Welcome to another Sunday post on the blog! Today, I’m sharing an incredible vegetarian (or vegan, if you nix the cheese) Sweet Potato Tempeh Sandwich with Basil Pesto! This sandwich tastes so good, you’ll forget that there’s no meat in it. Seriously, this sandwich is an instant classic. I will probably make this on a weekly basis for the rest of the summer because it is soo good!
Sandwiches can be sort of a hit or miss for me. Especially vegetarian/vegan sandwiches. Whenever I go out and see vegetarian sandwiches on a menu, it’s normally bell peppers and cheese between two hunks of bread. Umm, that’s not a sandwich! I need more! That’s why I decided to play around with some ingredients. And I came up with this mega-sandwich. The stars of this dish are the oven roasted sweet potatoes, the skillet tempeh, and the homemade basil-almond pesto. Let me give you the inside scoop on all three!
First, the roasted sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes have been part of my life since I was a little girl. In Jamaica, we had a variety of sweet potatoes. There were orange sweet potatoes, yellow sweet potatoes, white sweet potatoes, and even purple sweet potatoes! My favorite was the yellow sweet potato because even though it was very sweet, it was also firm and had a chalky texture that was similar to yellow yam. For those who don’t know, yellow yam is basically THE crop of Jamaica. To be honest, Jamaica runs the entire yam game. No really. No other place on this earth grows the same varieties of yam that we do. But I will save my wax poetic about yellow yam for another day when I can really do it justice.
Flash forward to when my family and I moved to the U.S. and discovered that Americans only knew of one sweet potato. ONE! The only “sweet potato” in America was the orange variety. Not that I have anything against the orange sweet potato but after spending your whole life eating all different kinds of sweet potato, it was hard to make do with just one. Now however, it seems like sweet potatoes are undergoing a resurgence. With the influx of many immigrants like myself in the U.S., more and more varieties of sweet potato are being imported into the country. Now things like the purple sweet potato, more utilized in Asian recipes, are familiar to Americans, who are starting to understand that “sweet potato” does not mean one thing. But alas, the yellow sweet potato is still very rare and I have not been able to find it yet in any of my neighborhood stores =[ Still, the orange sweet potato is actually perfect for this recipe because when roasted, it caramelizes so well and plays off the texture of the tempeh. For this recipe, I roast the sweet potato with the skin on to add even more flavor.
Next the tempeh. Unlike sweet potato, tempeh is a very new ingredient for me. The first time I tried tempeh was a few years ago when I spotted it at my local Trader Joe’s, beside the tofu and other “non-meat” stuff. At the time, I was still eating meat but wanted to cut back because meat had begun to feel “heavy” and was not really adding anything to my life. I decided to give the tempeh a try, figuring that if I didn’t like it, it would only be a loss of $1.99 (it’s so cheap!!). Obviously, I liked it. A LOT. That one absentminded decision to buy this random ingredient was that the start of a beautiful friendship. Now, tempeh is a staple in my kitchen and is often used when I want to make a savory breakfast (as in an tempeh egg and cheese muffin or tempeh hash). Over time, I’ve learned that the secret to making great tempeh is to slice it thinly and to allow the tempeh to marinate before cooking. For this recipe, I share my go-to tempeh marinade – a mixture of soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, chili powder, and salt and pepper. This quick marinade takes the tempeh to the next level. And the best part is that the tempeh does not need to sit in the marinade for long, 10-15 minutes will do the trick.
Finally, the basil-almond pesto. Pesto is one of those things that you pass in the grocery store and know you shouldn’t buy because you can literally see the oil and cheese separate from the rest of the ingredients. If you’re like me, you probably bought it anyway, but felt guilty after eating it. Well, no more! While store bought pesto can be pretty bad for you, homemade pesto is better in every way. I’m not saying homemade pesto is super healthy (olive oil and cheese are super foods right?!) but because you can control the ingredients, you can cut back on some of the bad stuff. You can also make substitutions to pump up the flavor of the pesto. I find pesto made with pine nuts a little bland so instead of using them, I made my pesto with silvered almonds. I also used basil because I love the smell and taste of basil. The pesto recipe I share below calls for real Parmesan cheese, but there are a number of vegan alternatives that you can use if you want to.
- Oven roasted sweet potato
- Marinated tempeh cooked in a skillet
- Homemade Basil pesto
That’s it! After preparing all the ingredients, the last step is to pair with your favorite favorite sandwich bread or bun. I put the heavier stuff like the sweet potato and the tempeh on the bottom slice of bread and slather pesto on both halves of the bread. Then EAT!
P.S. Making bread from scratch is on my list of things I want to learn to do. Let me know if you have a good sourdough or ciabatta recipe as those are my favorite types of sandwich breads.
If you make this sandwich, let me know by tagging #SweetandSorrel on Instagram or by writing a comment below!
makes 4 sandwiches
- 1 medium sweet potato, washed and cut into 1/2 in rounds
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 8 oz package of tempeh
- 2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- salt and pepper to taste
- gouda cheese, sliced (optional)*
- tomato, sliced (optional)
- 2 large handfuls of fresh basil, stems included
- 1 handful of cilantro, stems included
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese*
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp slivered almonds
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 small lemon, juiced and zested
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Coat the slices of sweet potato with 1/4 tbsp of olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, flipping half way through.
- While the sweet potato is cooking, prepare the marinade for the tempeh by whisking together the soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, chili powder, and salt and pepper. Slice the tempeh to your desired thickness and length and marinate for 10-15 minutes. Then add the remaining 3/4 tbsp of olive oil to a cast iron pan and sear the marinated tempeh for about 3 minutes on each side. Set aside.
- Prepare the basil-almond pesto by combining all the ingredients for the pesto in a food processor. Pulse until the ingredients are thoroughly combined.
- Toast and slice your bread. Slather some of the basil pesto on both halves of the bread. Then add the roasted sweet potato and tempeh to one side and the cheese and tomato (if desired) on the other side. Combine and EAT!
Note: to make this recipe vegan, just sub the Parmesan cheese for vegan cheese and either opt not to use the Gouda or replace with vegan cashew cheese.