• Hot Tempeh


Nashville Chefs Create a Vegetarian Hot Chicken

By Timothy Charles Davis

After being made aware of my interest in Nashville-style Hot Chicken, I’ve had countless friends tell me that they want nothing more but to try a piece of the fiery foul but that doing so would effectively put the kibosh on their vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. I’m sympathetic to their plight. Mind you, I’m nothing approaching a vegetarian, but I also don’t consider a meatless meal to be “missing” something. Sometimes I make the meatless version of a given dish and sometimes I don’t. I like meat, but like the writer Mark Bittman, I prefer it more for its flavor and umami than its heft or size, and believe that the less meat we eat, the better for our health, our pocketbook, and the environment.

Which brings us back to Hot Chicken. What’s the best and most notable thing about Hot Chicken? The “Hot.” The Hot in Hot Chicken invariably comes from a spice paste. If the paste is the thing, the thinking goes, why hasn’t someone come out with a vegetarian Hot “Chicken” experience?

Our prayers have been answered. In an exceedingly rare cross-restaurant collaboration, two Nashville chefs, The Wild Cow’s Nick Davis and Pepperfire Hot Chicken’s Isaac Beard, teamed up to create two different “Hot Tempeh” dishes: A take on the Cow’s signature beans-and-greens, and a toasted sandwich so well-balanced and, well, tasty that you’ll want to add it to your Nashville-style “Hot” repertoire regardless of your meat leanings.

Hot Chicken Cover

Excerpted from The Hot Chicken Cookbook by Timothy Charles Davis. Copyright © 2015 by Timothy Charles Davis and Spring House Press.

Hot Tempeh



  • 2 slices wheat bread, lightly toasted
  • avocado, cut into strips
  • lettuce (iceberg will do in a pinch)
  • sliced tomato
  • shredded carrots
  • bean sprouts
  • Veganaise, or other vegan mayo
  • tempeh steaks (The Wild Cow marinates theirs)

The Rub

  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup hot frying oil or other fat source (to replace Hot Chicken’s lard)
  • 3 tablespoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika,smoked or hot
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder



Bake tempeh according to instructions on package (you’re looking for it to have a slight, fried-chicken-like crisp on the outside, yet still tender and chewy throughout). Assemble rub mix, brush liberally on tempeh. Toast bread. Spread both sides with Veganaise. From the bottom up, layer lettuce, tempeh, lettuce, carrot, avocado, tomato, and sprouts. Assemble sandwich, slice diagonally, toothpick each triangle.

Excerpted from The Hot Chicken Cookbook by Timothy Charles Davis. Copyright © 2015 by Timothy Charles Davis and Spring House Press.

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