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Learn all about tempeh. What tempeh is, how to cook it, and the best super delicious tempeh recipes. 

A hand olds a tempeh sandwich with tomato, lettuce, onion, and avocado. A great tempeh recipe!

Tempeh is one food that confused me for a long time, but has now become a staple that I adore. It’s a quick and easy nutritious way to add protein to your diet. A few years ago while perusing Trader Joe’s I noticed packages of tempeh next to the tofu. Tempeh, I thought, “what is tempeh?”  The first couple of times I made tempeh I did not like it at all, but thankfully I kept trying it prepared differently and now I absolutely love it. Though it may seem strange at first, tempeh is actually easy too cook and a fantastic high protein addition to many recipes. 

The first tempeh dish I tried and loved happened to be at the Whole Foods deli counter, where they were selling spicy BBQ sauce covered tempeh. My daughter and I bought a few slices and loved it. After that I started making my own Easy BBQ Tempeh at home. Then, about a year ago while trying SunBasket, I discovered another favorite tempeh recipe: Vegan Caesar Salad with Tempeh Croutons. Oh my goodness was that delicious! I even made a coypcat Vegan Caesar Dressing for your based on that dish. 

20 best tempeh recipes from tempeh bacon to sandwiches to salads. Find out what is tempeh, how to cook tempeh, and the best tempeh recipes.

What is Tempeh? 

Pronounced “tem-pay”, tempeh is an ancient food that, like other foods we’ve covered such as Lentils, Chickpeas, and Quinoa, is high in plant-based protein. In fact, a 3 oz. serving of tempeh contains 16 grams of protein, and, unlike meat, also has a good amount of fiber (7 grams). Tempeh is a fermented soybean product of Asian origins.

Though tempeh may be relatively new to you and me, it’s been used as a staple protein in Indonesia (especially Java) for, according to Wikipedia, a few centuries to over a thousand years. The tempeh found in Western markets today are often made with soybeans and grains and seeds like brown rice, millet, and flax. Tempeh is also a great value for the money, at around $2 per package at Trader Joe’s and $3.50 elsewhere. 

A package of organic Lightlife tempeh for using in vegetarian or vegan recipes.

How to Cook Tempeh

A package of tempeh is sliced before using in recipes.

Cooking tempeh is so much easier than meat! It comes packaged ready to eat, but tastes best either baked or cooked on the stove. Here’s the basic method for cooking tempeh. 

Cut: 

Cubes of Trader Joe's organic tempeh on a cutting board before using in recipes.

Tempeh usually comes packaged in two layers of plastic. Remove and discard both. Next, cut the tempeh. I like to cut into the smallest pieces possible to add the maximum amount of flavor. Here are some good options: 

  • cut into strips or triangles (perfect for grilling, sandwiches, and stir fry)
  • crumbled (perfect for tacos)
  • grated (great for bolognese)

Steam (optional): 

Cubed tempeh steams in a skillet.

I’ve come across tempeh with varying degrees of bitterness. Though I usually skip this step, if your tempeh is bitter or you’d like to soften it (take a little nibble), steam it for 5 minutes. When simmering on the stove in soy sauce, tomato sauce, or as taco crumbles, I never steam as the tempeh softens and mellows with the sauce. 

Marinate: 

A pan of crispy teriyaki tempeh.

You may want to marinate your tempeh for grilling, frying, or baking. Teriyaki sauce, BBQ sauce, and tamari are all great options. The ginger sesame glaze from this tofu recipe would be delicious too. I find that no marinating is necessary when making simple tempeh on the stove as seen in the video, but is a good idea when grilling on a BBQ or roasting in the oven. 

Cook: 

Crumbled tempeh taco meat simmers in a skillet.
  • Saute: My everyday quick and easy method of cooking tempeh. Coat a skillet with a splash of coconut oil, add the tempeh and a couple tablespoons of soy sauce/coconut aminos, and cook until golden brown. 
  • Bake: Pop marinated tempeh with plenty of sauce in the oven at 375 until caramelized, about 20 minutes. 
  • Grill: A great meat alternative for BBQs, pop marinated tempeh on the grill. 

Tempeh Common Questions

Is tempeh gluten free? 

The ingredients in tempeh are soybeans and grains (usually brown rice), so many brands are gluten free. It’s important, however to double check for other ingredients and cross contamination if you have an allergy. 

Where can I buy Tempeh? 

Tempeh is readily available in most grocery stores (in the US at least) these days. I most often buy it at Trader Joe’s which is the best price I’ve found. I also get tempeh at Whole Foods and Sprouts, which have a larger selection and different varieties. 

Is tempeh healthy? 

Unless you have a soy allergy, tempeh is very healthy. It’s a great source of plant-based protein and iron, and  is naturally low-sodium. Tempeh has about 16 grams of protein per3 oz. serving. 

What does tempeh taste like? 

Tempeh has a nutty flavor that is sometimes slightly bitter. It has a meaty texture that takes on other flavors and sauces well. It can take some getting used to new flavors, but give it a chance. 

Tempeh vs tofu? 

Tempeh is similar to tofu in that both are made with soybeans, but different in that tempeh is less processed and is fermented. The texture and flavor between the two is also quite different. Tofu is soft and mostly flavorless, but tempeh is firm and nutty. 

How long does tempeh last in the fridge? 

Tempeh lasts 5-7 days in the refrigerator after opening. You can also freeze tempeh for up to 9 months. 

Is it okay to eat tempeh with black spots? 

Sometimes tempeh looks like it’s gone bad because of discolorations. This is normal. Remember, this is a fermented product. 

Can you eat tempeh raw? 

Yes, store-bought tempeh is ready to eat, but I don’t advise it! It’s much tastier cooked. 

Tempeh Recipes

Tempeh is versatile and works well in all cuisines, from American BBQ, to Mexican tacos, to Asian sesame stir fry. With permission from the authors, I’ve rounded up over 20 of the tastiest tempeh recipes around. Enjoy! 

Tempeh Recipes

Wondering how to cook tempeh? Look no further! Over 20 of the best tempeh recipes are all right here!

Vegetarian Taco Salad

A big, beautiful, colorful taco salad that's perfect for a light vegetarian or vegan meal.

Easy Baked BBQ Tempeh

Easy 2-Ingredient BBQ tempeh is quick and delicious. Try it with rice and veggies, on salads, or as part of a sandwich or wrap.

Tempeh Tacos

These easy tempeh tacos are an easy meatless dinner that's hearty and delicious!

Tempeh Cheeseburgers

Hearty and protein rich vegetarian tempeh cheeseburgers are a great meatless BBQ idea. These tempeh burgers are easy to make vegan - just omit the cheese or use vegan cheese.

TTLA Sandwich (Whole Foods Copycat Spin)

Photo Credit: kblog.lunchboxbunch.com

You can make my favorite sandwich at home with this recipe!

Vegan Sloppy Joes

Photo Credit: www.diannesvegankitchen.com

This old school favorite has a new plant based spin!

Vegan Tempeh Cacciatore

Photo Credit: www.diannesvegankitchen.com

This vegan tempeh recipe has all the Italian flavor.

BBQ Tempeh Vegan Burrito

Photo Credit: thestingyvegan.com

Hearty and colorful tempeh burritos perfect for lunch or dinner.

Vegan Bao Burgers with Peking Tempeh

Photo Credit: mygoodnesskitchen.com

What a delicious little handheld package!

Savory Vegan Breakfast Bowl

Photo Credit: runningonrealfood.com

This beautiful breakfast is filled with protein, veggies and good carbs.

Tempeh Chorizo Tacos + a Green Crema

Photo Credit: eggplantandolive.com

Tempeh chorizo is a brilliant idea!

Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps with Spicy Sesame Tempeh

Photo Credit: www.heynutritionlady.com

Light and healthy wraps are perfect for lunch or dinner.

Vegan BLT with Baked Tempeh Bacon

Photo Credit: veganhuggs.com

This vegan BLT looks so satisfying!

Kimchi-Marinated Tempeh Wraps

Photo Credit: myquietkitchen.com

Tempeh wraps with Korean flair.

Tempeh Reuben Sandwiches with Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms (Vegan)

Photo Credit: upbeetkitchen.com

Finally, a meatless Reuben!

Sesame Ginger Tempeh Stir Fry | Food with Feeling

Photo Credit: foodwithfeeling.com

Serve with rice or quinoa for a beautifully balanced meal.

Easy Tempeh Fajitas

Photo Credit: foodwithfeeling.com

Just add tortillas and guac!

Crispy Tempeh Arugula Sandwich with Roasted Garlic Truffle Aioli

Photo Credit: vegetariangastronomy.com

The flavors in this tempeh sandwich are insanely delicious.

Roasted Vegetable Salad with Smoky Tempeh

Photo Credit: frommybowl.com

So much goodness going on in this bowl!

Tempeh Cauliflower Butternut in Teriyaki Sauce - Date Sweetened

Photo Credit: www.veganricha.com

This tempeh bowl is my kind of comfort food.

Southwest BBQ Tempeh Salad with Vegan Ranch

Photo Credit: www.mydarlingvegan.com

A flavorful Southwest salad is perfect for a light buy satisfying dinner.

Kale Caesar Salad with Nut-Free Dressing

Photo Credit: thenutfreevegan.net

Crispy tempeh is a great high protein swap for croutons.

Yield: Serves 2

How to Cook Tempeh

Prep Time 2 minutes
Cook Time 7 minutes
Total Time 9 minutes

A basic recipe for cooking tempeh to use in salads, bowls, sandwiches, and other recipes.

How to Cook Tempeh

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp. coconut oil
  • 1 (8 oz.) package organic tempeh
  • 2 tablespoons coconut aminos (or soy sauce)

Instructions

  1. Remove all plastic packaging from the tempeh. Cut into 1/4" thick slices crosswise, or 1/2" to 1" cubes.
  2. Melt the coconut oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tempeh slices and coconut aminos to the pan and saute until browned, about 3 minutes per side.
  3. Add teriyaki or BBQ sauce to coat, if desired, or enjoy as is.

Notes

If you would like to soften the tempeh and remove any bitterness, add the tempeh and 2 cups of water to a skillet and bring to a simmer. Partially cover and simmer for 5-7 minutes. Drain. This step is optional and I skip it when using flavorful sauces or simmering in liquid.

Tempeh recipe ideas:

Add sliced tempeh to "BLT" style sandwiches with toasted bread, tomato, lettuce, and avocado.

Add tempeh cubes to salads and grain bowls.

Crumble unseasoned tempeh and simmer with your favorite spaghetti sauce.

Crumble and saute with a splash of veggie broth and taco seasoning for tempeh "taco meat"

Storing Tempeh

Once opened, keep tempeh in an airtight container in the fridge for 5-7 days. I recommend cooking the entire package for meal prep and using during the week.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 2.5 Serving Size: 3 oz.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 140 Total Fat: 4.5g Cholesterol: 0mg Carbohydrates: 10g Fiber: 7g Protein: 16g
Nutrition information is automatically calculated by Nutritionix. I am not a nutritionist and cannot guarantee accuracy. If your health depends on nutrition information, please calculate again with your favorite calculator.