Most vegan, vegetarian, and plant-based eaters (and even anyone looking to cut back on their meat consumption) are already well acquainted with tofu. There’s a clear reason why the soy food has long been a staple of East Asian cuisines, including that of Okinawa, Japan—one of the world’s five longevity Blue Zones. It’s high in protein (and is technically a complete protein) and its mild flavor makes it easy to cook with a super adaptable to different spices and sauces.
Tempeh, which originates from Indonesia, is also made from soybeans. Specifically, it’s made from fermented soybeans that have been soaked, hulled, and cooked. (Tofu is made from condensed, unfermented soy milk that’s been processed into solid white blocks.) Maybe tempeh needs to hire a publicist, because it unfairly doesn’t get the same mainstream attention and praise as tofu, even though it is higher in protein, with 21 grams per 100 gram serving. It’s also a good source of iron, magnesium, calcium, and potassium.
Tempeh and tofu can be prepared in all the same ways (baked, steamed, or sauteed), but unlike tofu, tempeh has more of a dominant flavor. It has a nutty and slightly earthy taste which can work well in a variety of recipes. To prove it, we pulled together eight healthy tempeh recipes so you can start cooking the delicious, underrated plant protein ASAP.
1. Tempeh Bacon
Bacon is one food that you definitely want to be full of flavor and, with the right marinade, tempeh can absolutely deliver. This recipe uses liquid smoke, soy sauce, extra-virgin olive oil, paprika, hot sauce, and a touch of maple syrup. Combined with the crispy texture (by cooking the tempeh on a skillet), it’s perfection.
Get the recipe: Tempeh bacon
2. Tempeh Salad
With over 30 grams of protein, this isn’t a sad salad that will leave you rummaging for a snack an hour later. Full of Plants food blogger and recipe creator Thomas Pagot says the key is including sauteed onions, garlic, shallot, and ginger which work well with the tempeh’s nutty taste. His other pro tip: adding a bit of lime juice for tang.
Get the recipe: Refreshing marinated tempeh salad
3. Barbecue Tempeh Sandwiches
Even if your backyard summer get-togethers may only consist of the people you live with, these barbecue tempeh sandwiches are a sure crowd-pleaser—meat-eaters included. Chocolate For Basil food blogger and recipe creator Jerrelle Guy likes to top it off with some ‘slaw.
Get the recipe: Barbecue tempeh sandwiches
4. Tempeh Stir-Fry
Tempeh’s texture makes it a bit easier than tofu to get perfectly crisp and when you get it right, it’s really the best part of a big plate of stir-fry. This recipe shows exactly how to do it, what to season the tempeh with, and what else to add to your wok.
Get the recipe: Tempeh stir-fry with peanut ginger sauce
5. Tahini Miso Tempeh
The Floral Vegan food blogger and recipe creator Angie says she came up with this recipe idea simply by trying to use up some leftover tahini miso she had in the fridge. She marinated some tempeh in it and, after trying it, the combo became her new fave way to make tempeh. She likes to enjoy it sandwich-style with coleslaw or as part of a grain and veggie bowl.
Get the recipe: Tahini miso tempeh
6. Tempeh Gyros
Want to go Greek? Here, tempeh is used as the “meat” for these vegan gyros. The marinade is made with some classic Greek staples such as garlic, oregano, and thyme. Vegetable broth helps get the taste and texture just right, too.
Get the recipe: Tempeh gyros
7. Tempeh Sweet Potato Sandwiches
The Healthy Toast blogger and recipe creator Kelli McGrane, RD says this is one of the top five most popular recipes on her site. And honestly, it’s not surprising—who doesn’t love sweet potatoes? As with the majority of the other recipes, she says the marinade is key for making the tempeh taste yummy.
Get the recipe: Sweet and spicy tempeh sweet potato sandwiches
8. Tempeh bolognese
This is the perfect dinner to make when you’re craving something hearty and comforting. The tempeh is combined with nutritional yeast (for a cheesy taste), crushed tomatoes, garlic, onion, and a few key spices—all cooked together in a saucepan. Then, simply pour it on top of your bowl of pasta and your dinner is done.
Get the recipe: Tempeh bolognese
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