Tempeh Taco Meat: Uses, Ingredients & Recipe

People have become increasingly aware of their diet in recent years. This has led many individuals to a vegetarian or vegan diet. The good news is, the meat-free community has come up with some clever ways to indulge in favorites – including tacos – by utilizing tempeh.

Tempeh is a popular meat alternative that is in favorite recipes, such as tacos. Tempeh has a chunky, savory texture that can absorb flavors with ease. It is also easily crumbled when cooked, making it a great option for a meat-free taco filling.

If you are thinking about going meat-free, even if for one day, then you need to learn everything you can about tempeh. This blog will be discussing what tempeh is and why it is such an excellent pick for taco Tuesday. You will also find some great recipes that will have your mouth watering. 

What is Tempeh?

When you think of a meat alternative, you likely think of tofu. That’s because tofu was the number one choice by vegetarians and vegans for years. It’s the far more popular option, but tempeh is starting to become more prevalent. But what exactly is tempeh, and why should anyone use it for tacos?

Tempeh is made using fermented soybeans. Yet, most of the time tempeh will have other ingredients added in such as other types of beans and whole grains. This chunky meat alternative will have a nutty, somewhat mushroom-y taste when unseasoned. The umami adds a hint of savory flavor.

Is Tempeh Nutritional?

Tempeh is highly nutritional. You will find 162 calories in a 3-ounce serving of tempeh. Within the 162 calories, there will be:

  • Fat: 9 g 
  • Carbohydrates: 9 g
  • Protein: 15 g
  • Fiber: 7 g
  • Sodium: 9 mg
  • Potassium: 8% DV
  • Calcium: 9% DV
  • Riboflavin: 18% DV
  • Iron: 12% DV
  • Niacin: 12% DV
  • Magnesium: 18% DV

As you can see, tempeh contains plenty of protein and fiber which is necessary for a healthy, strong body. There are also 0 grams of cholesterol and sugars, making it a premium choice.

(Source: Healthline)

Is Tempeh Better Than Tofu?

When it comes to making meat-free dishes, one common question is whether to use tofu or tempeh. Which one is better? Either is a great choice as a meat alternative, but tempeh has a slight edge over tofu. Why?

It’s true that tempeh is higher in calories than tofu. That only means that you’re getting more protein and more fiber with every bite. Tempeh also comes with gut health benefits that are not found in tofu due to the fermentation. Tofu is also thought to be more processed than tempeh. This makes tempeh a healthier and more natural solution for meat-free substitutes.

Why is Tempeh Good for Tacos?

Vegans and vegetarians alike will rave about tempeh tacos. They tout over the competitive meat-free selections, such as tofu and chickpeas. But why? Tempeh is the most recommended meat-free substitute for tacos because:

It crumbles easily. When you first take tempeh out of the package it will have a distinct, cake-like texture that is chunky and thick. While cooking, tempeh will fall apart and crumble. The texture mimics ground beef or turkey, making it a great taco filling.

It absorbs the flavor. As mentioned before, tempeh has a nutty flavor with a mushroomy aftertaste. But this flavor changes as tempeh has the ability to absorb flavors. You can whip up some spicy tacos or keep it simple, depending on your preferences. It is best to marinade for premium results.

It’s “meaty”. When someone thinks of fermented soybeans, they likely don’t think of meat. Tempeh is different. The umami found in tempeh gives it an automatic meaty savoriness. The thicker texture mimics real meat with ease.

(Source: Cooking Light and TheKitchn)

Can You Eat Tempeh Raw?

A vegan or vegetarian who has been living a meat-free lifestyle for some time has likely had “raw tacos”. These tacos use vegan-friendly ingredients like walnuts and special seasonings. That may lead some people to believe that tempeh is eaten in the same way – but that’s not the case.

Cooked tempeh is necessary to consume. You should never eat raw tempeh because of fermentation. Tempeh will sit in warm temperatures and allow bacteria (and mold) to grow during the fermentation process. While this adds gut health properties, it is unsafe to consume when raw.

(Source: connoisseurusveg)

How to Make Tempeh Taco Meat

Ready to sink your teeth into a plate full of crispy, delicious, and nutrient-dense tacos? You need to know how to properly make them, first.

Marinade the Tempeh

Tempeh absorbs flavor, but it’s still recommended to marinate before cooking it. This will allow the seasonings to sink deep into the tempeh. This creates a mind-blowing taste that even meat-lovers wouldn’t be able to resist.

A good marinade will combine the following ingredients:

  • 8-ounce package of tempeh
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, diced (if you want your tacos on the spicy side)
  • ¼ cup soy sauce (important as tempeh does not naturally have salt)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoon garlic powder

The tempeh should soak in the marinade for at least 30 minutes to an hour before cooking. Marinate the tempeh longer when possible, with 24 hours being the limit.

(Source: Tasty.co

Consider Steaming

Many people who eat tempeh find that there is a bitter taste that is more obvious to some consumers than others. The best way to get rid of the bitter aftertaste is to steam the tempeh before adding it for your taco plate. To steam the tempeh, do the following:

  1. Place a few inches of water into a steamer. 
  2. Add the tempeh and bring it to a boil.
  3. Cover the steamer and cook for around 15 minutes.
  4. Strain the water.
  5. Crumble the tempeh and add spices and seasonings.
  6. Serve.

Don’t have time to boil? No worries. You can also wrap the tempeh in a wet paper towel and microwave it for around 4-5 minutes. Be careful when removing from the microwave as it’s sure to be piping hot.

(Source: connoisseurusveg)

Cook Without Steaming

Remember that steaming is not necessary when cooking tempeh. Steaming should only be necessary when someone has a distinct issue with the bitterness of tempeh. If you are unsure, then it’s best to cook without steaming, first. This will give you a better idea of how to cook tempeh in the future. The spices and seasonings should also hinder the bitter aspect.

To cook without using the steaming method, do the following:

  1. Grate or process the tempeh. You can use a grater to crumble the tempeh before cooking or use a food processor with the rest of the ingredients. Neither is necessary, as you can crumble after cooking, but it makes the process much faster.
  2. Heat oil in a large pan over medium to high heat.
  3. Add tempeh to the pan.
  4. Cook for around 5 minutes. Cooked tempeh will have a golden brown appearance.
  5. Add seasonings, if necessary. If you did not add spices and seasonings before cooking, add them now. Give the tempeh a thorough stir to incorporate the flavors.
  6. Add to tortillas or shells and serve. This type of meat-alternative pairs well with hard or soft shells. It depends on your personal preference. Add any other favorites such as avocado, sour cream, cheese, and salsa.

And there you have it. Delectable, nutritious tacos that are ready to devour in less than 10 minutes.

(Source: LiveAtLearn)

Final Thoughts

Putting a spin on your traditional taco Tuesday tacos doesn’t have to be a fail. Tempeh is an excellent way to indulge in tasty tacos that are meat-free yet jam-packed with flavor. Cooking takes around 5 minutes, which means you can serve up some healthy and scrumptious tacos in no time.

“Hearty Vegan Tempeh Taco” by veganLazySmurf is licensed under CC BY 2.0


  • Hi, I'm Marvin! In early 2019 I started fermenting sauerkraut, kefir, and kombucha and noticed the incredible health benefits that came with it. I was less irritated, had fewer allergies and my skin got better. I started this blog to share how fermented foods have helped me and how simple they are to prepare! Look around and see what speaks to you and all the best on your fermentation journey!

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