Smoky, savory, and slathered in barbecue sauce, these vegan ribs are made from tempeh! Cook them in the oven or on the grill for a meatless summer feast!
Here's something funny: I didn't know what "ribs" were until I was twenty one years old. I knew they were some type of meat that I wasn't interested in, but that was about it.
And then I got a job waiting tables at a restaurant specializing in prime rib. (I had given up meat long ago by this time.) I thought what I was serving was the same thing as spare ribs, until a customer corrected me. Apparently ribs and prime rib are totally different things. Oops!
So yeah, that's how I learned what ribs are.
Hopefully that little tale hasn't destroyed my credibility. Assuming not, how about some vegan ribs from a girl that's never had a non-vegan rib?!
Ingredients You'll Need
- Soy sauce. Gluten-free tamari or liquid aminos can be substituted if needed.
- Maple syrup. Another liquid sweetener such as agave or coconut nectar can be substituted if needed.
- Liquid smoke. Look for this near where barbecue sauce is sold at the supermarket.
- Spices. We're using sweet paprika, onion powder, and garlic powder.
- Tempeh. If tempeh is a new ingredient to you I recommend reading up on it in this article. Feel free to use any variety that you can get — plain, multigrain, flax, or whatever is available!
- Canola oil. Just about any high heat oil can be substituted, such as peanut oil, avocado oil, or corn oil.
- Barbecue sauce. You can use store-bought or homemade vegan barbecue sauce for this recipe. If you buy it at the store be sure to check the ingredients for things like honey and anchovies.
- Fresh chives. These are totally optional, but I love sprinkling them on top of my vegan ribs before serving.
Tip: If you find tempeh to be overly bitter, try steaming it before cooking to remove some of that bitterness. I wrote an entire article on how to steam tempeh.
How They're Made
The following is a detailed photo tutorial on how to make this dish. Scroll all the way down if you'd like to skip right to the recipe!
- Start by mixing your water, soy sauce, maple syrup, liquid smoke, and spices. This will be your braising liquid for the tempeh.
- Now place the entire block of tempeh into a skillet and pour the braising liquid over it.
- Place it over heat and allow it to simmer for about 5 minutes on each side. Spoon some of the liquid over your tempeh every so often while it cooks.
- Remove the tempeh from the pan, then deglaze the pan with some water. Carefully wipe it dry and place it back on the stove.
Tip: To deglaze means to add some water to your pan while it's still over heat, making it easier to scrape off any bits of crusted on food.
- Add some oil to the pan and return the block of tempeh to the pan. Cook it for about 5 minutes on each side, until both sides are dark and crisp in spots.
Tip: You can skip this step if you follow an oil-free diet. The tempeh won't have as much of a crispy coating, but it will still be delicious!
- Spread half of your barbecue sauce over the block of tempeh and pop it into the oven to bake for 10 minutes.
- Slice the tempeh into individual "ribs" when it comes out of the oven, then top them with additional barbecue sauce and chopped fresh chives.
Variation: Grilled Tempeh Ribs
I baked my ribs because I've yet to open the barbecue grill for the season, but you could grill yours if you like. Just place the entire block of tempeh directly on a preheated grill and cook it for about 10 minutes, until charred in spots.
Tip: If you're headed to a cookout, follow the recipe up to the step of slathering the tempeh with barbecue sauce. Take the tempeh and sauce with you, and when you're ready, slather and grill your tempeh ribs.
Leftovers & Storage
Leftover vegan ribs will keep in an airtight container or sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator for about 3 days, or in the freezer for about 3 months.
More Tempeh Recipes
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Barbecue Tempeh Vegan Ribs
Smoky, savory, and slathered in barbecue sauce, these barbecue ribs are made from tempeh! Cook them in the oven or on the grill for a meatless summer feast!
- ¼ cup water, plus more as needed
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 (8 ounce or 227 gram) package tempeh
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 cup vegan barbecue sauce, divided
- Chopped fresh chives, optional, for topping
Stir the water, soy sauce, maple syrup, paprika, onion powder, and garlic powder together in a small bowl.
Place the entire block of tempeh into a medium skillet or saucepan, and pour the soy sauce mixture over the tempeh.
Place the pan over medium heat and bring the liquid to a simmer.
Allow the liquid to simmer for about 5 minutes, flip the tempeh, and then allow it to simmer for another 5 minutes. Spoon some liquid over the tempeh every so often while cooking, and add water to the pan if the liquid dries up before 10 minutes is up.
When the tempeh is finished cooking, remove it from the pan, and if needed, deglaze the pan with a bit of water.
Carefully wipe out the pan and coat the bottom with the oil.
Place the pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the block of tempeh. Cook the tempeh for about 5 minutes on each side, until browned and crisp.
Remove the tempeh from the pan and transfer it to a plate.
If you plan on baking your tempeh, preheat the oven to 400°. If you plan on grilling it, oil your grate, light your grill, and build a medium flame.
Brush or spoon the tempeh with about half of the barbecue sauce.
If baking the tempeh, place it on a baking sheet or in an oven safe skillet. Bake for about 10 minutes, until the sauce dries up in spots.
If grilling, place the tempeh directly on the grate and grill until lightly charred in spots, about 8 minutes.
Slice the tempeh into about 12 strips and serve with the remaining barbecue sauce. Sprinkle with fresh chives if you'd like.