Labor Day BBQ, Vegan Style With Tempeh

Don't let your dietary choices hold you back from enjoying the holiday festivities.

There's no denying that lure of a holiday weekend barbecue, especially on Labor Day. How better to end an eventful summer?

Since going vegan, I've missed being part of the crowd at the BBQs. The look of a hot dog no longer gets my taste buds going, but the smell will always bring back favorite childhood moments. Who doesn't think of summer when charcoal and burgers waft through the air? I didn't even like burgers as a kid, yet I can't help getting nostalgic.

Of course, my choice to stop eating meat hasn't stopped my family from throwing summer parties. Or from delivering their favorite joke: "Hey Dan, I put you down for a burger, double cheese." It was funny at first, but it's starting to get old.

Trying to convince them that I'm happy to just eat a salad while they enjoy overflowing options is also getting old. If I've learned anything, it's this: being prepared is the key to being happy. Just show up with your meal of choice, don't expect the host to have edible food, and you're set. This weekend, I whipped up a satisfying dish that will keep me just as full as their burgers keep them, potentially even more so. 

Try this marinaded tempeh next time you find yourself at a BBQ. I broiled it, but it can also be grilled. Just make sure to cook it before any meat hits the grill. If you wait until afterwards, you'll probably have to face lots of family or friends joking about cleaning the grill for you and you being difficult. (At least, that's what I deal with, even if it's meant in good fun.)

I came up with this marinade recipe in an effort to clear out my fridge and cupboard. There are a few not-so-common ingredients, but get creative—switch whatever you want!

Spicy Grilled Tempeh

  • 2 sheets flax tempeh (you might have to go to Whole Foods)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Bragg's apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup Bragg's 
  • 2 tsp red curry paste
  • 2 tsp ginger juice
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • pinch fine sea salt

Mix all of the marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Cut the tempeh in large squares, about the size of a burger. (I also cut them width wise, to get four tempeh steaks from each packet. I make eight per batch because it takes a while to marinade.) Boil a pot of water, drop the tempeh in, cover and lower to a simmer, cooking for 15 minutes. This gets the bitterness out and helps the tempeh better absorb the marinade. After cooking, immediately move the tempeh to the marinade, letting it sit for one hour or overnight.

Heat the oven to broil. Place the tempeh in a shallow baking pan, cooking for 10 minutes (with some marinade in the pan), then flipping and cooking 10 more minutes. Add the leftover marinade while cooking, flipping until both sides are golden brown. If you prefer to cook at the BBQ, just make sure to marinate ahead of time. 

Serve on toasted whole-grain buns, topped with avocado, tomato, lettuce and onion—just like everyone else at the party.

Have a fabulous Labor Day!


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