Smoky Barbecue Tempeh: I’m Betting That Even You Tempeh Skeptics Will Like This



There’s no denying that tempeh, the fermented whole soy bean product which originated in Indonesia, has a bit of a strong flavor. Some people love it, but for others, it’s an acquired taste. That’s why when cooking with tempeh, I think it’s best to work with it’s strength by pairing it with other assertive flavors–ginger, garlic, soy sauce, spicy peppers. You’ll find all of these and more in this recipe for smoky barbecue tempeh. If’ you’re looking for something to serve on a bun which is tasty, vegan and full of veggies, this is it! While this is looser than a burger, it’s thick enough that it stays on the bun, and you can easily eat it with your hands. This barbecue would be great served with Asian pickled veggies on top: cucumbers, carrot, ginger. The full recipe is after the jump, and you’ll find more of my recipes using tempeh here, here, here, and here.


Serves 4, generously

1 package (8 ounces) soy or multi-grain tempeh

1/2 medium onion, peeled and diced

4-5 medium mushrooms, diced

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1 carrot, trimmed and grated

1 stalk celery, diced

1-2 teaspoons smoked paprika

2-3 teaspoons soy sauce, to taste

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4-6 tablespoons Annie’s Smoky Maple BBQ sauce, or BBQ sauce of choice, to taste

2-4 tablespoons natural catsup, or to taste

1 teaspoon umeboshi vinegar

1/2 cup toasted sunflower seeds, ground fine in a food processor

1/4 cup water, or as needed

1. Heat a medium fry pan, add enough oil so that you have about a 1/16th inch of oil in the pan, heat it until it is very hot. Then, over medium heat, sauté the tempeh in this hot oil 4-5 minutes on a side or until golden. Remove the tempeh from the pan, and pour out most of the oil.

2. Return the pan to medium heat and sauté the onions, mushrooms, garlic, carrot and celery.  Add in the smoked paprika and a sprinkle of salt. Stir frequently for the first 5 minutes, then lower heat and continue sautéing another 5 minutes or until all the veggies begin to be tender.

3.While the veggies soften, dice or crumble the tempeh into small bits.

4. After the veggies have cooked about 10 minutes, add the tempeh, soy sauce, a few sprinkles of black pepper, the BBQ sauce, the catsup, umeboshi vinegar and sunflower seeds. Stir everything together well.

5. Let this mixture cook over low heat 15-20 minutes to give time for the flavors to intensify and to meld.  If it seems to be going dry, add a little water. You want the final result to be moist, but not wet. When it comes to the seasoning, add the smaller quantity suggested first, then taste and add more until it tastes right to you. You’re looking for a balance of sweet, spicy, salty and smoky flavors.

6. Serve as a topping for grains or on a toasted whole grain bun. Pickles to accompany would be a great addition, as would freshly-made cole slaw.

3 responses

    • Andrea, Yes, I made this over the weekend for a group on retreat, and even the non-vegetarians who tasted it seemed to like it quite a bit. The meat-eaters got a version made with ground turkey, but I think the vegetarians fared better!

  1. Thank you for this! You are right, since going vegan/macrobiotic a year ago, I’ve really struggled to like tempeh. The only way I’ve liked it is “bacon” style in those pre-made strips, so this might work for me as its a similar flavor profile. I can’t wait to try it- if I serve it on a bun even my toddlers might eat it!

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