Tempeh Bacon Lettuce Tomato SandwichTempeh strips marinated in a sweet and smoky sauce turn into a meaty substitute for candied bacon, perfect for a summer BLT with basil mayo.

In 1980 I was attending Parsons School of Design in New York. My friend Raul Martinez and I both had an evening language class at the New School. My challenge was to get us dinner for a dollar. I would pick up two day-old kaiser rolls and enough potato salad or coleslaw to round out that dollar. Dinner was potato salad sandwiches or coleslaw sandwiches.

chowmein sandwich

Chow mein sandwich. Photo by Matt Armendariz & Quirk Books. Used with permission.

Paging through Susan Russo’s The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches I came upon a “recipe” for a chow mein sandwich, and was transported back to NYC and dinner with Raul. While I wouldn’t recommend any of those three sandwiches from a nutrition perspective, I can recommend this book. Susan writes Food Blogga, one of the first food blogs I started reading. Her newest little book is as petite, charming, and informative as she is.

Encyclopedia of Sandwiches

Photo by Matt Armendariz & Quirk Books. Used with permission.

I make fewer sandwiches since going gluten-free, so it was fun to get new ideas from reading through the book. While our GF bread options are more limited, moms or dads will enjoy seeing how many variations of sandwiches they can make to brighten up a lunch box.

The book is packed with fun facts, original recipes and classic regional recipes about this most portable of foods. History, local lore, and lots of ideas for pairing ingredients made this book fun to read, and I loved the alphabetical layout. Gorgeous pix by photographer Matt Armendariz, food styling by Adam Pearson, and design by Jenny Kraemer make this an excellent reference book for food bloggers as well.

The renovation: I started with a tempeh bacon recipe from Chef Wes at Blossoming Lotus restaurant in Portland, and have adapted it to make it smokier and more candied. Use the best summer tomatoes you can get, like a beefy heirloom tomato, soft and crisp butter lettuce, and your favorite mayo. I used Udi’s GF bread for this sandwich, as I like the floury crust that reminds me of ciabatta bread.

Suitable for:
vegan, gluten-free, reduced-sugar diets

Not for:
low-sodium or migraine diets

TBLT Sandwiches
Makes one sandwich

2 slices Udi’s GF multigrain bread
2 slices heirloon tomato, perfectly ripe
1-2 butter lettuce leaves
3 slices tempeh bacon (recipe below)
1-2 T. mayonnaise (regular or vegan)
1-2 basil leaves

Finely mince the basil and mix it with the mayo. Slice the tomato thickly and remove the seeds and goo from the slices. For a non-soggy sandwich, pat the slices dry with a clean kitchen towel. Toast the bread. Spread each slice with mayo, then build your sandwich. You can add a couple of slices of ripe avocado if you have them, just dial back on the mayo.

P.S. If you happen to know Raul Martinez, a graphic designer with a charming Cuban accent who loves vintage clothes and Akira Kurasawa movies, tell him he owes me a sandwich. :)

Tempeh Bacon Lettuce Tomato Sandwich

Cookbook Review: The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches | Tempeh Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Sandwich Recipe

Make your own savory tempeh bacon, then an upscale BLT!
4 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 50 mins
Course Lunch
Cuisine American
Servings 4 servings


  • 8 ounces tempeh
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (extra virgin)
  • 2 tbsp Bragg's liquid aminos (or tamari)
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp smoked salt
  • 1/2 tsp smoky mesquite blend optional
  • 1 tsp sage (dried)
  • 1/4 tsp liquid smoke
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper


Per serving:
  • 204 calories
  • 11 g fat
  • 2 g saturated fat
  • 5 g monounsaturated fat
  • 1 g polyunsaturated fat
  • 0 g trans fat
  • 0 g cholesterol
  • 755 mg sodium (482 mg sodium with salt omitted)
  • 239 mg potassium
  • 16 g carbohydrate
  • 6 g fiber
  • 6 g sugars
  • 11 g protein
  • 5 Weight Watchers Points Plus
Required FTC disclosure: I have really been liking these three smoky spices from Spice Islands, which were provided to me by the company. I was not paid for writing this post.