Slow Cooker Vegan Sweet and Sour Tempeh

Make sweet and sour tempeh in your slow cooker that tastes exactly like Chinese takeout. It’s vegan, loaded with veggies and super easy to whip up!

Slow cooker tempeh, onion, pineapple and peppers served over brown rice.

I don’t know what’s gotten into me lately, but I’ve been on such a Chinese takeout kick. Let me clarify because we haven’t been ordering Chinese food every night or anything . . . I’ve just been brainstorming and creating healthy homemade recipes inspired by our Chinese food favorites! Growing up, my go-to Chinese food order was beef and broccoli and I created a tempeh and broccoli recipe that totally rivals the real deal.

You may know this already, but I’m a big tempeh fan. If you haven’t tried it before, don’t be intimidated! It’s such an awesome plant-based protein source and this recipe is a great place to start since all you have to do is throw all of the ingredients into the slow cooker. Whether you’re a vegetarian or not, tempeh is super nutritious and is a great item to add into your diet. Intrigued by tempeh? Check out my post with the benefits of eating tempeh and tempeh recipes to try!

Slow cooker sweet and sour tempeh, pineapple, peppers and onions in a slow cooker.

Now onto the recipe! It’s super simple and straight-forward and is the perfect recipe for meal prep. You can even prep this ahead of time and store it in the freezer until you’re ready to eat it! #winning

Protein = Tempeh

  • The protein in this dish is tempeh (aka fermented soybeans).  It comes pre-cooked so all you have to do is chop it into chunks and throw it into the slow cooker. Don’t be intimidated by this ingredient. It’s really easy to work with and delicious in this dish . . . promise!


  • The best meals start with onion and/or garlic, am I right?! Red onions are milder in flavor and add a pop of color to this dish.
  • I chose to incorporate green bell peppers into this sweet and sour recipe because they work great and they’re typically cheaper than the other colors, but you can use any color bell pepper you prefer.

Sweet and Sour Sauce

  • Sweet and sour sauce typically includes some sort of tomato product – I’ve seen a lot of recipes with ketchup, but to keep the sugar a little lower in this dish, I’ve chosen to use tomato sauce.
  • Another substitute! Sweet and sour sauce typically includes soy sauce but to keep this meal gluten-free, I swapped in tamari. Bragg’s liquid aminos or coconut aminos work great too.
  • Instead of dumping in a bunch of sugar, I sweetened this dish with pineapple and a little coconut sugar! It adds the perfect sweet flavor with a touch of sour.
  • The apple cider vinegar! Honestly, it brought the whole dish together and added in the acidity that this recipe needed.
  • Arrowroot powder is used to thicken the sauce. Don’t forget this step or you’ll have a runny sauce. It’s similar to cornstarch and you can find it at most health food stores. If you already have cornstarch on hand and don’t want to buy arrowroot, cornstarch will certainly work in this recipe. Learn more about arrowroot powder vs cornstarch here.

Slow cooker tempeh, onion, pineapple and peppers served over brown rice.

If you try this slow cooker sweet and sour tempeh recipe, please leave me a comment and star rating letting me know how it turns out. Your feedback is so helpful for the EBF team and other EBF readers who are thinking about making the recipe. 

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Slow cooker tempeh, onion, pineapple and peppers served over brown rice.

Slow Cooker Sweet and Sour Tempeh

  • Author: Brittany Mullins
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 hours
  • Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4


Slow cooker sweet and sour tempeh that tastes exactly like Chinese takeout. Vegan and gluten-free. 


  • 8 oz package tempeh, chopped into chunks
  • 1 red onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 green bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 16 oz bag frozen pineapple chunks
  • 2 Tablespoons arrowroot powder or cornstarch + 2 Tablespoons water
  • brown rice, quinoa or cauliflower rice, for serving

Sweet and Sour Sauce

  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce (or tomato paste for a thicker sauce)
  • 2 Tablespoons tamari or bragg’s aminos
  • 3 Tablespoons coconut sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 cup water


Slow Cooker:

  1. Make the sauce by whisking together all ingredients in a small bowl.
  2. Add tempeh, onion, bell pepper, pineapple and sweet and sour sauce into your slow cooker. Cook on high for 2-3 hours or low for 4-6 hours. In a small bowl, whisk together arrowroot powder and 2 Tablespoons of water. Pour into the slow cooker and stir to combine. The sauce should thicken up almost immediately. If the mixture seems too watery you can cook it for 10-15 minutes longer on high, with the lid of your slow cooker removed. Serve over brown rice with toppings of choice.

Instant Pot:

  1. Make the sauce by whisking together all ingredients in a small bowl.
  2. Add tempeh, onion, bell pepper, pineapple and sweet and sour sauce into your Instant Pot. Manually set time to cook for 5 minutes and release the pressure manually. In a small bowl, whisk together arrowroot powder and 2 Tablespoons of water. Remove Instant Pot lid and pour arrowroot mixture in and stir to combine. Set Instant Pot to sauté and cook with the lid off for about 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. This will help cook off some of the excess liquid. Serve over brown rice with toppings of choice.


  1. Make the sauce by whisking together all ingredients in a bowl. Pour over tempeh and let marinate for a few hours or overnight. When ready to cook, add 1 Tablespoon olive oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté onion and bell peppers until soft, about 7-8 minutes. Add marinated tempeh with sauce and pineapple chunks into the skillet.
  2. Reduce heat to a simmer and let cook for about 10-15 minutes or until the dish is warm throughout. In a small bowl, whisk together arrowroot powder and 2 Tablespoons of water. Pour into the skillet and stir to combine. The sauce should thicken up almost immediately. Serve over brown rice with toppings of choice.
  • Category: Lunch/Dinner
  • Method: Slow Cooker
  • Cuisine: Asian


  • Serving Size: 1/4 of recipe
  • Calories: 300
  • Sugar: 27g
  • Fat: 6g
  • Carbohydrates: 53g
  • Fiber: 5g
  • Protein: 14g

Keywords: sweet and sour tempeh

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Recipe rating

    1. Larissa
      March 2, 2021 AT 9:37 am

      I normally love the recipes on here, but I decided to try this and it generally lacked a lot of flavour. I followed the exact recipe using the slow cooker method. I wanted to like it, but I couldn’t even take another bite. I am not sure what to do with all the leftovers but I am going to try to salvage it somehow!

      1. Brittany Mullins
        March 2, 2021 AT 11:40 pm

        So sorry to hear that you didn’t like this recipe, Larissa. Maybe try adding some more spices to the leftovers to see if that helps the flavor?

    2. Jennifer
      February 8, 2021 AT 4:20 pm

      Have this in my slow cooker now…looking forward to it! It would be very helpful if you could include serving sizes in your recipe. Thanks for considering!

      1. Brittany Mullins
        February 8, 2021 AT 8:04 pm

        Thanks for the feedback, Jennifer. I’ll keep this is mind moving forward. What’d you think of this recipe?!

        1. Jennifer
          February 8, 2021 AT 11:50 pm

          I really liked it! This was the first time I had tempeh and it was a good meatless change from tofu. I’m freezing the leftovers for dinner another time, but I’ll definitely make it again….maybe even with chicken or shrimp. Thanks for the tasty recipe!

          1. Brittany Mullins
            February 10, 2021 AT 12:27 am

            So glad you enjoyed it, Jennifer!! Thanks for giving it a try. 🙂

    3. Lindsay
      September 28, 2020 AT 2:47 pm

      I usually make this in the slow cooker, and with whatever veggies I have on hand, and I’m happy to report that the flavors are always on point.the tempeh can be steamed and fried with some oil, if you don’t like the flavor/texture of it in the slow cooker. I’m way too lazy for all of that though and I think the recipe is great as is!

    4. Claire
      May 11, 2020 AT 2:27 pm

      I have this in the slow cooker now for dinner tonight. Will it freeze ok after cooking? I usually like to make in bulk and freeze a container for later.

      1. Brittany Mullins
        May 12, 2020 AT 9:02 pm

        Hey Claire! Yes, you can definitely freeze this in a airtight container or bag. 🙂 Let me know what you think of the dish!!

        1. Claire
          May 15, 2020 AT 2:41 pm

          It was good! I was pleasantly surprised at how similar the sauce turned out to chinese takeout. If I made this again in the slow cooker, I might keep the peppers out until the last hour or so. They got a little too soft for my taste. I also added some crushed red pepper for some spice.

    5. Liz
      April 6, 2020 AT 7:26 pm

      I just made this for dinner and it is ahhhhhhmazing!! I made it on the stove top and it was super easy. I haven’t had a sweet and sour dish since becoming vegetarian three years ago and this was spot on – definitely made up for all those years I felt like I missed out on a dish I used to love. Thank you!!

      1. Brittany Mullins
        April 7, 2020 AT 12:35 pm

        Ahh yay!! I’m so glad you enjoyed this recipe, Liz! Thanks for trying it and for coming back to leave a comment and star rating. I really appreciate it. <3

    6. Sophia
      April 10, 2019 AT 1:02 pm

      This recipe sounds great but I don’t loooove tempeh. How could you substitute tofu in?

      1. Brittany Mullins
        April 10, 2019 AT 1:04 pm

        I think it would work with tofu, just be sure to get firm tofu and press it to remove as much water as possible before adding to to the mixture. Let me know if you try it with the tofu instead of tempeh and how it turns out.

    7. Judy Evans
      March 5, 2019 AT 2:26 pm

      I made this for my family specifically for my granddaughter as she is vegan. Everyone, including the meat-eaters, loved this dish. I did use the stove top method and doubled the recipe.

    8. Gabrielle S
      February 27, 2019 AT 11:26 am

      Made this over the stove yesterday with chicken instead of tempeh and it was amazing! It’s a little sweet for me but I added some extra red pepper flakes and garlic and it was perfect. So delicious and guilt free! Served it over millet and brown rice ramen noodles! Thanks for another AMAZINF recipe.

    9. Shannon Skinner
      February 26, 2019 AT 10:37 am

      This looks delicious! I love hearty meals like this, especially in the colder months so I cannot wait to make this very soon! x

      Shannon |

    10. Andrea
      February 26, 2019 AT 8:46 am

      This sounds so delicious! Do you have suggestions for cooking it faster, i.e. not in a slow cooker? Would the sauce work well as a marinade for oven roasting or maybe incorporating into a stir fry? Also, is the ginger grated? Thank you!

      1. Brittany Mullins
        February 26, 2019 AT 9:30 am

        Hi Andrea! Thank you so much for the questions. Just added info to the recipe for making this dish on the stovetop. I haven’t made it this way, but I’ve given instructions based on what I would do if I were going to make it on the stovetop. 🙂 And yes, the ginger is grated. Just added that to the recipe. I hope you get a chance to try this dish. It’s delicious.

        1. Ryan
          July 10, 2020 AT 8:02 pm

          I did not like this at all. Followed the instant pot recipe and I found it bland and the tempeh was bitter. I followed the recipe to a tee, but couldn’t even finish my plate. Sorry! But I just wanted to warn those thinking they might like this.

          1. Brittany Mullins
            July 13, 2020 AT 1:45 pm

            Sorry to hear that you didn’t enjoy this dish, Ryan. Did you change anything about the recipe?

            1. Ryan
              July 13, 2020 AT 6:00 pm

              No we didn’t change anything, but we used the instant pot method. The worst part was the tempeh. It was still very bitter, and the texture was like it was basically still raw. I only ever have enjoyed tempeh when it’s fried or baked. Also the recipe just generally lacked flavor which may be because there is no fat in the recipe? Sorry, but thanks for posting my comment and replying!

              1. Brittany Mullins
                July 14, 2020 AT 11:28 pm

                Thanks for your feedback, Ryan. So sorry it didn’t turn out for you.

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