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This easy air fryer tempeh is crispy and full of flavor! It has the most delicious marinade that you’re going to want to put on everything! If you haven’t tried cooking tempeh in the air fryer, it will quickly become your new favorite method—it cooks so fast in the air fryer making weeknight dinners a breeze!
Why this recipe works
Cooking tempeh in the air fryer is the best way to get it extra crispy. The air fryer is basically a tiny countertop convection oven. It speeds up the preheating and cooking time, making roasting or frying much faster than a conventional oven or deep fryer.
Air fryers are incredibly easy to use and clean and great when you don’t want to heat up your whole kitchen like in the summer.
This is our favorite air fryer—with 8 quarts there’s lots of room for air fried tempeh! This recipe also works in smaller air fryers too.
It’s great at making food evenly crispy since it blows hot air from all angles. This makes cooking tempeh a breeze and the easiest way to get it evenly crispy all around.
Why you’ll love this air fried tempeh:
- Extra crispy without any oil
- Meaty and filling
- Great source of protein, fiber and vitamins
- Gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan
- Easy to prepare
- Great for adding to stir fries, nourish bowls, tacos, salads, and more!
This air fryer tempeh recipe uses only simple ingredients that effortlessly transform tempeh into a delicious protein source with smoky flavors. Reference the recipe card at the bottom for exact measurements.
Tempeh: Tempeh is made from whole soybeans and is an easy plant-based protein to prepare. On its own it has a mild, nutty flavor that absorbs other flavors well. Many tempeh brands come pre-flavored now so make sure to get an original, unflavored package.
- Soy sauce: The base of this marinade is soy sauce. You can use liquid aminos or coconut aminos if gluten-free.
- Maple syrup: Adds a touch of sweetness to balance out the savory. Here are some other substitutes if you don’t want to use maple syrup.
- Liquid smoke: For the perfect amount of smoky flavor! Smoked paprika works well too if you can’t find liquid smoke.
- Garlic powder and onion powder: Classic spices that add tons of flavor to this tempeh marinade!
- Cornstarch: This thickens the marinade into a delicious thick and sticky sauce. It’s a great way to use up the marinade so that it doesn’t go to waste.
This marinade is very similar to our easy vegan stir fry sauce which would taste great with this air fried tempeh as well!
How to make air fried tempeh
This step by step walk-through shows the process of making this marinated air fryer tempeh recipe. Exact times and temperatures are available in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Step 1: Cut tempeh into cubes, about 1 inch thick.
Step 2: Add all the marinade ingredients, except the cornstarch, to a small mixing bowl and whisk together.
Step 3: Pour over tempeh cubes and allow to marinate for at least 20-30 minutes.
Step 4: Remove tempeh from the marinade and place in the air fryer basket evenly spaced in a single layer. Air fry tempeh at 400F for 10-15 minutes.
If you don’t have an air fryer, you can also cook by oven. Place tempeh on a lined baking sheet and bake at 350F for about 20 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned and crispy, flipping halfway through.
Step 5: In a skillet over medium heat, add the leftover tempeh marinade. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch with the cold water to form a slurry and add to the marinade. Stir in and bring to a boil.
Boil for a minute, then turn down to a simmer and cook for 3-5 minutes until it thickens, stirring constantly.
Step 6: When your tempeh is done, transfer it from the basket of your air fryer to the marinade and stir to coat. The thickened marinade will stick to the cooked tempeh and create a super flavorful sticky coating.
How to serve
You can enjoy this crispy air fryer tempeh served over rice or your favorite grain. This Potato Rice makes an excellent base!
This smoky air fryer tempeh also easily transforms into air fryer tempeh bacon. Just cut it into slices instead of cubes! It makes a great side to a vegan scramble.
This flavorful air fryer tempeh can be used in a variety of delicious ways! Some of my favorite ways to enjoy it are in curries, stir fries, grain bowls, wraps, and salads. It’s a really versatile and filling ingredient.
FAQ and Expert Tips
Store leftover air fryer tempeh in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Reheat in air fryer to preserve crispiness. You can also reheat in the microwave or on the stove.
Yes, absolutely. Set your oven to 425F and use the convection setting if you have it. Otherwise you made need a little more time to get the tempeh to crisp up. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper. Flip halfway through to ensure even cooking.
Some swear by steaming it for 10 minutes first to soften it a bit and put some moisture back into it. This may help it absorb more flavor in the marinating step but I honestly don’t find it necessary as it still tastes great without steaming.
No, it just makes a great sticky sauce for the tempeh but you can skip that step if you’re adding it to a salad or something that already has a sauce like a stir fry or curry.
More air fryer recipes
Crispy Marinated Air Fryer Tempeh
- Air Fryer or Oven
- 1 package tempeh
- ¼ cup soy sauce tamari or liquid aminos work too
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- ¼ cup water
- ½ teaspoon liquid smoke
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch + 2 parts cold water
- Slice tempeh into cubes, about 1 inch thick.1 package tempeh
- Add all the marinade ingredients except the cornstarch to a small mixing bowl and whisk together.2 tablespoons maple syrup, ¼ cup soy sauce, ¼ cup water, ½ teaspoon liquid smoke, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon onion powder, ½ teaspoon black pepper
- Pour over sliced tempeh and allow to marinate for at least 20-30 minutes.
- Remove tempeh from marinade and place in the air fryer basket evenly spaced. Cook at 400F (200C) for 10-15 minutes. By oven: Place on a lined baking sheet and bake at 350F (180C) for about 20 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned and crispy, flipping halfway through.
- In a skillet over medium heat, add the leftover marinade. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch with the cold water to form a slurry and add to the marinade. Stir in and bring to a boil.1 tablespoon cornstarch
- Boil for a minute, then turn down to a simmer and cook for 3-5 minutes until it thickens, stirring constantly.
- When your tempeh is done, add it into the marinade and stir to coat. The thickened marinade will stick to the cooked tempeh and create a super flavorful sticky coating.
This air fryer tempeh recipe was updated on December 1, 2022 with additional tips and ingredient information.