These vegan tempeh tacos are super easy to whip up for a quick and nutritious meal.
Looking for a meatless taco option? Tempeh makes a great choice! Once crumbled and cooked with taco seasonings, it’s perfect for vegetarian tacos.
Why You’ll Love Tempeh Tacos
- Easy to make in 20 minutes.
- Meaty texture and packed with flavour for a crowd-pleasing meatless taco option.
- Swap the tempeh for chickpeas or extra-firm tofu for a variation.
- Use the tempeh mixture in taco salads, burritos, enchiladas and more!
- Try the quick pickled veggies and cashew cream for the most flavourful and delicious tacos.
What is Tempeh?
Tempeh comes in a firm block made from fermented whole soybeans and is one of my favourite vegan protein sources. For more on exactly what tempeh is and how to use it, check out my guide to tofu and tempeh.
This recipe uses store-bought (you can make tempeh too!) tempeh. Tempeh is easy to find in well-stocked grocery stores and usually located alongside tofu.
Ingredients & Substitutions
A complete list of ingredients with amounts and full instructions is located in the printable recipe card below. This section covers ingredient and substitution considerations.
- Tempeh: Look for plain tempeh with no added flavourings. It should be beige in colour but if it has some black spotting on it, that’s normal. This recipe also works well with chickpeas or tofu.
- Onion: You can use white, yellow or red onion. Shallots would work as well.
- Bell Pepper or Poblano Pepper: Any colour of bell pepper or a poblano pepper works.
- Tomato Paste: The thick paste, not tomato sauce.
- Nutritional Yeast: Adds umami flavour to the tempeh. If you’re unsure what is is, you can read more about nutritional yeast here. Nutritional yeast is common in grocery stores or readily available online.
- Spices: You’ll need cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika and garlic powder.
- Tamari: If you don’t have tamari on hand, soy sauce works too.
- Tortillas: Any corn or wheat tortilla you enjoy works.
- Cilantro: Optional for topping.
- Toppings: Try the quick pickled onion or radish, garlic lime cashew cream, guacamole or avocado, and hot sauce, if desired.
Before You Start: If you want to make the quick pickled onion or radish, start those now so they can pickle while you prepare the tacos.
Note that if you’re making the garlic lime cashew cream, the cashews need 1-hour of soaking time, though you can soak for 30-minutes or less in hot water if you have a high-speed blender.
- Step 1: In a large non-stick pan, heat 1 tbsp oil over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add tempeh, onions and peppers and season with salt. Cook for 6-8 mins, stirring occasionally, until browned all over.
- Step 2: Add tomato paste, nutritional yeast, cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika and garlic powder. Cook the mixture for 3-4 mins, stirring constantly, until toasted and dark red in colour. If the pan begins to dry out, reduce the heat a little and stir in 1-2 tbsp water.
- Step 3: Add ¾ cup water. Cook for another 2-4 min, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan, until mixture is reduced and thickened.
- Step 4: Stir in the tamari, taste and season with salt and pepper, if needed.
If you’d like to warm the tortillas, heat them briefly in a pan or the microwave then divide the tempeh mixture between the warmed tortillas.
Add your desired toppings, like the pickled onions and cashew cream, and enjoy!
Quick Pickled Radish or Onion
You can make this with radish or red onion. I usually use red onion just because it’s easier and I have them on hand more often, but radish is really nice too.
Boil some water on the stovetop or in a kettle, once it boils, mix with the sugar, salt and vinegar in a heat-safe container like a glass jar. Add the thinly sliced radish or red onion and let them sit for at least 30 minutes to “pickle”.
These store well in the fridge for 1-2 weeks so feel free to make them in advance. I usually double or triple it and use them for salads, wraps, bowls, sandwiches, etc.
Garlic Lime Cashew Cream
Cashew cream makes an easy and delicious alternative to sour cream or any dairy-based crema. If you have a high-speed blender you can soak the cashews for just 20 minutes in boiled water, if not I would suggest at least 1 hour of soaking time.
Once you’ve soaked the cashews, blend with water, lime juice, nutritional yeast and garlic until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed until fully combined. This works best in a small blender container or mini food processor.
No cashews on hand, plain yogurt works or you can use this tofu-based crema.
Here are some more sauce and slaw options for serving your tacos:
- Quick Sesame Slaw: A simple slaw made with store-bought coleslaw mix. I also sometimes just mix coleslaw mix with a little vegan mayo and vinegar to make a creamy slaw. This lentil
- Beet Apple Slaw: I think this would be interesting on the tacos or you could serve it on the side.
- Chipotle Sauce: This cashew-based sauce calls for adobe peppers for a chipotle vibe. Perfect for tacos!
- Spicy Mayo: This is a fan-favourite sauce and I think it would be pretty tasty on these tacos!
- Avocado Sauce: This simple lime and cilantro avocado sauce would be delicious too.
Other toppings that work well are black beans, pinto beans, tomato, red cabbage, lettuce or whatever else you like on your tacos.
Sometimes simple is best though, so don’t feel like you have to overload them! Just the tempeh filling and classic taco toppings is delicious.
Did you try this recipe?
I’d love to hear about it! Click here to leave a review and be sure to tag me @runningonrealfood if you post it on social media.
These tempeh tacos are super easy to make and have a hearty, meaty texture and are super flavourful for a delicious meatless taco option!
- 225 g (8-ounce ) package tempeh, crumbled into bits
- 1 small onion, cut into ¼-inch pieces (1 cup/110 g)
- 1 bell pepper (or poblano), cut into ¼-inch pieces (1 cup/125 g)
- 3 tbsp tomato paste (58 g)
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast (7 g)
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp tamari or low-sodium sauce (15 ml)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 4–6-inch corn or wheat tortillas, warmed
- ½ cup cilantro, roughly chopped
Quick Pickled Radish or Red Onions
- 1/2 a red onion, thinly sliced, or 8–10 radishes, very thinly sliced into rounds
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
- ½ cup water
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp sugar
Garlic-Lime Cashew Cream
- If you’re making the quick pickled onion or radish and/or the garlic-lime cashew cream. Start preparing those first since they need at least 30 minutes of sitting time. See notes for instructions.
- Cook Tempeh, Onion & Pepper: In a large non-stick pan, heat 1 tbsp oil over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the tempeh, onions and peppers. Season with salt. Cook for 6-8 mins, stirring occasionally, until browned all over.
- Add Seasonings: Add tomato paste, nutritional yeast, cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika and garlic powder. Cook for 3-4 mins, stirring constantly, until toasted and dark red in colour. If it begins to burn at this stage, reduce heat a bit and add 1-2 tbsp water.
- Add Water & Reduce: Add ¾ cup water. Cook for another 2-4 min, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan, until mixture is reduced and thickened. Stir in the tamari. Taste and season with salt, if needed.
- Serve: Warm the tortillas in a pan or in the oven, if desired, then divide the tempeh mixture between the warm tortillas and top with desired toppings. If you’re not making the cashew cream and pickled onions, the tempeh mixture is delicious on it’s own or with simple toppings like lettuce, tomato, onion, hot sauce or whatever else you enjoy on tacos.
For the Garlic Lime Cashew Cream: Cover the cashews in boiled water and soak for 30-60 minutes. Drain then blend with the rest of the ingredients, scrapping down the sides and adding more water as needed. This is best done in a small or single-serve blender container or mini food processor as the volume is too small for a large blender. If you make this
For the Pickled Radish or Onion: Mix the vinegar, salt and sugar together in a glass jar. Add 1/2 cup boiling water and stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. Add the onion or radish, mix and set aside to pickle for 30-60 minutes. This can be made up to 1-week in advance.
Keywords: tempeh tacos, vegan tempeh tacos