I’m excited to share one of my favorite recipes! This Tempeh Bacon BLT is one of the first plant-based protein recipes I created on my own, about 10 years ago, and continues to be a favorite. I’ve made other plant-based “bacon” with a more authentic consistency, such as coconut bacon, but this one is still my go to. It goes amazingly well with other breakfast items, both sweet and savory, and on veggie burgers or sandwiches, like the one we’re making today.
Nick and I love to have Tempeh Bacon BLT sandwiches waiting for us in our cooler after hiking because they are loaded with protein (25.5 grams per sandwich) and delicious enough to feel like a reward after a strenuous hike.
If you are new to tempeh, this recipe is a fairly approachable introduction because of the umami-flavor and light caramelization. Plus it’s super easy to make.
Marinating the Tempeh
We always steam our tempeh for about 5-6 minutes before marinating, either in a steamer basket or by placing it in 3/4 inches of boiling water, covering with a lid and turning the heat down to medium or medium-low. This method removes the slight bitterness of the tempeh and par-cooks it, making it easier to cook later without the risk of burning it.
Steaming the tempeh also softens the texture and opens it up a bit, allowing it to absorb the marinade more easily. In the final stages of cooking, you’ll just have to worry about caramelizing the outside of the tempeh, rather than fussing over how to cook it thoroughly without drying it out.
Let the tempeh cool to just above room temperature before slicing, otherwise it might fall apart a bit. When I’m using the tempeh for a sandwich, I usually aim for 3/8-1/2 inch slices. You can definitely slice the tempeh a little thinner if you would like, but it makes in harder to keep the pieces intact while cooking. If you would like wider pieces of tempeh bacon, just slice it at an angle.
I prefer to marinate the tempeh in a ziploc bag. It’s easy to get all of the air out so that the tempeh is fully in contact with the marinade. That way you can just leave it alone and not worry about having to flip it (see “ingredients & equipment” section below for reusable bag options.) If you choose to use a leftover container instead, either flip the tempeh halfway through marinating or scale up the amount of marinade so that it’s well covered.
Cooking the Tempeh
Once the tempeh is done marinating (10-12 hours), heat a small amount of oil in a non-stick pan over medium to medium-low heat. Drain the marinade from the bag and set aside. Add the tempeh to the pan while being careful not to let the liquid interact with the hot oil. Cook tempeh for about 4 minutes on each side. The goal is to lightly caramelize the marinade without letting it burn.
Remove tempeh from pan and allow to cool. (I usually place the tempeh on a folded paper towel to absorb any excess oil). The extra marinade can either be discarded or used to start a second batch for something other than a tempeh bacon blt. Personally, I like to make a little extra tempeh bacon to go with my Veggie Tofu Scramble.
Building the Tempeh Bacon BLT
While the tempeh is cooking, prepare the other sandwich ingredients. Slice the tomato, avocado and cheese, cut or tear the lettuce into sandwich-sized pieces, and toast the bread.
For the sauce, you have a few options. My top choice for a tempeh bacon blt is always chipotle aioli (which you can make from scratch using Minimalist Baker’s cashew-based recipe HERE). For the version I made in this post, I mixed together Dijon mustard and vegan mayonnaise in a 50:50 ratio. I still like chipotle aioli better, but mustard, mayo or a combination of the two also work well.
Once your ingredients are ready, and the tempeh is done cooking, assemble your sandwiches however you like.
Ingredients & Equipment
This recipe doesn’t require a lot of special equipment. If you would like to check out reusable sandwich bag options for marinading, here are links for both an inexpensive option and a dishwasher-safe silicone option. In both sets, the sandwich bag size is bigger than a Ziploc, so you can actually fit a sandwich inside.
The ingredients should be available at most grocery stores, but in case you have any trouble finding them, here are links for liquid aminos, vegan worcestershire, and toasted sesame oil. The liquid smoke is a bit pricey online, so I would suggest getting it from the grocery store. However, there is a variety pack available at a reasonable price that could be fun to experiment with in vegan barbecue recipes, and I’ve never seen the apple flavor anywhere else.
If you’ve made this Tempeh Bacon BLT with Avocado, or if you have any questions, please share in the comments! For another great protein recipe, checkout our Veggie Tofu Scramble. Enjoy!
Tempeh Bacon BLT with Avocado
- 1 8oz Block of tempeh
- ½ tbsp Sunflower oil or other neutral oil (for cooking)
- 2 Hoagie rolls or 4 large slices of bread
- 1 Heirloom or vine-ripped tomato, sliced
- 1 Ripe avocado, sliced (store in paper bag until ripe)
- Red or green leaf lettuce, torn into sandwich-sized pieces
- Spread of choice (vegan mayo, chipotle aioli, dijon mustard, etc./see note)
- Plant based cheese slices (optional)
- ⅓ cup Liquid aminos
- 2 tbsp Apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire (anchovie-free if you're vegan!)
- 1 tbsp Black strap molasses (pure maple syrup will also work)
- 2 tsp Toasted sesame oil
- 1 tsp Liquid smoke (I used mesquite)
- 1 tsp Garlic powder
- ¾ tsp Chipotle powder ( use less if you’re sensitive to spice)
- ½ tsp Smoked paprika
- ½ tsp Onion powder
Preparing the Tempeh Bacon
- In a small pot with a tight-fitting lid, add about 3/4-1 inch of water. Bring the water to a boil, add the block of tempeh and cover with lid. Reduce heat and simmer for 5-6 minutes, then drain the water and place the block of tempeh on a cutting board to cool. Once the tempeh is cool enough to handle, cut into 3/8 inch wide pieces.
- Place all of the marinade ingredients in a ziplock bag, then add the tempeh slices. Remove as much air as possible before sealing the bag. Place the bag on it’s side in the fridge with the opening folded over the top to prevent leakage (or pace the bag inside a dish if you want to be extra careful). Marinate the tempeh for at least ten hours before moving on to the next step.
Making The Sandwich
- Once the tempeh is done marinating, heat oil in a non-stick pan over medium to medium-low heat (that’s about a 4 out of 10 on my stovetop). Remove tempeh slices from the marinade and add to the pan, being careful not to let the marinade interact with the hot oil (you may need to drain the tempeh or pat it dry before adding it). Cook tempeh for about 4 minutes on each side or until it starts to caramelize. Remove tempeh from pan and allow to cool. (I usually place the tempeh on a folded paper towel to absorb any excess oil).
- When you’re ready to assemble your sandwiches, lightly toast the bread and add your spread of choice to either side. Then assemble the remaining ingredients however you see fit. Enjoy!