May 07, 2022

VEGAN RECIPE REVIEW: Sticky Baked BBQ Tempeh Strips

When I started eating vegan in January, I swore I wasn't going to start eating all sorts of "weird" stuff that I had associated with a vegan diet--including tempeh. Tempeh is basically soybeans that have been fermented and compressed. For someone who is not at all used being around it, it was in the "weird" category. However, I love to try new things! So if I liked it, awesome. If not, at least I tried.

I had no idea what to do with it or how to cook it or if it even needed to be cooked, etc. I saw a recipe for BBQ tempeh strips and considering there was sauce all over the tempeh, I figured it would be a good one to start with. The sauce could hide the not-so-appetizing-looking tempeh. Here is where you can find the recipe: Sticky Baked BBQ Tempeh Strips by Feed Your Beauty. (I'll link to it again at the end of the post.) As I like to do, I made it exactly as-written so that I'm reviewing the actual recipe as intended.

First, the tempeh. This is what it looks like in the package.

When I hear the word "fermented" I automatically think that it has an overwhelmingly pungent smell. I was preparing myself for cutting it open. When I opened it, however, there was no smell at all. Even right up to my nose--it didn't smell like anything. I was really surprised!

The recipe said to rinse it well, so that's what I did. Then I got out the ingredients for the tempeh strips as well as the homemade barbecue sauce from the same site (there is a link to it in the actual recipe). The recipe also states that you can use store-bought barbecue sauce, but why not try the homemade one?

The two recipes (tempeh strips and barbecue sauce) used these ingredients: tempeh, tamari or liquid aminos, garlic, onion powder, tomato paste, maple syrup, molasses, apple cider vinegar, ground mustard, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and chili powder. (Not pictured: garlic and maple syrup. My brain was somewhere else while I was gathering ingredients.)

I actually had molasses in my pantry from when I was doing the heritage series, and I just never ended up using it. So I was interested to use it--I'd never used or even tasted molasses on its own before. It tasted like burned honey to me; Jerry agreed that was a good description.

First, you add the tempeh to the pan and barely cover with water. Add a little liquid aminos, garlic, and onion powder. Then I let it simmer for 10 minutes, per the instructions. 

I set that aside with 1/4 cup of the cooking water to "marinate" (the recipe said for about 15-20 minutes). I really was skeptical at this point. It didn't look even a little bit appetizing. But... I have a very open mind!

While it was marinating, I made the barbecue sauce. I love using mason jars to make sauces. It's so easy to throw the ingredients in there and shake it up. 

I tasted the sauce after mixing it and unfortunately, I wasn't a fan. The tomato paste and molasses were the dominant flavors. So, I decided to put that sauce on a few of the strips and use my trusty Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce on the rest. I didn't want to dislike the recipe just because of the sauce.

Once I had the sauce done, I removed the tempeh to a cutting board and cut it into 10-11 slices. Then I set it on a baking dish lined with foil. Bake for 10 minutes. Brush with the sauce. Bake for another 12-15 minutes. Done.

I don't know what I expected, but the tempeh looked exactly the same from package to plate. I was kind of hoping the sauce would hide the tempeh better (if not for me, then for the family when they tasted it!).

I don't know why, then, I was surprised when I cut into a slice and it still looked exactly the same (just covered in sauce). I'm always open-minded about trying new things, so I hoped it would taste better than it looked.

The verdict: I actually really liked the tempeh itself! Again, not a big fan of the barbecue sauce; however, I could get on board with the tempeh and try it with other recipes. The texture reminded me of chickpeas (something that I eat a lot of). I didn't used to like the texture of chickpeas--being firmer than other beans--but I got used to them and I really like them now. I felt like the taste of the tempeh was kind of nutty and not super strong (a good thing, at least in my opinion). It definitely tasted better than I was expecting!

Time to ask the family:

Jerry: "The flavor isn't too bad, but it doesn't taste how you expect it to when you look at it." I thought this was very accurate!

Noah: "No. No. No. The texture!" I thought he may actually spit out that bite--it looked like he was having a hard time swallowing, haha.

Eli: "No, I don't like it. The texture is gross."

I had a feeling the kids weren't going to like it, and I don't think that should reflect poorly on the recipe itself. It's the opinion of two meat-eating teenagers. They said the sauce was "fine"--that it tasted like barbecue sauce, but not as good as Sweet Baby Ray's. The sauce did taste better to me after baking it, but I still wasn't crazy about it enough to save the leftovers.

I tasted the tempeh strips that I'd put the Sweet Baby Ray's sauce on and there wasn't a big difference. I think it's because the tempeh itself didn't have any barbecue flavor. It tasted separate, if that makes any sense at all. If I rinsed off the barbecue sauce, you would probably never know it was on there because it didn't get absorbed into the tempeh. It's like with chickpeas again--they don't absorb flavor, but if you eat them in a sauce, you get the texture of a chickpea and flavor of the sauce. (This may be characteristic of tempeh and not just this particular recipe. A quick google search didn't really give me a definitive answer.)

So, while I didn't love this particular recipe, it definitely opened up my eyes to tempeh and I would like to experiment with it again.

Again, you can find the recipe here: Sticky Baked BBQ Tempeh Strips by Feed Your Beauty.


  1. I admire your adventuresomeness. Is that a word? Probably not, but I still admire that quality in you. Not gonna try these, thanks. ;-)

  2. I am a vegetarian and I do not like tempeh. I've tried many times and many recipes. I do like seitan -- that is delicious and I use it as a beef substitute. I've gotten the tofu game down where I can make it crunchy or textured like chicken. I only use those types of ingredients when I feel the need for something hearty. Otherwise, beans and lots of veggies for this girl!

  3. Been a vegetarian of 35 years and I cannot do tempeh. Love tofu, beans, chickpeas, but just no to tempeh (or plant-based products meant to replicate meat).


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