Tempeh is a high-protein plant-based food that makes a great topper for these Zesty Tempeh Nachos. I’m a nacho snob and it’s been far too long since I’ve had a decent plate. Decided to make my own and had a block of tempeh that needed using up, so I decided to give tempeh nachos a try.
What is Tempeh Anyway?
Tempeh is made from fermented beans, usually soybeans. It’s tofu’s more complex and healthier cousin. Tempeh is a go-to protein for vegans and vegetarians that has an enjoyable bite and nutty flavor. Where tofu is now commonly found on restaurant menus, tempeh is definitely far from mainstream so you’re not alone if you’ve never heard of tempeh nachos.
She’s Not Much to Look At
When you open a package of tempeh, it’s not exactly the most appealing food product around. Try to think of it as a blank canvas for what’s to come because this recipe for Zesty Tempeh Nachos was delicious. Had it for dinner two nights in a row.
Good for the Gut
Tempeh is less processed than tofu making it healthier for you and higher in fiber because you get more of the whole bean. One of the best reasons to try tempeh is for probiotics. As with any fermented food, tempeh adds beneficial bacteria to your gut. For more on the health benefits of tempeh, check out this article in Live Naturally magazine. And for more tempeh recipe ideas, check out this article in Forks Over Knives.
Finding a Way to Love Tempeh
I’m a big fan of plant-based, whole food eating so I’ve tried to incorporate tempeh into my recipes. Not gonna lie, it’s been a struggle.
While I like the initial nuttiness and texture of tempeh, I find it to have a harsh finish. I suspect I’m not alone because most of the recipes you’ll find online involve marinating tempeh in heavy flavors like BBQ sauce or teriyaki. Those are not flavors that I enjoy, so I kept digging.
I wrote a blog post called Finding a Way to Love Tempeh last year after experimenting with a few ideas I found online and eventually landing on a Coconut-Miso Marinated Tempeh Bowl. The marinade was coconut milk and lime juice based with a little miso for umami. I seared the marinated tempeh in my cast iron skilled and served it over basmati rice with roasted ripe plantain, fresh mango and an avocado salad. This was a lovely vegan meal.
For those who already routinely use tempeh, give this recipe a try. I realize if you’re a tempeh virgin we need to start with something much simpler. Like tempeh nachos!
Lime for the Win
The recipe for Zesty Tempeh Nachos is super easy. Just break your tempeh block into crumbles and sauté in olive oil with your favorite taco seasoning. After trying a bite (always sample while you cook!) I could still taste the harsh finish that I don’t love. I remembered that the lime juice in my marinade seemed to have taken the edge off so I squeezed the juice of 1 lime onto the seasoned tempeh. Success!
Nachos need a little freshness, and pico de gallo is an easy solution. It’s available in pretty much any produce section but I decided to make my own with what was already in my fridge. A little chopped tomato, red onion, serrano pepper and a big squeeze of lime juice. Season with salt and pepper.
Assembling Zesty Tempeh Nachos
It takes about 5 minutes to make the pico and about 5 minutes to sauté the tempeh. The rest is just tempeh nacho assembly. I lay out my nacho chips on a baking sheet and get one layer of cheese on. Then the tempeh and more cheese. Into a 325℉ oven for about 10 minutes. Add the cold toppings, open a cold beer and enjoy!
Finishing Tempeh Nacho Touches
If you are vegan, you can easily choose plant-based cheese and a non-dairy sour cream. But I’m not vegan so I indulged. My Zesty Tempeh Nachos were topped with a blend of cheddar, Monterey Jack and Colby cheese. Homemade pico, fresh avocados. Absolutely perfect to the last bite.
- 2-3 cups tortilla chips
- 1 cup shredded cheese blend (Monterey Jack/Colby/Cheddar or Mexican Blend)
- 2-3 limes
- 1 small tomato, finely chopped
- 1 inch serrano pepper, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
- salt and pepper
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 block plain tempeh, crumbled
- 2 tbsp taco seasoning
- 1 avocado, diced
- 2-3 tbsp sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- Preheat the oven to 325°. Lay out your tortilla chips in a flat layer on a baking tray. Sprinkle with about half of your shredded cheese and set aside. Add your finely chopped tomato, red onion and serrano to a small bowl and squeeze the juice of 1 lime over the top. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Heat a skillet to medium and add 1 tbsp olive oil. Allow oil to heat for 30 seconds then add your crumbled tempeh to the skillet. Add the taco seasoning and saute for about 5 minutes until thorougly combined and heated through. Turn off heat and squeeze the juice of one lime onto the tempeh.
- Spread your tempeh out across your tortilla chips and then add the remaining cheese in an even layer. Bake for 10 minutes.
- Remove baking sheet from oven and top with tomato mixture, avocado, sour cream and fresh cilantro. Squeeze some fresh lime juice over the top to finish and serve.
Tempeh All Day
These Zesty Tempeh Nachos totally satisfied my nacho craving. I made them again the next day. If you want to try tempeh but tempeh nachos don’t get you excited, check out some of the tempeh recipes on Lightlife’s website. They have ideas for tempeh salads, tacos, kimchi bowls and more.
If this recipe looked good to you buy you’re not ready to try tempeh, you might like my Roasted Sweet Potato Fiesta Bowl which combines all the joys of nachos into a healthier plant-based main course.