Smoky Baked Tempeh

Tempeh is a fermented cake made from whole soybeans, so it is higher in protein, fiber and some vitamins than tofu. Tempeh originated in Indonesia and has become a staple of vegetarian cooking. It does have a distinct, earthy taste that is not for everyone. The first step in this recipe—steaming or simmering—softens the tempeh and mellows its earthiness considerably. I suggest adding the steam/simmer step to any tempeh recipe.


8 ounces (225 g) tempeh
2 tbsp (30 ml) low-sodium tamari or soy sauce
1 tbsp (15 ml) apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp (15 ml) maple syrup or agave
1 tsp (5 ml) olive oil, optional*
½-1 tsp (2.5-5 ml) smoked paprika (½ tsp [2.5 ml] is mild, 1 tsp [5 ml] is spicier and smokier)


  1. Slice tempeh into ¼” (6 mm) thick strips and steam (or simmer gently in shallow water in a sauté pan) for 3 minutes; drain and pat with a towel to remove excess water.
  2. In an 8 x 8-inch (20 x 20-cm) baking dish, stir together remaining ingredients. Add tempeh and turn over so that all sides are coated in the marinade.
  3. Now you have two options for finishing the tempeh:
  • Let tempeh sit in marinade overnight for maximum flavor, then fry in a nonstick pan with a small amount of oil until edges crisp and brown.
  • Alternatively, you can bake immediately in the baking dish at 350°F (175°C) for 20-30 minutes, flipping halfway through, cooking until the edges brown. To prevent sticking to the pan, you may want to transfer marinated tempeh strips to a small sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat.


  • To cook without oil, follow the baking method in the second bullet of step 3.
  • Serve as a substitute for bacon—A little goes a long way. However, don’t expect it to taste like bacon—enjoy it as its own thing.
  • This makes a delicious sandwich served on sprouted grain bread with hummus and something crisp—like romaine lettuce or pea shoots.
  • Makes 4 servings.

This recipe is from the American College of Lifestyle Medicine's Culinary Medicine Curriculum. It was designed by Michelle Hauser, MD, MS, MPA, FACP, FACLM, DipABLM, Chef.