Vegan tempeh bacon BLT sandwiches made with homemade tempeh bacon, avocado, crisp lettuce, and juicy tomatoes.
I asked a colleague once, as I was slathering butter on a slice of crusty rye, if there was anything better than bread. He started listing things off… “chocolate, cheese, sex…” and I gave him a big old “meh” and walked away with my slice of bread.
I love bread. I love it a lot. Bread doesn’t scare me. Bread loves me back by fuelling my body and my brain and keeping my stomach satisfied. Bread and cheese are probably my dessert island foods. If I had to choose my last meal it would be a pizza. Bread bread bread bread bread. Have I mentioned I love it?
My office has fresh bread delivered daily; delicious, Scandinavian rye and sourdough breads. And it’s so good. It’s definitely my Achilles heel of office eats, and coming back to work after maternity leave I’ve had to learn to walk away from the bread basket all over again. The drawers of chocolate and cookies and other sugary snacks don’t tempt me at all, but the bread, damn is it good.
So my solution to the bread situation is to pack things for lunch that aren’t bready at all. Mostly veggie-forward and protein-packed salads, stir-fries, wraps, that kind of thing. Because I know that the bread basket will probably get me, and so I like to be one step ahead of the game with a bread deficit in my day.
I used to pack sandwiches for lunch every day. Probably many of us grew up that way: lunch = sandwich. Which is totally cool (my husband still packs sandwiches for his lunches each and every single day), but when breakfast = toast (or cereal or oatmeal), and then dinner = pasta (or rice or potatoes) and snacks = crackers (or pretzels or rice cakes) then our bread to non-bread food ratios tend to get out of whack.
It is this out of whack ratio that lead to the current state of bread phobia, wheat shaming, and carb counting that we as a culture have been experiencing for the last 10 or so years. When our entire day becomes a bread fest, and we feel tired and sluggish and bloated because of it, it’s easy to point fingers. But bread never did anything wrong! It’s been doing its job, filling our bellies and smelling delicious for thousands of years. So let’s work to keep our ratios in check and eat vegetable-forward protein-packed meals that are satisfying and delicious. Let’s eat healthy, intact whole grains to nourish our brains and bodies. And from time to time, let’s just eat a damn sandwich.
So, tempeh bacon. It is glorious. I had some leftover strips atop a delicious grain salad (which I’ll be sharing with y’all next week) and a colleague asked me about it. When I explained that it was tempeh bacon, which required first explaining what tempeh is, then the process of making it into “bacon”, she asked if it actually tasted like bacon. I haven’t eaten real bacon in 25 years so I’m not the best person to ask, but my best guess is: probably not.
But does that matter? Tempeh bacon, or smoky tempeh strips if you’d prefer, is damn delicious. You can crumble it up or toss whole strips into a salad. You can have it for breakfast alongside softly scrambled eggs or tofu scramble. You can eat it straight from the tray (you may have noticed one strip is missing in the second photo… busted!) And it makes extraordinarily delicious tempeh BLT sandwiches. Or a tempeh BLATs, as it were.
So here’s the deal. Tempeh is sliced into thin strips, which then take a bath in a salty, smoky, slightly sweet marinade. Then they’re brushed with olive oil and baked until crispy and delicious. That’s it. Super easy. Then you can make your tempeh BLT sandwiches, sit quietly with your eyes closed and savour each and every delicious bready, salty, crunchy, tempeh bacony bite.
Let’s talk about the elephant in this recipe: liquid smoke. Some people like it, others think it’s super gross. I’ve looked into the process of making it, and it’s natural enough to be within my comfort zone, but if it squicks you out, or if you simply can’t find it, it’s totally fine to leave it out. There’s enough other smoky stuff (smoked paprika, cumin) that this recipe will turn out just fine without it.
Tempeh is fermented soy food originally from Indonesia. It is fermented with the mold Rhizopus oligosporus in a process similar to cheese making. The fermentation process makes digestion easier and nutrients like zinc, calcium, and iron are more bio available than in non-fermented soy products like tofu. Tempeh is a great source of plant-based protein. Also, because the soy beans in tempeh are still in their whole form, all of the dietary fiber is still intact. Tempeh is usually purchased in a cake-like form and can be sliced or crumbled, and is often steamed, seared, or stir-fried. Look for tempeh that is covered with a thin whitish bloom. Sometimes it has a few black or grayish spots, which is totally fine, but it should have no evidence of pink, yellow, or blue colouration – a sign that it has become overly fermented.
Three years ago: Glorious Garden Gazpacho and Kamut and Zucchini Fritters
Four years ago: Mexican Black Bean Quinoa Skillet
Five years ago: White Bean Purée and Garlicky Kale Salad with Mustard Croutons
Six years ago: Crispy Skillet Tofu
Seven years ago: Wheatberry Salad with Eggplant and Halloumi Sandwich
Tempeh Bacon BLT
- 1 x 250g block tempeh sliced into 20 - 24 very thin slices
- 1/4 cup liquid aminos I use Braggs or low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon light brown sugar or coconut sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 cup water
- 1-2 teaspoons liquid smoke optional
Tempeh Bacon BLT Sandwiches
- 8 slices nice bread
- 2 avocados
- 1 to mato thickly sliced
- 4 leaves crisp lettuce I use good old iceberg
- regular or vegan mayonnaise optional
For the Tempeh Bacon
Combine soy sauce (or liquid aminos), apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, cumin, smoked paprika, and water in a small saucepan.
Bring to the boil and allow to boil for 1-2 minutes, and then turn off the heat. Add the liquid smoke if you are using.
Arrange the tempeh slices in a single layer in a casserole dish. Pour the marinade over the top, and give the dish a shake to ensure it is evenly distributed.
Cover, and allow to marinate for at least one hour, but up to overnight.
Preheat your oven to 150°C / 300°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and brush the parchment with a bit of olive oil.
Drain the tempeh slices and arrange on the baking sheet. Brush the tops with olive oil.
Place into the pre-heated oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until the tempeh is beginning to brown. Flip the slices and bake for 5-10 minutes more, until crisp.
Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before using.
For Tempeh BLT Sandwiches
Lightly toast the bread slices (optional, but recommended).
Mash 1/2 of an avocado on one slice of bread, and if using, spread the other slice with mayonnaise (vegan or regular).
Layer the tempeh bacon slices, lettuce, and tomato slices over the avocado. Top with the other slice of bread.
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