These Smoky Tempeh Bacon slices are savory, crispy, and easy to make. They are the perfect vegan alternative to traditional bacon in sandwiches, salads, and on burgers and breakfast plates.
While this Smoky Tempeh Bacon may not fool any meat eaters, it is a delicious and healthy plant-based alternative that resembles the same flavors and textures that regular bacon provides.
It’s crispy, salty, smoky, slightly sweet with loads of umami!
You may find yourself snacking on slices all by themselves! I tend to eat a quarter of the slices on their own while waiting for the bread to toast for a vegan BLT!
Ingredients you need
Ingredient notes and substitutions
Tempeh ~ Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans pressed into a thin, dense “cake” or patty usually in rectangular form. It may contain other ingredients, such as whole grains or other bean varieties. [source] Any variety will work for this tempeh bacon recipe.
It has as strong, nutty flavor that tends to lean towards bitter. It can be a bit of an acquired taste. Steaming it first can alleviate some of the bitterness if you’re sensitive to it, but I personally don’t find I need to do that.
It is generally used similarly to tofu, but holds up better, and is a great meat alternative due to it’s high protein content and meaty consistency.
If you are gluten-free, there are definitely options out there for you, just be sure to check the ingredient list before purchasing.
That being said, you could use slices of firm or extra firm tofu instead of tempeh for this vegan bacon if you prefer. Just watch it when baking as tofu may not take as long to get crispy since it’s more delicate.
Tamari ~ Tamari is going to bring that salty flavor that bacon is known for. You can use liquid aminos or soy sauce interchangeably here. If you use soy sauce, I suggest a low-sodium variety.
Dried spices ~ Smoked paprika is one of my favorite spices and it works really well in this tempeh bacon recipe. I also like a little chili powder for extra savory flavor and mild spicy heat.
Vinegar ~ Balsamic vinegar has nice tang and subtle smoky sweetness that balances out the marinade. If you don’t have it, you can substitute apple cider vinegar.
Sweetener ~ Most traditional bacon has a slightly sweet maple flavor, so pure maple syrup is what I recommend for these this smoky tempeh bacon. It balances out the salty, savory ingredients perfectly.
Liquid smoke ~ A dash of liquid smoke brings a lot of smoky flavor. It’s a natural smoke flavor and you can find it in flavors like mesquite, hickory, and pecan. I suggest mesquite or hickory as those are often words associated with bacon, but choose your favorite.
If you don’t have liquid smoke and don’t wish to buy it, add extra smoked paprika.
How to make the recipe
Slice the tempeh horizontally into strips about ¼ inch thick.
Place all the marinade ingredients into a baking dish or container and whisk well to combine.
Arrange the sliced tempeh in one even layer in the marinade.
Allow it to soak for at least 20 minutes, but ideally 2 hours or even overnight.
Flip the slices over half way through the marinating time so both sides soak up the liquid.
After marinating, arrange the slices on a parchment lined rimmed baking sheet.
Bake for 15 minutes, carefully flip over each slice, and bake another 10 to 15 minutes more until crispy.
Alternately, you can pan fry the tempeh slices in a tablespoon or two of high-heat oil until crispy, about 5 minutes per side. Work in batches so the slices don’t overlap in the pan.
You can use this smoky tempeh bacon just as you would traditional bacon.
It’s perfect in a Vegan BLT Sandwich or the famous TTLA from Whole Foods (tempeh, tomato, lettuce, avocado), on top of burgers, in salads and bowls, on soups, with tofu veggie scramble or chickpea scramble, or as a savory side next to pancakes, waffles, or French toast.
Want bacon chunks for salad or a casserole? Simply chop the strips once they’re baked. Or crumble them to turn them into bacon bits.
Fridge: Store leftovers in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Freezer: You can also freeze this vegan tempeh bacon! Let it cool completely before transferring it to a freezer-safe plastic zip-top bag or container. It should keep well up to 2 months.
Pro tip: freeze the tempeh bacon in an even layer on a large plate or baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer to a freezer safe plastic bag for storage. This will ensure they don’t stick together during freezing and potentially break apart when thawing.
Pro tips for success
~ Slice the tempeh thinly, about ¼ inch thick.
~ The longer the tempeh marinates, the stronger the flavor. 20 minutes works, but 2 hours is better. You can even let it marinate in the fridge overnight.
~ Adjust the spices and seasonings to your tastes. Like your bacon really salty? Add more tamari. Like your bacon on the sweeter side? Add an extra tablespoon of maple syrup. Like your bacon with a kick of heat? Add a pinch of cayenne or dash of hot sauce.
~ Arrange the marinated tempeh slices spaced out in an even layer on the baking sheet to ensure they get sufficiently crispy. If they overlap, they will steam instead.
~ Don’t forget to flip the slices halfway through the baking time.
~ For a gluten-free option, be sure to buy gluten-free tempeh and use gluten-free tamari.
There is no shortage of store bought and homemade vegan bacon varieties available these days. Some popular ingredients that can be turned into vegan bacon are tofu, tempeh, rice paper, eggplant, coconut, mushrooms, carrots, and even bread!
This particular recipe for smoky tempeh bacon is made, obviously, from tempeh.
Is this smoky tempeh bacon going to fool meat eaters into thinking they’re eating the real thing? No, most likely not. However, if you are looking to decrease your meat consumption, this is a wonderful alternative that will allow you to enjoy the sweet, smoky, salty, savory flavors that you find with traditional bacon. Stuffed into a vegan BLT sandwich, it really does taste very similar!
Tempeh bacon is lower in calories and fat than meat based bacon and contains no cholesterol. It has plenty of healthy plant-based protein and many vitamins and minerals. It also contains prebiotics which is great for gut health. [source]
More vegan tempeh and tofu recipes
- Roasted Vegetable Pasta
- Vegan Split Pea Soup
- Smoky Vegan Broccoli Soup with Tempeh Croutons
- Easy Baked Tofu Recipe
- Pan Fried Tofu
I hope you love this recipe as much as we do! If you tried it, please use the rating system in the recipe card and leave a comment below with your feedback.
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Smoky Tempeh Bacon
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- Add all the ingredients, except for the tempeh, to a baking dish or large container. Whisk well to combine.
- Thinly slice the tempeh horizontally into about ¼ inch thick slices.
- Arrange the tempeh slices in the marinade in one even layer. Allow them to soak for at least 20 minutes, but ideally up to 2 hours (or even overnight), flipping them over halfway through to allow both sides to soak up the marinade.
- Transfer the marinated slices to the prepared baking sheet spaced out in one even layer. Bake for 15 minutes, carefully flip over each slice, and bake another 10 to 15 minutes until crispy.
- Serve hot as a side or add them hot or cold to sandwiches, salads, bowls, etc.
Nutrition values are calculated using online calculators and are estimates only. Please verify using your own data.