Tempeh Fajitas with Red Chard Wraps / by Kelsey Vlamis

Tofu, Tofurkey, tempeh, seitan, Beyond Meat meats... it's very apparent, there are a lot of "meat substitutes" out there. Some of which (tofu, tempeh, seitan) existed long before making their way into the trendy restaurants and vegetarian households of the West.

Truthfully, I am not a big fan of most mock meats, especially ones consumed in the West. Though I won't go into too much detail (I'll save that for another day), in cultures where these meat substitutes have been a staple for hundreds of years, they tend to be prepared much differently--usually by fermenting soy--than how we process the same products here in the states. The debate is ongoing, but many believe these differences in preparation make all the difference in whether or not soy is healthy.

As for the more recently created mock meats, like Tofurkey and Beyond Meat, their ingredient list doesn't quite meet my own personal standards for "real food". Though I can recognize the potential benefits of these products, I personally choose not to consume them--again, a conversation for another day.

But today: Tempeh. Tempeh is made from naturally fermenting whole, cooked soybeans. It originated in Indonesia, where it has been consumed for hundreds of years; and perhaps most importantly, has been fermented for hundreds of years. Thankfully, traditionally fermented tempeh is easily available here in the U.S. as well, hence my preference for tempeh over other soy-based products. The other good news is, tempeh is actually delicious. Really, I mean it. Take it from this meat-eater, tempeh can have a place in your kitchen, not necessarily as a satisfying substitute to prime rib, but as a unique and tasty food product that can hold it's own. And if you're one of those people who try to avoid certain meat products due to the environmental impacts, such as myself, then yes--it could be considered a more environmentally friendly alternative.

As with most meals I make, these tempeh fajitas were pretty simple. Although tempeh has a nice, earthy flavor all on its own (what does "earthy flavor" even mean anyways??), it took on the flavor of the marinade wonderfully. I went with a classic Mexican taste, with lime juice and jalepeno being the key players.

The kicker--I ditched the usual tortilla for a big, beautiful leaf of red chard. I loved the color addition, but more importantly red chard is awesomely and surprisingly flexible (and let's be honest, it's a lot more appealing health-wise than the atypical enriched bleached white flour tortilla). I encourage you to try it, even if the tortilla is usually your favorite part. I find that as long as what's inside the tortilla packs a flavor punch, I don't usually miss the soft texture and light sweetness that a tortilla provides.

So, if you've never tried tempeh, these tempeh fajitas are a very simple way to step out of your comfort zone! And if you have, hopefully you've been inspired to try it with a new twist. Enjoy!


1 package of tempeh
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 white onion
2 spoonfuls of coconut oil (or another oil/butter)
1 large leaf of red chard
1 avocado
1 scoop of your favorite salsa

For the marinade
1/2 lime, freshly squeezed
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 jalepeno, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper

1. Combine all the marinade ingredients in a small container and set aside. Mix well.
2. Slice the tempeh into 1/2-inch thick strips and place into a bowl, lying as flat as possible.
3. Pour the marinade over the tempeh, being sure to coat every piece. Place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, turning the tempeh over half way in.
4. While tempeh is marinating, begin work on vegetables. Slice the red bell pepper into long, thin strips.
5. Chop the onion into flat, square-like pieces.
6. Heat 1 spoonful of coconut oil on a skillet over medium-low heat for about a minute.
7. Add the peppers and onions, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and begin to brown. About 7 minutes.
8. Remove the tempeh from the fridge. Push vegetables to one side of the skillet. Add 1 spoonful of coconut oil to the clear area of the skillet. Let heat for 1 minute.
9. Place the tempeh flat onto the clear area of the skillet. Pour remaining marinade over the tempeh.
10. Let tempeh brown for about 8 minutes. Flip each piece to let the other side brown for about 8 minutes as well.
11. Once tempeh has browned, incorporate the vegetables with the tempeh. Let sit on low heat for a few more minutes.
12. Cut the hard lower stem off the red chard leaf and place the leaf veins up.
13. Add the tempeh fajitas mixture to the top of the red chard.
14. Serve with fresh avocado and your favorite salsa.
15. Wrap the leaf around the goods, and eat up your tempeh fajitas!!