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This sweet and smoky BBQ Tempeh is marinaded for 24 hours then smothered in homemade vegan BBQ sauce before searing and baking until tender. It's easy to make, hearty, and the perfect substitute for BBQ meats.

BBQ tempeh strips being brushed with BBQ sauce.

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Why You'll Love This Recipe

  • No grill necessary – Get that same BBQ flavor without a grill. I make this BBQ tempeh at home on the stovetop in a grill pan before sticking it in the oven. You can do it in a regular skillet or cast iron skillet.
  • Flavor packed – In addition to being brushed with the best homemade vegan BBQ sauce, the tempeh is first marinaded in a super flavorful BBQ rub. It makes the most delicious, tender BBQ tempeh.
  • Hearty – Tempeh is an excellent substitute for meat in a vegan diet and is just as hearty and filling. Enjoy this BBQ tempeh as a main dish, on a BBQ sandwich, or with your favorite sides!
  • Meal prep friendly – This tempeh has a 2-24 hour marinade time and lasts well in the fridge after baking. Prep it in the morning and marinade while you're at work, or make a big batch Sunday and enjoy it all week long.

Ingredients and Substitutions

Ingredients needed for BBQ tempeh measured and labeled.
  • tempeh – I don’t recommend substituting tofu in place of the tempeh or using a flavored tempeh.
  • buffalo sauce – I typically use Frank's Red Hot Original Buffalo sauce (it is naturally vegan!), but you can use your favorite buffalo sauce.
  • BBQ sauce – I always use my homemade vegan BBQ sauce, but you can use your favorite BBQ sauce. A pre-made BBQ sauce would be extra convenient for busy weeknights.
  • maple syrup – A little sweetness is necessary to balance the savory spices. I use maple syrup here because I almost always have it on hand, but you can use virtually any liquid sweetener – date syrup, agave, etc.
  • liquid smoke – Liquid smoke helps give this vegan BBQ a smoky flavor without the need to own an actual barbecue or grill. I find the quality between brands to vary greatly. I always recommend Lazy Kettle. It is very high quality and an accurate flavor.

Step by Step Instructions

  1. Steam the tempeh. This is going to remove a lot of the bitterness you would otherwise often taste with the tempeh and make it soft and tender for your vegan BBQ. You can do this by simply placing the brick of tempeh in about an inch of water in a skillet and bring to a boil for 10-15 minutes, flipping halfway through. You can also do this in a steamer basket above a few inches of water – whichever you prefer.
Tempeh steaming in water.
  1. Slice the tempeh. I do this a bit thicker than I slice the tempeh for my smoky tempeh bacon strips, so that they are a bit heartier, similar to ribs. Note that if you cut them thicker, they may require a longer bake time to get tender.
Tempeh on marbled cutting board sliced into strips.
  1. Prepare the BBQ marinade. In addition to brushing with BBQ sauce, I like to marinade the BBQ tempeh in a homemade BBQ marinade first to help boost the flavor and tenderize the tempeh. This is similar to marinading meat with a BBQ rub.

    Whisk together the Frank's Red Hot Buffalo Sauce, tomato paste, maple syrup, vinegar, tamari, and spices until it forms a semi thick paste.
  1. Marinade the tempeh. Place the steamed and sliced tempeh into the marinade and toss to coat evenly. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours (I prefer 24 because it gets the most tender).
  1. Sear and bake! After the tempeh has marinaded for a minimum of two hours, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and heat a greased skillet over medium high heat. Add the tempeh to the pan and sear on both sides to get a nice crispy outside layer (3-4 minutes on each side). Brush the tempeh liberally with vegan BBQ sauce and then bake for 20 minutes.
Tempeh on grill pan being brushed with BBQ sauce.
  1. Serve. Serve immediately while hot with desired sides like Vegan Jalapeño Cornbread Muffins, collard greens, and more vegan BBQ sauce.

FAQs

Are tempeh and seitan the same thing?

No, tempeh and seitan are not the same thing. Tempeh is made from fermented soy beans and sometimes grains whereas seitan is made from vital wheat gluten. They are prepared in very different ways and contain very different ingredients. Tempeh is usually gluten free and seitan is not gluten free as it is made primarily of wheat.

What tempeh brands are gluten free?

Although tempeh is typically gluten free, there are a few brands available that are not gluten free. Always read the label if you need something gluten free. Lightlife and Tofurky are both gluten free and widely available in many grocery stores.

Can tempeh be substituted for tofu?

Tempeh can often be substituted for tofu, but in some recipes tempeh would not work as a tofu replacement. Tofu Scrambled Eggs for example need to be made with tofu for the correct texture, but in some cases it may be appropriate as both tempeh and tofu are versatile and absorb marinades.

Can tempeh be undercooked?

Pasteurized, store-bought tempeh can be eaten raw, but for best flavor and texture it should be cooked and steamed to remove bitterness. If you make homemade tempeh or buy unpasteurized tempeh, it must be cooked before consumption. However, it is very easy to cook tempeh and really only needs to be warmed through for a few minutes.

Expert Tips

  • Marinade for 24 hours when possible. It gives this tempeh the most optimal flavor and texture.
  • Generously smother with vegan BBQ sauce. I even like to serve a little on the side for dipping.
Tempeh strips on parchment paper with a side of BBQ sauce.

More Vegan Tempeh Recipes to Try

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Vegan BBQ Tempeh

5 from 4 votes

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 1 day 40 minutes
Cost: $4.35 per recipe / $2.18 per serving
This sweet and smoky BBQ Tempeh is marinaded for 24 hours then smothered in homemade vegan BBQ sauce before searing and baking until tender. It's easy to make, hearty, and the perfect substitute for BBQ meats.

Ingredients
 

  • 8 ounces tempeh ($1.99)
  • 1/2 cup BBQ sauce ($0.54)
  • 1/4 cup Frank's Red Hot Buffalo Sauce substitute your favorite buffalo sauce ($0.60)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste ($0.24)
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup can substitute another liquid sweetener like agave or date syrup ($0.26)
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar ($0.01)
  • 2 teaspoons tamari ($0.10)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander ($0.12)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder ($0.12)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder ($0.12)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder ($0.12)
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika ($0.06)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin ($0.06)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper ($0.01)

Instructions

Prep for Marinading

  • Remove the tempeh from packaging and steam the tempeh in a large skillet for 10 minutes in 1 cup of water, flipping halfway through.
  • Transfer the tempeh from the skillet to a cutting board and slice into strips, about 1/2" thick.
  • In a shallow dish, whisk together the Frank's red hot, tomato paste, maple syrup, vinegar and spices.
  • Add the tempeh into the marinade and toss to coat completely. Marinade the tempeh in the mixture for 2-24 hours (24 hours is best).

After Marinading

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Remove from the marinade and place on an oven-safe grill pan or hot skillet. Brush liberally with BBQ sauce, and sear on both sides for 2-3 minutes.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, then brush again with additional vegan BBQ sauce.
  • Enjoy immediately while hot.
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Notes

  • This recipe is easily doubled or tripled.
  • Although this BBQ tempeh contains buffalo sauce, it is not spicy. 

Nutrition

Calories: 274kcal | Carbohydrates: 37g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 9g | Sodium: 1210mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 23g

Disclaimer: The Nutritional Information provided for this recipe is only an estimate. The accuracy of the facts listed is not and cannot be guaranteed.

Course Main Course
Cuisine American

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5 from 4 votes
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5 from 4 votes (4 ratings without comment)

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