Easy vegan tempeh tacos with seasoned taco meat courtesy of our original taco seasoning are simply delicious and an excellent source of plant-based protein.
Table of Contents
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- Our tempeh recipes use a fool-proof method for cooking, softening, and flavoring tempeh crumbles so they can easily replace ground meat in recipes like mushroom stroganoff, tempeh asada, and more.
- Skip the packets and use our quick, homemade taco seasoning mix that gives you complete control of the ingredients and spiciness.
- Own your tacos! Add traditional toppings like lettuce and tomatoes, vegan sour cream, cashew cream, avocado or guasacaca, pico de gallo, or hot sauce. You are only limited to the size of those warm tortillas you are filling.
- Bulk out tempeh taco meat with black beans for a double-protein fix. Make a double batch; taco night can extend into the next day.
Ingredients, Notes, and Substitutions
Tempeh. Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans that are preserved in block form. It has a chewy texture that is closer to ground meat than tofu. Depending on the brand, it may contain some whole grains, rice, and even other beans (). For this reason, look at labels when you buy it to ensure it is gluten-free if that’s important to you.
Simmering liquid. I use a mixture of vegetable broth and soy sauce or tamari to soften tempeh, so it readily absorbs flavors. Simmering also removes the bitter taste of tempeh.
Onions and jalapeno. A base of yellow or red onion plus 1-2 jalapenos is fried with tempeh and seasonings.
Tomato paste. Add a savory-sweet flavor of tomato paste (tomato puree).
Chili powder. I use my own special chili powder blend, but that isn't a requirement for this recipe. You can also use a pinch of cayenne pepper or red chili flakes to replace chili powder.
Smoked paprika. To add a smokey flavor and a dash of spice. Chipotle powder or chipotle chili powder has a similar, smoky flavor. If you use chipotle chili powder, you may not need the chili powder paprika combination.
Please see the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the complete list of ingredients with measurements plus recipe instructions.
The recipe presented here is just a sampling. Here are a few flavor ideas you might consider:
Step 1: Crumble the tempeh or cut it into small pieces. Add it to a large saucepan with vegetable broth and soy sauce. Simmer for 20 minutes.
Step 2: Drain the tempeh and press it with the back of a spoon.
Step 3: Sauté the onions and jalapenos in a frying pan. Add the tempeh and let it brown.
Step 4: Stir in the tomato paste and spices.
Pro Tip: To retain the meaty texture of tempeh, use your hands to crumble the tempeh or cut it into small cubes. A food processor will grind it too small, making the resulting crumbles mushy after simmering.
Once you know the basics of making vegan taco meat from tempeh, there is no limit to the variety of tacos, burritos, or Mexican bowls you can make. These easy vegan tacos can be transformed into a quick taco salad with a smattering of tortilla chips and chipotle avocado dressing. Yum!
Make the simmered tempeh 3 days ahead of time. Make several batches of crumbled tempeh and freeze them for future use.
Corn tortillas can also be made ahead (if you make homemade). Store them in an airtight container, so they stay fresh and moist.
Storage / Freezing / Reheating
Store leftover tempeh taco meat in an airtight container for 4 days. You can freeze it for several months. Allow it to thaw before reheating.
Just heat a large skillet to medium heat and add the tempeh filling. Stir until it is heated through. The tempeh mixture will stay moist, so there's no need to use olive oil for reheating.
Frequently Asked Questions
Tempeh is a fermented product, and it’s common to discover a few gray or black spots when you open the package. These are safe to eat. Use the package date as a guide for freshness.
Unlike tofu, store-bought tempeh should always be cooked before eating. This can include making tempeh crumbles (simmering it), frying, or baking.
Tempeh has a distinctive nutty flavor that is slightly bitter due to fermentation. Simmering sliced or crumbled tempeh releases the bitterness and softens it, so it more readily takes on seasonings and marinades.
Although tempeh and tofu are soy products, they are entirely different vegan protein sources. Tempeh has twice the grams of protein as tofu, and fermentation makes it easier to digest. A block of tempeh is firmer with a unique flavor, whereas tofu comes in various textures. Both products are good options for alternatives to animal products.
More Tempeh Recipes
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Easy Vegan Tempeh Tacos
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- 10 ounces tempeh - 1 block
- 5 cups vegetable broth - depending on pan depth
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce - or Tamari
- 1 medium onion - diced
- 1-2 medium jalapenos - diced, remove the seeds if you want less heat
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 8 medium corn tortillas
- Taco toppings like shredded lettuce - diced tomatoes, chopped red onion, pico de gallo, vegan sour cream, black olives, or avocado.
- Crumble or dice the tempeh into small, bite-sized pieces.
- Place the tempeh into a pan, cover with 5 cups of vegetable broth and 1 tablespoon of tamari (or soy sauce), and simmer for 20 minutes.
- While the tempeh simmers, get all your taco fixings ready.
- Drain the crumbles and press the sides of the colander to get as much liquid out as possible.
- Heat a large skillet or frying pan to medium-high heat. Sauté the onion and jalapenos for 2-3 minutes until they soften.
- Add the tempeh crumbles and cook for another 5 minutes to firm up a bit. This will help to get any remaining moisture out.
- Stir in the tomato paste, maple syrup, soy sauce, and spices. Heat for a few minutes to combine the ingredients.
- Assemble the tacos by adding tempeh taco meat to warm corn tortillas and topping them with lettuce, tomato, hot sauce, or other favorites.
- Nutritional information includes tempeh taco meat and 8 corn tortillas.
- Use the date on tempeh as your guide for freshness. It is usual for tempeh to have a few black or gray spots, as this results from the fermentation process.
- Tempeh crumbles can be made 3-4 days ahead and refrigerated. You can also make tempeh taco meat and freeze it for future use.
Nutritional information is an estimation only.