Honey Bourbon BBQ Tempeh

A (vegan) Southerner's dream! This tangy barbecue sauce is lightly sweetened with a little bit of honey and bourbon. Toss it with tempeh and bake for a meatless take on barbecue. Don't forget the pickles! 

Time for another Recipe Redux and this months theme is a 'spirited' one - cooking with alcohol! Sorry, that pun was so, so bad, yet I somehow couldn't delete it.

I cook with wine pretty regularly, and even more frequently now that I've realized it's a loophole in our budget cutting pact not to buy alcohol on weekdays. I mean, if I need it as an ingredient we can't let it go bad, right?? For this challenge, I wanted to go outside my comfort zone and cook with something new. So, I dug through our bar to find options - tequila, two bottles of vermouth (because my dad was positive people would order Manhattan's at our wedding. They didn't), and bourbon. With a craving for a good Southern meal, bourbon was the clear winner!

Is there anything more Southern than barbeque and bourbon? Well, my tempeh version...maybe not so much. Still, all the flavors are there and I think this is a dish any good ole' boy would love, as long as you didn't tell them it was vegan :)

Living in South Carolina, we are lucky to have the absolute best barbeque in the nation in our backyard. Go ahead and unsubscribe Texans and Tennesseans, I really do mean it! We're famous for having four regional types of sauce, but the most well known is our mustard-based sauce, my personal favorite. It's much tangier than the syrupy sweet ketchup based sauces found elsewhere.

As much as I love barbeque, I don't eat it often. It's not just for health reasons - if I'm gonna eat barbeque, I'm gonna eat barbeque, and the very best is 45 minutes away. So if I'm in the mood for it, homemade is my best bet.

Although there are some great tasting, low sugar bottled sauces (check out this one), supermarket brands usually contain 3-4 teaspoons of sugar per serving. Most homemade recipes I've come across are equally high in sugar, calling for tons of brown sugar and a base of already sweet ketchup.

Barbeque sauce definitely needs a hint of sweetness, but it shouldn't taste like a candy bar. Personally, I like my barbeque sauce on the tangy side, but it definitely needs a hint of sweetness for balance. Instead of using refined sugar, this recipe uses a little honey and bourbon. Bourbon, made from corn, adds a hint of sweetness that becomes more noticeable as the sauce reduces and the alcohol cooks out. Together with the honey, it adds a wonderful complexity and depth of flavor.

What's your favorite type of barbeque sauce? 

Honey Bourbon BBQ Tempeh

Makes 4 sandwiches, with about 1 cup of sauce leftover



  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 14-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup bourbon
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder

For sandwiches:

  • 16 ounces (2 packages) tempeh
  • 8 slices 100% whole grain or sprouted grain bread, lightly toasted
  • Pickles (optional, but not really)
  • Shredded cabbage


  1. In a medium pot, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add garlic, onions and red pepper flakes and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add remaining sauce ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes, until thickened. Using an immersion blender (super handy kitchen tool!), puree until smooth, or let it cool and blend it in a food processor, or leave it chunky. That's fine too!
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Slice each loaf of tempeh in half, then cut each half into three equal sizes pieces. Toss tempeh with 1/2 cup BBQ sauce and spread evenly on an oiled baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes until warmed through. Alternatively, if you prefer a "chopped" barbeque sandwich, warm crumbled tempeh in a pot on medium heat with 1/2-1 cup of sauce for ~ 10 minutes.
  4. Assemble sandwiches with tempeh, extra BBQ sauce, pickles and shredded cabbage.