Vegan Tempeh Taco Meat

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This vegan tempeh taco filling is a flavorful plant-based alternative to taco meat. It’s seasoned with classic, inexpensive ingredients and takes only 15 minutes to make.  

Close up view of vegan taco meat in a red bowl. There is a lime and cilantro in the bowl and an open avocado in the background.

I’ll be upfront: “meat” and “vegan” usually don’t go well together in a recipe title. But the best way to describe this delicious tempeh taco filling is as a vegan (and vegetarian) alternative to taco meat.

It’s flavorful, goes perfectly in a taco, and provides a hearty helping of plant protein.

So here you have it: Vegan Taco Meat, AKA tempeh taco filling.

This tempeh taco meat is easy to make using just tempeh, tomato sauce, and a variety of taco seasonings. It takes all of 15 minutes to prepare, making it perfect for fuss-free taco dinners, burrito bowls, or veggie nachos.

Close up view of tempeh taco meat shows the small crumble size.

How I learned to love tempeh

I used to have a love-hate relationship with tempeh, but now it’s all love. Something about the flavor just threw me off at first, which isn’t too surprising – fermented soy is not a flavor you encounter every day!

If you’re new to tempeh, don’t worry- this plant based protein is actually a forgiving ingredient.

It turns out that all tempeh needs is a little bit of seasoning. Seriously, you don’t even need to marinate it (though it’s certainly a plus if you do.) Tempeh is naturally flavorful–think mushroom-y and nutty–but it easily soaks up the flavor of whatever its cooked in.

Tempeh is quite firm–not at all like tofu!– because it’s made with whole soybeans. Its texture makes it a natural choice for a taco filling.

How to make vegetarian taco filling with tempeh

Heat oil in a large skillet or cast iron (do note that while tomatoes + cast iron don’t usually go together, it will work fine with this recipe because we are cooking the tempeh for less than 30 minutes.)

Overhead view of all tempeh taco meat ingredients in a large white skillet: (left to right) tomato sauce, tempeh, spices.

Crumble the tempeh into small, bite-sized pieces or crumbles. Adjust texture to fit your taco meat preferences.

Add the crumbled tempeh, taco seasonings, tomato sauce, and liquid to the hot skillet.

Browned tempeh taco meat being sauted in a white skillet.

Simmer for 6-8 minutes, or until the tempeh is warmed through and the extra liquid has evaporated. Add liquid 1 tablespoon at a time if you prefer a saucier taco filling.

A burrito bowl containing tempeh taco meat, rice, cheese, salsa, avocado, and lime. The focus is on the tempeh.

Vegan Tempeh Taco Meat

  • Prep Time 5 mins
  • Cook Time 10 mins

Servings: 4 servings

Calories: 120kcal


  • 1 block (8 ounces) tempeh
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry oregano
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons water more as needed


  • Using clean hands or a knife, crumble tempeh into small bite sized pieces. Set aside.
  • In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add crumbled tempeh, tomato sauce, seasonings, soy sauce and water. Stir with a wooden spoon or spatula to combine.
  • Cook over medium heat for 6-8 minutes, or until tofu is warmed through and the tomato sauce is reduced. Add extra water for a saucier taco meat.
  • Enjoy warm as a taco or burrito filling. Keep refrigerated in a closed container for up to 3-4 days.

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