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Close up of bowl of tempeh with rice and topped with cilantro and chives.

Sweet and Spicy Tempeh

  • Author: Catherine Perez
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 3 servings 1x
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan


A bowl of sweet and spicy tempeh that will get you excited about tempeh. Pan fried tempeh simmered in a sweet adobo soy sauce. An easy vegan weeknight dinner.


  • 1/4 cup soy sauce or coconut aminos for gluten-free
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp adobo sauce from a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 block of tempeh
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp dry thyme
  • 12 tbsp avocado oil for cooking
  • 1/2 medium red onion, sliced thin
  • 1 green or red bell pepper, sliced thin
  • Salt as needed


  1. Prepare your sauce by adding soy sauce, maple syrup, rice vinegar, adobo sauce and garlic in a bowl and whisking it together with a fork until well combined.
  2. Slice your tempeh into desired pieces. I recommend making your slices thin by cutting your tempeh down the middle. Then cut each rectangle in half lengthwise and then cut into even inch squares.
  3. Add tempeh to a large skillet with enough water to cover your tempeh, salt it (about 1/4 teaspoon salt to the water), and then bring to a simmer for 8 minutes. Drain the water and then place tempeh into a bowl with cornstarch, garlic powder and thyme and toss to coat.
  4. Dry your pan, then return to a medium heat with a little oil and sauté your onions and peppers with a pinch of salt until softened.
  5. Push your peppers and onions to the side of the pan, add a little more oil to the empty side and add your tempeh and cook on both sides until golden, about 2-3 minutes per side.
  6. Once the tempeh is golden on both sides, pour in your sauce and mix everything back together and allow the sauce to simmer and thicken around the tempeh for about 2-3 minutes, making sure the sauce coats the tempeh well.


Boil/Steam your tempeh in some salted water. Steaming your tempeh helps to cut back on some of the bitter notes. Salt enhances flavor by suppressing bitter notes.

Use a flavorful sauce that has umami flavor. This sauce we are using has umami coming from both the soy sauce and adobo sauce. Because they are also saltier ingredients this will also help mute the bitterness of the tempeh as well.

Don’t skip pan frying the tempeh. Browning the tempeh on both sides also helps to seal in some additional flavor and improve the texture of the final product.

While I recommend the adobo sauce for this recipe, if you don’t like spicy food, you can replace it with 1 tablespoon of ketchup and 1 tsp smoked paprika if needed.

Keywords: sweet and spicy tempeh, tempeh recipe