Tempt You with Tempeh?

March 12, 2010


So, we all know about Tara of Seven Spoons, right?  If you haven’t visited her incredibly special blog, you should head over there tout de suite.  Her writing is some of the best out there, food blog or no.  Her photos are spare, simple, and beautiful.  Her food is complex, but not overly so.  She always seems to be making exactly what I am in the mood for.  And here is another thing about her.  She is nice.  And I’m not just saying that because she sent me a cookbook.

I can’t remember the exact series of events, but somehow Tara ended up with some extra copies of a new book called Clean Food.  It is a vegetarian book and she sent me a message on Twitter asking if I wanted a copy.  How thoughtful is that?  As I have said here many times before, I have a lot of cookbooks and I have to say, this one is pretty different from others in my collection.  It is extremely healthy, gluten-free, and vegan.  There are those who say, “Why eat?” but those are very narrow-minded people.


The book is arranged seasonally and while some of the recipes are overly healthy for me (I like seaweed as much as the next vegetarian, but I don’t need a whole salad of it), many of them sound like just what the title says – clean food.  I like clean food.  Not overly fussy and really tasty.  Having sampled two of the recipes the other night, I can tell you I am very excited to cook more from this book.

May will be the second anniversary of me starting this blog and I have never once mentioned tempeh (pronounced temp-ay).  If you are not familiar with it, tempeh is a soy product.  Technically, it is soybeans that have been put through a fermentation process to bind them into cake form.  Doesn’t that sound appetizing?  Although tempeh and tofu are both soy, they are very different.  Tempeh is much firmer, denser, and actually quite a bit higher in protein.  It also has a fairly distinctive taste which many people don’t like.

I do like it but don’t find it as adaptable as tofu.  It also takes a bit more work to make it taste good.  Tempeh almost always should be steamed first (this will remove the bitterness) and I have found that I like it best marinated and then roasted at a fairly high heat.  That gives the tempeh a nice crust and terrific flavor.

Now I have a new favorite way to eat it.  I was blown away by this dish.  Simple ingredients and fabulous flavor.  Tempeh braised in coconut milk is an excellent idea and I didn’t think I would like the raisins in there, but they add a terrific dimension.  The side dish (from the same book) was almost as good as the main dish.  Put the two together with some rice and you have my husband (who, remember, is not a vegetarian) saying, “This is so good.  Make it again next week.”  So glad he asked.   Thank you Tara!


One Year Ago: Butternut Squash and Apple Galette and Goat Cheese Ravioli with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Sauteed Tempeh with Coconut Milk and Snow Peas
Adapted from Clean Food
Serves 4

I really loved both of these recipes but I made several changes.  I added some things, left some things out, and used more of other things.  The recipes below reflect those changes.  I would recommend that you do all the chopping in advance and put things in bowls so that you have everything at hand when you are ready to cook.  Yes, more dishes but no frantic running around the kitchen because the cooking time is actually quite short.

2 8-ounce packages tempeh
1 cup snow peas, trimmed
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp. fresh grated ginger
½ cup golden raisins
¾ of a 15-ounce can “lite” coconut milk, or more to taste
2 tbsp. tamari or other soy sauce
2 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tbsp. mirin
5 scallions, sliced
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Cut the tempeh into chunks and steam for 8 minutes.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

Place the snow peas in a bowl.  Pour boiling hot water over them, leave them for 2 minutes, then drain.  Rinse with cold water and set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté the shallot for 3 minutes, or until it begins to get brown.  Add the ginger and garlic and sauté until soft, about 2 minutes.  Add the tempeh, raisins, tamari, syrup, mirin, and about 1/3 of the coconut milk.  Cook, adding more coconut milk as necessary to de-glaze the pan, until tempeh starts to brown, about 10 minutes.  Add the snow peas and cook 2 minutes longer.  Remove from the heat, top tempeh with scallions and cilantro and serve.

Bok Choy and Shiitake Mushroom Sauté
Adapted from Clean Food
Serves 4

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger
½ pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and thinly sliced
2 tbsp. tamari
1 tbsp. water
2 tbsp. mirin
8 cups chopped bok choy (4 medium heads or 8 small)
1 cup chopped scallions
½ cup chopped cilantro

In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté shallot in olive oil until starting to brown.  Add ginger and garlic and cook until soft, about 2 minutes.  Add shiitake mushrooms, half the tamari, water, and mirin and sauté until the mushrooms start to caramelize.  (Add more water as needed to de-glaze the pan.)  Add remaining tamari and mirin and sauté until the mushrooms are a deep brown but not burnt.

Stir in bok choy until it wilts.  Cover and steam for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and add scallions and cilantro.


  1. I don’t use tempeh much, but I haven’t had any great recipes for it. Thanks for the tip about steaming it — I had no idea. I will definitely have to try this!

    Comment by Anna — March 12, 2010 @ 1:35 pm

  2. I don’t eat tempeh very often. I don’t mind it but not something I eat regularly. I will have to try this one though.

    Comment by Maria — March 12, 2010 @ 4:07 pm

  3. Perfect! My Mother in law got me this cookbook a few months back. I like how simple the recipes are in the book. I have made one dish (which was great) but this recipe really stood out to me to try. Now I know!

    Comment by fresh365 — March 12, 2010 @ 4:56 pm

  4. I like tempeh, but my significant other does not. Although now that you’ve mentioned how it needs to be cooked I think I might have been going about it all wrong. I’ll try again and see what he thinks! This dish sounds wonderful.

    Comment by Jacqui — March 12, 2010 @ 5:13 pm

  5. this looks so perfect to me. I don’t often cook with tempeh, but i like when other ppl cook it for me :) AND it has Randy’s approval… MUST be good :)

    Comment by Sara — March 12, 2010 @ 7:10 pm

  6. Dana, you tempt with almost everything on your blog, but this is one thing that won’t do it for me. I HATE tempeh.

    Comment by Hilary — March 12, 2010 @ 9:06 pm

  7. I must live under a rock. I have never heard of Seven Spoons

    Comment by Leslie — March 12, 2010 @ 11:23 pm

  8. I have a mental block when it comes to tempeh. You won’t find me cooking it or ordering it off a menu, but if someone were to make it for me I’d be happy to try it. I promise to keep an open mind.

    Comment by Cheryl @ 5 Second Rule — March 13, 2010 @ 12:02 am

  9. This looks so appetizing. Love the colors!

    Comment by veron — March 13, 2010 @ 1:20 am

  10. The dish looks so beautiful and healthy! Yum!

    Comment by Sook @ My Fabulous Recipes — March 13, 2010 @ 5:24 am

  11. I love tempeh. It’s definitely a very underrated soy product. Coconut milk curries are the best. I’m drooling as I type.

    Comment by Joanne — March 13, 2010 @ 7:51 am

  12. wow, this looks so good.. what do you think can be an alternative to using the coconut milk? i’m not a big fan of coconut milk…

    Comment by Cassie — March 14, 2010 @ 1:47 am

  13. I’ve still never tried tempeh, though I’ve bought it before. In fact I have some sitting in my freezer right now but I’m not sure quite what to do with it. Most recipes I’ve seen seem to use refrigerated, not frozen, tempeh and I don’t know if I’m supposed to let it thaw in the fridge or what first? Anyway this dish sounds delicious. I love coconut milk!

    Comment by Ashley — March 20, 2010 @ 1:38 pm

  14. I’ve been wanting try tempeh for a while now but I’ve never had or cooked with it before, when I saw this recipe it sounded like the perfect time to try. I love it!!! Thanks for yet another great recipe to add to my favorite go-to collection.

    Comment by Nimi — July 30, 2010 @ 2:22 am

  15. I made this last night and it was seriously good. I used Surata multi-grain tempeh and steamed it as you suggested. I have tolerated tempeh before, but this was fabulous. I can’t wait to have the leftovers tonight and use the scallions and cilantro which I forgot!

    Comment by Lynn D. — August 6, 2011 @ 1:13 pm

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