Tempeh Sloppy Joes

by Mary on September 28, 2012

tempeh Sloppy Joe on a plate with cucumber

tempeh Sloppy Joe in a Flax4Life onion bun

Tempeh Sloppy Joes are fast, cheap, healthy, and well accepted by the small set. They were a real staple for me when my children were young. I think of Sloppy Joes as a classic homemaker meal, something moms put on the table regularly in the fifties through the seventies.

The tempeh version is a nice update, still fast and cheap but a little healthier. I first learned about tempeh Sloppy Joes from Cynthia Lair’s cookbook Feeding the Whole Family, and over time I developed my own version. I hadn’t made them for a long time until my memory was jogged by seeing Kiersten’s Veggie & Tempeh Sloppy Joes on her blog Oh My Veggies. Her recipe is enhanced with a nice variety of vegetables.

Since my recipe is still associated in my mind with those days when getting it on the table quickly was paramount, it’s more basic, and it can get even simpler if necessary. The red pepper is not essential, and I imagine the onion could be replaced by a little onion powder in a pinch. My recipe uses tomato sauce. I prefer that to ketchup, which is probably a little more classic. My recipe is also not all that sloppy, it doesn’t have a huge amount of sauce in it. I don’t  like to have the contents of my burger leaking out the sides, so I leave the mixture pretty thick. But make it your way, and let me know how you like it in the comments below.

My recipe calls for steaming the tempeh. If you’d like to know more about the how or why of steaming tempeh, please see my previous post on that. I use all soy tempeh for this instead of the kind that’s partly grain, figuring that I want to maximize the protein and the family is getting enough grain in the bun.

Recently the Flax4Life bakery in Bellingham, Washington has started making excellent gluten-free buns that are also much healthier than other gluten-free buns I’ve seen, and I find myself making veggie burgers much more often. Flax4Life muffins are available at many grocery stores in Washington State and at Whole Foods on the West Coast (and if you really want them, they ship). Not sure how widely available the new sandwich buns are, I hope they are available up and down the coast as well.


tempeh crumbled in a large mixing bowl

the tempeh crumbled in a bowl


Tempeh Sloppy Joes
  • 2 8 oz. packages soy tempeh, thinly sliced and cut into chunks
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small/medium sweet onion, chopped (about 8 oz.)
  • 1 red bell (sweet) pepper, cored, de-seeded, chopped
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire or vegetarian Worcestershire sauce (regular Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies)
  • 1 Tbsp. vinegar (your choice of variety, I used rice vinegar, white or wine vinegar would also work)
  1. Place sliced tempeh into a steamer basket, steam for ten minutes.
  2. Remove from stove, cool, crumble the tempeh.
  3. Meanwhile, put oil in pan, heat gently, fry chopped onion for five to ten minutes.
  4. Add chopped bell pepper and fry for another five minutes or so until soft.
  5. Add tempeh and other ingredients.
  6. Simmer for five to ten minutes.


{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Jane September 30, 2012 at 3:33 pm

I’ll have to try this – sounds really good!
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mary October 1, 2012 at 7:51 pm

Thanks, Jane!
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TastefullyJulie October 1, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Yum, that looks amazing. I’m in the minority in my house. I LOVE tempeh and they all despise it 🙁


mary October 1, 2012 at 7:52 pm

You have a lot to put up with from the carnivore and crew! What is it with men and meat? Hope they come around more with time.
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Hannah October 2, 2012 at 5:17 pm

I’ve only made sloppy joe’s twice in my life, but this would make for a worthy #3. Tempeh really has the best texture and meaty flavor for this sort of dish! Even better, I already have a package on hand, waiting for a tasty application.
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mary October 2, 2012 at 11:44 pm

Lots of possibilities for that tempeh! I think I’m going to be serving tempeh a little more often this fall. Our exchange student likes it and I want to keep him happy.
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Kiersten October 2, 2012 at 6:29 pm

Thanks for the mention! I like my sloppy joes a little less sloppy too. I don’t like making a mess when I eat!
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Kiran October 3, 2012 at 5:34 am

That looks so delicious! I seriously wished I could enjoy tempeh as much as others.
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