Crispy Tempeh Sandwich With Avocado & Beets

October  4, 2022
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Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Prep time 5 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 5 minutes
  • makes 1
Author Notes

This recipe has everything you could need (or want!) in a sandwich—juiciness, tanginess, heartiness, and texture. Crispy tempeh plays with creamy avocado, zesty mustard, crunchy lettuce, and a thick slice of tomato. It also has marinated beets, which, in my opinion, make any sandwich infinitely better—here, the hearty root vegetable complements and tames tempeh’s pungent qualities with its mellow sweetness and bright acidity, thanks to a simple apple cider vinegar marinade.

Usually I insist on marinating tempeh before cooking: Since tempeh is rather compact, it can be a challenge to get flavor into the center. But who has time for extra steps these days—especially when it comes to lunch? The solution: Thinly slice the tempeh and pan-fry it in coconut oil until golden brown, then season with tamari—the rich umami flavor goes well with sweet-tasting coconut oil. Don’t be tempted to make the tempeh ahead of time, though, as it will become dry the longer it sits. Warm the skillet while you gather the other ingredients; the pan-frying happens in a matter of minutes.

The marinated beets are an extra step, but they are well worth the effort, and the recipe makes enough for leftovers, which will last for up to a week in the fridge. Use them to dress up salads, grain bowls, or any meal that needs some brightness and color.

I’ve made this sandwich on dense sourdough rye, a whole-wheat miche, and soft, warm pita—all with delicious results. As long as you choose good bread, you can’t go wrong ( I recommend toasting it lightly if it’s not freshly baked). As with most good sandwiches, this one is juicy, drippy, and potentially quite messy—be sure to have a plate at the ready.
Amy Chaplin

What You'll Need
  • Sandwich and assembly
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin coconut oil
  • 5 (1/4-inch) slices plain tempeh
  • 1/2 teaspoon tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 slices multigrain sourdough, lightly toasted if needed
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 avocado, sliced
  • Sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 slice large tomato
  • 1 slice red onion
  • 3 to 4 slices marinated beets (recipe below)
  • 2 lettuce leaves
  • Marinated beets
  • 3 medium beets (about 1 pound), unpeeled, leaves removed
  • 2 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
  1. Sandwich and assembly
  2. Warm the coconut oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add tempeh slices (they should sizzle) and cook until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and cook the other side for 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate or sheet pan in a single layer. Drizzle the tempeh with half the tamari, then flip it over and drizzle with remaining tamari. Toss the tempeh to evenly coat and set aside.
  3. Spread one slice of the bread with mustard and top with avocado, pressing the slices into the bread to mash slightly; season with salt to taste. Spread the other slice of bread with mayonnaise and top with tomato, a pinch of salt, red onion, marinated beets, tempeh, and lettuce. Close the sandwich, cut in half, and eat immediately.
  1. Marinated beets
  2. Place the beets in a medium pot and cover with filtered water. Bring to a boil over high heat, cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the beets are tender, about 40 to 50 minutes. Check the beets for doneness by inserting a skewer or sharp knife into the center: It should glide in without resistance.
  3. Drain the beets and slip off their skins (they should come off with no effort, but you can rub with your hands if needed) under cool running water. Slice cooked beets into rounds about 1/3-inch thick.
  4. Place the sliced beets in a bowl and add the vinegar, oil, and salt, and gently toss to combine. Use immediately, or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week. Stir before using.

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Amy Chaplin is a two-time James Beard Award-winning cookbook author and vegetarian chef. Amy's approach to cooking is inspired by nature and the healing benefits of whole food ingredients. Her recipes have been featured in T Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and Vogue, among other publications. She divides her time between Brooklyn and Upstate New York.

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