This Smokey Tempeh Sandwich recipe has it all. Sweet and smokey tempeh, zippy horseradish aioli, fresh juicy tomatoes, and sweet and savory caramelized onions. It is like a gluten-free and vegan BLT on steroids!
Tempeh and I had a rocky start. The first time I purchased tempeh, I remember looking at the wrinkly shrink rapped packages trying with all of my brain power to imagine how this grey-brown, incredibly sad looking, fermented bean cake could taste like anything but bad beans.
And round one of Laurel vs tempeh lived up to my sub par expectations. I wrote tempeh off, because, as if my food blogger level cooking could have been the problem, clearly it was the ingredients fault.
The next time I met tempeh, it was love at first bite, definitely not at first sight, because it still looked like the sad pressed bean cake that it is. I was at a trendy cafe in Missoula, Montana, where their version of this Smokey Tempeh Sandwich was on the menu.
I avoided it like a dedicated tempeh hater, but lucky for me, someone else at the table ordered it. Actually EVERYONE else at the table ordered it. After many exclamations of how gosh darn AHHHHmazing it was, I skeptically accepted someone’s offer of a bite.
I raised it to my lips with squinty eyes and a doubting heart as any good sceptic would. And instantly my heart fluttered, my taste buds fired, and I was HOOKED. Sad looking bean cake or not, this was good.
I took a few notes from the sandwich and set off to experiment in my kitchen. I have come up with some surefire techniques to make crave-able tempeh from home.
Tempeh Cooking 101:
- Steam the tempeh to remove bitterness. Tempeh is naturally bitter. I don’t know whether that is due to fermentation, or the way it is processed, or what, but it is what it is. Steaming the tempeh before cooking removes all this less than pleasing bitterness and preps the tempeh to soak in the sauce.
- Slice your tempeh. Slicing the tempeh after steaming gives it a larger surface area to soak in a flavorful sauce, and you want it to soak up as much of this sauce as possible.
- Slather it with sauce. Coating your tempeh with a flavorful sauce is a game changer. Marinade the tempeh in the sauce overnight, and brush the tempeh with any remaining sauce halfway through baking and then after it has finished baking. No sauce shall go unused.
- Lastly, bake it real good. This isn’t a lets-put-it-in-the-oven-to-get-warm situation, it is a bake-until-the-edges-become-crispy-and-the-surface-is-glazed-and-sticky-with-sauce situation.
After your tempeh 101 has been perfected. You are ready to serve it on this life changing Smokey Tempeh Sandwich. In addition to perfectly cooked and powerfully flavorful tempeh, this Smokey Temph Sandwich is loaded with layers and layers of flavor.
The tempeh is surrounded by fresh juicy tomatoes, crisp and fresh lettuce, and hugged with sweet and savory caramelized onions. To top it all off, the perfectly toasted bread is slathered with a zippy and creamy homemade horseradish aioli.
Smokey Tempeh Sandwich perfection.
Head over heels for tempeh.
For the Tempeh:
- 1 package tempeh
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 3 tablespoons liquid aminos
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
- 1/2 teaspoon smoky paprika
For the aioli:
- 1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish
- 1 clove garlic (grated)
- 8 slices gluten free bread (toasted)
- 1 roma tomato (sliced)
- 4 pieces sandwich sized romaine lettuce
- 1 cup caramelized onions
- Add 1/2 of an inch of water into a skillet or pot. Heat over medium heat until the water simmers. Add in the tempeh, cover, and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes. Remove the tempeh from the water and cut into strips. Set aside.
- Whisk together the maple syrup, liquid aminos, apple cider vinegar, liquid smoke, and paprika in a bowl. Add the marinade and the tempeh into a zip top bag. Toss gently to coat and place in the refrigerator to marinade overnight.
- The next day, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Line up the tempeh on the tray, reserving the extra marinade. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the tempeh from the oven and flip them over. Brush with some of the remaining marinade and return them to the oven for 15 more minutes. Remove from the oven and brush both sides with any remaining marinade.
- While the tempeh is cooking, whisk together all of the aioli ingredients and set aside.
- To assemble the sandwich, place the romaine on top of one slice of bread. Top with tomato and then tempeh slices. Slather the other piece of bread with aioli and top with caramelized onions. Put the two sides together and serve.
The caramelized onions can be made ahead of time. I always follow this recipe for perfect caramelized onions.