For a vegan dish bursting with rich, caramelized flavor and packed with plant-based protein, you have to try making crispy BBQ air fryer tempeh!
Looking for a delicious and easy plant-based protein? Whether you follow a vegan way of eating or just want to dip your toe in the water, this air fryer tempeh will become a fast favorite!
Nutrient-dense tempeh slices are first steamed, then air fried to crispy perfection. At the very end, you’ll brush the strips with BBQ sauce.
Then let them finish air frying so the sauce can caramelize and take on a delicious, sticky texture! Best of all, the entire process takes less than 30 minutes.
Here’s what I’m going to teach you in this post:
- The best way to make crispy tempeh in the air fryer
- What to serve with your air fryer tempeh
- Other sauces to try besides BBQ for bold, delicious flavor
- How to reheat tempeh in the air fryer
- Tips for making the best air fryer tempeh
I think you’re going to love this versatile vegan ingredient. You can enjoy it over a salad or rice, use it as the filling for a tasty sandwich or wrap, or enjoy it all on its own.
Once you try one bite, you’ll be hooked!
I made this recipe using the 5.8 QT Cosori Air Fryer. Its square basket makes it the perfect size for our family of 4.
How to Cook Tempeh in the Air Fryer
A full printable version of this recipe with ingredient measurements is available at the bottom of this post.
STEP ONE: Cut the pre packaged tempeh into ½ inch strips. Slice again lengthwise to make thinner strips.
STEP TWO: Fill a pot with about 2 inches of water and bring it to a boil. Place the tempeh in a steaming basket and steam for 10 minutes.
STEP THREE: Preheat the air fryer to 380 degrees F.
STEP FOUR: Place the steamed tempeh on a cutting board and brush it with olive oil on both sides. Brush the inside of your air fryer with olive oil as well.
STEP FIVE: Place the tempeh in the air fryer basket in a single layer, leaving space between each strip.
STEP SIX: Cook for 7 minutes. Flip each piece, then cook for 4 more minutes.
STEP SEVEN: Remove the basket, brush the tops of the tempeh with BBQ sauce, then place the basket back in the air fryer for an additional 3 minutes.
STEP EIGHT: Transfer the tempeh to a cutting board and brush with BBQ sauce again until well-coated. Enjoy immediately.
What is Tempeh?
Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans and shaped into a rectangular loaf. It’s a traditional Indonesian food that is becoming increasingly popular in the US and around the world.
It’s also incredibly healthy. Tempeh is an excellent source of plant-based protein with 18 grams per 3-ounce serving! On top of that, it’s high in B vitamins, fiber, and other nutrients as well.
While both tempeh and tofu are soy-based products, they have very different tastes and textures. Tempeh is firmer, chewier, and has a nutty, earthy taste.
Even if you aren’t a big fan of tofu, you may find you enjoy tempeh much more.
What to Serve with Air Fryer Tempeh
- 2 Ingredient BBQ Sauce
- Air Fryer Bok Choy
- Air Fryer Portobello Mushroom
- Ninja Foodi Rice
- Quinoa Chickpea Salad
What Other Sauces Can I Use on This Crispy Tempeh in the Air Fryer?
There are so many delicious sauces you can try with this recipe! It all depends on what flavor sounds best to you.
Teriyaki is going to be similar to barbecue sauce, and it will get nice and caramelized as it cooks, and the final texture will have that satisfying stickiness.
Or, for a different flavor profile, try some tangy homemade buffalo sauce. You can use a vegan-friendly butter alternative if you want to keep your dish plant-based.
You could also try balsamic vinegar, mustard, soy sauce, maple syrup, honey sriracha, or anything that sounds good.
Go ahead and experiment… this is one of those times where you can DEFINITELY play with your food!
How to Store Leftover BBQ Tempeh
Leftover tempeh can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and it should be eaten within seven days. You can also store it in the freezer for up to three months.
How to Reheat Tempeh in the Air Fryer
- Place the leftover tempeh strips in the air fryer at 350 degrees F.
- Cook for 3-4 minutes until the tempeh is warmed through.
- Brush with additional BBQ sauce if desired.
Tips to Make the Best Tempeh in the Air Fryer
- You always want to steam your tempeh before air frying it to help make the strips tender and remove any bitterness.
- If you do not have a steaming basket, you can place the tempeh directly in the water and hard boil for 10 minutes. Make sure to pat dry before the next step.
- Brushing the tempeh strips with BBQ sauce and air frying for 3 more minutes will allow the BBQ to caramelize and get a delicious, sticky texture to it.
Other Air Fryer Vegan Recipes You’ll Love:
- Crispy Air Fryer Tofu
- Air Fryer Plantains
- Air Fryer Falafel
- Air Fried Oreos
- Air Fryer Carrots
- Air Fryer Squash
- 45 Tasty Air Fryer Vegan Recipes
- 1- 8 ounce package of Tempeh
- ½ cup of your favorite BBQ Sauce
- 2 tablespoon of olive oil
- Cut your Tempeh into ½ inch strips. Then turn them on their side to cut again, making thinner strips.
- Tempeh is fermented soy and can be bitter. To help make them tender and to take some of the bitterness away you will want to steam your tempeh before air frying it. To do this fill a pot with about 2 inches of water in it. Bring it to a boil. Place your tempeh in a steaming basket and steam for 10 minutes. If you do not have a steaming basket, you can place it in the water and hard boil it for 10 minutes, but you will need to pat them dry before the next step.
- Preheat your air fryer to 380 degrees.
- Place your steamed tempeh on a cutting board and brush both sides of it with olive oil. Brush the inside of your air fryer with olive oil as well. Then place your tempeh in the basket, leaving a little room around each of them.
- Cook for 7 minutes and then flip them. Place them back in the air fryer for 4 more minutes and then remove the basket. Brush the tops of your tempeh with BBQ sauce and then place it back in the air fryer for an additional 3 minutes. (14 minutes total) This allows that BBQ sauce to caramelize and get a delicious sticky texture to it.
- When they are cooked and are crispy, then place them back on the cutting board and brush them with BBQ sauce again, covering them. Enjoy immediately.
How to Reheat Tempeh in the Air Fryer:
1. Preheat your air fryer to 350 degrees.
2. Place tempeh in your air fryer and cook for 3-4 minutes or until warmed thoroughly.
3. Brush with additional BBQ sauce if desired and serve.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 389Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 978mgCarbohydrates: 44gFiber: 1gSugar: 31gProtein: 16g
This nutrition information is based on the exact products I used in this recipe. Brands and sizes of products could alter exact nutrition and should always be calculated independently.