5 Ingredients or Fewer

Tempeh Tacos With Cashew-Cabbage Slaw

May 11, 2020
3.8 Stars
Photo by Anna Billingskog
Author Notes

There’s always a block or three of tempeh in my kitchen. This Indonesian plant-based protein lasts for months in the freezer and weeks in the fridge. It’s easy to work with (no cross-contamination or temperature checking) and has a savory, meaty flavor, thanks to the fact that it’s fermented.

If you haven’t worked with tempeh before, this cooking method is a foolproof way to start: Just crumble the tempeh into bite-size pieces by hand—uneven, craggy shapes mean crustier crusts. Toss these in a preferably-nonstick skillet with hot oil (neutral flavor with a high smoke point is best) and turn them as they brown. This takes a matter of minutes and gets you halfway to a million dinners: grain bowls with avocado, saucy-cheesy pasta, oversized salads, warm tacos.

These are inspired by Baja-style fried fish tacos with a creamy cabbage slaw. Note: You can use mayonnaise or a vegan mayonnaise. Cashews make for a similarly rich, but heartier mayo than traditional. Likewise, you can swap in flour tortillas if you want (or make your own!). Just don’t skip the hot sauce, which adds much-needed spice and acidity.

This is one of our Big Little Recipes, our weekly column all about dishes with big flavor and little ingredient lists. Do you know (and love) a recipe that’s low in ask, high in reward? Let us know in the comments.Emma Laperruque

  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Makes 6 tacos
  • 3 cups shredded green cabbage (about ½ small head)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons canola oil, divided
  • 1 (8-ounce) package tempeh, crumbled into bite-size nuggets
  • 6 corn tortillas
  • Hot sauce, with abandon
In This Recipe
  1. Add the cabbage and salt to a bowl, and gently massage with your hands to combine. Add the cashews, 6 tablespoons of hot water, and a pinch of salt to a food processor.
  2. Set a nonstick skillet over medium heat and pour in the 2 tablespoons of canola oil. When the oil is hot, add the tempeh plus a pinch of salt, and toss a couple times so all the nuggets are coated. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, turning the tempeh as it browns, until deeply browned and crispy all over, then transfer to a plate. While the tempeh is cooking, toast the tortillas in another skillet—cast-iron works nicely here—until they’re warm, then turn off the heat. (Or, to save a dirty dish, you can wait until the tempeh is transferred to a plate, then toast the tortillas in that pan.)
  3. Once the tempeh is cooked and the tortillas are warmed, blend the cashews and water until smooth, scraping down as needed. With the machine running, stream in the remaining 2 teaspoons of canola oil. Keep going until the mixture resembles mayonnaise, adding more water if needed. Taste and adjust the salt as needed.
  4. Add a couple spoonfuls of cashew-mayo to the cabbage, along with a couple dashes of hot sauce. Toss until combined. Add more cashew-mayo and hot sauce as you see fit, and save any extra cashew-mayo for more tacos or sandwiches down the road.
  5. Divide the cabbage slaw between the tortillas. Top with the tempeh nuggets and lots of hot sauce.

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Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles on the fly, baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., and writing about the history of pie in North Carolina. Now she lives in New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's award-winning column, Big Little Recipes (also the cookbook in November 2021!). And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

1 Review

eliza B. May 18, 2020
I loved these - my family did too. BUT we are not a hot sauce family so we added cheddar cheese curds and pickled carrots/cauli/ramps to bring a little zip and acid. And leftover slaw has been delicious to eat -- super adaptable in lots of things. Love this new cashew "mayo" in my repertoire.