What Tempeh Bacon Is Made Of

Tempeh bacon is a plant-based alternative to traditional bacon, made from fermented soybeans with a fungus starter. It’s high in protein, nutrients, and can be flavored to taste like bacon.

Tempeh Bacon

If you’re vegan, vegetarian, or just want to live a healthier lifestyle, you may be wondering what is tempeh bacon made of. When transitioning to a plant based diet, one of the toughest things to do is get rid of your beloved favorite foods, like bacon.  

Leaving bacon behind means getting rid of sodium, fat, and greasy foods, but you don’t have to say goodbye to the flavor (of all kinds – even bacon bits). Tempeh bacon gives you the taste and the crispy crunch without all the bad side effects.

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What Tempeh Bacon Is Made Of?

Tempeh bacon is a vegan bacon alternative (and vegan spam alternative) to traditional bacon. The tempeh or tempe is a cake like product that originated in Indonesia.

They created Tempeh from slightly cooked and partially fermented soybeans. To ferment the soybeans, they use a fungus substance called Rhizopus oligosporus or Rhizopus oryzae. This fungus fermentation is informally known as tempeh starter.

Although you traditionally use soybeans to make tempeh, there are other alternatives if you are trying to steer clear of soy. People have used garbanzo beans (chickpeas), lentils, and black beans.

You can use almost any type of bean to make your tempeh and can probably find these alternate versions in the store.

Is Tempeh Good for You?

Franklin Farms Organic Original Tempeh, 8 Ounce -- 12 per case.

Tempeh is a soy product and not like pork or any other meat. That makes it lower in cholesterol and sodium. It’s also a low calorie food.

Rather than only reducing health risks, tempeh bacon adds many health benefits. If you’re worried about getting in all the necessary protein, rest assured that tempeh will help you reach the goal.

Tempeh is a high protein food and adds many other vitamins and nutrients to your body. You can expect to take in 18 grams of protein from just a 3 ounce serving of tempeh.

Some of these helpful additions include prebiotics, Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, B vitamins, fiber, iron, calcium, and more.

What are the benefits of eating Tempeh bacon?

Tempeh has a long list of ways that it enhances your health, saves you money, and improves the global environment. 

The low cost of tempeh makes it accessible and affordable for the majority of households. The fermentation process is also a sustainable and safe method for producing a high protein food. 

The tempeh is also packed with nutrients such as phosphorus, magnesium, riboflavin, and antioxidants. Over time, some who eat tempeh regularly will experience improved heart health and stronger bones. Plus, the prebiotics in it contributes to a better digestive tract.

Don’t forget about the benefits of flavor too. It has a texture that’s close to meat and you can season it to taste like what you want it to be. 

Tempeh vs. Tofu

It’s easy to get confused about the difference between tempeh and tofu, especially since they are both soy based. The first difference is in the process of making tempeh and tofu.


As discussed above, tempeh goes through a partial cooking and fermented process with the soybeans. You make tofu, on the other hand, out of condensed soy milk. 

Example of Tofu
Example of Tofu

The one thing they have in common is their solid form that comes from pressing them. Tofu is a bit more flexible when it comes to flavor and texture. The tofu is practically plain in flavor and takes on the flavor of whatever dish you’re making.

You can also purchase tofu in different texture categories, such as silken, regular, firm, extra-firm and super-firm.

Tempeh comes in one texture that is heavy, semi-thin and chewy. It also has a naturally earthy and nutty flavor.

Many people use the tofu to make a scramble that’s similar to eggs, so with both the tofu and tempeh, you can have a complete breakfast meal.

Tempeh also has the probiotic properties since the fermentation process uses bacteria and yeast to disintegrate the carbs. That’s something you may not find in tofu even though it has the benefits of calcium and protein. 

How do you make tempeh like bacon?

Knowing the answer to what is tempeh bacon made of will give you a clue to the best ways to prepare, season, and cook the bacon.

If you’ve been eating plant based meats or creating meat alternatives with plants, you’ve learned that  most of them require a unique blend of seasoning or marinades for the flavor to resemble meat. Often times, you have to use more seasoning than you would with regular meat.

Tempeh is very flexible in adapting to other ingredients to create the type of dish you want.

The tempeh itself has a chewy texture with a woodsy, nutty like flavor before adding any ingredients to it. The key to making tempeh bacon taste like regular bacon are the marinades and seasoning that you use (even sugar for candy bacon). 

It’s easier than you may think to use tempeh to create a flavorful bacon, and it only takes a few ingredients. Most people use nuts along with other natural seasonings to give their plants a meaty flavor, so you’re already one step ahead with the tempeh. 

A few seasonings that give tempeh its bacon flavor are liquid smoke, smoke powder, smoked paprika. You can also use soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, or hot sauce. It depends on the bacon flavor you’re trying to have.

Steps for a basic tempeh bacon recipe dish

Here are the basic steps for homemade bacon tempeh.

Step 1

Thinly slice your tempeh into strips to reflect the appearance of traditional bacon. You can cut as many slices as you want or need in one setting. There are different widths of bacon, but a good starting measure is to cut each slice ¼ inch.

Step 2

The key to the bacon flavor is in the marinade. You want to be sure to let the bacon marinate 60 minutes or more. If you know ahead of time that you want to try this dish, prepare the marinade and let the tempeh soak in the seasonings overnight.

Step 3

To prepare your marinade, mix together soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, a hint of maple syrup, turmeric, and either liquid smoke or smoked paprika. If you want to add a subtle spice to the bacon, add a dash of hot sauce or chili powder.

Step 4

Fry the tempeh bacon in a pan as you would your regular bacon, but keep in mind that the tempeh isn’t greasy like a pork or cottage bacon. Add a small amount of oil to the pan to keep it from sticking. You can use a press to make sure it cooks evenly.

You can also place the tempeh bacon in the oven to bake just like traditional bacon. An air fryer also works to make your tempeh taste like bacon, especially if you prefer your bacon cripsy. Just don’t cook it for too long or too high. 

Step 5

Add the tempeh bacon to the rest of your plant based  breakfast meal.

If you want to store your leftovers for later, you can place them in a plastic or glass storage container in the fridge. It should be good for the next 3-4 days.

If you want to warm your bacon again, it’s best to use the oven or toaster oven and heat it until it returns to warm and crispy.

What does tempeh bacon taste like?

Tempeh bacon has a savory and sort of tangy flavor that’s also a combination of salty and smokey. Although it comes in thin strips, it’s not as thin as traditional bacon because of the process of the tempeh cakes.

It’s not an identical match to the pork or Turkey version of bacon, but it’s an acquired taste like most anything else that you haven’t tried before.

Is tempeh healthier than bacon?

Tempeh is one of those foods that is rich in nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. So, unlike bacon, it provides more benefits than harmful side effects from eating it.

Tempeh bacon is lower in fat and has no cholesterol. You can also expect it to be lower in sodium if you prepare it right. 

What is tempeh smoky bacon?

Tempeh smokey bacon is a plant based non-meat bacon alternative. The process that the soybeans go through to create the tempeh helps to give it a meat like texture. Although it’s not an exact match to regular bacon, it comes close.

As the name suggests, the tempeh smoky bacon has a smoky, tangy, savory and subtly sweet flavor. The smoky flavor helps the tempeh bacon to even more closely mimic the real thing. 

What else can you do with tempeh bacon besides eating it for breakfast?

Plant based eaters are always looking for inspiration and ideas for meals. Here are a few ways you can add tempeh bacon to your breakfast menu plans.

  • Chop the bacon and add it to your salad like bacon bits. 
  • Make a healthy tempeh BLT (bacon lettuce and tomato) sandwich
  • Add it to your vegan carbonara pasta 
  • Sprinkle chopped tempeh bacon on your avocado toast
  • Make a vegan tempeh bacon wrap
  • Use the tempeh bacon as a wrap for a bacon wrapped dish. For example, if you’re creating a bacon wrapped asparagus, bacon wrapped dates, use tempeh to create your plant based bacon.
  • Pull the bacon straight from the fridge to enjoy it as a snack.

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