This tempeh bacon recipe creates crispy and delicious veggie bacon you can make at home. Add this smoky goodness to your favorite sandwiches, salads, and veggie burgers. It’s simple to make and adds delicious flavor to so many vegan dishes.
I know bacon is one of those things that’s hard for people to give up when they make changes to their diet. Going vegetarian can be tricky, especially at the beginning. I always tell people to have some self grace during the transition. It can be rough, but taste buds are highly malleable.
The thing is, we should be avoiding processed meats like bacon because evidence shows even minimal amounts have health risks. In fact, some studies indicate the higher the intake of processed meats the higher the health risks.
What’s a bacon lover to do?
Well, the good news is, there are lots of great vegetarian and vegan bacon options these days. Let’s start with this tasty tempeh bacon recipe.
How to Make Tempeh Bacon
- Cut the tempeh block in half then cut it into thin strips.
- Add tempeh strips to a skillet with oil and cook for 3 to 5 minutes on each side.
- Pour the smoky-sweet marinade over the tempeh strips and flip them so that they’re evenly coated. Cook until the liquid is absorbed and the strips are browned.
You can find the full printable recipe, including ingredient quantities, below. But first, here are some explanations of ingredients and steps to help you make this recipe perfect every time.
Here are the ingredients you’ll need for this recipe:
- Tempeh — You’ll need one package of tempeh.
- Soy Sauce — We’ll make a bacon marinade using soy sauce (or use tamari for a gluten-free soy sauce). Substitute Bragg, or coconut aminos.
- Agave nectar — Adding just a bit of sweetener enhances the caramelization effect and adds a hint of sweetness. Substitute your favorite syrup sweetener, such as maple syrup.
- Liquid smoke — You can buy liquid smoke next to the BBQ sauces in most grocery stores. It’s a handy ingredient and creates a smoky flavor for vegan bacon.
What is Tempeh?
Tempeh is made from fermented cooked soybeans that are pressed together to create a firm, dense rectangular patty. It holds its shape when cooked (even better than tofu) so it’s a great protein option for a plant-based meal. You’ll notice a strong, nutty flavor out of the package, but it absorbs flavors it’s cooked with. You can find it at health food stores or even the health food section of some local grocery stores. It keeps in the fridge for a while, so I usually buy 3 to 4 at a time.
Here’s a more detailed, step-by-step guide for this tempeh bacon recipe.
Step One: Cut the Tempeh
- Place the tempeh in the package on a cutting board.
- Use a sharp knife to cut the package in half then remove the tempeh.
- You now have two rectangular blocks of tempeh. Cut those lengthwise into thin strips, but not so thin that they fall apart.
Sometimes I recommend steaming tempeh, but not with this recipe.
Step Two: Brown Tempeh Strips
- Place a skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil. Let the oil heat up for a minute or so.
- Use tongs to add tempeh strips. You may need to do this in batches, depending on the size of your skillet.
- Cook the tempeh strips for 3 to 5 minutes on each side, turning them when they’ve reached a golden brown hue.
Step Three: Add Tempeh Bacon Marinade
This is a tasty bacon-flavored sauce that you can add to so many dishes to give it a bacon flavor. Check out my bacon almond slivers as an example.
Here’s how to make it:
- Stir together the the soy sauce, syrup, liquid smoke, garlic powder, and water.
- Pour the sauce over the cooked tempeh strips. If you’re cooking in batches, be sure to reserve some of the sauce for the second round of tempeh strips.
- Use tongs to flip tempeh strips so that they’re evenly coated.
- Cook the strips on both sides until the liquid is absorbed and the strips are browned.
Allow the tempeh to cool then transfer it to a sealed container and keep refrigerated. It will keep up to 7 days in the fridge. You can also freeze tempeh bacon. Store in a freezer bag or freezer-friendly container for up to 2 months.
Why This Recipe is a Winner
- Using tamari, a gluten-free soy sauce, makes this recipe both vegan and gluten-free
- Liquid smoke combined with a sweet syrup is a powerful combination creating a bacon-like flavor
- Cooking tempeh strips in a skillet is the easiest way to go about making tempeh bacon, because it doesn’t require steaming the tempeh first.
Is tempeh gluten-free?
Tempeh is made by culturing cooked soybeans, meaning it is usually gluten-free. Some tempeh products will add other grains, so be sure to check the label to make sure gluten-free grains were used.
What is tempeh bacon?
The flavor profile of bacon is not a mystery, so cooking tempeh strips in a sweet, smoky sauce creates an easy and delicious vegan bacon option.
What is liquid smoke?
Liquid smoke is a byproduct made from burning wood. The smoke is condensed and bottled into liquid form, creating a sauce you can add to many dishes to create that distinctive smoky flavor.
Yes, the flavor and texture are amazing but wait until you look at the nutritional estimates for this recipe. Even with sweetener added, this recipe can be considered low carb/keto because it only has 5g of carbs per serving. Here are the nutritional estimates per serving:
Calories: 61 Fat: 3g Carbs: 5g Fiber: 1g Protein: 4g Net Carbs: 4g
More Bacon Recipes
I love to serve tempeh bacon on my favorite sandwiches, soups, and salads. Here are some great recipes that can benefit from a generous dose of vegan bacon strips:
- Place the tempeh in the package on a cutting board. Cut the package in half. Remove the tempeh from the packages. You now have two rectangular blocks of tempeh. Cut those lengthwise into thin strips, but not so thin that they fall apart.
- Place a skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil. Use tongs to add tempeh strips. Cook for 3–5 minutes on each side, turning when the tempeh strips have turned a golden brown and become crispy.
- In a small bowl combine tamari, agave (or maple syrup), liquid smoke, garlic powder, and water. Stir to combine. Pour this sauce over the tempeh strips. Use tongs to flip tempeh strips so that they're evenly coated. Cook for 2–3 minutes on both sides, until the liquid is absorbed and the strips are browned.
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The nutrition information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator and should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
This post was originally published in 2020 and was updated to include new photos, new text, and an updated recipe in 2021.