The 12,000-foot tempeh sandwich

ImageThis is the sandwich that converted my dad overnight to plant-based eating. I made it for him for lunch one day, and he said, “Wow, I think I could be vegan”. He’s been eating a mostly veg diet for the past year, has lost 16 pounds, and is feeling great. He credits this humble sandwich as the catalyst.

Tempeh is easy to prepare and packed with protein, which is always something that our beloved non-veg folk worry that we don’t get in sufficient quantities. More about that after the recipe. On my more organized weeks, I prepare the tempeh early on to have a hearty sandwich filling for several days. It’s savory, dense, and finger-lickin’ good. My husband, who is from rural, meat-and-potatoes Chile, finds this a good stand-in for meat. The other day, we went out on a 13-mile scramble and I wanted something that could stand being knocked around in the backpack and that would give us some serious protein. This fit the bill. And it tasted particularly delicious when we got up to 12,000 feet.

one 8-oz block of tempeh

1/3 cup of broth (or 1 tsp of miso in 1/3 cup of water)

3 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari or Bragg’s

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano 

  1. Slice tempeh into whatever size pieces you want (I usually cut it into 6 pieces). Put tempeh in a saucepan and just barely cover it with water. Steam over high heat until it’s boiling; this will enable the tempeh to absorb the marinade better.  Drain water off.
  2. Mix all the rest of the ingredients together in a bowl. Pour this marinade over the tempeh and let sit for at least 10 minutes. Longer is better, as the flavor intensifies. I sometimes leave it in marinade for days or a week (in the fridge).
  3. Pan fry or grill 6-7 minutes, flipping so each side gets browned.
  4. Serve as a sandwich filling or on chopped up on a salad.

Tempeh before & after: marinating (left) and after having been pan-fried (right)

So, um, I’m still wondering, where do you get your protein?

The short answer is: legumes. Since that often provokes more blank stares, let’s break it down a bit further. The best whole food sources of plant proteins are legumes, such as:

  • Soy: tempeh, tofu, soy milk, etc. I stay away from the processed soy “meats” as they tend to be astronomically high in sodium, but yes, they are high in protein too.
  • Beans: black, pinto, kidney, chickpeas (aka garbanzos)
  • Peas: green, split, black-eyed, etc.
  • Lentils
  • Peanuts

Non-legume protein sources include almonds and other nuts, quinoa, and wheat gluten products (i.e. seitan). According to Jack Norris, a vegan nutritionist who bases his nutrition recommendations on peer-reviewed literature, consuming 3 servings of the above per day will take care of your protein needs. A lot of conflicting info has come out about soy, so if you are wondering about the safety of eating soy, you might want to read more here. In short, soy is not evil, barring food allergies or intolerance, and two to three servings per day has been shown to be safe.

Quote of the Day

We’re going with another video, as it’s Thursday, and I need a little more juice to get me through til the weekend. Music is in order. Check out this fun video excerpt from British reggae artist Macka B about what vegans eat. For the full video, click here – you might want to scroll down a bit and click where it says LYRICS so you can follow the dazzlingly long list of foods he raps about. He gets bonus points for using ‘guanabana’ in a song. Listen up!