Picture of air fryer tempeh bacon on a white plate on top a bamboo Japanese flower placemat. A crispy vegan treat. Veg Out With Maria.
Full of smoky flavor, plant protein, and packed with nutrients, this air fryer tempeh bacon recipe satisfies even the meat lover skeptics. Crispy, oil free and guilt-free! Your cholesterol and waistline will thank you.
picture of crispy air fryer tempeh bacon on a white plate on top of a bamboo Japanese flower placemat. Veg Out With Maria

Whether you’re a seasoned vegan, a curious flexitarian, or simply seeking a healthier alternative to traditional bacon this air fryer tempeh bacon recipe is for you.

I love tempeh! But, I find that not very many people have ventured into the world of tempeh. I’ll admit, it intimidated me for many years, but now I actually prefer it over tofu.

Tempeh is packed with nutrition, fiber (prebiotics) and probiotics, enhancing gut health and digestibility. It also provides a firmer and nuttier flavor than tofu.

One of my favorite things to make with tempeh is air fryer tempeh bacon strips. It’s great to add to a sandwich or alongside a weekend breakfast. Crispy, oil-free, nutritious and yummy!

In this blog post we break down the nutritional benefits of tempeh, the secret tip to preparing it and why you should give it a chance. You can always just go straight to the delicious air fryer tempeh bacon recipe!

What is Tempeh?

picture of a cake of tempeh on a wooden cutting board.
This tempeh has added flaxseeds

Tempeh traditionally comes from Indonesia. It is made from soybeans that have been fermented and bound together to form cakes that have a firm and compact texture and a nutty, earthy flavor.

While the main ingredient in tempeh is soybeans, often other beans, grains and seeds like flaxseeds are also added.

Because it is fermented and not as processed as other meat alternatives, tempeh contains unique characteristics making it a nutrition powerhouse.

You can cook tempeh in several ways. It can be steamed, sautéed, baked or air fried. Ideally letting it marinate with your favorite spices/sauces will add a kick of flavor.

Nutrition Benefits of Tempeh

If you need a reason to fall in love with tempeh there are actually many.

Here are some of the key health benefits of tempeh:

Nutrient-Rich

Tempeh is a great source of various essential nutrients, including iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, fiber, and B vitamins (including B6 and folate).

These nutrients are crucial for maintaining healthy bones, supporting energy production, making red blood cells and carrying out critical functions of the body.

Packed with Protein

Tempeh is an excellent source of plant-based protein, containing 18g of protein per 3 oz. It also contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a “complete” protein source.

Although, to be clear, it is not necessary to get all the essential amino acids in one meal. Our body is pretty smart and maintains pools of amino acids to pull from, naturally complementing what we need.

Digestibility

The fermentation process involved in making tempeh enhances its digestibility. The beneficial bacteria used in fermentation have the ability to break down phytic acid found in soybeans, making nutrients more accessible and easier for our bodies to absorb.

Probiotic Properties

Tempeh contains probiotics due to the fermentation process, however once cooked these probiotics become inactivated. But, the benefits remain!

Turns out the probiotics become “paraprobiotics” which are inactivated microbial cells that are beneficial for your health. Paraprobiotics can help regulate your immune system and have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties1.

In addition, tempeh contains a high amount of fiber which acts as a prebiotic and helps feed our healthy gut bacteria contributing to good gut health.

Cholesterol-Lowering Effects

Studies have suggested that regular consumption of tempeh may help reduce LDL cholesterol levels (the “bad” cholesterol) in the blood.

This is due to the isoflavones naturally present in soy which have been shown to be beneficial for heart health, lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Blood Sugar Regulation

The high protein and fiber content and low glycemic index of tempeh can contribute to better blood sugar regulation.

A study looking at the effect of tempeh fermentation on people with type 2 diabetes found a reduction in HgbA1c (hemoglobinA1c) and triglycerides2.

Weight Management

Tempeh’s high protein content and low-calorie profile make it a great addition to a weight management plan. Protein and fiber help promote satiety and reduces overall calorie intake, assisting in weight loss or maintenance goals.

Cancer-Fighting Properties

Some research indicates that soy-based foods like tempeh may have anticancer properties, particularly in reducing the risk of hormone-related cancers, such as breast and prostate cancer.

For more details on the benefits of soy foods in general, check out the blog post “Pros and Cons of Soy: Should You Be Concerned?”.

Prepare Your Tempeh

For all you tempeh skeptics out there, this recipe is a game changer! Now, to be clear this will not taste like actual bacon. It has it’s own unique taste and texture so indulge with an open-mind.

Optional Bonus Tip

picture of ingredients for air fryer tempeh bacon recipe: tempeh, smoked paprika, liquid smoke, coconut aminos, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, onion powder, garlic powder
Here’s your ingredients!

One secret to great tasting tempeh is to first steam or simmer it for 10 minutes which removes some of the bitterness.

Straight out of the package I put it in a pan and add just enough water to cover it. Then I bring it to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook it for 10 minutes. Drain the water and you’re now ready to slice and marinate!

This is a completely optional step, but in my experience lends to a tastier outcome.

Make Your Secret Sauce

The secret is always in the sauce. The following ingredients really complement each other well:

  • Coconut Aminos – I like the Coconut Secret brand for it’s lower sodium content and smooth flavor.
  • 100% maple syrup
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Liquid Smoke
  • Smoked Paprika
  • Garlic Powder
  • Onion Powder

While your tempeh is steaming you can whisk ingredients together and set aside.

Slice and Marinate

Next, take your tempeh after it’s cooled a bit (if you steamed it) and slice it into fairly thin slices.

Picture of bowl of marinade and tempeh on a cutting board cut in thin slices
picture of tempeh strips marinating in glass container on top of cutting board.

Then pour the marinade into a shallow baking dish large enough to fit your tempeh strips. Let it sit for at least 20 minutes so that it can soak up all the yummy flavors.

While your tempeh is marinating, heat up your air fryer to 350 degrees (177 Celsius).

Air Fry it!

After your tempeh is done marinating you can add it to your air fryer pan, making sure the tempeh is in even rows. My air fryer is pretty small so I had to cook it in two batches.

Cook your tempeh for 12 minutes, flipping them halfway through. After they are done cooking, put them back in the dish to soak up the last of the marinade as a lot of the sauce tends to cooks off.

Now you’re ready to enjoy! I love adding the tempeh bacon to a sandwich, making a plant-based BLT with avocado and sliced red onion. They also make a great addition at breakfast.

You can always pack up any leftovers for lunch the next day. It should last in the refrigerator around 5 days in an airtight container.

picture of crispy air fryer tempeh bacon on a white plate on top of a bamboo Japanese flower placemat. Veg Out With Maria

Air Fryer Tempeh Bacon

Maria Tointon, RDN, LDN
Full of smoky flavor, plant protein, and packed with nutrients, this air fryer tempeh bacon recipe satisfies even the meat lover skeptics. Crispy, oil free and guilt-free! Your cholesterol and waistline will thank you.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 22 minutes
Servings 3
Calories 186 kcal

Equipment

  • 1 Air Fryer

Ingredients
 
 

  • 8 oz tempeh I used Lightlife Tempeh Flax
  • 3 Tbsp coconut aminos
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp liquid smoke
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder

Instructions
 

  • Optional (but recommended step): Take the tempeh out of the package and put it in a pot. Put enough water in the pot to just cover the tempeh. Bring to a boil and them turn the temperature down to simmer and simmer for 10 minutes ( you can also use a steamer). Drain and let cool for a couple of minutes.
  • While the tempeh is steaming you can make the marinade. Add the coconut aminos, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, liquid smoke, smoked paprika, garlic powder and onion powder. Whisk and set aside.
  • Take your tempeh and slice it into thin strips.
  • Pour the marinade into a shallow baking dish and add your tempeh strips. Let it marinate for 20 minutes.
  • While your tempeh is marinating heat up your air fryer to 350 degrees (177 celsius).
  • When your tempeh is done marinating, put the strips in your air fryer basket making sure not to overlap. Make sure to keep the dish of marinade because you will use it after cooking. Cook at 350 for 12 minutes, flipping halfway through.
  • When the tempeh is done cooking, add it back to the dish of marinade to soak up the remainder of the sauce.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

Gluten-Free, Oil-Free, Vegan

Nutrition

Calories: 186kcalCarbohydrates: 16gProtein: 14gFat: 8gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gSodium: 355mgPotassium: 361mgFiber: 0.4gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 328IUVitamin C: 0.1mgCalcium: 95mgIron: 2mg
Keyword air fried tempeh, air fryer tempeh, air fryer tempeh bacon, bacon tempeh, crispy tempeh in air fryer, oil free tempeh bacon, tempeh air fryer recipes, tempeh bacon
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