For an easy way to use tempeh, this quick and delicious sesame teriyaki tempeh will make your taste buds happy — and boost the protein on your plate.
A quick spin in the stir-fry pan, and you’ve got a tasty way to serve tempeh — on its own, as the protein portion of any plant-based plate, arranged on a rice bowl with vegetables, or tossed into a stir-fry at the last minute.
If you’ve been wanting to use more tempeh as an alternative to tofu or plant-based meat alternatives, this simple recipe is a good place to start.
What is tempeh?
For those who aren’t familiar with it, tempeh (pronounced tem-pay) is made of cooked and fermented soybeans formed into firm blocks. A traditional food of Indonesia, it has long been adopted in the west as a good source of plant-based protein — it’s even higher in protein than tofu, another traditional soy food. A 3-ounce serving of tempeh contains about 16 grams of protein.
Like tofu, tempeh is also versatile, though perhaps not as much, since it has a more distinct flavor and chewy texture. Though somewhat of an acquired taste, if you do take a liking to it, you’ll find it quite useful. Tempeh is usually sold in 8-ounce cellophane-wrapped packages, and though you’re more likely to find it in natural foods stores, it has made its way into supermarkets as well.
How does tempeh taste?
It’s challenging to describe the flavor of tempeh. I’ve heard it being compared with chicken and mushrooms, but that’s hardly the case. Its taste defies comparison, but depending on the variety, it can taste mildly nutty to distinctly fermented.
Some people enjoy the fermented flavor, while others are somewhat put off by it. Tempeh may be an acquired taste, but with careful and creative preparation, it’s a taste worth acquiring.
Tempeh comes in a number of varieties, but honestly, they don’t taste very much different from one another. Some combine the main ingredient —soybeans — with grains like brown rice, and barley, and quinoa.Other varieties of tempeh include flaxseeds as well.
How can tempeh be used?
Some cooks like to steam tempeh briefly, which gives it a more tender texture and reduces its fermented bite. However, this step is entirely optional. Here are a few of its best uses:
- Diced and sautéed, tempeh can be tossed into grain and noodle dishes or vegetable stir-fries
- Diced and sautéed, it can also be used as a salad topper in place of croutons.
- Mashed with vegan mayonnaise, and with some finely diced celery and minced scallions added, it makes a good sandwich spread or wrap filling. A bit of curry powder is a nice touch.
- Tempeh can be sliced and sautéed like cutlets or roasted with barbecue sauce.
- It can prepared to make delicious homemade tempeh bacon (see link following the recipe box).
- 2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons natural granulated sugar or agave
- 2 teaspoons dry white wine or sake, optional
- 2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
- 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh or squeeze-bottle ginger
- 8-ounce package tempeh, any variety
- Sriracha or other hot seasoning to taste, optional
- 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
- Combine the ingredients for the teriyaki marinade in small bowl and whisk together.
- Cut the tempeh into triangles or dice — it really doesn’t matter; the triangles look cool but this will taste amazing either way.
- Heat the teriyaki marinade in a stir-fry pan or medium skillet. When it begins to bubble, add the tempeh and stir quickly to coat all sides.
- Turn the heat up to medium-high and cook, stirring often, until the marinade is completely reduced and coats the tempeh nicely, about 8 minutes. Continue to cook until the tempeh begins to brown here and there, another minute or two.
- Drizzle in some sriracha if you’d like a spicier effect; otherwise just sprinkle in the sesame seeds.
- Serve on its own as a protein-packed side dish, arrange on a rice bowl with a vegetable or two; or toss into a stir-fry at the last minute.
Here are more easy ways to use tofu & tempeh.