Tempeh Tacos

Despite my absurb amount of recipe trials and experimentation, there remains the rare gluten-free or vegan ingredient that continues to confuse and peplex. Tempeh is one of those ingredients.

Given that I follow a gluten-free, vegan diet, you’d think tempeh would be a staple. Even if not, you’d think I could include the rare, gratuitious tempeh recipe for those who do enjoy the stuff. Until now, this was in fact nearly impossible for me to do without jeopardizing my credibility and testing my conscience. Why? Because, until now, I simply hated tempeh. Every time I made it, I’d suffer through the eating part —  if only because the only thing I hated more than the tempeh I just made was the concept of wasting food.

Here’s an interesting tidbit of information: while most recipes I’ve seen for tempeh call for boiling it or marinating it first to get rid of its strong flavor, I have yet to find a package of tempeh that mentions this seemingly “necessary” step. This is strange to me, since I am now convinced that most people who, like myself, think they don’t like tempeh would reconsider if they knew about this key step in its preparation. And while I could easily find this tip in any number of other places, because I’ve never seen it on a package, I considered it an extra hassle (why boil something for an extra 10 minutes if you don’t have to?) that I didn’t really feel like going through. My bad.

So maybe it’s not necessary, but it’s a very, very good idea — especially if you’re a tempeh skeptic like myself. I’m excited that I have another gluten-free, vegan protein option to experiement with, now that I have the inside knowledge that a tiny step can make all the difference.

It’s no secret in our house (apartment) that taco night is Gennaro’s favorite. I feared after going vegan that he would not appreciate the drastic changes that overtook one of his favorite meals. Out were fish tacos and chipotle slaw. In were chickpeas and tofu. I’m not really a believer that good vegan food necessarily has to mimic meat. Still, there is the occassional exception — especially when you’re trying to convince the non-vegans in your life that vegan food can be just as satisfying as meat-laden faves. This dish is a great way to prove your point.

Tempeh Taco Filling:

1 package soy tempeh (double check to make sure it’s gluten-free), cut into strips

1 tablespoon wheat-free tamari soy sauce (or regular soy sauce if you’re not gluten-free)

1 tablespoon agave nectar or yacon syrup

2 tabespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup no salt added tomato paste

2 tablespoons chile powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

salt to taste

2 tablespoons water

Other Possible Ingredients:

gluten-free corn tortillas (I used sprouted corn)

lettuce (I like the crunch of iceberg in tacos — yes, I know it has no nutritional value)

tomatoes (I used halved grape tomatoes)



vegan sour cream

vegan cheese (I like Daiya cheddar-style shreds with tacos)

anything else you normally like on your tacos


1. Prepare filling: bring a medium-sized pot of water to a boil. Add tempeh and boil for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium-sized bowl, whisk together tamari sauce, agave, olive oil, cider vinegar, tomato paste, chile powder, garlic powder, cumin and cayenne. When you are finished boiling the tempeh, drain and toss with sauce, gently breaking up tempeh with your fork. Add tempeh filling to a large skillet, along with 2 tablespoons of water. Heat on high for about 4-5 minutes, or until filling is heated through.

3. Serve in warmed gluten-free tortillas with desired toppings. My favorite way to warm corn tortillas is to heat both sides over a skillet until softened. Then I wrap in aluminum foil and let warm in a 200 degree oven until I’m ready to serve.


  1. says

    Nothing wrong with a bit of iceberg, I love it too. Besides, that crunch is fibre, so it is good for you;) I haven’t tried tempeh yet, I imagine I won’t like it. I bought a block a while ago and it’s in the freezer, I must try the boiling thing whenever I get around to cooking it.
    Eimear Rose recently posted..Winter festivities

  2. Beth says

    Hi Eimear — I didn’t know that the crunch meant fiber. I thought it was just water! Good to know…Try the tempeh this way to start (with the boiling, of course). I think you will be pleasantly surprised. Thanks for your comment!

  3. says

    Hey Beth – Thanks for a great recipe. I will definitely try this. I love tacos and I love tempeh. We always steam ours, it’s just so much better when you pre-steam it. Boiling would be easier I think! I like to put sprouts on our tacos these days. Cashew cream if we have any! Okay, this is definitely going on my to make list this week! By the way, I’m so glad you linked up to the cookie event. Thanks :)
    Maggie recently posted..On the 12th Day of Christmas – Truffles- Giveaways- and Linkys!

  4. Beth says

    Maggie — that’s awesome, and I’m delighted you’re enjoying them! I love cilantro, too. Will have to add some the next time I make these as well : )

  5. says

    Hi Beth – I love Tempeh Tacos – it’s one of my favorite quick dinner meals. And yes, I found out early on that the tempeh benefits from steaming to soften it and downplay the taste a little bit. Thanks for the reminder – I haven’t made it in awhile and think I’ll go back to making it every Tuesday – we’ll call it “Tuesday Tacos!”.

    Gluten Free Diva

  6. Jessica says

    Tempeh is an absolute staple in our house and I have never boiled it and never found a reason to. For certain recipes, steaming it first helps to soften it and just like with meat, marinating it is a must for certain recipes (especially if you are going to grill or bake it). For tacos I like a more traditionally mexican flavor. I just saute onion, bell peppers and minced garlic in oil until soft then add crumbled tempeh. Once its browned and cooked through I add a spice blend (cumin, chili powder, cayenne, oregano, sea salt, black pepper, etc), then maybe work in a little tomato paste and water towards the end to sauce it up a bit. We have this on average, once a week. I hope you stick with tempeh. It is delicious and very versatile but its a challenge to work with at first. It can take time to learn how to cook with it well – I remember my tempeh disasters when I first started cooking with it years ago! :)

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