less bacony than my usual recipe but can be used in many types of sandwiches. In addition to making TLT’s, you can use it in Ruben sandwiches or put it on a bun and treat it like a burger. But watch out–you may find yourself getting dreamy-eyed over tempeh, too!
Tempeh Bacon Lettuce and Tomato Sandwiches
See the Notes for air fryer instructions.
- 1 8-ounce package tempeh (any variety will do)
- 1 cup warm vegetable broth
- 2-3 tablespoons soy sauce (I used 2 but use more if you like your tempeh saltier)
- 1 teaspoon Liquid Smoke
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder or smoked Spanish paprika
Slice the tempeh about 1/4-inch thick. In a flat, microwavable baking dish (or a large skillet) arrange the tempeh slices in a single layer. Mix the remaining ingredients and pour over the tempeh. Pre-cook either in the microwave or on stovetop.
For microwave cooking, cook on high power for 3 minutes. Turn or rearrange any pieces that were not covered by broth and microwave on high for 2 minutes. Then cook at 50% power for 3 more minutes. Allow the tempeh to stay in the broth until you’re ready to pan fry.
For stovetop cooking, bring the broth to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes, turning the tempeh halfway through to make sure each piece gets equal time in the broth. Remove from the heat and allow it to sit in the broth until you’re ready to pan fry it.
Heat a large non-stick skillet. (If it isn’t very nonstick, you may have to wipe it with a few drops canola oil or use cooking spray.) Put it on medium-high heat until hot, and then remove the tempeh slices from the broth and put them in the pan in a single layer. (I did this in two batches.) Cook until brown, and then turn. When they are almost brown on the second side, add a few tablespoons of the simmering broth to the skillet and allow it to evaporate. (This adds more flavor.) Remove from skillet and serve immediately.
Cajun Tempeh option: Sprinkle the tempeh with Creole seasoning just before you turn it for a spicy treat.
For sandwiches, spread bread with your choice of condiments (I use vegan mayo and spicy mustard). Arrange lettuce and tomato (I used yellow ones) on bread and top with strips of tempeh. One package of tempeh will make about 4 sandwiches.
To cook in the air fryer, after precooking, preheat the air fryer to 350-360F. Place the tempeh in the basket. Cook for 3 minutes. Rearrange tempeh and cook until crispy, checking every minute or two. Careful: Tempeh can overcook quickly.