Flakey Spinach Tempeh Squares

spinach squares

So let’s start by getting a few things out of the way:

-Phyllo dough is the devil. A flaky, delicious, pain-in-the-butt to work with yet oh-so-magical ingredient.

-Tempeh is weird, and can be very daunting. It has a strange bitterness, and an interesting, yet intriguing texture. We know it is a nutritional powerhouse, but what the heck do we do with it?!

-Turkey is not vegan. We will not be eating it, and therefore, we need a different main course for our Thanksgiving spread.

-Sometimes things are a bit labor intensive. Sometimes you must face the beast that is phyllo dough and take on the challenges of that illusive tempeh.

Why must we do these things? Because we want to have something on our table that is not trying to be turkey, but is a delicious main dish that is protein rich and tastes great smothered in gravy! Something special that we worked hard on..but something much easier on the poor turkeys.

This is what we have come up with.

Flakey Spinach Tempeh Squares are here to grace your holiday table! Yes, it is a bit time consuming and tricky to layer and butter your phyllo dough, and there are a few different steps involved in the preparation of this dish, but it is a special occasion and we think it is worth it! We tried to put together a few different things as our main dish, but nothing was coming out how we wanted. We realized we were too focused on replicating a turkey dish, and what we needed was a completely different entree. We wanted something special that could hold its own as a main dish, and also went great with our mushroom gravy. We decided to use tempeh because it is very nutritionally dense and packed with protein. It is not something that we have much (actually..any) experience using, and we wanted something new! We tried this a few times, but the tempeh was bitter and flavors were off. After doing some research, we found that steaming (more like boiling) tempeh for a bit before using it releases some of the bitterness, softens the texture and allows it to absorb other flavors. This really seemed to help. Combined with the other flavors and textures, it is actually a rather delicious dish. It stands alone fine, but will be amazing smothered in rich mushroom gravy on our special day. We hope that this year you will opt to adopt a turkey instead of cook one, and celebrate their life with these tasty and cruelty-free Spinach Tempeh Squares!

Flakey Spinach Tempeh Squares {recipe}

12 Squares




  • 8oz tempeh

  • 2 TB soy sauce

  • ½ tsp liquid smoke

  • 2 TB olive oil

  • 2C veggie broth

Vegetable Mixture

  • 12 oz. fresh baby spinach, chopped

  • ½ large onion, diced

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 stalk celery, diced

  • 1 medium carrot, grated (about 1C)

  • 2 TB olive oil

  • salt & pepper to taste

Tofu Mixture

  • 1 14 oz package firm tofu (refrigerated)

  • 1 TB nutritional yeast

  • ¼ tsp salt

  • ⅛ tsp ground black pepper

  • 1 TB soy sauce

  • 1 TB miso

  • 2 TB lemon juice

  • 1 tsp poultry seasoning

  • 1 tsp granulated garlic

Phyllo Dough

  • 16 sheets phyllo dough (double check that it’s vegan)

  • 4 TB vegan butter

  • 2 TB olive oil



  1. Preheat oven to 350º.

  2. Chop tempeh in thin slices then into smaller pieces about 1” long. Bring veggie broth to a boil, add tempeh and let simmer for 20 minutes, covered. This step allows the tempeh to soften and release some of the bitterness by steaming it.

  3. Drain any excess broth, then mix tempeh in soy sauce and liquid smoke.

  4. Heat a large non-stick skillet on medium high heat and add 2 TB olive oil. Cook tempeh until browned and caramelized. It is ok if tempeh breaks apart. Set aside.

  5. Add 2 more TB of olive oil to pan, and add onions, garlic and celery. Sautee until onion and garlic are translucent, and celery begins to soften, about 5-7 minutes.

  6. Begin adding all your chopped spinach, and stirring until completely wilted. Stir in grated carrot. Season with salt and pepper.

  7. Once wilted, drain spinach mixture pressing as much water out as you can (using a nutmilk bag or cheesecloth works very well). Add to large mixing bowl.

  8. Blend all tofu filling ingredients in blender (if not high speed, use a food processor) Blend until smooth.

  9. Add in tempeh and blended tofu mixture to spinach and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning, add salt and pepper as needed.

  10. Combine the 4 TB butter with 2 TB olive oil in a small dish.

  11. Use melted butter-oil mixture and a pastry brush and grease the bottom and sides of a 9x13” casserole dish. Carefully layering in 1 sheet phyllo dough. Make sure the dough comes up the sides, it will fold over the filling. Be sure to cover the unused dough with a damp towel so it doesn’t dry out.

  12. Brush layer gently with butter oil mixture and continue layering until you have 6-8 sheets on the bottom.

  13. Add spinach filling and spread evenly, and fold over dough onto mixture.

  14. Begin layering phyllo dough again, brushing with butter between each sheet. 6-8 more sheets.

  15. Trim any excess dough around the edges so it sits evenly in pan, or you can fold edges in to make an extra crust.

  16. Brush the top and edges lightly with butter/oil mixture.

  17. IMPORTANT: Score the top of the dough (cutting through the top layers) into 12 squares. Pastry will be crushed if cut after baking. Scoring beforehand allows squares to come out easily.

  18. Bake for 45 minutes until golden brown.

  19. Allow to set for 15-20 minutes before cutting all the way through, this will allow the filling to set.

  20. Serve warm, and best enjoyed with our mushroom gravy on top!


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