Tempeh is a fermented cake of cooked soybeans and sometimes grains or seeds. It’s a complete protein that contains all of the essential amino acids, making it a high quality meat substitute. Much like tofu, tempeh readily absorbs flavors, although the fermentation process typically leaves a slightly bitter yet nutty flavor. Thanks to its firm texture, tempeh is well-suited to a variety of cooking methods.
Many cooks recommend steaming tempeh for about 10 minutes before using other preparation methods to temper its slightly bitter flavor. Steaming can also be your main preparation method, particularly if you’re pairing tempeh with a sauce or other flavors. The steam enhances tempeh’s ability to absorb flavors. If you’re cooking precooked tempeh, which is what is generally available in supermarkets, steam it for about 10 minutes. Steam raw tempeh, which is available at some farmer’s markets, for 20 minutes. Place tempeh in a steamer basket or add it directly to simmering water or vegetable broth. Use steamed tempeh to top a salad or as your main dish, drizzled with your favorite sauce or marinade.
In the Oven
Marinate tempeh for 20 minutes to several hours before baking to infuse it with flavor. Use your favorite marinade, or whip up a homemade concoction by combining ingredients such as apple cider, water, allspice, garlic, ketchup, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaf and ground ginger. Alternatively, make an Italian-inspired marinade with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, garlic, and herbs such as oregano, rosemary and basil. Place the marinated tempeh in an oven-safe dish and bake it in a 350-degree-Fahrenheit oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until it is golden brown and the edges are slightly crisp.
Skewered and Grilled
Tempeh’s firm consistency holds up to the heat of the grill, making it possible to create delicious vegetarian and vegan barbecued dishes. Make kebabs on skewers or slices of grilled tempeh slathered in tangy barbecue sauce. Marinating the tempeh for several hours or overnight before grilling encourages maximum flavor absorption. For kebabs, cut the tempeh into 1-inch cubes and thread them onto skewers. Or alternate the tempeh with similarly sized chunks of vegetables, such as onions, peppers or summer squash. Cook 1-inch slices of tempeh directly on a grill that’s been preheated to medium. Grill them for four to six minutes on each side, until browned. Brush the tempeh with the marinade during grilling for extra flavor.
Tasty and Crispy
If you crave foods with an extra crispy exterior, get ready to pan-fry tempeh. Marinate the tempeh before cooking, or add a flavorful sauce or glaze near the end of the cooking process. Start by heating oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet. While the oil is heating, slice the tempeh into 1/2-inch thick rectangles or triangles. Add the slices to the pan and fry them for two to three minutes on each side until golden. Add a sauce or glaze when the tempeh is cooked and let it simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes until the liquid is thickened.
References and ResourcesThe Tempeh Cookbook; Dorothy R. Bates
The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods; Michael Murray and Joseph Pizzorno with Lara Pizzorno
Grilling Vegan Style; John E Schlimm
Basic Macrobiotic Cooking; Julia Ferre
The Kitchn: Five Tips for Preparing Tempeh
101 Cookbooks: Orange Pan-Glazed Tempeh Recipe
Vegan Coach: Two Easy Ways to Make Steamed Tempeh
Vegan Coach: Let's Make Some Baked Tempeh