Let me tell you a secret that I don’t think most people have caught onto yet: Tempeh is freakin’ awesome.

Tempeh is better than tofu. It’s easier to cook. It has more flavor. And by golly, it’s going to take over the world.

Ok. Maybe it won’t take over the world, but it does make a surprisingly good taco. The key is to make it really crispy by lightly frying it. Then pile on lots of toppings with a chili garlic sour cream sauce and you’ll be in vegetarian taco heaven.

Crispy Tempeh Tacos

5 from 2 votes
Author: Nick Evans
Servings: 8 tacos
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
These tacos are so good you won’t miss the meat. Tempeh lightly fried has great texture and works great in taco form.


  • 1 package tempeh, sliced into 1/8 inch slices
  • ½ red onion, sliced
  • ¼ Cup juice from pickled jalapenos and/or lime juice
  • 1 Cup feta, crumbled
  • 1 Cup cucumber, sliced thin
  • 1 Cup sour cream
  • 2 Tablespoons Chili Garlic Sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
  • Cilantro for garnish
  • Vegetable or peanut oil for frying
  • Flour tortillas


  • For the sauce, combine the sour cream, chili garlic sauce, and rice vinegar and stir to combine.  Adjust for your tastes and set aside until it’s taco time.
  • Slice your red onions really thin and add them to a bowl along with some juice from pickled jalapenos and/or lime juice.  Let this sit for a few minutes.
  • Slice tempeh 1/8 inch thick.
  • Add some oil to a large pan or skillet until the oil evenly covers the bottom of the pan.  Add tempeh pieces to pan over medium high heat.  Cook until tempeh is really crispy, about 4 minutes per side.
  • Add sauce, tempeh, and other toppings to tacos and eat them.


Serving: 1taco | Calories: 210kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 34mg | Sodium: 724mg | Potassium: 126mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 343IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 170mg | Iron: 1mg
Course: Main Dishes
Cuisine: American, Tex-Mex

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The Sauce

The key to making a good taco is thinking in textures. Since I knew I was going to have lots of crunchy stuff in this taco (tempeh, onions, cucumbers), I wanted something creamy to pair it with.

I also wanted the sauce to have some spice to it because I was worried about the tacos being a bit bland. Chili garlic sauce is one way to kick the bland out the window.

simple sauce
Simple but awesome.

Just mix these three ingredients together and adjust to your liking. I liked mine pretty spicy. Set this aside until you need it!

mixed up
Spicy and creamy. Perfect for tacos.

The other toppings are pretty straightforward. Chopped cucumbers? I think you can handle that. Crumbled feta? You got it.

The red onions are different though. I like to marinate my red onions for tacos. Normally, I do this in lime juice, but this time I used some juice from pickled jalapenos that I had in the fridge.

The jalapeno juice was salty and spicy and paired perfectly with the onions.

If you don’t have that though, you can definitely just squeeze a lime or two in with your red onions. The acid component is key though so don’t forget it.

They just need to sit for 10-15 minutes.

marinated onions
Love this topping.

Tempeh Tempeh

Tempeh is frightening the first time you cook with it. There’s no nice way to say it, but it looks like of rotten.

This is because it’s a fermented. This means that there might be some dark spots on your tempeh that you might think is a sign of spoilage. It’s not. It’s a sign of flavor.

Tempeh is super-easy to cook. Definitely easier than tofu which is a lot more moist and harder to control. For tempeh, just slice it up!

tempeh sliced
Kind of ugly stuff…

Once you have it sliced, add some oil to a large pan or skillet until the oil covers the bottom of the pan. Over medium-high heat, add the tempeh and cook it until it’s nice and crispy on each side, probably about 4 minutes per side.

It’ll get really crispy which is what you want. Let the tempeh drain on a paper towel when it comes out of the pan.

Crispy and beautiful.

Making the tacos

This part isn’t rocket science.

Spread on some of the chili garlic sauce and toss on a few pieces of tempeh. I found that 3 works great for a taco.

making tacos
The sauce was killer.

Then add all your other toppings and you’re ready to go!

Toppings are fun.

I took a bite and knew immediately that this dish was a winner.


Betsy and I were pretty shocked about these. Honestly, I wasn’t even positive that I was going to post on them when I came up with them because I wasn’t sure they would be good.

But they were really good. The crunchy tempeh paired with the spicy sauce made for a great taco night!

If you’ve never purchased tempeh before you can find it near the tofu in most supermarkets. Natural markets like Whole Foods will definitely have it, but I’ve seen it in other stores as well.

So, give tempeh a chance and give these a shot!