It’s hard to believe there was a time when my idea of grabbing delicious Mexican food was hitting the Taco Bell drive-thru. Luckily (or maybe not) they’ve expanded their menu to include vegan options, because the urge still creeps up once in a while. A majority of the time, though, you can find me settled into a colorful booth at one of the many authentic Mexican spots in my neighborhood, munching on chips and salsa while I wait for my veggie tacos or burrito.
I simply adore Mexican food. When I’m out to eat, it’s so easy to enjoy a plant-based meal without sacrificing any flavor. Between soft corn tortillas, fajita veggies, fresh salsa, and creamy guacamole, I know I can build a meal that’s going to fill me up and satisfy my cravings for a savory meal. Needless to say, when Katie offered up the idea of making al pastor tempeh, I jumped at the idea.
As a diehard tofu fan, it might surprise you to learn that I’m a recent believer in tempeh. Now that I’ve learned to steam it and soak it in a flavorful marinade overnight, it’s ranking high on my list of plant proteins. That’s exactly what I did with this recipe for al pastor tempeh and the results were incredibly flavorful and satisfying. I’ve had the best luck with the Lightlife brand of tempeh because it holds its shape, which is crucial for this recipe.
Al pastor gets its distinct flavor from guajillo chilies, so do your best to find them. I found a bag of dried guajillo peppers near the salsa, tortillas, and enchilada sauce at the grocery store. To rehydrate, simply soak a dried pepper in hot water for about 30 minutes. The rest of the ingredients should be easy enough to find. I used canned pineapple with its juices in my cooking, but I’m sure fresh pineapple would amplify the yum factor quite a bit!
These baked al pastor tempeh bits are bursting with authentic Mexican flavor. Enjoy them over a bed of cilantro lime cauliflower rice or wrapped in tortillas and topped with fresh pineapple.
Al Pastor Tempeh
- 1 dried guajillo pepper
- 8 oz. tempeh, cut into cubes
- 2 tsp. olive oil, divided
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ yellow onion, diced
- 1 chipotle chili, chopped (from a can of chipotle chilies in adobo sauce)
- ½ to 1 tsp. adobo sauce (depending on your heat tolerance)
- ¼ cup pineapple juice
- ½ tsp. oregano
- ½ tsp. cumin
- 2 tsp. coconut sugar
- ¼ tsp. salt
- Few twists of black pepper
- 1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. white vinegar
- ½ cup pineapple, diced, for serving
Cilantro Lime Cauliflower Rice
- 1 small head cauliflower
- ½ cup cilantro, finely chopped (plus extra for serving)
- ½ lime, juiced
- Salt, to taste
- Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil and add the dried guajillo pepper. Remove from heat and allow the pepper to rehydrate in the hot water for about 30 minutes.
- Bring another pot of water to a boil and fit it with a steamer basket. Arrange the tempeh in a single layer and steam, covered, for 10 minutes.
- When the guajillo pepper is rehydrated, transfer it to a cutting board, remove the stem and seeds, and roughly chop.
- Warm 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in the garlic and onion and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the chopped guajillo pepper, chipotle chili, adobo sauce, pineapple juice, oregano, cumin, coconut sugar, salt, and black pepper. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, to allow the flavors to blend. Remove from heat and add the vinegar.
- Allow the pepper mixture to cool slightly before transferring it to a food processor or blender. As the marinade blends, drizzle in the remaining teaspoon of olive oil. Add a tablespoon of water, if necessary, to keep things moving. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to wrangle any rogue pepper pieces. Adjust flavors to taste.
- Pour the marinade into a Ziplock bag or Tupperware along with the steamed tempeh. Toss to coat and refrigerate for at least four hours, overnight if possible.
- When you’re ready to eat, preheat your oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the tempeh in a single layer. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, flipping the pieces once to ensure even browning. When the tempeh is golden and caramelized on the edges, remove it from the oven and brush with any remaining marinade.
- While the tempeh bakes, make the cauliflower rice. Chop the head of cauliflower into florets and transfer them to a food processor. Pulse several times until the cauliflower is ground into a fine meal. Pour the riced cauliflower into a dry skillet and warm for 3 minutes over medium-low heat (this makes the cauliflower easier to digest). Remove from heat and stir in the cilantro and lime juice; season with salt.
- To serve, add a generous scoop of cilantro lime cauliflower rice to two bowls. Top with al pastor tempeh, fresh cut pineapple, and a sprinkle of cilantro. Garnish with a lime wedge.
This recipe requires several hours to marinate that is not included in the cooking time.