All things Mexican food related are a staple in my house - rice, spices, beans, tortillas, and of course avocado. Growing up in Southern California with an avocado orchard in my back yard sort of makes that mandatory. It's something that I struggle with, though. It's easy as a vegan to go to Moe's or Chipotle on a regular basis, places where menus with nutritional facts are easily found online and most people understand what vegan means. But it's rare for me to find that really authentic Mexican food I once loved. We used to go to this restaurant in Columbus, OH - ask any native Californian in the area, Cucu's is the closest you'll get to authentic Mexican. And they just so happened to have clearly labeled vegetarian items and understood our dietary restrictions. We loved that place. They made me realize that I could still have that traditional experience without the traditional cooking practices (e.g. lard, animal bone stock, etc.).
But Chipotle did something pretty amazing recently. They started offering sofritas in select cities - touting "Vegans and Carnivores Unite", merging my old love with my new lifestyle. And they're right. It's so good, so not tofu-y, that I'm certain most anyone would love it. It added that spicy element that a vegan chipotle burrito was lacking. I had to recreate it.
If you've done your research, there's a lot of copy-cat recipes going around for tofu sofritas. People claim to have perfectly replicated it, using things like avocado oil or chipotles in adobo sauce. I don't know about you, but those are not things I tend to have on-hand. I wanted to use ingredients I always have and ones I assumed everyone else did as well - ketchup, soy sauce, olive oil, spices. And I wanted to make it with tempeh, because it has a better bite without having to fry or cook for a long time. You could easily sub tofu in this recipe (after draining the water from it, crumbling it, and cooking it longer). And I won't lie, this is quite a bit spicier than Chipotle's version - but theirs is designed for the masses and what's more authentically Mexican than a healthy amount of spice.
Cheater Chipotle Sofritas - Spicy Tempeh Style
Enough for 6 to 8 tacos
1 block tempeh, sliced into 2 inch strips about 1/4 inch thick
4 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp olive oil for frying
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp chipotle pepper
1 tsp cayenne (use less if you don't like a lot of spice)
1/4 tsp salt
3-4 tbsp water for thinning the sauce
* Blend all your spices in a coffee or spice grinder until cumin seeds are powdered. I mix them all together in there, instead of just grinding the cumin, to make sure that the they're sufficiently mixed up. You don't have to do this though.
* Whisk together spices, ketchup, olive oil, and soy sauce until smooth. Depending on how thin and the brand of your ketchup, you will need to thin the sauce some with water. It should be thick, but spreadable.
* Marinade your sliced tempeh in a baking dish for about 1 to 2 hours, making sure that all pieces are sufficiently submerged in the sauce.
* Heat your pan on medium, salt and oil the pan, then cook the tempeh for about 2 minutes on each side, until browned.
* Serve with your favorite tortillas, guacamole, and sautéed spinach.