This post may contain affiliate links. Learn more here.
Entrees/ Recipes/ Vegan Recipes/ Vegetarian Recipes

Vegan Sweet and Sour Tempeh

Sweet and Sour Tempeh Recipe

Sweet and Sour TempehThis Vegan Sweet and Sour Tempeh recipe is one of my favorites. It only takes about 20 minutes to make and it’s delicious—perfect for Meatless Monday!

The Mid-Aughts

If you’ve been a vegetarian for a while, maybe you remember that in the mid-aughts, Gardenburger was a really big deal. (Sidenote: Don’t you love the word “aught”? It’s so old timey.) When it came to vegetarian convenience foods, there was Gardenburger and there was Amy’s. But then Gardenburger went bankrupt and they were bought out by Kellogg’s and suddenly all the yummy frozen meals were no more. They still make the burgers, but even those aren’t in every grocery store like they used to be. And when I can find them, it’s only the Original flavor, not any of the others. This makes me sad!

When I had a bunch of pineapple to use, I was brainstorming for ideas and I remembered the Gardenburger Sweet and Sour Pork that I used to buy constantly when I was in school—my favorite part was always the little bits of pineapple. The whole faux pork thing doesn’t appeal to me so much anymore, but I still think of that frozen meal once in a while, so I thought I’d try recreating it using tempeh.

Tempeh PiecesAbout the Recipe

I’ve written about using tempeh before; for a recipe like this, I like to cut the tempeh into thin pieces so the sauce is fully absorbed. I’m not fond of tempeh’s natural flavor and bigger chunks mean the center usually tastes like tempeh. For me, I want the texture of tempeh, but the flavor of the sauce.

Pineapple and Coconut OilAnd let’s talk about the sauce! The nice thing about making your own sweet and sour sauce is that you can control the sweet-to-sour ratio. I think the default at a lot of restaurants is to error on the side of sweet. I like my sauce on the sweet side too, but not that sweet. I used coconut oil to cook the tempeh, green pepper, and pineapple, which adds a subtle tropical flavor to the dish. I’m not on the “let’s add heaping tablespoons of coconut oil to everything we eat!” train (because let’s face it, even if it’s better than other oils, it’s still an oil and it’s still high in calories), but I do like substituting it for other oils, especially when I feel the coconut flavor would work well with the other flavors in a recipe.

I was pretty excited about how my Sweet And Sour Tempeh turned out (and Chris was too). Tempeh is way better than fake pork and fresh pineapple chunks beat frozen little bits any day of the week. Although I love all the recipes I post, this one definitely makes my list of favorites for 2013. So I guess what I’m saying is, I think you’re going to like it too.

Sweet and Sour Tempeh Recipe

Vegan Sweet and Sour Tempeh

Tempeh, green pepper, and pineapple cooked in a sweet and sour sauce.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4 servings


  • 2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 8 oz packages tempeh, quartered and cut into thin strips
  • 1 large green pepper seeded and diced
  • 2 cups fresh pineapple chunks
  • 5 cloves garlic sliced
  • cooked white rice for serving


  • Whisk together soy sauce, cornstarch, rice vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar, and water. Set aside.
  • Heat coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add tempeh, green pepper, pineapple, and garlic. Cook until just beginning to brown, 5–7 minutes.
  • Whisk sauce again and add to skillet. Cook until sauce is thickened, 1–2 minutes more, then remove from heat. Serve over rice.


I like my sauce more sweet than sour, but if you're the opposite, start with one tablespoon of brown sugar and add more, one teaspoon at a time.
Craving more veg-friendly recipes? Shop our collection of vegetarian and vegan cookbooks!

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    Kelly @ Texas Type A Mom
    April 25, 2013 at 12:26 am

    Oooh this great! I love using pineapple in dishes and this looks so much more appetizing than that goopy red sauce in Chinese restaurants.

    • Reply
      April 25, 2013 at 6:51 pm

      Yeah, that sauce is usually way to sweet and the consistency is just unappetizing too. Yuck!

  • Reply
    Kelly @ A Girl Worth Saving
    April 25, 2013 at 1:10 am

    Oh this looks good! My best friend is going back to her veggie roots so I’m going to tell her to make this 🙂

  • Reply
    Mary @ Fit and Fed
    April 25, 2013 at 11:04 pm

    I often use pineapple, tempeh, and bell peppers together in stir-fries so this is a meal I know I would love, especially since I love sweet and sour sauce! Coconut is such a natural combination with pineapple, good choice for the oil.

    • Reply
      April 29, 2013 at 10:54 am

      I love putting pineapple in my stir fries too! I think I like pineapple in savory recipes more than I like it in sweet recipes, in fact.

  • Reply
    April 28, 2013 at 6:13 pm

    I am about to eat this recipe. Looks and smells delicious! I like things a little more saucy than the picture so I made 1.5x the sauce called for above….I have to say it is a much nicer texture and flavor than the icky, gelatinous sauces that come from the Chinese restaurants. Thanks for a quick and easy recipe that uses tempeh!

    • Reply
      April 29, 2013 at 10:01 am

      Woo hoo–I hope you liked it! 😀 And yes, that gelatinous sweet-and-sour sauce that restaurants serve gives me the heebie jeebies too.

      • Reply
        April 29, 2013 at 12:04 pm

        I thought it was delicious. And I just reheated the leftovers for lunch. All my co-workers with their gross frozen lean cuisine entres are jealous.

        • Reply
          May 1, 2013 at 9:11 pm

          Ha! Don’t be hating on Lean Cuisine. I pretty much subsisted on their Rice & Beans for several years in college. 🙂

  • Reply
    Brenda Williams
    April 29, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    I love sweet and sour…this look so delicious!

  • Reply
    May 14, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    I just made this and I am blown away!! I have been a vegetarian since the first grade, but only recently have started trying to eat like one and not like a carbitarian…. This recipe was easy to make and delicious, even to someone who never cooks. and it didn’t even contain french fries! Keep up the great work, I am going to Pinterest now to look up more of your stuff to make soon 🙂

    • Reply
      May 16, 2013 at 7:42 pm

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it! And I know exactly what you mean–I spent so many of my early years as a vegetarian eating bagels and potato chips. And yes, lots of fries. 🙂

  • Reply
    May 18, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Very yummy! Husband and I are attempting to go vegan. I am a huge fan of many of your vegetarian recipes (did the majority of my Holiday meals using recipes from your blog).

    Husband was a serious meat and potatoes fellow. Was concerned about his ability to really let go of meat, but was thrilled when he tasted this dish and said, ” that’s really good. I like that.”

    Simple and quick recipe to make. Uses ingredients I can easily find — other than needing to make the 30 mile trip to Trader Joe’s in Winston-Salem. I will be making this regularly.

    • Reply
      May 20, 2013 at 8:26 pm

      I live in Wake Forest and our Harris Teeter sells tempeh! That’s a bummer that you have to drive so far for it. 🙁 But I’m glad to hear you (and your husband!) enjoyed the recipe. Good luck with the transition to veganism!

  • Reply
    Heather K
    June 5, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    I made this with tofu tonight, and it was delicious! One of these days I’ll be brave enough to try tempeh. 🙂 I also think I will double the sauce next time so I have extra for my rice. I especially loved that the sauce wasn’t all oily like it gets so often with take out Chinese food.

    • Reply
      June 6, 2013 at 7:15 pm

      I’m glad to hear it works well for tofu! 😀

  • Reply
    June 13, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    I’m attempting this tonight (half with chicken for my omnivore boyfriend) and it will be the first time I’ve ever had tempeh. Hope it’s successful!

    I’ve been devouring your blog the past week or so and have bookmarked TONS of recipes. It’s such an awesome resource and I’m so excited to try everything.

    • Reply
      June 14, 2013 at 6:41 pm

      I hope you like it! Tempeh is definitely one of my favorite veggie proteins. You can crumble it up and it makes an awesome ground beef sub. 🙂

      • Reply
        June 21, 2013 at 4:54 pm

        I liked the tempeh! I’m with you – its natural flavor isn’t great, but I *loved* the texture. And as someone who’s used to dealing with tofu, being able to just take it out of the package and start cooking is awesome.

        This was yummy 🙂

        • Reply
          June 21, 2013 at 6:06 pm

          Yeah, some people eat it plain, but I definitely need to add a sauce or something to it. 🙂

  • Reply
    October 5, 2014 at 7:25 pm

    I just made this and it turned out great! I was a bit scared at first because I didn’t like the taste of the sauce on its own but once everything was mixed together it was delicious. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Diana Petrilli
    January 15, 2015 at 2:38 am

    Thank you for this recipe, it looks awesome…just one thing…we do not eat any bell peppers, so what would you suggest as a substitute? I can’t wait to try this! I have been cooking with tempeh for over 20 years, we love the stuff. I steam a brick (takes out the bitterness of the tempeh), crumble it with a fork, add 3-15 oz. cans of spicy chili beans, an 8 oz. can of tomato sauce (rinse the cans with 8 oz. of water to get all the sauce and add the water to your pan) and let it cook for maybe ten minutes so everything is heated through. This is our easy chili recipe! Since my daughters do not eat onions or tomatoes (who doesn’t like those? smh) I add diced tomatoes and raw onion to my own bowl…super yummy!

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      January 15, 2015 at 4:51 pm

      A baby eggplant, yellow squash or zucchini would probably work in this recipe too. Thanks for sharing your chili recipe – I bet it freezes really well too! 😀

  • Reply
    February 2, 2016 at 5:44 pm

    What, no ginger?! Gotta have ginger. I will make it with ginger!
    It’s just that I like that extra kick … Looks like a great recipe! But the rice will be whole grain.

  • 1 2

    Leave a Reply

    Recipe Rating