For those times when only a fiery, decadent taco will satisfy you, tempeh asada tacos with mango pico de gallo is ready to answer the call. The perfect combination of spicy and simple tempeh asada combined with sweet, tangy mango pico de gallo is a force worthy of any shell you can wrap your hands around and swiftly get to your mouth.
The secret of perfect tempeh asada tacos
There are two things that make tempeh asada tacos perfect and it's conveniently in the name – tempeh and asada. That’s it. The fortunate thing for us, is that both are super easy (and we all like that a lot).
No matter what dish I’m making, my own creation or a recipe I’ve discovered, I always, always start cooking tempeh the exact same way. It doesn’t matter if I’m going to slice it, puree it for deluxe tempeh burgers or crumble it for loaded tempeh stew , tempeh breakfast sausage (or asada tacos), right after the initial slice, dice or crumble, I simmer it.
Why simmer tempeh?
If you’ve had tempeh in the past, you may have had a similar response as I initially did – “yuck. This stuff is a bit weird tasting and bitter bitter”. That’s ok. There’s a reason for that.
What is tempeh?
Tempeh is made from soybeans that are fermented and then packed into a block. It’s a cousin of tofu, but the fermenting and packing causes it to taste and behave much differently. The fermenting can cause it to have a strong and somewhat bitter taste, whereas tofu tastes, well, of whatever you marinate or cook it in. Tempeh is also denser and if you just remove it from the package, slice or dice it and then expect it to take on your marinade, you might become a bit frustrated.
Making perfect tempeh
When I got serious about plant-based eating, I heard a lot about tempeh. I tried lots of recipes, but they just never met the mark – quite. And then, I discovered what was missing and it’s too simple, but so very, very important and it’s all about how you cook it:
Slice and simmer your tempeh – always
If you miss this step, you risk getting a bitter taste, a tough texture and diminished marinade gratification for your effort. Your taste buds and your chef psyche don’t deserve it so don’t do it. Besides, there are three easy steps to follow:
- Prepare the tempeh in the manner you want to use it (you were going to do this anyhow). Slice it in strips for tempeh bacon or cubes if you are going to puree it or crumble it if that’s where you’re headed.
- Simmer your tempeh in vegetable broth and tamari or soy sauce for 20-30 minutes. Although I’m giving you directions for tempeh asada for this recipe, for the future my general rule is 8 ounces (250 grams) of tempeh, 4 cups of vegetable broth (or 4 cups of water and the equivalent of vegetable bouillon cubes) and 1 tablespoon of tamari or soy sauce.
- Drain it. You don’t need to rinse it, but don’t let it sit in the pan. The idea is to allow any bitterness to evacuate the premises.
The second part of tempeh asada tacos
- The asada part for our tempeh asada tacos rests on three spices, chili powder, smoked paprika and cumin. I used a standard, off-the-shelf chili powder, because I like convenience. If you want to make your own. Try the following quick mix of dry spices:
- ⅛ cup sweet paprika
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 ½ teaspoons onion powder
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
Adjust the heat as you like between the cayenne pepper and chili flakes. The smoked paprika gives you a depth of flavor, so try to keep that in the mix.
Making mango pico de gallo
While your tempeh is simmering and you have tacos on the brain, whip up something to sooth the heat. That would be fresh, sweet mango pico de gallo. We’ll be dicing the mango flesh into small cubes, so don’t get too hung up on doing a perfect mango peel.
How to prepare fresh mango
There are a few devices out there and a ton of videos all about how to peel mangoes in some slick way. After much experimentation, I’ve decided that the best way to prepare mango is to simply take a small paring knife and separate the peeling from the flesh. Because you are only going for small cubes, just start cutting the flesh away from the pit and then cube it.
Simple mango pico de gallo toss together
Including the mango, which makes this a sweet version of more traditional pico de gallo, requires only 5 other ingredients. I’ve included 1-2 jalapenos, but because the tempeh asada is fairly spicy, I suggest that you remove the seeds and dice it small. That will give you some heat control. As always, you can just use one jalapeno or eliminate them altogether. You might also use ¼ cup of diced green or red pepper, the latter providing another layer of sweetness.
Wrap and Load your asada tacos
To be honest, between the tempeh asada and the mango pico de gallo, you might not want much for to get satisfying taco with a lot of different textures and flavor. That said, we are slightly hooked on cashew sour cream around here and because it’s so easy to make, I included it on a few tacos, just to vary the taste. It will definitely cool down the spice. Just a bit of lettuce or chopped cabbage and perhaps some diced avocado. That’s enough to get you to go time.
'Real' corn tortillas
I want to take a last moment to consider the taco shells. I always start with corn tortillas that are 100% corn and prepared with only one other ingredient – water. Take a quick look at the package labels before you purchase them to be sure. Just bake them a few moments directly on the oven rack and flip them over it necessary. If you want them with a bit of a curve, you can fold them through the slots in your rack. This really works. Just keep an eye that they don’t get too brown.
I committed myself to discovering new, plant-based ways to prepare my favorite food because I knew that this was the secret to my long-term success. Once I realized that this was about highlighting the flavors and textures that I loved about certain ingredients and not necessarily the oil or animal product parts, it was far more manageable.
If you are wandering through the same journey or just dabbling at the edges, start by asking yourself what you really love about a certain food. Do you miss ground beef in that taco? You can get a similar taste and texture from tempeh. If you don’t like it the first time, try cooking it another way. In my case, it was learning the secret simmer process. If you miss those crunchy, oil-laden prepared taco shells, try baking them up. This might just work for you. Besides, tacos are all about the filling and you get to eat more if you take healthier approaches. Peace.Print