Turn a simple concept into a fabulous sandwich. This vegan BLT also called a TLT, is loaded with grilled tempeh bacon, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and cashew mayo on a toasted vegan ciabatta bun! One bite, and you'll fall in love with this vegan BLT recipe!
When I want a BIG sandwich that satisfies my comfort cravings, I make a vegan BLT. So, I grilled some marinated tempeh bacon and made a vegan BLT recipe for the record books. And, let's say it was a home run.
A vegan BLT, also called a TLT, does not only have simple ingredients, but it is also effortless to make.
Although a typical TLT has bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise, my vegan BLT also has red onion. Besides that slight variation and making it vegan, this sandwich is to die for.
How to Make Tempeh Bacon
One of the first mistakes people make when cooking tempeh is they need to boil it first! Yes, boil it!
First, remove the tempeh from the package, and cut it in half, making two equal-sized squares.
Then, place the tempeh pieces in a pan and cover them with water. Bring to a boil, cook for 20 minutes, and remove the tempeh from the boiling water to marinate.
- Boiling removes tempeh's naturally bitter taste.
- It softens the tempeh to make it easier to eat and enjoy.
- And boiling allows for better saturation of marinating.
Prepare a marinade once the tempeh is boiled and the water is drained.
For instance, my favorite way to make tempeh bacon is to use these ingredients and marinate them overnight.
- Soy sauce or Tamari: Soy sauce provides salt, sweet, umami (savory), and even a little bitter flavor. Tamari is a gluten-free option.
- Maple syrup: I use pure maple syrup because it has a richer, fuller flavor and is free of artificial ingredients and preservatives
- Liquid smoke: Liquid smoke (I used hickory flavor) is the key to that smokey bacon flavor.
- Sriracha: The taste varies by brand, but it's tangy-sweet with a kick of garlic. Also, it's spicy. (It's a hot sauce, after all!)
- Black pepper: Aside from heat, black pepper carries a complex flavor profile of piney, citrusy notes.
Marinate Ingredient Substitutions
- Substitute coconut aminos for soy sauce.
- Use low-sodium soy sauce to reduce the sodium content.
- Use date syrup or agave instead of maple syrup.
- Choose your favorite hot sauce, or leave the hot sauce out if you are sensitive to spice.
- Choose a different liquid smoke flavor, or use smoked paprika instead of liquid smoke.
How to Grill Tempeh
Now, it's time to grill the tempeh. For those fabulous marks, you want the grill piping hot (450 degrees) before putting the tempeh on the grill.
Next, remove the tempeh from the marinade, but keep the extra marinade to use after grilling.
I turn the tempeh 4 times every 4 minutes to get those excellent grill marks. So, that is a total of 16 minutes of grill time.
As a result, you get to return the tempeh to the marinade after grilling. And, of course, it's all about the char, the grill marks, and soaking up the marinade flavors.
I let the tempeh bacon cool a little to avoid burning my fingers. Then, I slice the grilled tempeh for the vegan BLT sandwiches.
If you don't have a grill or it isn't grilling season where you live, don't worry; follow the stove-top skillet method.
As I mentioned earlier, red onion is not part of a typical BLT sandwich, so leave it off if you like. Another great idea is to use pickled red onions instead of raw ones.
Don't worry; it looks like meat juices but only tempeh marinade. But, whatever you do, remember the vegan mayo!
I love sauce, and I mean love sauce; it's my vice. So, every sandwich needs sauce and good vegan sauce.
Although I am not a fan of store-bought vegan mayo, please use it as a substitute if you want to make your own. But, if you are feeling adventurous, try to make your vegan mayo. You won't be disappointed.
Since my vegan BLT is all about comfort food, I'm going BIG or home.
Therefore, I chose sourdough vegan ciabatta buns from my favorite local vegan baker. Because the oil-free ciabatta buns are made fresh daily, I have to slice and toast them.
Then, I smear the vegan mayo on the top bun. Next, I build from the bottom up:
- Tempeh bacon: Tempeh bacon has a salty, smokey, umami flavor that will remind you of real bacon. Making tempeh bacon is easy.
- Red onion (optional): I love the sweetness of red onion on this sandwich. Although it isn't a typical ingredient on a BLT sandwich, it is optional but highly recommended.
- Slices of tomato: I like large hot house tomatoes or ones directly from my garden.
- Romaine lettuce: The crispy Romaine lettuce is my favorite choice for this sandwich.
Sandwich Ingredient Substitutes
- You can buy tempeh bacon already made in the produce section of your grocery store.
- Instead of red onion, try yellow or white onions. Or, if you want a little zest, add some pickled red onions.
- Choose red leaf lettuce or possibly butterhead or crisphead.
- Choose white beans or silken tofu and a substitute for the nuts in the cashew mayo recipe.
If you live on the wild side, add more cashew mayo to the bottom bun, but don't say I said so 🙂
And, then. Take a big bite, which might require you to squeeze your sandwich tight!
Now, tell me, that isn't the most fantastic sandwich ever.
While both ingredients are excellent plant-based meat alternatives, tempeh is commonly considered healthier as it's less processed than tofu.
Tempeh is an excellent plant-based protein — but it can be a bit of an acquired taste. It has a nutty, almost mushroomy flavor that can be overpowering or even bitter if not prepared well. But, if boiled and marinated, tempeh takes on the taste of any marinade like a sponge.
Fresh tempeh is not pre-cooked and must be cooked before using, either steaming or simmering it for about 25 minutes.
- Remember to boil the tempeh. This is the key to loving tempeh and removing its bitter natural flavor. It also changes the texture.
- I suggest marinating overnight for the best results.
- If you are avoiding bread, try removing the inside of the top and bottom of a ciabatta bread without breaking through the top or bottom. This is a perfect way to keep all the ingredients inside the sandwich in a cutout vessel.
- Then, use the excess bread to make bread crumbs or dip in soups or stews.
- For a nut-free mayo option, substitute white beans or silken tofu in the cashew mayo recipe.
Enjoy a vegan BLT hot off the grill! You might even go back for seconds.
Try These Awesome Vegan Sandwiches
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- 16 ounces tempeh I use organic light life brand
- ¼ cup soy sauce or Tamari
- 2 Tablespoons Maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon sriracha
- 2 teaspoons liquid smoke I used hickory flavor
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1 cup raw cashews or substitute white beans or silken tofu for a nut-free option
- 1 lemon juiced
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 2 Tablespoons Apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
Other Vegan BLT Ingredients
- 4 large Romaine lettuce leaves
- 2 large organic tomatoes sliced
- ½ large red onion sliced thin (optional)
Marinating and Grilling Tempeh
- Remove tempeh for the packages and cut each piece in half.
- Place in a large saucepan and cover in water
- Boil for 20 minutes
- Drain water and set it aside.
- In a refrigerator-safe container, whisk together the tempeh bacon marinade, and pour a small amount into the container's base.
- Then, add two tempeh pieces, pour more marinade over the top, and repeat until all the tempeh and marinade are in the container.
- Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- I always flip it over in the refrigerator every time I go in the fridge for anything.
- Preheat the grill to 450 before grilling the tempeh.
- Place the tempeh pieces on the grill, and rotate every 4 minutes for 16 minutes (flipping it 4 times)
- Return grilled tempeh to the extra marinade
- When cool to the touch, slice the tempeh thin.
Cooking Tempeh Bacon in a Skillet
- Boil tempeh for 20 minutes and allow to cool.
- Cut the tempeh into thin strips.
- Place tempeh strips in the marinade overnight for the best results.
- Place a large skillet on the stove and heat to medium-high.
- Place tempeh strips and the marinade in the skillet in a single layer (do not overlap strips).
- The sauce will thicken and begin to caramelize the strips of tempeh bacon.
- Using tongs, flip the strips over and cook the other side.
- When all the marinade is absorbed into the tempeh bacon strips and the bacon is brown, remove from the heat.
Prepare the Cashew Mayo
- Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender.
- Blend until smooth.
- Refrigerate until needed.
Preparing the Sandwich
- Cut tomatoes, onion, and lettuce
- Toast the ciabatta buns, or use your bread of choice
- Place ¼ of the tempeh bacon on the base of the bun/bread.
- Then, top with tomato, red onion (optional), and lettuce.
- Smear cashew mayo on the top bun.
- Take a bite and smile (with cashew mayo on your face!)
- Boiling the tempeh is the key to loving tempeh.
- Store tempeh bacon in the refrigerator for up to a week.
- Cashew mayo will last for 1 week in the fridge as well.
- Substitute silken tofu for cashews for a nut-free option.
- Use a gluten-free bun or gluten-free bread if avoiding grains.
- Substitute store-bought vegan mayo to save time if you don't wish to make your own ( but homemade is much better).
Hi! My name is Kathy, I am a retired high school English teacher & vegan enthusiast and blogger. My entire blog is fully plant-based vegan. I truly believe what we eat & how we live determines our health & the preservation of our planet! 🙂