Smoky tempeh chili (4-5 servings)

I love smoky flavors. The deep, toasty scent and aroma of smoked foods transport me to chilly evenings when the breeze is heavy with the scent of woodsmoke and fallen leaves. Last week’s heat wave in Durham could be the reason I’ve found myself craving smoky dishes lately!

Today’s chili recipe, which is very loosely based on this one from Connisseurus Veg, is a snap to put together. If you’ve been curious about tempeh but haven’t taken the plunge yet, this is a great starting point. This chili is dairy-free and can be made gluten-free if you buy wheat-free tempeh and make sure your broth doesn’t contain gluten.

If you want the recipe only slightly smoky, use the first version of each ingredient listed. If you want a deeper smoky flavor, use some or all of the ingredient versions in parentheses below.

Click here for a printable recipe.

You will need:

  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil

  • 1 8-oz package tempeh, cut or crumbled into chunks [I used Lightlife three-grain tempeh]

  • 4 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 16-oz jar salsa (use chipotle salsa for smokiness)

  • 1 tsp onion powder (toasted onion powder)

  • 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes (fire-roasted)

  • 1 15-oz can pinto, kidney, or black beans, drained [I used a mixed can of all three types]

  • 3 sun-dried tomatoes, minced

  • 1/2 Tbsp chili powder

  • 1 tsp smoked paprika

  • 3/4 cup corn kernels (roasted corn)

  • 1 cup water or vegetable broth


  1. Add vegetable oil to a stockpot and turn heat to medium. Once the oil is hot, add the tempeh pieces and saute for about 5 minutes, trying to brown it on all sides.

  2. Add the minced garlic and saute for another minute.

  3. Stir in all the remaining ingredients (If your corn is frozen, don’t bother to thaw it first) and increase the heat to medium-high. Once the mixture boils, lower the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the chili is nice and thick.

  4. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with your favorite chili toppings: Cheese (vegan or not), avocado, cilantro, scallions, or crushed tortilla chips!

This chili is very filling, and it freezes well too!

Southwestern tempeh stew (4 servings)


I'm a relative newcomer to tempeh. Made from fermented soybeans, tempeh originated in Indonesia. It can be baked, roasted, fried, grilled, or steamed and can be found in a variety of flavors. (I used West Soy Five Grain for this recipe.) It's less spongy and moist than tofu and has a nutty taste and a chunky texture. It contains a healthy amount of protein and soaks up marinades quite well.

I found Whole Foods' Southwest tempeh stew recipe last weekend when I was looking for a one-dish meal to make at the end of this week. I knew it was going to be a rainy, cold (well, "Carolina cold") week, and the warm, sunny flavors of a Southwestern dish sounded enticing and comforting. This was a quick and easy dish to make on a Friday night after a long week of teaching, meetings, and piles and piles of grading! (Why does the grading all seem to pile up at once?)

You will need:

  • One 8-oz package of tempeh
  • 1-2 Tbsp adobo sauce from canned chipotles (Quick tip: I divide a can of chipotles into batches of two or three peppers and store them in bags in the freezer, thawing the peppers or adobo as needed.)
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin, divided
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1/2 medium bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 white or yellow onion, diced
  • 1/4 lb mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 14-oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 cup corn kernels (thawed if frozen)
  • 4-oz can chopped green chilies (I skipped them)


  1. Place tempeh brick in a steamer basket in a small stockpot; steam until cooked through (about 20 minutes). Place tempeh on a plate to cool a bit. Mix the adobo, soy sauce, and 3/4 tsp cumin together, making a soft paste. Rub the paste into both sides of the warm tempeh and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onions and peppers until they are soft and beginning to brown (15-20 minutes). (If you can handle them less cooked, you can use a higher temperature for a shorter amount of time.) Add the mushrooms and cook and stir for another 5 minutes.
  3. Cut tempeh into cubes and add it to the pan, along with the rest of the cumin, the tomatoes, the chili powder, and the corn (and chilies, if using). Cook and stir for another 10 minutes. Add a bit of water if it's too thick and starts to stick to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Serve over rice, polenta, or a toasted biscuit.

This recipe makes a very thick, chunky stew. There was so little broth surrounding the ingredients that I hesitate to even call it a stew. Next time, I might experiment with adding a little broth or even beer during the last 10 minutes of cooking. The flavors were lively and warming though, and the tempeh made the dish hearty and filling.