Monday, June 17, 2013

Betty Goes Vegan Tacos (my adventures into the world of Tempeh)

After reading many recipes and blogs in the vegetarian and vegan world, I started to become familiar with the things that are used to substitute meat. And out here in the Pacific Northwest, many of these things are available in grocery stores. I can find things like bee pollen, veganaise, tofurky and soy yogurt and cheese (yet I cannot find whole wheat lasagna noodles. *shakes head*) I can also find plenty of substitutes for meat. One that I have heard a lot about is tempeh. I have seed many comments on recipes and blogs from people who aren't too crazy about tofu but love tempeh. So I grabbed some at the store. And it sat in my fridge.

Every time I opened the fridge, the tempeh and I kind of had a I know you are there but I am going to ignore you if you ignore me relationship. Then it got to the point where I had to acknowledge the tempeh by either cooking it or throwing it in the trash. Since I am not a big fan of throwing my money away, I chose to attempt to cook it. My default to attempt anything I know nothing about is to




And those searches brought me to which is a delightful site I was happy to add into my rotation of sites to search for dinner ideas. On there I found a recipe for tempeh tacos and who doesn't love a taco (I actually didn't love tacos for a long time. They totally grossed me out. And then I met Moe's which lead to a love affair with Chipotle which has turned into me making vegan/vegetarian tacos in our home a lot and I am always looking for a variation on the black beans as protein.) So this was how I decided to cook up the tempeh in my fridge. It was starting to dare me, all I know you can't cook me. There is no way you can do this.

The recipe I found was from the cookbook Betty Goes Vegan. While I have read and tried things from many cookbooks, this was one I had yet to pick up (or borrow from the library. Libraries rock!) The blog put in lots of pretty pictures and even made me want to use crunchy shells (I am team soft taco.) My trip to the grocery store that carries weird but not basic things out here lead me to find that they do not in fact carry organic taco shells or hard taco shells. Seriously. So I went with wheat because at least the GMO chance there is lesser (as there isn't supposed to be any GMO wheat but the whole thing with the wheat in Oregon make me skeptical.) So soft tempeh tacos it is.

When I took the tempeh out of the package it was slimy and chunky. It has whole and halved soybeans in it and at that point I was missing the smooth texture of tofu. (And trying not to gag - visually the texture- I just can't.) I started breaking it up into pieces and then all urges to be sick disappeared. I mixed it up with the seasonings and the lime juice added some onion and was done. Super easy. (These are the kinds of recipes that make me all I love cooking. Especially when they turn out awesome and it is something that sounds kind of scary -- like tempeh sounds super intimdating. It makes me feel very victorious inside. It's the little things kids. Sometimes they are what you need to get through the day.)

So I threw it all in a pan until it is heated through (another one of the bonuses of meat free cooking. I don't have to worry about if things are cooked all the way through because someone could die. I just have to heat and serve. Whoop!) Then I threw it all in a warmed taco shell with some avocado and olives (for me and B anyway. John is an olive hater.) Balance out with a green salad with a cilantro lime vinigerette and whala dinner is served.

The link to the original recipe is here. I skipped all the liquid smoke and other things that sounded strange and just used what I had in my pantry. Maybe they would have been better had I included these ingredients, maybe not? I also skip the spicy and rely on John to use his own special blend of 85 million hot sauces that live in my cupboard.

Here is what I did:

For the Filling:

1 8oz package of tempeh
2 cloves of minced garlic
1/2  red onion minced
3 tsp cumin
1 tsp onion powder
2 tsp dried oregano
Juice of 1 lime
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbs water

You will also need:

Taco shells and toppings (I used avocado, pico de gallo and olives)


Crumble your tempeh into a large mixing bowl.

Then mix in the garlic, cumin, onion powder, oregano and lime juice.

Once the spices are well mixed, add the onion.

Drizzle the water in 1 TBS at a time into your mix while stirring.

Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Spray a skillet with olive oil  and heat to medium heat.

Add the tempeh mix and stir a few times so it browns evenly.  (About 10 minutes)

While the tempeh is cooking you can warm your taco shells and prep any toppings you may need to prep.

Fill, top and serve.

Once cooked up I really enjoyed the tempeh. It gave the tacos more of a ground meat texture than bean or another meat substitute does. The spices are true to what a traditional taco spice mix would be. All in all it was tasty and I count my trip into tempeh land as a success. (And it might be a place I come back to visit every once in a while. Especially when I am bored with my regular dinner rotation.) I was also so excited to eat my creation that I forgot to take pictures. Luckily, John came home late that night so I was able to play food photographer with his taco creations and I took photos of my leftover tempeh mixture (which was also yummy on a "taco" salad the next day for lunch.)

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