Sticky tempeh ribs are baked in the oven or cooked on the grill for an easy backyard bbq recipe! Do one simple thing to make these vegan ribs taste incredible.

vegetarian ribs on a pan

These vegan ribs require just 2 ingredients! They’re super simple to make, too.

You might be thinking, how can tempeh really taste like ribs? It’s true, if you are expecting these vegetarian ribs to taste like actual meat, you will be disappointed.

But they definitely will give you the feel of eating ribs like you used to enjoy, and you can rest easy knowing you’re just eating plants!

I hope you give them a try! These tempeh ribs are sticky, sweet, smoky and perfect for a summer bbq or potluck when you want to bring a vegan option. Don’t forget the best vegan potato salad, queso dip or bbq cauliflower! They can be baked in the oven or cooked on the grill.

few pieces of cooked bbq tempeh ribs

How to make tempeh ribs

The first thing you need to do is steam the tempeh. This is such an easy step that will make all the difference in both flavor and texture. Steaming helps release any bitter flavors, and opens it up to absorb more of the bbq sauce marinade.

Simply open the packages of tempeh, cut the blocks in half, place in a steamer basket with water underneath and steam for 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Cut the tempeh into 1/2 inch thick slices and place in large container for marinating. Pour the bbq sauce over the tempeh, and stir to coat the pieces as much as possible.

tempeh in dish with bbq sauce

Cover and let it marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour, if possible and even overnight. If you don’t have time to marinate, don’t worry, they will still be delicious!

tempeh marinating in a dish with bbq sauce

Oven baked vegan ribs

To bake in the oven, transfer the bbq coated tempeh pieces to a parchment lined pan. Brush even more bbq sauce on top of the pieces, and bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes. Towards the end, broil for a few minutes, watching closely to brown the tops slightly.

My hands always get messy with bbq sauce at this point!

not yet cooked but smothered vegan tempeh on parchment paper lined pan

Grill option

Place the bbq tempeh coated pieces on a grill on low-medium heat for about 15 minutes.

Gluten free

To make sure your tempeh ribs are gluten free, you must use gluten free tempeh. Lightlife brand makes a few that don’t contain gluten, so check the ingredients list. Bbq sauce shouldn’t contain gluten, but check the ingredients just in case!

Homemade or store bought bbq sauce?

I love my homemade Quick & Easy Vegan Barbecue Sauce, so if you can whip that up real quick I highly suggest it! If not, use your favorite store bought brand. I love Kansas City Style for these ribs, and I often use Kroger brand or Trader Joe’s.

tempeh with bbq sauce cooked on a pan in a row

More backyard vegan bbq recipes

many tempeh pieces with bbq sauce on a pan

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square image of lined up tempeh ribs with bbq sauce
5 stars (2 ratings)

Sticky BBQ Tempeh Ribs

Sticky tempeh ribs are baked in the oven or cooked on the grill for an easy backyard bbq recipe! Do one simple thing to make these vegan ribs taste incredible.
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Marinating time: 1 hour
Total: 1 hour 50 minutes
Servings: 6 servings



  • Prep tempeh: Remove the tempeh from the packages, cut the blocks in half and steam in a pot for 10 minutes. This will remove any bitter flavors and make it absorb the marinade more. It's the trick to the best tempeh!
  • Once it's done steaming, pat dry and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices. Place in a large container for marinating.
  • Pour the bbq sauce over the tempeh. Stir gently, making sure all the pieces are coated in the sauce. Let the tempeh marinate for at least an hour, if possible, in the refrigerator. If you can marinate it overnight the flavor will be even better! But if you don't have time to marinate at all, it's okay, they will still be good.
  • Oven: Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the tempeh on it in a single layer. This will be a bit messy since they should be coated in bbq sauce. Brush a bit more bbq sauce on the top and bake for about 30 minutes. You can also broil for the last couple of minutes to brown the tops.
  • Grill: Place the bbq tempeh on a grill and grill on low-medium heat for about 15 minutes.
  • Leftover tempeh ribs will keep for 3-4 days in a covered container in the refrigerator. Reheat in the microwave, serve on sandwiches or make some vegan cheese grits to go with them!


  1. For gluten free, make sure to use gluten free tempeh. Lightlife brand has a few that are gluten free.
  2. You can make my homemade quick & easy vegan barbecue sauce, or use your favorite. I like anything Kansas City Style, but you can use whatever you like.


Serving: 1of 6 servings | Calories: 292kcal | Carbohydrates: 42g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 9g | Sodium: 880mg | Potassium: 509mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 24g | Vitamin A: 191IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 112mg | Iron: 3mg
Course: Main, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Author: Nora Taylor
Did you make this recipe?Mention @nora_cooks_vegan_ or tag #noracooks!

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  1. I was very disappointed with this recipe; especially after I spent about $11 for the tempeh (from Whole Foods). It had a very bitter aftertaste that didn’t go away with more BBQ sauce. I used Kinder BBQ sauce from Costco, which is quite tasty, so I know that wasn’t the issue.

    I’ve made many of your recipes and have been really pleased, but I’m afraid this did not satisfy my urge for ribs.

    1. Hi Dawn. I most often get my tempeh from Trader Joe’s. Most grocery stores carry it now as it’s quite popular. Health food stores will almost always have it, such as Whole Foods, Sprouts and other local stores. I hope this helps!

  2. I’m not a huge BBQ fan, spend too much money trying to find a yummy vegan BBQ. Nora, your BBQ sauce recipe is amazing. I’m eating as my tempeh is steaming. Love your recipes, tomorrow we will enjoy BBQTempeh. Thank you Nora, you rock

  3. These ribs were a huge hit at my family’s 4th of July party. None of them had eaten tempeh before. My dad’s favorite part was the BBQ sauce – I made your recipe but with a lot more maple syrup. I’m excited to make these again for my boyfriend and his family this Labor Day. Great recipe!

    1. I’m so thrilled everyone loved the ribs! Thanks so much for taking your time to share your review and comments!

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