How to Cook Smoky Tempeh (Easy & Delicious!)

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Learn how to cook Tempeh using this simple and fool-proof method! It’s tasty, it’s hearty, and it’s packed with plant-based protein.

“What even is Tempeh?” That’s definitely the most common response I get after I tell people how much I love it. Well, friends – fear not! Today I’m going to not only de-mystify this plant protein, but I’m also going to share the best and tastiest way to make it. 

ingredients for smoky tempeh and block of tempeh on white serving tray

Let’s start with the basics:

  • Tempeh is a fermented soy product, with origins from Indonesia. Basically, it’s compressed soybean “cake” that’s held together through a natural (and totally safe) fermentation process.
  • Tempeh is NOT TOFU! Both are made from Soy, but Tempeh is made from whole soybeans. This gives it a chewy and hearty texture (which I personally love). Some brands of Tempeh may add additional grains in addition to soybeans, such as brown rice or barley, to give it additional bite.
  • Tempeh itself is pretty bland and flavorless. This is a good thing, because we can add whatever flavors we’d like to it via yummy marinades and sauces.

close up photo of blocks of tempeh

Now that we’ve got that covered, let’s move on to cooking. Many people complain that Tempeh tastes “sour” or has a weird “wang” to it. This is true – if you do not cook it correctly! The best way to cook Tempeh is to steam it first, which not only eliminates this odd flavor, but also allows the soybeans to “puff” up and absorb maximum flavor.

So steam, marinate, then cook, right? WRONG! I don’t know about you, but I hate extra steps in the kitchen. Which is why I’ve come up with my own way to cook Tempeh that combines all three of those steps…in one!

close up shot of cooked smoky tempeh on white serving platter

First, cut your block of tempeh into strips around 1/2″ inch thick.

hand cutting block of tempeh on wood cutting board

Next, prepare the “marinade” for the Tempeh.

This recipe is hands-down my favorite way to prepare Tempeh…it’s Smoky, Zesty, and subtly Sweet. We’ll use…

  • Tamarito give a nice golden color and depth of flavor,
  • Liquid SmokeSmoked Paprika, and Black Pepper, to add more umami-goodness,
  • a touch of Maple Syrup, to help caramelize the Tempeh,
  • and some Vegetable Bouillon (or Veggie Broth) for extra liquid and flavor.

Whisk those ingredients together into a bowl or large measuring cup, then set aside.

hand holding metal whisk and stirring marinade in glass jar

Then, evenly place your Tempeh along the bottom of a large, non-stick pan.

strips of tempeh lined up on nonstick pan

Here’s where I divulge my secret – I’ve combined the marinating, steaming, and cooking process all into one, simply by adding extra liquid to the marinade! All we have to do is bring the pan to medium-high heat and pour the marinade over the Tempeh…

hand pouring marinade over tempeh in nonstick pan

Once the marinade comes to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium. As the liquid in the marinade evaporates, we simultaneously steam the Tempeh and infuse it with flavor! Once the water starts to simmer, begin to flip the Tempeh every 3 minutes. This is key for even browning and puffiness.

flipping the tempeh in simmering marinade

You’ll notice that once most of the liquid from the marinade evaporates, the remainder will start to look “sticky.” This is when we act fast! Flip the Tempeh almost continuously to evenly caramelize every side and get that golden goodness we’re looking for. Continue to do this until all of the water evaporates from the pan, then remove from the heat. Note: pay attention and see if your pan has spots that are hotter than others. You may have to move the Tempeh strips around a bit to ensure even cooking!

cooked tempeh in nonstick pan

And that’s it, friends! I know there are a lot of pictures, but this method really is so simple. Cut, Whisk, and Simmer – that’s it! The Smoky Tempeh marinade has only 6 simple ingredients and the whole dish is ready in about 15 minutes or less.

I use this Tempeh on practically everything – it’s great in Buddha Bowls, in Salads, Sandwiches, and even as a Vegan “Bacon” replacement! If you’re looking for more recipes using Tempeh, you’ll also love this Roasted Vegetable Salad with Smoky Tempeh and this Kale & Quinoa Salad with Maple Mustard Tempeh!

prepared smoky tempeh on white serving tray

Finally, if you make this recipe and decide to share it on Facebook or Instagram, don’t forget to tag me @FromMyBowl + #FromMyBowl! I love seeing your delicious recreations 🙂


How to Cook Smoky Tempeh

Learn how to cook Tempeh using this simple and fool-proof method! It’s tasty, it’s hearty, and it’s packed with plant-based protein.

  • Author: Caitlin Shoemaker
  • Prep Time: 3 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 12 Minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 2-3 Servings 1x
  • Category: Main
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American




  1. First, remove the Tempeh from its packaging and cut it into strips that are around 1/2″ thick.
  2. Next, make the “Marinade by whisking all of the remaining ingredients together in a small bowl or glass.
  3. Line Tempeh in Nonstick Pan and evenly pour the Marinade over it.
  4. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat for and cook for 3 minutes, then flip the Tempeh Strips. Repeat until the most of the liquid has evaporated and the marinade starts to look “sticky.” You will notice that the Tempeh will slightly increase in size as the marinade evaporates.
  5. Then, reduce the heat to medium-low and begin to frequently flip the tempeh to ensure all pieces and sides are equally browning. Pay attention to which areas of the pan are cooking faster than others, and try to switch the Tempeh in those areas.
  6. After all of the liquid has evaporated from the Pan, cook the Tempeh for 30-60 seconds more, flipping frequently. You should keep the Tempeh touching the hot pan long enough so the side caramelizes and gets brown, but not so long so that it sticks and burns.
  7. Remove from the heat, and serve as desired.


  • Tamari may be substituted for Soy Sauce, Liquid Aminos, or Coconut Aminos. I have tried all of these substitutions, however, and I strongly recommend you use Tamari
  • Maple Syrup may be substituted for equal parts Agave, Coconut Sugar, or Brown Sugar
  • Vegetable Bouillon may be substituted for regular Vegetable Broth
  • I have only tested this recipe in non-stick cookware, and recommend you use the same

Keywords: tempeh, how to cook tempeh, smoky tempeh, tempeh recipe, vegan bacon recipe

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Learn how to cook Tempeh using this simple and fool-proof method! It's tasty, it's hearty, and it's packed with plant-based protein and flavor. #tempeh #howtocooktempeh #vegetarian #vegan #smoketempeh #easytempeh #mealprep via

Learn how to cook Tempeh using this simple and fool-proof method! It's tasty, it's hearty, and it's packed with plant-based protein and flavor. #tempeh #howtocooktempeh #vegetarian #vegan #smoketempeh #easytempeh #mealprep via

About the Author

Hey there, I’m Caitlin! I make easy-to-follow, wholesome, and budget-friendly vegan recipes that are mostly gluten-free and refined sugar-free. I’m also an avid yogi, love the great outdoors, am chocolate-obsessed, and enjoy eating almond butter straight off of the spoon.

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  1. very good! I was watching Yovana the other day (formerly Rawvana if unfamiliar with the channel) and she was making tempeh and I havent had this since my vegan days but it made me crave it! so I knew when I was veg you were one of my favorite youtubers so of course I searched for your recipe. I used erythritol for the sugar since I eat low carb keto-ish, and I served with cauliflower egg fried rice. so delicious! thank you for making easy to follow recipes!

  2. This recipe has saved me on multiple occasions! My husband fell ill recently and could not keep any food down. When I made this recipe, he took a few bites and said he didn’t feel like vomiting! A relief for both of us! I made this recipe several times these past 2 weeks. I made a vegan scramble burrito and placed a few of the tempeh pieces in there, a vegan “BLT” sandwich, and as a side to my vegan banana pancakes. Note: I didn’t have the liquid smoke and it tasted very good!
    Love your content Caitlin! Thank you for your recipes and social media pages! I started following on YouTube many years ago and more recently on Instagram.

  3. Great flavor, first time making tempeh. I would change recipe to double or triple marinade. It was hardly enough to drizzle over the top of half of my tempeh.

    1. Thanks Whitney! This recipe is meant to flavor the tempeh without leaving a sauce, but if you would like a sauce I would recommend simmering it for less time.

  4. Finally a way to make tempeh edible! I so wanted to love tempeh, but I could not get past that weird flavor. Until now! This recipe is so amazing, a game changer. Even my non vegan husband thought it was delicious. I’m so excited to try some other recipes 🙂

    1. Glad you enjoyed it! Hopefully you’ll find a few other methods for cooking tempeh to your liking as well.

  5. This recipe is everything! We’ve used it alongside split pea soup, in BLTs, with a hearty harvest salad. It’s the meal that started my fiancé and I on our vegan journey.

  6. I absolutely love this recipe. I have used this marinade many times! Lately I’ve been crumbling the tempeh and simmering it in the marinate 🙂

  7. Brand new vegan! Me & my daughter. This was AMAZING! 6 days vegan & I’m seriously pain free! We loved this recipe! My 19 yo daughter cooked it & she was so proud of herself.

  8. This is such a great easy recipe for adding protein to lunches. Pre vegan I always used to take salads to work with a protein source but was really struggling to work out what to take since – this has been a life saver (literally!) and now I get fun salads again!

    1. Hi Megan, one thing you will learn it time, is that there is protein in almost EVERYTHING you eat as a vegan. Rice, beans, Tempey, potatoes, all have enough protein that you don’t need an “extra” protein source. Good on you for making the jump! I’m still new to it myself, but I’ve been finding a lot of information about nutritional content of foods. It’s very enlightening. Good luck! and thanks for the good review, I’ll be making this myself soon.

  9. Any ideas for a way to do this without liquid smoke? It seems pretty essential to the recipe — but we are stuck at home right now with none

    1. It is a key component in the flavor BUT you could always add a little extra smoked paprika, chipotle powder, or hickory smoke powder if you have any of those!

  10. Never ate tempeh, first time. Followed directions exactly except I mixed everything in the pan. Used the cooked strips on top of salad. Recipe was OUTSTANDING, super duper easy, tempeh is SOOO good! Thanks sooooo much!

  11. This recipe was my 2nd time trying to make tempeh & umm wow! Haha, I was actually stunned by the incredible flavor from such minimal ingredients! I love how the marinade compliments the tempeh flavor so well, it just tastes like the perfect combination. Thanks Caitiln for making this awesome recipe, I will without a doubt be returning to it! 🙂

  12. I’ve made this recipe a few times for BLTs, but today made it for a BBQ bowl with quinoa, mushrooms, kale, black beans, onions, avocado, tomatoes, and BBQ sauce.

    I’ve cooked tempeh a few ways and this recipe is my favorite so far. I use coconut aminos instead of tamari and skip the maple since the aminos are sweet. I only gave it 4 stars because I can’t get past the weird flavor of the tempeh itself. I’ll try marinating it overnight next time.

    1. Are you not fond of tempeh in general? If so, you could try steaming your tempeh first which will mellow out the flavor of tempeh (or so I’ve heard). Then you could go through with cooking as intended!

  13. I love this! Thank-you for such an easy recipe, I really appreciate your one pot approach! I always look forward to your newsletter and what awesome recipes you’re going to come up with next!

  14. Been watching your videos on Youtube and decided to give it a whirl as this is my first time cooking tempeh. Winner!!! I topped the tempeh with a bit of what I call my Maple Hummus Dressing, which is really just hummus that is thinned out with water to make a sauce with a splash of maple syrup. Totally excellent!

  15. Oh wow! This is a game changing recipe for me! I started eating a Vegan diet in August – and have tried making tempeh once…with not a great result. This recipe however….is the bomb! It’s opened my eyes – and tastebuds up to so many possibilities regarding flavor and texture of tempeh. My omni husband had a bite and he even loved it! Thanks for the great recipe….and ideas!