This easy air fryer tempeh will make you fall in love with tempeh. Marinated in a simple maple, soy, tahini sauce then air fried for 15 minutes. I will show you a little trick to enhancing tempeh's flavor and giving it an amazing chewy, tender and crispy texture.
Tempeh is a fermented soy product with a firm texture and nutty flavor, widely used as a plant-based protein source. I will show you how to cook it so that you will fall in love with this delicious soy food.
❤️ Why you'll love this recipe
- Easy to meal prep for quick weeknight dinner or lunch.
- Made with simple ingredients and takes minimal effort to whip up
- High in plant-based protein and fiber. One cup of tempeh (166 grams) has 31 grams of protein!
- Great way to fall in love with tempeh if this is your first time cooking it.
- Has a satisfying chewy, crispy and firm texture with the perfect balance of salty, smokey and sweet flavors that will satisfy both vegans and meat eaters.
🧂 Ingredients and substitutions
Make sure to scroll to the recipe card for full list of ingredients.
Tempeh - Use whatever brand you can find at your grocery store. Some varieties are fermented with a grain and soybeans, so if you're trying to make this recipe gluten-free, then use the variety that is fermented with just whole soybeans. Lightlife tempeh is probably the most common brand you can find.
Maple syrup - make sure to use pure maple syrup for it's depth of flavor. A little sweetness helps round out the marinade and helps the sauce stick to the tempeh.
Oil - Just a little oil to help thin out the marinade. Oil also helps the tempeh to crisp up and stay moist when air frying. I like to use avocado oil because of its high heat tolerance, but olive oil also works. Toasted sesame oil is also a delicious option.
Soy sauce - If you want this to be gluten free, use Coconut aminos or Tamari instead.
Garlic powder & onion powder - I like to keep the seasonings simple. Nutritional yeast also tastes delicious and adds a but of a nutty flavor and umami.
Vinegar - Vinegar adds just a little bit of acidity which helps to balance out the flavors of the marinade.
Liquid smoke - This will add a delicious smoky flavor. This can be found in your local grocery store, usually in the condiment, BBQ sauce section. You can substitute for smoked paprika.
Tahini - Tahini adds a nice thickness to the sauce that will make it stick really well to the tempeh. You can keep this out if you don't have it on hand.
👩🍳 Recipe tips
Simmer or steam the tempeh before air frying. This is the secret to getting rid of tempeh's slightly bitter taste. It will also slightly soften the soy beans, giving it a great texture by making it more chewy.
Cooking time may vary depending on your air fryer. Keep an eye on it when it has about 5 minutes left and take it out when it looks golden brown, caramelized and crispy.
If you want seriously flavorful tempeh, let it marinate in the sauce overnight before air frying. It will soak up all the flavors.
Make sure to scroll to the recipe card for full step-by-step instructions.
Step one: Cut the block of tempeh in half and simmer it on the stove for 15 minutes. For extra flavor, simmer it in vegetable broth.
Step two: Add all of the marinade ingredients to an airtight container and stir well. Cut the tempeh into 1 inch cubes and add them to the container. Let the tempeh cubes marinate for at least 30 minutes. Marinate overnight for best results.
Step three: Add the marinated tempeh to the air fryer basket in a single layer.
Step four: Air fry tempeh at 390 degrees f for 10-15 minutes, or until it looks crispy and caramelized.
♨️ Baking directions
If you don't have an air fryer, but still want crispy tempeh, it's very easy to bake.
1. Follow the directions for simmering, then marinating the tempeh.
2. Pre heat the oven to 420 degrees f. Lay the tempeh pieces out on a lined baking sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the the cooked tempeh looks crispy and golden brown.
Gluten free - make sure to use coconut aminos or a gluten free soy sauce. Also make sure the type of tempeh is gluten free. Some are made with gluten containing grains.
Oil free - feel free to leave the oil out, if you'd like to make this oil free. The tempeh won't come out as moist and crispy, but it will still be delicious.
BBQ sauce - If you'd like to try a different marinade, tempeh tastes amazing if you use BBQ sauce, like in this BBQ tempeh recipe.
🍲 Serving suggestions
Sandwiches & wraps: Serve this smoky tempeh as vegan bacon on a Tempeh BLT Sandwich, just cut it into tempeh slices instead of cubes. This would also taste amazing in a wrap with some Vegan Ranch Dressing, lettuce, tomato and shredded carrots.
❄️ Storing and reheating
This recipe is great to meal prep for the week. It will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days. Store it in any leftover marinade you have then reheat it in the air fryer to crisp it up again.
❓ Recipe FAQs
Simmering, boiling or steaming the tempeh before cooking helps to get rid of the slightly bitter flavor in tempeh. It also helps to soften it, which makes it more porous so it absorbs marinades or flavors better during the cooking process. Simmering also helps to improve its texture, making it more chewy and tender.
Yes, tempeh can be frozen. Freezing tempeh can change its texture, making it firmer and easier to crumble, which some people find desirable for certain recipes.
To freeze tempeh, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, and store it in an airtight container or a resealable freezer bag. Thaw it in the refrigerator before use. Keep in mind that the texture may be different after freezing, so experiment to see what works best for your preferences and recipes.
Although tempeh is technically safe to eat raw, it's not the go-to choice for most people because of its unique taste and texture. Tempeh is a fermented food made from soybeans or other legumes, and the fermentation process enhances its flavor and makes it more palatable when cooked. Most people prefer to cook tempeh to enhance its taste, improve digestibility, and achieve a better texture.
🥗 More air fryer recipes you'll love
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Marinated Crispy Air Fryer Tempeh
- Air fryer
- Cut the tempeh block in half and add it to a pot on the stove. Cover it with water or vegetable broth. Bring to a strong simmer and simmer for 15 minutes. This helps get rid of its bitter flavor and helps it to soak up the marinade better.8 ounces tempeh
- Mix all of the marinade ingredients together in a container with a lid. Stir well.3 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 teaspoon oil, 2 tablespoons tahini, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon liquid smoke, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder
- Once tempeh is done simmering, carefully take it out and set it on a cutting board. Cut it into 1" cubes. Add the tempeh cubes to the container with the marinade and stir well. Cover it with a lid and let it marinate for at least 30 minutes. For best results, let it marinate in the fridge overnight.
- Add the marinated tempeh to the air fryer basket in a single layer. Try not to crowd the tempeh cubes, or they won't cook evenly. Air fry at 390 degrees for 15 minutes. Shake about halfway through. Cook until the tempeh looks slightly golden brown and crispy.
The nutritional information on this website is only an estimate and is provided for convenience and as a courtesy only. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed. It should not be used as a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.