Easy Tempeh Bacon

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Baked tempeh bacon strips on a baking sheet

Of all the vegan bacons, tempeh bacon may be king. Why? It’s hard to compete with the health perks of tempeh, mainly the protein, which makes it a true bacon substitute.

To ensure smoky, salty, sweet flavor, we infused the tempeh with lots of tamari, liquid smoke, black pepper, maple syrup, and a dash of cayenne for a bit of heat. Once baked, you have tender bacon strips with crisp edges and major flavor ready for brunch, scrambles, sandwiches, and beyond! Just 8 ingredients required. Let us show you how it’s done.

Tamari, cayenne, smoked paprika, maple syrup, avocado oil, tempeh, salt, and liquid smoke

Origin of Tempeh

Fun fact: Tempeh originated in Central or East Java, Indonesia, sometime around 1800 (source). It’s a fermented soy product that’s made of cooked, dehulled soybeans that are inoculated with mold, packed, and incubated until the beans are bound together by the mycelium. Sounds like weird science, but this fermentation process makes nutrients more available to your body. Plus, tempeh is rich in prebiotics, which are known to promote gut health. It also boasts a whole range of other health benefits, including its iron and calcium content (source).

How to Make Tempeh Bacon

It all starts with the marinade. Made with a combination of savory, sweet, and smoky elements, it infuses the tempeh bacon with so much flavor!

Tamari is the salty, savory component, maple syrup adds a subtle sweetness, and liquid smoke and paprika make it smoky. While avocado oil adds richness and prevents sticking, black pepper and optional cayenne provide a little heat that’s reminiscent of pepper bacon.

Whisking a marinade for tempeh bacon

The marinade is used to coat strips of thinly sliced tempeh.

Pouring a tamari-based marinade over strips of thinly sliced tempeh

Using a pastry brush can be helpful for thoroughly coating the tempeh.

Using a pastry brush to spread marinade on tempeh bacon

After marinating, the tempeh strips are baked, flipped, brushed with additional marinade, and baked once more.

Baking sheet with thinly sliced strips of tempeh coated in a marinade

When they come out of the oven, the strips are nicely browned and slightly crispy — yum!

Strips of crispy tempeh bacon on a baking sheet

We hope you LOVE this tempeh bacon! It’s:

Smoky
Salty
Subtly sweet
Crispy on the edges
Protein-rich (8 grams per serving)
& SO delicious!

It’s perfect for brunch, mixed into (or served alongside) scrambles, on sandwiches, and beyond! Make it a meal by serving with fresh fruit and our Vegan Scrambled Eggs and The BEST Crispy Hash Browns (Restaurant Style!).

More Vegan Bacon Recipes

If you try this recipe, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a photo #minimalistbaker on Instagram. Cheers, friends!

Spices next to a plate of vegan tempeh bacon slices

Easy Tempeh Bacon

Quick, crispy tempeh bacon with maximum flavor thanks to tamari, maple syrup, liquid smoke, and black pepper. Just 8 ingredients required!
Author Minimalist Baker
Print
Strips of crispy vegan tempeh bacon on a baking sheet
4.29 from 7 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 6 (3-slice servings)
Course Breakfast, Side
Cuisine Gluten-Free, Indonesian-Inspired, Vegan
Freezer Friendly 2 Months
Does it keep? 5 Days

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces tempeh (ensure gluten-free as needed)
  • 1 Tbsp oil (avocado oil // if oil-free, omit or add slightly more tamari and maple syrup)
  • 3 Tbsp tamari (or coconut aminos if soy-free, just use a bit more as it’s not as salty as tamari)
  • 2 ½ Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 healthy pinch sea salt
  • 1 ½ tsp liquid smoke
  • 1 ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper (plus more for coating)
  • 1 dash cayenne (optional // omit for less heat)

Instructions

  • Slice the tempeh in half widthwise (so you have 2 even squares), then thinly slice each square in thirds so you have six very thin squares (it’s easiest to do this by placing the tempeh flat on your cutting board and holding the knife horizontally for an even cut). Then slice each square into three rectangular strips. You should have ~18 pieces of tempeh (as the original recipe is written).
  • In a shallow bowl, rimmed plate, or baking dish, whisk together the oil, tamari, maple syrup, salt, liquid smoke, smoked paprika, black pepper, and cayenne (optional). Taste and adjust flavor as needed. It should be quite salty, smoky, a little spicy, and plenty sweet (even a little too sweet, as it needs to balance the bitterness of the tempeh).
  • Add the tempeh and toss to coat (using a pastry brush is helpful for fully coating). Marinate for 10-15 minutes, flipping once for even flavor dispersion.
  • Preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Transfer tempeh (reserving excess marinade for brushing) to the parchment-lined baking sheet and arrange in a single layer.
  • Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven, flip, and brush generously with reserved marinade. Bake for 8-10 minutes more, or until browned and slightly crispy.
  • Enjoy immediately or store cooled leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 2 months. Reheat in a 350°F (176°C) oven or on the stovetop over medium heat until hot.

Video

Notes

*Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated with avocado oil and without optional ingredients.

Nutrition (1 of 6 servings)

Serving: 1 three-slice serving Calories: 112 Carbohydrates: 11 g Protein: 8.2 g Fat: 4.3 g Saturated Fat: 0.7 g Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.2 g Monounsaturated Fat: 2.1 g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 520 mg Potassium: 165 mg Fiber: 3.3 g Sugar: 5.1 g Vitamin A: 201 IU Vitamin C: 0 mg Calcium: 28.1 mg Iron: 1.1 mg

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  1. Christina King says

    This is my go to tempeh bacon recipe. I like to pile it on a fresh salad with tomato, blue cheese, avocado and slivered red onion. I top it off with a balsamic dressing. Yummy! Always!
    Tempeh always has a tough time to marinated fully so I generally leave the tempeh in the marinate for 6 hours or more. When the tempeh is done I also give it a little toss with the extra marinade.

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Amazing! We’re so glad you enjoy it, Christina. Thank you for the lovely review and for sharing your tips!

  2. Aviva says

    Im sorry but its awful. I didnt expect bacon but i expected something tasty. Nope. Hideously salty and yuk. I didnt even add the salt :(

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      We’re so sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy it, Aviva. Did you make any modifications? Perhaps soy sauce instead of tamari? That would make it more salty. We ask because other readers have enjoyed it.

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Lauryl, we haven’t tried that, but it might work. Date syrup might stir in better if you have that!

  3. Jaimie says

    I followed the recipe for the seasonings exactly and the flavor is delicious. Definitely cheaper than buying the Lightlife strips and just as good or better. Because tempeh can be so uneven across the block, instead of cutting the two large blocks into three layers, I cut them into the three smaller strips and then cut those into the thin pieces. Worked well for me.

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Woohoo! Thanks for the great review and for sharing your experience, Jaimie! We’re so glad you enjoyed! xo

  4. Jessica Montoya says

    Hi there! I want to give this recipe a try, it looks delicious! What liquid smoke do you recommend?

  5. Maia Knoll says

    We decided to thicken up the remaining marinade (with about 1/2 tsp. organic corn starch, over medium heat) while the tempeh was baking so that once it was flipped and basted more of the flavorful marinade would stick! Didn’t crisp up for us, but deliciously flavorful♡

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Thank you for sharing, Maia! We’d suggest slicing the tempeh more thinly for more crispiness.

  6. Sonia says

    I used this in a vegan BLT sandwich, and it was delicious. I steamed the tempeh first and then followed the recipe exactly. It was my first time cooking tempeh, and I will definitely make this again. So easy and flavorful; I was excited for my lunch every day this week!

  7. Alex says

    I made this for lunch and it was SO good! Could not stop eating it and wish I made more for more leftovers! Really quick and easy too. Made a few sandwiches out of it. Followed the recipe exactly and it came out perfectly.

  8. Shannon says

    This looks really good! Can I use soy sauce instead of tamari? I want to make this and use ina B.L.T!!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Sophia, it won’t have quite the same smokiness, but you could try increasing the smoked paprika a bit to compensate. Let us know how it goes!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Marta, perhaps try more smoked paprika? It won’t have quite the same smoky flavor, but should help. Let us know how it goes!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Melanie, we haven’t experimented with an air fryer so we’re not sure. Let us know if you try it!

  9. Cindy says

    Other tempeh bacon recipes call for the tempeh to be steamed first before marinating. That step is omitted in your recipe correct? You found that step unnecessary?

  10. Boyd Shepherd says

    Hello… This recipe looks/sounds amazing! I plan to make it soon. Question: Is the maple syrup critical? I’d like to be sugar free, and I realize I could use either a low-sugar syrup or perhaps even Swerve, and I was wondering if you had thoughts on a substitute here, or if the maple syrup could be left out. Thank you!!!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Boyd, we think the flavor balance would be off if you omit it. But a low sugar syrup might work. Let us know if you try it!