You don’t have to be a vegetarian to eat meatless meals, but many folks don’t know where to start. There’s more to the world of vegetarian proteins than tofu, which is great — tofu isn’t for everyone. A lesser known soybean protein originating in Indonesia, tempeh is a toothsome “cake” of whole or partial soybeans with none of the potential rubbery or spongy texture that can sometimes happen with tofu. It also has more of a flavor than tofu, mostly thanks to the light fermentation process it goes through to neutralize nutrient inhibitors to make the soybean nutrients and protein more available to the body; tempeh has a slight nuttiness and subtle tanginess from this culturing process.
Because tempeh does have a stronger flavor that can take some getting used to, it’s important to really work with other strong flavors to balance it. Sometimes tempeh can really benefit from a long and strong marinade, but it’s also great when hit with a powerful spice rub or sauce. These 6 recipes ask you to not be shy with the flavorings, and they reward you with delicious and nutritious vegetarian meals in return.
1. Savory Tempeh Breakfast Sandwich
This breakfast sandwich from Connoisseurus Veg is vegan, but, if you’re an egg eater, it would be lovely with a fried egg. The tempeh is cooked in a smoky maple soy glaze, which adds a breakfast sausage hint to the sandwich. Topped with some spinach or arugula and a few slices of avocado and sandwiched between a toasted English muffin, you can’t go wrong.
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1½ tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¾ teaspoon black pepper
- 8 ounce package tempeh
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 to 3 English muffins, split and toasted
- ½ avocado, sliced
- ½ cup baby spinach
- Ketchup, optional
- Dijon mustard, optional
Directions: Whisk soy sauce, maple syrup, vinegar, paprika, and pepper together in a small bowl.
Slice tempeh in half, thickness-wise, so you end up with two thin slabs. Slice each of your slabs in half or thirds, so you end up with 4 to 6 slabs total.
Coat a large skillet with olive oil and place over medium-high heat. Add tempeh and cook until slabs are browned on the bottoms, about 3 minutes. Pour soy sauce mixture over tempeh and cook another 30 seconds.
Flip tempeh slabs and cook about 3 more minutes, until browned on opposite sides and most of the liquid has cooked off.
Slather English muffins with ketchup, Dijon, and any other condiments you like. Fill muffins with tempeh slabs, topped with avocado slices and baby spinach.
2. Tempeh Coconut Curry
Tempeh is a wonderful addition to curry, with its savory nuttiness complementing the strong flavors of all the spices found in the sauce. It adds plenty of bulk to this one from Cooking Light via My Recipes, which asks only for sweet potato to accompany the protein. If you’d like to switch it up a bit, cauliflower, carrots, peas, and bell peppers would be great in this dish as well. It’s served over basmati rice, which stays fluffier that medium grain varieties and is best for saucy dishes like curry. If you’re a cilantro hater, you can omit the cilantro from the rice without worry.
This recipe calls for tamarind pulp or paste, which can be hard to find. It’s used to add a touch of acidity to the dish, so a decent alternative would be a splash of lime juice. It won’t be the same, but it will do!
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 2 cups finely chopped onion
- 1 teaspoon salt, divided
- 2 teaspoons tamarind pulp
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh garlic
- 1½ teaspoons ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- One 3-inch cinnamon stick
- 3 cups chopped peeled sweet potato, about 1 pound
- 1 cup water
- One 13½-ounce can light coconut milk
- 8 ounces organic tempeh, cut into ¾-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 1½ cups uncooked basmati rice
- ⅓ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- ¼ teaspoon salt
Directions: To prepare curry, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook 2 minutes or until onion is tender, stirring occasionally.
Stir in tamarind; cook 2 minutes, stirring to break up tamarind. Add ginger and next 5 ingredients through cinnamon; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add remaining ½ teaspoon salt, sweet potato, water, coconut milk, and tempeh; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Uncover; stir in juice and soy sauce. Simmer 3 minutes or until slightly thickened. Discard cinnamon stick.
To prepare rice, cook rice according to package instructions, omitting salt and fat. Stir in cilantro and ¼ teaspoon salt. Serve with curry.
3. Easy BBQ Tempeh and Tangy Power Greens
If you need a quick, satisfying, and nutritious meal, look no further than this recipe from The Chic Life. Though perhaps not totally fair to make the comparison, this dish is something like a lighter, healthier take on barbecued meat and collard greens. Instead of taking hours and hours, though, it comes together in less than 30 minutes. The recipe includes a homemade bourbon barbecue sauce found on AllRecipes, which is easy and delicious; if you’d rather not make your own, just substitute your favorite.
- One 8-ounce package of tempeh, sliced to make short strips ¼ inch thick
- 1 cup BBQ sauce
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ onion, chopped
- 6 cups packed greens such as chard and kale
- ¼ cup vegetable broth or water
- 4 sprays of Braggs liquid amino, or ½ teaspoon of coconut aminos, optional
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Directions: Combine tempeh and BBQ sauce in a bowl. Gently stir to coat all sides of tempeh slices. Marinate for 5 to 10 minutes.
Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook till translucent, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add greens and water and cook till wilted, about 5 to 6 minutes. In a separate pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add tempeh and cook till each side is golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes per side.
Add aminos and apple cider vinegar to the greens and stir to combine. Cook for 1 minute to bring flavors together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve tempeh over greens.
4. Tempeh Chimichurri
Chimichurri is an Argentinian salsa verde, a bit looser than pesto and often served with steak. In this recipe from Post Punk Kitchen, it’s served over tempeh. Half of the salsa verde is mixed with soy sauce and made into a marinade for the tempeh, and the other half is left for spooning over the finished dish. Isa steams the tempeh, which prepares it for soaking up more of the marinade and removes a bit of bitterness. If you don’t have a steamer, nestle a heatproof plate into a lidded saucepan with a bit of water in the bottom and arrange the tempeh on the plate. Serve this with vegetables, a baked potato, or rice.
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro
- 1 cup loosely packed fresh parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup veg broth
- 8 ounces tempeh
- 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
- Olive oil
Directions: Assuming you have a standard rectangle of tempeh, slice it in half lengthwise and then again width-wise so you have 4 pieces. Slice each of those in half through the center of the cake to create flatter pieces of tempeh.
Steam the tempeh for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, make the chimichurri. Simply blend all of the sauce ingredients until relatively smooth.
When tempeh is steamed, pour ½ cup of chimichurri into a measuring cup and add the soy sauce.Reserve the rest of the chimichurri for pouring over the cooked tempeh for serving.
Place warm tempeh on a plate and pour marinade over. Rub the marinade into the tempeh. Let sit for an hour, flipping once after 30 minutes, rubbing in the marinade again.
Heat a large, heavy bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Coat the pan with a thin layer of oil. Place tempeh in a single layer and cook for 4 minutes or so, until lightly browned. Flip the tempeh, cooking for 3 more minutes. Now add the remaining marinade from the plate and cook for 3 to 5 more minutes, flipping occasionally.
Serve tempeh over veggies, drizzled with fresh chimichurri.
5. Maple Grilled Tempeh With Red Quinoa and Grilled Portobellos
Heidi of 101 Cookbooks will admit that she has had trouble creating and cooking tempeh recipes, but this recipe for salty-sweet grilled tempeh was a total hit. It’s the perfect protein for the earthiness of sliced grilled mushrooms and red quinoa, tossed with blanched green beans for a little pop of color and flavor.
- 8 ounces tempeh
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed and chopped
- ½ teaspoon powdered chipotle
- 1 to 2 portobello mushrooms
- 2½ cups cooked quinoa or brown rice
- Handful of blanched green beans
Directions: Cut the tempeh diagonally into 4 triangles. Thin those triangles out by slicing each in half through the center, creating 8 flat triangles total. Set the tempeh aside to make the maple marinade by combining the soy sauce, maple syrup, rice vinegar, garlic, and chipotle powder in a small bowl. Reserve a few tablespoons of the marinade to use later as a drizzle.
Place the pieces of tempeh flat in a large baking dish. Pour the remaining marinade over the tempeh. Make sure the tops and bottoms are coated and marinate for anywhere between 30 minutes and 2 days, flipping occasionally.
Grill the tempeh on a medium-hot grill for a few minutes on each side, continuously brushing with the marinade remaining in the bottom of the baking dish. While the tempeh is cooking, throw a big portobello mushroom on the grill as well, brushing it with some of the leftover marinade. When the mushroom and tempeh are done grilling, slice them into thin strips and serve over a bed of warmed quinoa and barely-cooked green beans. Feel free to toss in herbs like chives, thyme and oregano, and drizzle with the reserved marinade.
6. Curried Tempeh Grilled Cheese With Mango Chutney
If you’re looking for a vegetarian way to add more protein to your grilled cheese, this curried tempeh grilled cheese is an amazing way to turn a simple sandwich into a gourmet one. The spiced, toothsome tempeh, sweet mango chutney, and peppery arugula make this sandwich from Veggie Belly into a filling meal on its own, though it could be served with a side salad to round it out.
- 4 ounces of tempeh
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon curry powder
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons water
- ½ teaspoon oil
- 4 slices of sourdough bread
- 2 tablespoons or to taste sweet mango chutney
- 4 slices of provolone or mozzarella cheese
- Handful of fresh arugula or baby spinach leaves, torn
- 1 teaspoon butter
Directions: Slice the tempeh lengthwise into ¼-inch thin pieces. You will need 6 to 8 slices.
Whisk together the curry powder, soy sauce, and water in a bowl. Add tempeh to the bowl and gently toss so the marinade coats the tempeh well.
Cover and marinate the tempeh in the refrigerator for 30 minutes and up to 2 days.
Heat oil in a medium skillet and add the marinated tempeh. Also add any remaining marinating liquid. Cook on medium heat, flipping the tempeh occasionally, until all the liquid has boiled away and the tempeh is brown on both sides.
Take 2 slices of bread and slather about ½ tablespoon mango chutney on 1 side of both slices.
Place one slice of cheese on top of the mango chutney. Top it with 3 to 4 slices of curried tempeh and 6 to 8 leaves of arugula.
Cover with another slice of cheese, and the other slice of bread, chutney side down.
Heat ¼ teaspoon butter in a non stick skillet on medium heat. Place the sandwich on the skillet and cook, flipping once and adding more butter if necessary, until each side is golden.
Repeat with the remaining ingredients.