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Vegan Tempeh Taco Meat

Flavor-packed vegan Tempeh Taco Meat with smoky spices and the perfect texture (and it’s ready on the stove in under 15 minutes)!

Vegan tempeh taco meat in saute pan on white background

Life is too short for bad tacos. I wish past-Sarah was aware of this, back when she would throw the contents of her fridge onto a tortilla and call it a taco. But now that present-Sarah knows how to make the best ever taco meat using tempeh, there will never be a bad taco again.

And I’m not exaggerating when I say just how good this taco meat is. I mean you can make taco meat out of anything…quinoa, walnuts, tofu, it’s all been done. But tempeh is my favorite for it’s slightly chewy texture, flavor absorbing power, and ease of use.

Grated tempeh lays the base, giving this vegan taco meat the perfectly chewy texture (unlike tofu, which tends to fall flat in the texture department). It’s seasoned with a quick blend of spices (including smoked paprika for that addictive smoky flavor), and tied together with tomato paste!

Vegan tempeh taco meat in taco shell on white background

What goes into this tempeh taco meat?

  • Tempeh: Grated using a box grater to create the perfect vegan “ground meat”. More on the wonders of tempeh here.
  • Oil: We’ll brown the tempeh slightly in oil, but you can leave out the oil if you need to. Just be sure to use a nonstick skillet!
  • Spices: Cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika lay down some serious flavor. Adjust as needed to suit your taste!
  • Tomato paste: Tomato paste is the glue holding it all together, giving a rich color and umami flavor.
Grated tempeh for tempeh taco meat
Vegan tempeh taco meat in saute pan on white background

How to serve this tempeh taco meat:

Vegan tempeh taco meat in bowl on white background
Vegan tempeh taco meat in taco shell on white background

Tempeh Taco Meat

Flavor-packed vegan Tempeh Taco Meat with smoky spices and the perfect texture (and it’s ready on the stove in under 15 minutes)!
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Dishes
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: taco meat, vegan taco meat, vegetarian taco meat
Diet: Gluten-Free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Occasion: Birthdays, Cinco de Mayo, Game Day
Time: 15 minutes or less, 30 minutes or less, 45 minutes or less
Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Total: 15 mins
Servings: 3 cups
Calories: 99kcal
Author: Sarah Bond
4.86 from 7 votes


  • 1 8-oz package tempeh 226 g
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil 15 mL
  • 1 tsp each cumin and chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp each salt and smoked paprika
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste 30 g
  • 1 Tbsp water 15 mL


  • Cook Tempeh: Roughly grate tempeh using a box grater. Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium/high heat, then add tempeh. Cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes.
  • Flavor: Stir in remaining ingredients. Continue cooking for 5 minutes, until the sourness from the tomato paste cooks out.


Serving: 0.5cup | Calories: 99kcal | Carbohydrates: 4.9g | Protein: 7.3g | Fat: 6.5g | Saturated Fat: 1.2g | Cholesterol: 0mg | Sodium: 203mg | Potassium: 218mg | Fiber: 0.3g | Sugar: 0.7g | Calcium: 40mg | Iron: 1.4mg
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Thanks so much for dropping by and for making easy vegan recipes like this Tempeh Taco Meat possible! Be sure to snap a photo and tag #liveeatlearn on Instagram is you give it a go.

Hi, I’m Sarah!

Showing you how to make easy vegetarian recipes, one ingredient at a time.  Read more

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Recipe Rating

  1. Leola says:

    I didn’t have all the right ingredients so I substituted similars and it still came out great. Added a bit of sweet “flying saucer” onion to the tempeh taco “meat” mix. Served it with tomato, salsa and avocado toppings, choice of soft taco wrap or corn tortillas, sauteed green veggies and rice on the side. Eating vegan is delicious, healthy for people and the planet, and filling 🙂5 stars

    1. Sarah says:

      Sounds delicious, Leola! Happy you could find some substitutes that worked for ya! 😀

  2. Phil says:

    I’m looking forward to making this for my daughter, who is a vegetarian. I have a couple questions if you don’t mind, I just want to make sure I don’t mess it up.
    1. Can I use salsa instead of tomato paste since I don’t have any tomato paste on hand?
    2. Does this reheat well or get mushy? (I’m trying to decide if I can make a bunch ahead of time)
    3. If using garlic granules instead of fresh, hoe much would you recommend ?

    Thanks ahead of time for your help.


    1. Sarah says:

      Hi Phil!
      1. Salsa is a bit more watery than tomato paste so I don’t know how that would turn out, but without another option I would probably give it a go (you can always cook it longer to evaporate out the extra moisture).
      2. In my experience it doesn’t get that mushy, though it is best when fresh.
      3. Just use a pinch of garlic powder (1/8 teaspoon).
      Hope you and your daughter enjoy! 😀

  3. Mandi Schuler says:

    This was a very nice and easy recipe. Even my meat eating hubby approved. I added fresh minced garlic, 1 roasted red pepper chopped, chipotle powder, a dash of cayenne, a dash of red perrier flakes, and added more water. Turned out great! Thank you.5 stars

    1. Sarah says:

      So happy to hear you both liked it, Mandi! Enjoy! 😀