A few times a year, usually in summer, I come across a photo of what looks like the perfect BLT sandwich. Hearty, vibrant heirloom tomatoes, succulent lettuce, crisped bacon, and a ribbon of mayo peeking out from perfectly toasted bread. It looks incredible. The trouble is, I don’t eat bacon. So, I typically craft a sandwich that attempts to tick many of the same boxes, something along the lines of this sandwich (9 years ago!). Recipes evolve, and I thought I’d share the updated version I’ve been making lately – very similar concept adding a blend of coconut “bacon”, and crumbled tempeh seasoned and baked alongside the coconut. You can make a large batch of this, and keep it in the freezer, for quick use. All in all, it’s a legit alternative sandwich for your vegetarian and vegan friends, or just anyone interested in plant-based meals.
For a long time vegetarians and vegans tended to use tempeh in place of bacon, turning their BLTs (bacon-lettuce-tomato) into TLTs (tempeh-lettuce-tomato). But the shift in recent years tends to be toward coconut “bacon” – it crisps up better than tempeh slabs, is high in fat (so it really takes in any smoke flavors whether topically applied or actually smoked), and coconut is easy to source. Everyone loves coconut, while lots of people are still confused and generally apprehensive about tempeh. But I love tempeh, as a stand-alone ingredient for its flavor and texture, and also for its nutritional profile. So I make my coconut “bacon” and add a good amount of crumbled tempeh – a 50/50-ish mix. In my head the tempeh acts as bacon-y bits. The tempeh adds substance to the sandwich, and keeps you full longer.
For any of you weary about tempeh, it’s worth giving a try. It’s a ancient cultured, minimally processed, fermented soybean product with as much protein as beef. Joe Yonan wrote this article about it a couple of years back (with shoutouts to Amy Chaplin & James Oseland), a couple other favorite tempeh recipes: Vegan Tempeh Taco Salad, Orange Pan-glazed Tempeh, Maple-Grilled Tempeh.