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Hello! I’m Anjali. I’m a board certified health coach, author, wife, mom and food lover from the SF Bay area (now living in Seattle, WA!); with a passion for delicious food and a desire to make healthy eating easy, tasty and fun! Learn more about me here and stay for a while!

Anjali Shah

Crispy Air Fryer Tempeh

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This easy, satisfying, flavorful air fryer tempeh is a delicious way to make crispy and smoky tempeh! It’s perfect for adding to other meals or eating for a snack with dipping sauce. Tempeh cubes are marinated and then cooked in the air fryer until crispy. Naturally gluten-free and vegan too!

Crispy air fryer tempeh recipe on a white plate with greens.

I’m a huge fan of tempeh because it offers great texture, is vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free. It is a great plant-based protein source so it works great as a delicious vegan meat alternative in most dishes.

Cooking tempeh in an air fryer is a great way to get an amazingly flavorful and crispy dish. You won’t be able to stop eating these smoky tempeh cubes. Crispy tempeh can be dipped in sauce, used in a stir fry, served with vegetables, or substituted for meat in other dishes. 

This crispy tempeh recipe is ready in under 30 minutes, including the marinating time! If you want to try air fried tempeh and other air fryer recipes, but don’t have an air fryer, learn more about this appliance in my detailed guide about the best microwave air fryer combos.

🙋🏽‍♀️What Is Tempeh?

Tempeh is made from fermented whole soybeans, and the fermentation process binds the soybeans into compact cakes. This delicious plant protein has a chewy, firm texture. It’s different from tofu, which is made from soy milk (not whole soybeans), and then processed into blocks. You can air fry tempeh in just a few minutes to make it crispy!

Find this plant protein at any grocery store or a specialty whole foods store. Non-soy tempeh varieties are also available and typically made from lentils, black beans, or other bean products.

👩🏽‍🍳 Why You’ll Love This Air Fryer Tempeh Recipe

  • Meatless: Tempeh is a tasty alternative protein for non meat eaters. This fried tempeh recipe uses only plant-based ingredients making it vegan and gluten-free too!
  • 30-Minute Recipe: This tempeh air fryer recipe makes a hot and crispy meal or appetizer is only 30 minutes away! Tempeh marinates quickly and the circulating air of the air fryer gives fried flavor without the fat.
  • Protein Packed: One 3oz serving of tempeh has only about 160 calories and 15 grams of protein!
  • Smoky Flavor: Smoked paprika, made from ground peppers, adds a smoky flavor that is savory and pairs well with many vegetables or sides. Enjoy smoky flavor without grilling, smoking, or using artificial smoke flavorings.
  • Kid-Friendly: Bite-sized food is always a kid favorite. These crispy tempeh bites are a healthier alternative to other snack foods and are yummy for dipping in sauces. They also taste great when served with other kid-friendly finger foods like air fryer jicama fries or fresh vegetables with butter bean hummus.

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🥘 Ingredients

This air fryer tempeh recipe calls for simple ingredients easily found at your local grocery store! Here’s what you’ll need for crispy tempeh in under 30 minutes:

All of the ingredients for crispy air fryer tempeh on a white background.
  • Tempeh: This soybean product is a wonderful meatless protein, perfect for marinating. To keep this easy recipe gluten-free, make sure the tempeh you buy is gluten-free certified. Use at room temperature and cut into bite-sized pieces.
  • Olive Oil: This mild oil is perfect for the marinade, and it will make this dish wonderfully crispy.
  • Coconut Aminos: This seasoning is similar to soy sauce and it’s a great gluten-free alternative to using soy.
  • Maple Syrup: Contributes a touch of sweetness to the tempeh marinade. 
  • Garlic Powder: A small amount of garlic is a great way to flavor cooked tempeh, and it has an earthy flavor that goes well with this dish.
  • Smoked Paprika: Adds smoky notes to this air fry tempeh.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: A little vinegar balances the other flavors of this healthy tempeh recipe and makes this dish stand out.
  • Salt And Black Pepper: Adding kosher salt is the best way to enhance and bring out the flavors of the tempeh pieces. Use freshly ground pepper as it’s more potent and has a more robust flavor than pre-ground black pepper.
  • Non-Stick Cooking Spray: Olive oil spray for preparing the air fryer basket to prevent sticking and help tempeh crisp.

🍲 Ingredient Substitutions

  • Regular Paprika: If you don’t like smoky flavors, you can easily change the smoky paprika to regular (non-smoked) paprika instead.
  • Tofu: If you can’t find tempeh or would rather use tofu, this recipe is delicious with tofu.
  • Avocado Oil: Use avocado oil or avocado oil spray in place of olive oil or cooking spray. Avocado oil has a high smoke point so it’s great for air fryer recipes.
  • Seasonings: Try adding some additional seasoning to this air-fried tempeh recipe, depending on what will complement the dish you’re making. Some options are cayenne pepper, chili powder, onion powder, ground fennel, coriander, cardamom, cumin, garam masala, curry powder, fenugreek, or dried chilis.

🔪  How To Cook Tempeh In The Air Fryer

It’s easy to cook crispy tempeh in the air fryer with a few simple steps:

Make The Marinade: Add all ingredients, except for the tempeh, into a mixing bowl and mix well.

Whisking up a marinade in a blue-rimmed mixing bowl.

Cut the Tempeh: Cut the tempeh into bite-sized squares.

Marinate The Tempeh: Gently mix the diced tempeh through the prepared sauce, ensuring it’s well coated. Marinate for 10 minutes.

Turning the tempeh cubes in the marinade in the mixing bowl.

Cook: Preheat the air fryer, lightly spray the air fryer basket with spray oil. Add the tempeh in a single layer and cook until lightly golden and crispy. Pause the air fryer halfway through cooking to shake and flip tempeh pieces. Depending on the size of your air fryer, you may have to do this in multiple batches.

Adding the tempeh to the air fryer.

Serve: Serve as a meal, appetizer, or use in your favorite dishes like stir fries.

Air fried tempeh in the air fryer basket.

💭 Expert Tips

  • Cut Tempeh Into Similarly Sized Pieces: Similarly sized pieces will crisp in the air fryer at the same rate, for evenly crispy and delicious tempeh.
  • Use Tempeh at Room Temperature: Tempeh is best when cooked from room temperature. Remove your tempeh from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature before starting this tempeh recipe in the air fryer for the best texture and flavor.
  • Shake and Stir Tempeh While Air Frying: Tempeh will cook most evenly if you don’t overcrowd the air fryer basket and you pause the air fryer halfway through cooking time to shake and stir the tempeh so that all sides become crispy and brown.
  • Cook Tempeh In Batches: If you have a smaller air fryer, cook tempeh in batches to avoid overcrowding the air fryer basket. Overcrowding will prevent the tempeh from crisping evenly.

📖 Variations

  • Marinade: Marinated tempeh makes this recipe incredibly flavorful. You can change the marinade ingredients to match the dish you’ll serve it with. You can try buffalo sauce, peanut sauce, maple syrup, soy sauce, or liquid smoke.
  • Air Fryer Tempeh Strips: Instead of cubes, you can cut this plant protein into tempeh slices and use it in sandwiches, as plant-based bacon, or in other dishes that need a thinner protein. Air fryer tempeh bacon is also perfect for dipping in mustard BBQ sauce.
  • Crispy Baked Tempeh: Instead of the air fryer method, this easy air fryer tempeh recipe can also be made in a conventional oven. Lay parchment paper down on a baking sheet to ensure the tempeh nuggets can be easily removed and bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit or 190 degrees Celsius, flipping tempeh every 5 minutes until evenly crispy and brown on all sides.

🍽 Serving Suggestions

Air fried tempeh is best served hot and can be served as a meal, appetizer, or it can also be used in your favorite dish as a plant-based vegetarian protein.

Try serving tempeh atop fresh organic arugula or with a side of vegan ranch, sweet potatoes, vegan bacon, or baked potatoes. It’s also a great option in sheet pan dinners, stir fry, grain bowls, or in a tempeh sandwich. Use crispy air fried tempeh in almost any meal!

🙌 Dietary Adaptations

This recipe is naturally vegan and dairy-free. To keep this recipe gluten-free, use a tempeh that is gluten-free.

🫙 Storage Directions

  • To Store: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. I do not recommend freezing this recipe, as the leftovers don’t freeze well, and change texture when thawed and reheated.
  • To Reheat: Reheat leftovers in the air fryer for 3-4 minutes before serving.

❓Recipe FAQs

How long to cook tempeh in the air fryer?

Cook tempeh for 10 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit or 190 degrees Celsius or until crispy. For best results, preheat your air fryer and shake and stir tempeh after 5 minutes.

How to cook tempeh without steaming?

To cook tempeh without steaming, use an air fryer. The circulating air combined with the heat of the air fryer will make the tempeh crispy and delicious.

How do you cook pre-packaged tempeh?

Pre-packaged tempeh is easy to cook in under 30 minutes. Cut tempeh into pieces and marinate in olive oil, coconut aminos, and spices to add flavor to every bite. Air fry for 10 minutes, or until crispy, in an air fryer preheated to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Serve tempeh in your favorite dish or with a dipping sauce as a snack or appetizer.

Why does my tempeh taste terrible?

Tempeh that has not been marinated or cooked properly may have a disappointing flavor or texture. A marinade with coconut aminos, vinegar, and olive oil will add dimension and paprika will add smoky flavor. Air frying tempeh adds a crispy texture that you don’t get from baking or other cooking methods.

Crispy air fryer tempeh on a white plate with greens.

♨️ More Air Fryer Recipes!

Love this vegetarian air fryer recipe? Please leave a 5-star rating 🌟 in the recipe below and/or a review in the comments section further down the page!

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🎥 Watch How to Make It

https://youtu.be/hdAVDHlNRvA
healthy easy vegan air fryer tempeh recipe on a white plate with greens
Print Recipe
5 from 9 votes

Air Fryer Tempeh

This easy, satisfying, flavorful air fryer tempeh is a delicious way to make crispy and smoky tempeh! It’s perfect for adding to other meals or eating for a snack with dipping sauce. Tempeh cubes are marinated and then cooked in the air fryer until crispy. Naturally gluten-free and vegan too!
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time8 minutes
Total Time23 minutes
Course: Appetizer, Side Dish, Snack, snacks
Cuisine: American, Vegan
Diet: Diabetic, Gluten Free, Low Calorie, Low Fat, Low Lactose, Vegan, Vegetarian
Servings: 4
Calories: 160kcal
Author: Anjali Shah

Ingredients

Equipment

Instructions

  • Add all ingredients, except for the tempeh, into a mixing bowl and mix well.
  • Gently fold the diced tempeh into the prepared sauce until combined. Marinate the tempeh for 10 minutes.
  • While the tempeh marinates: preheat the air fryer to 375 degrees F / 190 C.
  • Lightly spray the air fryer basket with non-stick cooking spray or brush with olive oil. Arrange the marinated diced tempeh in an even layer, ensuring the pieces don’t touch.
  • Cook the tempeh for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly golden and crispy.
  • Remove the tempeh from the air fryer and use it in your favorite dishes or enjoy it as a snack.

Notes

  • To Store: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  I do not recommend freezing this recipe, as the leftovers don’t freeze well, and change texture when thawed and reheated.
  • To Reheat: Reheat leftovers in the air fryer for 3-4 minutes before serving.
  • Expert Tips:
    • This dish is best served hot.
    • Cooking times may vary based on the appliance used.
    • For consistent cooking and crispy tempeh, cut tempeh into evenly sized pieces.

Nutrition

Serving: 2oz | Calories: 160kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Sodium: 381mg | Potassium: 257mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g

18 responses to “Crispy Air Fryer Tempeh”

  1. These were so crispy and flavorful! The first time tried to cook tempeh it was a massive fail. Wasn’t sure if it was me or the tempeh. Gave it another shot when I found this recipe and happy to say it was delicious!5 stars

  2. I’ve never cooked tempeh before, but using the air fryer makes it look so easy! I like how it is subtly sweetened with maple syrup.5 stars

  3. This recipe will be perfect for our next friend gathering. Can not wait to see the smiles on the faces of our friends! Crispy goodness!5 stars

  4. The air fryer is one of my favorite ways to prepare tempeh. It’s so much better when crispy imo and this is the easiest way to do it!5 stars

  5. This was such a unique and unexpected recipe! Served this for dinner last night and it was a hit all around the table; easily, a new favorite dish!5 stars

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