BBQ Tempeh & Sweet Potato Sandwich

Created by Laura Wright
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Vegan BBQ tempeh sandwiches are a perfect plant-based option for all of your summer cookouts. Sticky, flavourful and hearty!
Vegan BBQ Tempeh Sandwich - The First Mess

A super sticky, spicy, sweet, messy, mega satisfying sandwich with tempeh, sprouts, avocado and other goodies is always a good idea. This BBQ tempeh sandwich is my favourite way to enjoy tempeh these days! I also recommend my sticky ginger tempeh. This combination is largely inspired by one that I enjoyed at Candle Cafe last time we were in New York.

I’m a big fan of sweetness in barbecue sauce, and I also enjoy a bit of convenience at times. When fixing up the sauce, I reach for an all-natural ketchup that has all of the ingredients I would be using in a homemade sauce anyway (tomato paste, vinegar, evaporated cane juice, spices, salt) and cut down on simmering time pretty greatly. A prefab convenience that probably costs more than the sum of its parts, yes, but totally worth it when messy, barbecue sandwiches are at stake. Pretty high value for the cost in the grand scheme of things!

I hope that you give this bbq tempeh sandwich a try next time you have a cookout happening!

A slight 3/4 image shows an assembled vegan bbq tempeh sandwich on a multigrain roll with sprouts and avocado.

BBQ Tempeh & Sweet Potato Sandwich

Vegan BBQ tempeh sandwiches are a perfect plant-based option for all of your summer cookouts. Sticky, flavourful and hearty!
No ratings yet
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings 2


Tempeh, Sweet Potatoes & Sauce

  • ½ block tempeh (4 ounces), cut into 4 triangles or rectangles (depending on your bread surface shape)
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch slices
  • 1 teaspoon grapeseed oil
  • ¼ onion, grated
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • ¾ cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha, or other hot sauce
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon vegan worcestershire sauce


  • 2 lightly toasted rolls of your choosing (I went the crusty multigrain route)
  • ½ ripe avocado, peeled and sliced
  • big handful of sprouts
  • thin red onion slices


  • I always simmer/steam tempeh for a bit before I apply a final cooking treatment just to tamp down the bitterness a bit.
  • Tofu would also apply beautifully here if tempeh is unavailable.


  • Make the sauce: heat the grapeseed oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the grated onion and garlic and saute until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the ketchup, vinegar, sriracha, maple syrup and worcestershire sauce to the pot and stir to combine. Bring mixture to a light boil, stirring here and there. Simmer until mixture thickens slightly, about 7-10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside (leftover sauce will keep for one week in the fridge in a sealed, non-reactive container).
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Place the tempeh pieces and sliced sweet potatoes in a medium-large saucepan. Cover with water by about an inch and simmer until sweet potatoes are soft, about 7-8 minutes. Carefully remove tempeh and sweet potatoes to a plate. Pat dry with a kitchen towel. Place tempeh and sweet potatoes on lined baking sheet.
  • Heat your barbecue to medium-high or set your oven to broil. Brush tempeh and sweet potatoes with barebecue sauce. Place under the broiler or onto the barbecue. Flip and baste with sauce every minute or so, until coated to your liking and there’s a bit of char on the outside.
  • Place warm tempeh and sweet potatoes on to bread of your choice with desired toppings. Enjoy!

25/04/2012 (Last Updated 28/01/2024)
Posted in: earthy, gluten free option, grill, main course, nut free, salty, smoky, sour, spicy, sweet, tempeh, tomatoes, umami, vegan


Recipe Rating

  • Amber

    I used tofu because no stores near me had tempeh. I used firm tofu. I don’t know, it was just okay. The tofu needs pressed or something and maybe toast the bread. I had mushy tofu, soft sweet potatoes, and soft rolls. It was basically a mush sandwich. The sauce provided some flavor, but I think the sweet potato and tofu are pretty bland and maybe needed some seasonings. We topped it with avocado (more mush texture), red onion, and sprouts. While the sprouts provided pretty much the only texture, the flavor didn’t go well with the rest of the dish. Also, the BBQ sauce never really blackened under my broiler, except for blackening allover my silicone baking mat and the sides of my pan. I think the mess is going to be difficult to clean from the sides of the pan. I don’t think I’d make this again, without modifications. Maybe if I found some tempeh it would be better.

  • Steve

    I didn’t know you could boil tempeh. It worked well. Made a separate pan with red onions and thick sliced mushrooms. Put both pans together after broiling into a serving dish, tossing. Ii skipped the bread and made salad instead.

  • Sue

    These made a great dinner last night. Thank you!

  • KARA

    Help! am I missing the print option for the recipe… ? Can’t wait to make this and would love to print the recipe to do so… : )

  • Dennis

    This looks amazing! Can’t wait to make it. I am also glad you avoided the standard BBQ sauce with High Fructose in it! I have a Trader Joe’s near me and they have some great Tempeh options.

    I also love your photography!

  • Jeremy

    This was fantastic! Like eating a good ol’ fashioned BBQ, but so much healthier and happier!

    Beautiful site and wonderful recipes. Cheers,


  • Leslie DeBlasio

    Nice to expand my repertoire of vegan recipes!

  • javadivawithdogs

    I live in a similarly priced food market. Part of the expense that is absorbed is that the minimum wage is about 10.50/hr. Ethically I support a living wage for all. But I sometime long for inventive cheap fast eats. The thing that is unfortunate to me is that I can’t really say I have developed favorite go to places that I enjoy eating at. It really saddens me that the added expense had not translated to a better dining experience. Rushed slack and borderline rude staff. Inconsistently prepared food. All add up to a consistently less than satisfactory experience. On the flipside I have had some $5 fries that were AMAZING. One with truffle that I still dream about and recently a side of fries with a lentil burger while on vacation driving thru Palm Springs. Drizzled with herbs oil and garlic, they powered us thru the rest of our driving for the day. Restaurant work is a fleeting mad science, keep at it. Quality and consistency are worth it.

  • emily

    thank you for your words abt cost structures in restaurants that CARE about paying employees fairly, purchasing QUALITY foods, and PREPARING foods on site. I would LOVE to see this kind of insight hit the MAIN MEDIA> as the common public (especially in the Midwest where we are) does not know how expensive it is, nor do they think they need to know. and that NEED is why we are so unhealthy + over-weight as a society! I am right next to you on that Soapbox! Thanks!

  • Courtney

    I completely agree with you! People don’t really understand all that goes into making them that plate of food, especially when it is something that is locally and sustainably sourced. Yes, you may be paying more for those fries, but you are getting better quality and a product that didn’t have to travel too far from farm to table. Plus, they will probably be the best fried you have ever eaten! By the way, this sandwich looks awesome!! (that’s coming from a Texan who was raised on good brisket and barbeque!)

  • Cookie and Kate

    I hear you on this one. I’ve worked in the food industry and I’ve seen the low quality of food that comes from the big suppliers and gets arranged nicely on a plate to disguise it. I’m so much wiser for it. I almost never eat out, for several reasons, but I’m much happier forking over a bunch of money for a meal meets my quality standards.

    Oh and that sandwich looks mega tasty.

  • Lia

    Sorry I’m a couple days behind! This week was a busy one at work.

    To state the obvious, I think all of us agree because we’re interested in this blog. People who balk at $5 french fries don’t usually ooh and ahh over tempeh sandwiches. Not that our agreement is a bad thing! It’s great to interact with like-minded people, especially when it comes to food.

    I’d like to add my two cents regarding restaurants that focus on local, sustainable eating. I haven’t been to many of them, but the ones I have been to, frankly, weren’t very good. I’m more than happy to pay $20 for roasted organic chicken with local potatoes etc. but it has to be perfectly executed. If not, I’d probably choose the $10 chicken that isn’t local, but tastes good. I think that’s the same tradeoff many Americans make. Hopefully, restaurants like yours will alter that norm!

    Lastly, I want to challenge everyone here who accepts that eating healthy is more expensive than processed foods. Mark Bittman wrote an excellence article last year that focuses this exact myth. Take a look at the “Comparison Shopping” graphic, it was pretty eye-opening for me (not that I eat McDonalds ever). Granted he wasn’t focusing on organic, local food, but getting more Americans to eat healthy foods at home is the first step to that goal.

    Awesome topic! And that sandwich looks delicious. I’m OBSESSED with Trader Joe’s ketchup, haha.

  • Yui

    I always love tempeh. You may believe it or not but I ever made this tempeh sandwich, with my own sauce recipe of course lol. I need to say they turn so great! I love it. I really do. Thanks for the recipe anyway. Will try it soon.

  • Ashlae

    I totally agree with you! I’m also the person who will (stupidly) spend $100 on a simple cotton dress.. and I did the whole 60″ flat screen thing for my boyfriend. But you will never hear me complaining about the cost of food – ever. Especially in a restaurant. No one is forcing anyone to buy $5 french fries.

    It also irks me when people complain about how expensive it is to eat healthy (compared to unhealthy, overly processed foods). I laugh at them, because they don’t understand that eating healthy food can (and usually does) reduce medical bills. In my case, having a chronic bowel disorder, it has saved me thousands upon thousands of dollars. Not to mention, a countless number of surgeries.

    Oh, and I would love to bite into that sandwich right about now. Yay for being able to tolerate gluten, again!

  • Carrie | acookgrowsinbrooklyn

    I love that you wrote on this topic – it’s near and dear to me and needs to be highlighted again and again and again. And, I’m not a huge fan of tempeh, but you are close to converting me with this sandwich – feast for the eyes.

  • Sarah

    It’s true of non-restaurant food—and even a more common complaint.

    My best comeback to the local/ethical/organic/hand-crafted – food-is-too-expensive argument:

    Just turn it around and ask, “Why is everything else so cheap?”

  • Kelsey

    I feel like my last three or so comments may seem somewhat trite or non-expressive, leaving simple punches like “Preach or Amen,” because I find it difficult to really affirm how much I appreciate your perspective, and I wish we could all just mull it over in person. I have a few stories of this sort that I think would make you giggle. Do you giggle? laugh? See. This is what I mean. Internet-land can only help us so much. In any case, I say throw out the TV, folks, and feed your belly the best.

  • Kris Mullen @munchin with munchkin

    Firstly, I have to say this sandwich looks delicious. I love tempeh, especially when smothered in BBQ sauce.

    I think this notion of “over priced” goods extends to many areas, photography specifically. Digital camera’s have convinced everyone and their dog they are a professional photographer. That being said, it’s very difficult to make a living at it these days. Amateurs charge pennies and produce sub par images. People now want their weddings to be shot for next to nothing, which is beyond frustrating for someone who actually has a university degree in the field.

    Back to food costs though, I totally agree with you. Restaurants that produce quality meals using local ingredients have to charge more. I don’t mind shelling out extra money because I know the quality of food will be that much better. Recently, Dallas (where I live) has seen an influx of farm to table restaurants. Their popularity is so great that many competing restaurants (that don’t use local fare) can’t compete. It’s a great trend and I’m so excited about all the new dining possibilities in this city.

    Anyway, sorry for writing a novel. Your post just really spoke to me. Now I’m off to make your sandwich! Thanks for sharing your thoughts Laura.

  • Elenore Bendel Zahn

    Laura! Word! Awesome!

  • Robin

    This is great. We recently moved to a plant based diet and with summer coming I’ve been thinking a lot about what to put on the grill besides vegetables. Definitely going to give this a try. Thanks!

  • Kate King

    Totally understandable why you were upset. I get very agitated when I hear others say that it is too expensive to eat “healthy” and their rationale behind buying the horrible cheap products they do. There is a reason why it is cheap and there is a reason why I would definitely fork over more money for food. You are what you eat and I rather support my body, the environment, and community who helped produce those more expensive products then save money and eat like crap. I agree that most people are uneducated about the matter at hand and that you vote every single time you shop. You rock girl.

  • Meister @ The Nervous Cook

    Agreed on all points here: As a specialty coffee industry professional, I’m also super aware of people’s perception regarding price, quality, value, cost of production… It’s a difficult hurdle for people to overcome, that change in thinking, that reevaluation of what it takes to make something carefully, deliberately, with taste and integrity and health in mind. But it’s not impossible!

    I also agree with that delicious sandwich and everything about it: I, too, recently ate that very thing at the Candle Cafe (new favorite restaurant, am I right?), and love the sweet-smoky mix of BBQ and sweet ‘tater. Perfect. Messy. Happy.

  • Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar

    This sandwich sounds so lovely, and I really enjoyed reading this post. It really got me thinking!

  • Nico('s Tiny Kitchen)

    Oh I so agree with you here. When the food we buy is particularly cheap, I think we all need to question the why and the how because they are so often artificially cheap. We need to vote with our dollars, which should mean understanding where those dollars are going.

  • Amanda

    I could not agree more. I think there is a definite lack of education about the true cost of our food, but also an “ignorance is bliss” mentality. As you said, the information is readily available, but it’s a tough reality and many people don’t want to be informed. On the positive side, I think more and more people are taking it upon themselves to learn about where their food comes from and taking steps (although often small) in the direction of buying local, organic, and so on.

    Great post, and your sandwich looks awesome!

  • Jeanine

    Yum, I love bbq sauce and ketchup and the Candle Cafe!

    I’m with you on this one – I’d rather pay more quality food (and sanitation) than go somewhere where who knows what corners have been cut…

  • Erin

    Before I got my current job, I was well on my way to purchasing a coffee shop that I was going to turn into a cafe with only locally sourced products. The current owner couldn’t understand why I would want to do something like that when it was “cheaper” to continue on with his distributor. I also believe there is a statistic (which if I wasn’t almost out the door I would look up) that Americans spend far less of their paycheck on food than any other country. Our priorities are terribly skewed. Great post, Laura!

  • Amanda

    Our obsession with cheap food and our unwillingness to pay for good food and food experiences is precisely what has us in such trouble. What it comes down to is a lack of respect – for food and those that produce it (farmers and restaurateurs alike). Now, that sandwich – that’s something I could totally respect.

  • Michelle

    Here here sister!

    I eat out waaaaaay less than the average New Yorker, but when I go out I want it to be for a special meal, prepared with great ingredients, care and thought. So much of that cheap, poor quality food I can prepare better myself, at home, for even less money (and I am no way an expert chef). Better to shell out a bit more for something of quality has always been my attitude.

    Also that sandwich looks amazing and I am going to make it ASAP. BBQ sauce is the bees knees.