This vegan fish tacos recipe recreates all the classic flavors of a delicious and fresh fish taco. Using marinated, beer battered tempeh “fish” and vegan Baja sauce, this is a delicious meal!
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Breaded Tempeh Fish for Fishless Tacos
Breaded tempeh “fish” is the ideal way to make a fishless taco. Tempeh is a delicious and high protein vegan ingredient that has a great texture to mimic fish.
Tempeh is a fermented soy product made with whole soy beans. When eating tempeh, the soy beans “flake” apart, similar to how fish breaks apart when eating. While the texture of tempeh is heavier compared to fish, overall it’s a delicious substitute.
For this recipe, I wanted to recreate delicious vegan fish tacos that I once had at a restaurant. They used a vegan battered fish so that’s what I did here!
Marinating Tempeh to Make Vegan Fish
Tempeh has a very mild flavor which is great for marinating! By marinating the tempeh, it’s possible to create a flavor similar to a non-vegan fish taco.
To me, fish tacos have a bright and fresh flavor characterized by lime juice! That’s why there’s plenty of lime in this marinade.
To help mimic the seafood flavor, use a sheet of nori (seaweed) plus Old Bay seasoning which is a classic seafood seasoning. If you don’t have Old Bay, a different type of seasoning salt would work, but the seafood flavors may not be as strong.
It’s ideal to marinate the tempeh for at least an hour, but overnight is best for maximum flavor.
Vegan Beer Batter for Frying
Making a vegan beer batter for frying is simple! All that’s required is spiced all-purpose flour and beer.
When making beer batter, the beer selection is important as it greatly impacts flavor. The lighter the beer is, the lighter (in flavor) the batter is. Any beer works to create light beer batter texture.
A heavier or more flavorful beer (red ale or IPA) creates a stronger beer flavor in the batter. This flavor comes through in the final product, so keep that in mind when selecting your beer!
Since this is a vegan recipe, selecting a vegan-friendly beer is likely something you need to consider. Luckily a majority of beers are vegan, but you can always check on barnivore.com!
From what I’ve found over the years, the darker the beer, the more likely it’s not vegan. If you drink craft beer, it’s best to directly ask the brewery whether they use animal products in the filtering (or any step) of beer making.
Substituting for Beer
If you avoid beer or alcohol for any reason, simply replace the beer with sparkling water or club soda.
I’d add ½ tbsp. malt vinegar to the club soda because beer has a slightly bitter taste and vinegar helps mimic that. Any type of light vinegar works (ex. apple cider, white) but malt would most closely replicate the flavor of beer.
Vegan Fish Taco Sauce: Easy Vegan Baja Sauce
Vegan Baja sauce is a delicious way to flavor a fishless taco recipe! Baja sauce is made a few different ways but I’ve decided to stick with the easiest version for this recipe.
Often, Baja sauce is made with a combination of mayonnaise and sour cream. Since neither of those are typically vegan, I chose to make this a 100% mayonnaise-based sauce rather than requiring the purchase of both vegan ingredients.
I typically have vegan mayonnaise on hand, but finding vegan sour cream can be challenging. That’s why I often make homemade cashew sour cream, which certainly works for this recipe!
You can also use any type of vegan sour cream, or even plain vegan yogurt to create a vegan fish taco cream sauce.
I also kept the flavors of this vegan Baja sauce simple and left out cilantro. If you’re a cilantro fan, please add some chopped cilantro to the sauce, or simply serve your delicious vegan fish tacos with some!
How to Serve Vegan Fish Tacos
Vegan fish tacos can be served however you like, but classic toppings for fishless tacos include:
- Coleslaw mix (typically with red cabbage)
- Chopped tomato
- Red onion
- Green onion
- Lime wedges/ fresh lime
- Vegan Baja sauce (or plain sour cream)
- Jalapeno peppers (fresh or canned)
- Pico de Gallo
- Sliced radish
You can use corn or flour tortillas and however many toppings you like!
Vegan Fish Tacos (Fishless Tacos)
- Grater (or zesting tool)
Tempeh Fish Marinade
Vegan Beer Batter
Vegan Baja Sauce
- 6 small tortillas (flour or corn)
- slaw mix
- tomato , diced
- red onion , diced
- cilantro , chopped (optional)
- lime wedges (optional)
Tempeh Fish Marinade
- Cut the block of tempeh into bite-sized pieces (or to your size preference).170 grams tempeh
- Place tempeh into a container with all the marinade ingredients.1 sheet nori, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 1 tablespoon lime zest, 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, ½ cup water
- Shake marinade around in the sealed container.
- Place in fridge and allow tempeh to marinate for at least 1 hour (or overnight).
Vegan Baja Sauce
- While the tempeh marinates, prepare Baja sauce and other ingredients for serving. If marinating overnight, these prepped ingredients can be stored in the fridge too.
- To make the Baja sauce, simply mix all sauce ingredients together.½ teaspoon garlic powder, ½ cup vegan mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon lime juice, ¾ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, 1 ½ teaspoons sriracha
- Store in a well-sealed container in the fridge until serving.
Vegan Beer Batter + Frying the Tempeh Fish
- Place cooking oil in a small pot. The oil should be at least 1 ½ - 2 inches deep (4-6 cm). You’ll need more oil if your pot is larger. Using a smaller pot allows you to use less oil overall but does require you to fry the battered tempeh in a few batches.2 cup oil
- Cover a large plate or cooling rack with a few layers of paper towel (to place the cooked fish on so excess oil can drain).
- To make the vegan beer batter, mix together all-purpose flour, Old Bay seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder and salt.½ cup all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning, ¼ teaspoon garlic powder, ¼ teaspoon onion powder, ¼ teaspoon salt
- Carefully pour beer into the flour mix. It will fizz; pour slowly to help prevent this (and let the fizz become trapped into the batter for a light beer batter coating).¾ cup beer
- Remove the tempeh from the marinade, picking off any nori sheets that stick to the tempeh.
- Stir the tempeh in the beer batter until it’s well coated.
- Heat the oil over medium-high heat. You will know it’s ready when you drop a small amount of the beer batter into the oil and it sizzles and floats to the top right away (the oil is too hot if it immediately becomes golden brown in which case the heat should be lowered).
- Once your oil is heated, carefully place a few pieces of tempeh into the oil. Cook until all sides of the beer batter are golden brown. I use tongs to transfer the battered tempeh in and out of the oil, but a slotted metal spoon works as well.
- When cooked tempeh comes out of the oil, place onto the paper towel covered plate.
- Repeat the frying steps until all the beer battered tempeh fish is cooked. Adjust the heat of the oil as needed (should sizzle when going in but take about 5 minutes to be completely cooked/ golden brown).
- Serve the tempeh fish immediately after cooking, along with small tortillas, slaw mix, chopped tomato, chopped onion, cilantro, lime wedges and the Baja sauce made earlier.6 small tortillas, slaw mix, tomato, red onion, cilantro, lime wedges
- Feel free to use whatever vegan taco toppings you like!
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About Nicole Stevens
Nicole is a long-time vegan with a Masters of Science in Food and Nutrition.
She helps people thrive on a vegan diet with balanced recipes.