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Some of my favourite things to eat are the simplest and this marinated and grilled tempeh is right up there. A bunch of basic spices and pantry ingredients and one crucial extra cooking step all combine to make some truly exceptional tempeh. I am admittedly very hit or miss on this plant-based protein. Sometimes I love it and sometimes it honestly makes me gag a bit. Is that TMI? Hoping that some of you out there can relate hehe.

But I always aspire to eat more of it! It has the aforementioned high protein content, it’s fermented, and when done right, it has a very meaty and satisfying texture. Over time I realized that steaming the tempeh ahead of cooking really helps to knock out some of that bitter flavour that was making me less-than-stoked about eating it. Combine that with an extremely flavourful marinade and the natural smoky allure of grilling, and this becomes a can’t-lose situation.

If you’ve cooked from my site before, my hope is that you will have most of these ingredients on hand. It looks like a ton of stuff, but over half of the ingredients are common spices. My favourite tempeh is the 3-grain one from Lightlife. If you live near a Trader Joe’s, they sell this exact same product under their own house label for a slightly reduced price. If you’re looking for a soy-free option, Smiling Hara’s peanut and hemp-based hempeh is also great! I’d use the smoked salt and pepper option for this recipe.

Hope you try this one as grilling season rolls on. I really do think it’s the best! I’ve included stovetop recommendations in the recipe notes as well. I hope that you’re all having an amazing start to your summer. Big hugs!

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Print the recipe here!
I like to cut my tempeh into triangles, but whatever shape works for you is great.
-If you don’t have a grill, you can simply sear these tempeh pieces in a cast iron pan with a little slick of oil until you have some even browning on the exterior.

8-SPICE BLEND (makes extra):
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 8-oz blocks of tempeh, each block cut into 6 even pieces
2 tablespoons of 8 spice blend
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup filtered water
2 tablespoons heat-tolerant oil, such as avocado
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon gluten-free tamari soy sauce
1 tablespoon agave nectar/maple syrup
sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Make the 8-spice blend: in a medium bowl, combine coriander, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, paprika, chili powder, oregano, and cayenne pepper. Whisk to combine and set aside.

Prepare the tempeh. Cover the bottom of a medium saucepan with about 2 inches of water. Set the saucepan, covered, over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, arrange the tempeh blocks in a steamer basket. Set the steamer basket in the saucepan and lose the lid. Steam the tempeh for 10 minutes.

While tempeh is steaming, make the marinade. In an upright blender combine 2 tablespoons of the 8-spice blend, balsamic vinegar, water, oil, lemon juice, tamari, agave nectar, salt, and pepper. Blend on high until completely emulsified, about 15 seconds.

Arrange the steamed tempeh in a shallow dish. Pour the marinade over the tempeh, making sure that as much tempeh as possible is exposed to the marinade. Cover the tempeh and marinate for at least 1 hour (or up to 8 hours in the fridge), turning and flipping over the pieces at the halfway point.

Once tempeh is sufficiently marinated, preheat your grill to medium. Clean the grates. Set the pieces of tempeh on the grill. Cook the tempeh until char marks begin to appear on the underside, about 5 minutes. Carefully flip the tempeh pieces over and cook until the other side has char marks as well, another 5 minutes. You can brush remaining marinade over the tempeh as it grills if you like. Serve tempeh hot with accompaniments.

  • Sandra Lea19/06/2019 - 7:23 am

    I never understood the need to steam tempeh, I really don’t find the taste bitter at all, for me the flavor is nutty and I love it and especially love the texture. I will definitely be trying this recipe.ReplyCancel

    • Laura19/06/2019 - 8:40 am

      I have a really sensitive palette! I took one of those “taster/super taster” tests a while ago and turns out I’m a borderline super taster. This might explain some people’s aversion to it ;)

  • Bernadette Sabatini19/06/2019 - 8:12 am

    I was so pleased to see your recommendation for avocado oil (my go-to)! I’m so sick of all the magazines & websites claiming their recipes are healthy & then they tell you to use Canola Oil!!! OMG! Poison in a bottle! They must be getting a kickback from the canola companies & it just proves that they’re not really interested in health.

    Thanks for sharing all your goodies!ReplyCancel

    • Laura19/06/2019 - 8:42 am

      Not to mention that it also tastes awful! I can always pick it out when I’m eating at a restaurant/out and it’s such an immediate turn off. Avocado and coconut oil forever! :D

      • Byrum Cartwright13/12/2019 - 10:22 am

        Please cite the reason(s), if you know them, why canola oil is detrimental to health? I’ve never heard this before. Just getting into vegetarian cooking, hope to learn from youReplyCancel

        • Laura15/12/2019 - 1:12 pm

          Hi Byrum,
          As I state in my comment, I mostly avoid canola because of the flavour. Some people find that it can make inflammation issues worse. There is a lot of information online about this, so I will let you draw your own conclusions. I am not a nutritionist/dietician, so do not feel totally comfortable being a source of information on this.

  • Terri19/06/2019 - 11:46 am

    Laura, I’d really like to try this but don’t have a grill. What would you suggest for an alternative cooking method?ReplyCancel

    • Laura19/06/2019 - 12:58 pm

      I would just sear it in an oiled skillet (or a cast iron skillet) on the stove until evenly browned on all sides. You can finish it in a 375 degree oven if you’d like it a bit drier too.

  • Minifoxychicky19/06/2019 - 11:58 am

    Wow this looks good and it’s such a simple and easy recipe to make too, I might try making this soon. Thank you for sharing with us.ReplyCancel

  • Tesia19/06/2019 - 3:11 pm

    I feel the same way about tempeh! Total hit or miss! I love getting it when I eat out because I can rarely pull off cooking it to my liking at home! But I have been steaming it before the flavor/cooking step and I do agree – it makes a HUGE difference! Thanks for this recipe! I look forward to trying it!!ReplyCancel

  • PJ19/06/2019 - 5:12 pm

    We used our little George Foreman grill and it worked well. Great recipe! We made our own garbanzo bean tempeh. ReplyCancel

  • Sue20/06/2019 - 12:14 pm

    I am in total agreement Laura! I always steam my Trader Joe’s tempeh. We’ll definitely be eating this soon. Thanks.ReplyCancel

  • Anita22/06/2019 - 6:29 am

    We made last night and turned them into burgers accompanied by a cherry tomato and grilled okra salad. My husband said he doesn’t need a beef burger ever again. Very tasty marinade.ReplyCancel

  • Cyndi22/06/2019 - 8:54 am

    Thw recipe looks really good and I can’t wait to try it! Could the oil be omitted?ReplyCancel

    • Laura24/06/2019 - 7:26 pm

      I think it could, but I would reduce the balsamic vinegar to 2 tablespoons. I also suspect that the tempeh would be more prone to sticking on the grill if the oil was omitted, so as long as you’re prepared to deal with that, all should be fine.

  • Rachel24/06/2019 - 2:24 pm

    I really love grilled tempeh and would love to make this (on my grill pan!), but generally I dislike the taste of balsamic vinegar. Is the flavor prominent in the final result? I’m curious!ReplyCancel

    • Laura24/06/2019 - 7:24 pm

      The flavour is definitely present. You could do white balsamic vinegar instead, which has a much lighter flavour profile. Or even sheery vinegar would be amazing here.

  • Ali04/08/2019 - 8:23 pm

    I made this tonight and I marinated it for 2 hours with the marinade above but cutting it into 6 triangles without slicing it for width first the chunks came out kind of flavorless, I was quite disappointed given the effort I put in. Next time I think I would try cutting the tempeh in half to make it skinnier then grilling – or would they catch on fire then on the grill?ReplyCancel

    • Laura05/08/2019 - 9:38 am

      Hi Ali,
      So sorry that this recipe didn’t work for you. You could certainly cut the triangles in half to increase surface area. Just mind the pieces more carefully on the grill so that they don’t cook too fast. You could also grill them at a lower heat if you like. Basic adjustments :)

  • Lacey Kloster08/08/2019 - 11:01 pm

    So, I made this tempeh last night for dinner, and tonight I served the leftovers on a TLT with the gazpacho from your book and it was 10/10 delicious. I also used the garlicky cashew dressing as the ‘mayo’ for the sandwich. So so good. Thank you for all the delicious recipes and inspiration!!ReplyCancel

  • Donna Giering16/07/2020 - 10:30 am

    Very good recipe, I didn’t have any coriander but used all the other ingredients. Steaming the tempeh made it so much better. Thanks for sharing, this recipe is a keeper!ReplyCancel

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