Grilled Hickory Smoke Tempeh Sliders with Kale Slaw

by | Updated: April 12th, 2017

For some foodies, cookouts mean dishes like burgers, chicken, lamb chops and brisket. But limiting your grilling grub to those meaty menu items can hinder your gathering, especially if you’re inviting guests who follow plant-based or gluten-free diets. For those sensitive eaters, grill up these vegan sliders. Unlike ordinary sliders, these burgers are made with tempeh and served on gluten-free ciabatta buns. They’re also marinated in a homemade hickory smoke BBQ sauce and topped with simple kale slaw for a dish that’s sure to beef up your feast (figuratively, of course).

Grilled vegan tempeh sliders #veganBBQ #healthysummer

Grilled Hickory Smoke Tempeh Sliders with Kale Slaw

Serves: 4 – 6 (yields: 2-½  cups BBQ sauce)


Hickory Smoke BBQ Sauce

2 cups ketchup
1 cup coconut sugar
1 yellow onion, diced and slightly sautéed
1 tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. crushed red pepper
½ tsp. paprika
¼ tsp. chili powder
Pinch of Cinnamon
Salt & pepper, to taste
½ cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. blackstrap molasses
2 Tbsp. vegan Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. mustard
2 tsp. hickory liquid smoke

Kale Slaw

4 cups kale leaves, shredded into bite-sized pieces
1-½ cups purple cabbage, shredded
1-½ cups carrots, shredded
⅛ cup fresh lemon juice
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 tsp. sesame oil
Agave, to taste


Buns, toasted, if desired
Tempeh, cut into bun-size squares (choose gluten-free, if necessary)
Vegan mayonnaise, optional
Mustard, optional


  1. In a medium bowl, combine all BBQ sauce ingredients and mix until combined. Transfer to a pot on the stove and bring sauce to a boil. Simmer over low heat for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  2. In a shallow dish, coat squared tempeh on both sides with prepared BBQ sauce. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, massage kale with lemon juice and oil until fully coated. Kale will taste less bitter and reduce in size when it’s ready.
  4. Add cabbage, carrots, a little bit of agave and salt and pepper, and mix together. Cover and place in the fridge to chill.
  5. Heat a grill or grill pan to medium heat. Lightly grease with oil. Cook tempeh for about 5 minutes on each side.
  6. Assemble slider with grilled tempeh, slaw and condiments. Add more BBQ, if desired.

Margaret’s notes:

  • For the BBQ sauce, you can swap ketchup with a 1-to-1 mixture of crushed tomatoes and tomato paste.
  • It will keep in the fridge for 10 days when stored in an airtight container.
  • Sauce can simmer for only 30 minutes if you’re pressed for time. However, it will have a lighter, less intense flavor.
  • Make sure you’re buying gluten-free tempeh, if necessary. Not all kinds are gluten-free!
  • Marinate tempeh overnight for deeper flavor.
  • These sliders pair wonderfully with Iced Matcha Limeades.