Crispy Tempeh Tacos
These vegan tacos are filled with crispy delicious tempeh, fresh and smokey pineapple salsa and lime-dressed cabbage all wrapped up in a toasted corn tortilla. I can't stop eating them and I don't think you'll be able to either.
Tacos have been one of my favourite foods since I was little. I love how endless the possibilities are, how sweet and savoury come together, how textures are combined, how juicy, crispy, saucy, smokey and hearty they can be. When I came across an LA-based plant-based Mexican pop-up restaurant called Alchemy Organica, I was so inspired by the way the Chef Denise Vallejo was creating plant-based dishes which had the same essence and flavours of the dishes she grew up, despite those not being plant based. It reminded me of how versatile plants can be, and how they can adapt to the flavours they are paired with.
Off the bat of that, I started thinking about what flavours I wanted to combine in these tacos. Tempeh kept coming to mind for its natural ability to crisp up and absorb smokiness and spice, which I find is harder with tofu. I then asked myself what I'd want to be in the same mouthful as that crispy tempeh, and pineapple came to mind along with a crisp vegetable that could hold its shape. I decided to grill the pineapple for extra smokiness, and tossed the cabbage in lime to break it down and add extra citrus and freshness. On the day, while I was trying these tacos out, I realised they were missing a creamy element, queue the cashew pepper crema which tied it all together.
I hope you love these untraditional yet inspired tacos as much as I do, and that they inspire you to play around to create your perfect taco. Share them with me in the comments if you do!
3 tbsp neutral oil, divided
1/2 tsp salt, divided
1 tsp ground cumin
350g red cabbage, shredded
2 tbsp lime, divided
Grilled pineapple salsa:
400g pineapple, sliced
½ jalapeño pepper
10g fresh coriander
1 tbsp lime juice
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
120g cashews, soaked in boiling water for 30 mins
½ red pepper
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
8 corn tortillas
10g fresh coriander
Start by making the filling. Heat 2 tbsp neutral oil in a large pan over medium heat. Crumble tempeh into the pan, season with ½ tsp salt and cumin and stir. Let cook untouched for 3-4 minutes, until the heat facing side is golden.
Stir the tempeh, and continue to cook for another 5 minutes, until crispy all around. Taste for salt and adjust to taste. Set aside
In a large bowl, combine shredded red cabbage, 1 tbsp lime juice and a pinch of salt. Massage with your hands for 2-3 minutes, and set aside.
To make the pineapple salsa, heat a griddle pan over medium heat. Add the pineapple and let grill without touching for 4-5 minutes, until starting to brown on the heat-facing side. Flip the pineapple slices, and continue to cook for 3-4 minutes.
Transfer the grilled pineapple to a cutting board, chop it into cubes and add it to a small bowl along with the fresh coriander, lime juice, salt and olive oil. Stir to combine and set aside.
Last, make the cashew cream. Combine cashews, red pepper, salt, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and water in a blender. Blend on high speed, for 5-6 minutes, until completely smooth and creamy. Taste for seasoning and adjust to taste.
To serve, heat up the corn tortillas. Fill them with red cabbage, crispy tempeh, pineapple salsa, cashew cream and fresh coriander.
By Valentina Concordia
Valentina is our Food Editor, who dreams up our tasty dishes and recipes for our social channels. She has loads of experience cooking up a storm in Italian kitchens, so it’s no surprise she can’t live without good-quality olive oil (don’t come between her and her olive oil) and fresh pasta.