Vegan bacon is probably the most replicated version of any meat product out there. Tempeh bacon is just one of the many versions of vegan bacon but it is definitely a good one and really easy compared to some of the other bacon recipes around.
Tempeh is made from soy and usually gluten-free, unlike many vegan meat recipes. Just check the package to make sure the tempeh is produced in a gluten-free environment.
The great thing about tempeh bacon is that it is firm and holds its shape well so you can serve it as rashers fried until nicely brown and crisp or sliced into lardons to introduce some of that salty, smokey flavour into other dishes.
To start our tempeh bacon let’s start with the basics.
What Is Tempeh?
Tempeh (pronounced: tem-pay) is typically made from fermented soybeans as well as other grains such as rice or legumes.
The most common varieties of tempeh are made from soybeans and sometimes rice although there are other variations that are made from other grains or legumes. The distinct ingredient that makes tempeh unique is a mould that forms during fermentation.
A type of mould called rhizopus ogliosporus creates a dense structure that holds the soybeans together and the finished tempeh is usually formed in a brick-shaped block. Like other fermented foods such as cheese, the mould used to ferment the tempeh adds flavour and all sorts of beneficial nutrients.
The key thing about tempeh and the reason why it makes such good vegan bacon is the texture and density of it as well as the ability to absorb flavour.
The texture is firm, slightly springy and has a little resistance which is a good approximation of the texture of bacon.
Tempeh holds its structure really well and can be sliced and fried until really coloured and quite crisp which is exactly what we want in a piece of bacon.
Flavouring Tempeh To Make Bacon
Here is where we take the tempeh, which on its own, tastes a little nutty but quite neutral and turn it into really flavourful, salty, sweet and smoky bacon.
Whatever flavours you add to tempeh it will suck up so we need to take all the flavours that make bacon taste like bacon and add them to the tempeh.
Are all parts of the flavours we associate with bacon so these are what we need to add to make out tempeh bacon.
Tempeh Bacon Marinade
I find the best way to get the bacon flavour into tempeh is to marinate it overnight. The tempeh can be sliced and the tempeh slices soaked in the marinade ready and waiting in the fridge.
My tempeh bacon marinade consists of the following ingredients:
Maple syrup: all bacon has some kind of sweetness, whether it is brown sugar, honey or in this case maple. I like using maple syrup as it adds a lot of flavour and caramelises nicely when you cook the bacon.
Liquid smoke: Although not all bacon is smoked I definitely prefer smoked bacon myself. If you don’t want smoked bacon, leave this out.
Liquid smoke is a really easy way to add the smokiness and it really does taste like smoked bacon, not artificial in any way. I use hickory smoke and it only uses around a tablespoon in the marinade and provides a really good level of smokiness.
Soy sauce/tamari sauce: Soy sauce adds three things: salt, colour and savouriness. Soy sauce is high in glutamates that provide that umami flavour that bacon has and it also darkens the tempeh slightly which is quite pale otherwise.
Salt: Bacon is salty so we need to make sure the tempeh takes on that saltiness. Soy sauce alone is not enough. I use ordinary table salt but you can try experimenting with smoked salt.
Vegetable oil: we know bacon is fatty. Having fat in the marinade means the tempeh bacon will brown nicely and take on colour when it is cooked.
Apple juice: apple juice adds a little sweetness but also a subtle tanginess that works really well here. Some people use cider vinegar but I find that a little too tart.
Tempeh Bacon Recipe
- 250g block of Tempeh
- 1 tbsp Vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp Soy sauce (GF if required)
- 2 tbsp Apple juice
- 2 tbsp Maple syrup
- 2 tsp Liquid smoke
- 1 tsp Salt
- Remove the tempeh from the packaging and slice it into 2mm thick slices or the thickness you would like for your bacon.
- Prepare the marinade for the tempeh bacon by mixing the oil, soy sauce, apple juice, maple syrup, liquid smoke and salt together in a bowl.
- In a high sided dish, just large enough to fit the tempeh slices. Arrange them in the dish with the marinade poured over to ensure both sides of the slices are covered.
- Cover the dish and leave the bacon to marinate in the fridge overnight or for at least 8 - 10 hours.
- When ready to cook remove the tempeh bacon from the marinade and fry in a small amount of hot oil. The bacon will colour and crisp the longer you cook it so cook for 5 - 10 minutes depending on how you like your bacon.
The bacon can be baked on an oiled tray should you wish.
Serving Size:One slice
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 61Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 272mgCarbohydrates: 4gFiber: 0gSugar: 2gProtein: 4g