Tempeh is basically tofu's fermented cousin with gut health benefits. And if you're just getting introduced to the soy protein or you're just looking for a great way to use it, there are plenty of tempeh recipes out there to choose from — and you don't have to compromise flavor.
Using tempeh in recipes might seem tricky if you've never worked with the protein before, but follow the recipes below and you'll be sure to end up with a meal you'll want to make again and again.
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Not only are these five tempeh recipes full of nutrients, but they'll also impress you with vibrant, creative flavors and textures.
What Is Tempeh?
Tempeh is similar to tofu in that it's a soy-based plant protein, but both how it's made and the end product are very different. Tofu is made by compressing soy milk, whereas tempeh is created by fermenting cooked soybeans and then compacting them into a patty (although you can also find tempeh made with flax, barley, millet and brown rice).
Because tempeh is a fermented food, it's a rich source of probiotics, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Probiotics support our overall gut health and may have other beneficial effects on our health, from mental wellbeing to our immune system and heart health, according to a January 2015 article in Current Opinion in Gastroenterology.
Tempeh is also loaded with fiber and protein — two nutrients that are key when you're losing weight. Both help you feel full, and protein helps you maintain your muscle, which is a boon for your metabolism.
In fact, soy-based proteins may be just as effective as meat when it came to supporting weight loss, maintaining lean body mass and providing a feeling of fullness, according to a June 2014 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
A 3-ounce serving of cooked tempeh has 140 calories, 4.5 grams of fat (and just 1 gram of saturated fat), 10 grams of carbohydrates and an impressive 16 grams of protein, according to the USDA. You'll also get 7 grams of satiating fiber.
To compare, a 3-ounce serving of ground beef (80 percent lean) has 215 calories, 14 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 0 grams of added sugar and 21.5 grams of protein.
Like tofu, tempeh is easy and versatile to work with. It doesn't have an overpowering flavor, so it easily takes on the flavor of the other foods and spices you're cooking with.
How to Cook Tempeh in a Frying Pan (Quick Tempeh Recipe)
It's relatively simple to cook tempeh by sauteeing it on the stove with some cooking oil and your favorite spices.
Tempeh is typically sold in a block or log, and you can slice it into thin long pieces (a great option if you're topping a salad or bed of veggies with it) or cut it into cubes (perfection for making a stir-fry) before frying it.
Things You'll Need
1 block tempeh
1 tablespoon olive oil or other cooking oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce, coconut aminos or tamari
Here's a quick and simple tempeh recipe to get you started:
- Slice or cut your tempeh into desired shape.
- Heat some olive oil (or other cooking oil) in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat.
- When the oil starts to bubble and glisten, add the tempeh pieces to the pan gently.
- Cook the tempeh, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes.
- Add two tablespoons of soy sauce, coconut aminos or tamari to the pan, stir and cook the tempeh for another 2 to 3 minutes.
- Once the tempeh is brown and crisp, transfer it to a dish a serve it hot.
What to Serve With Tempeh
Tempeh is rich in protein, so to round our your meal nutritionally, you should serve it with some sides that offer other nutrients.
We love to pair simple pan-fried tempeh with a side salad or roasted veggies and brown rice, soba noodles and more. Try these delicious side dishes with your tempeh:
1. Asparagus, Shiitake and Tempeh Stir-Fry
- Calories: 423
- Protein: 24 grams
Stir-fry recipes are an easy way to get more fiber- and nutrient-filled veggies and lean sources of protein, like the tempeh used here. This recipe calls for cooked brown rice, but if you're trying to reduce calories or carbs or add veggies, you could try cauliflower rice instead.
When choosing sauces for seasoning, limit options higher in added sugar. Also, be aware of the amount of oil you're adding to the wok or skillet, as this adds fat to the dish.
Get the Asparagus, Shiitake and Tempeh Stir-Fry recipe and nutrition info.
2. Gingery Asian Tempeh, Broccoli and Rice Soup
- Calories: 398
- Protein: 19 grams
Soup may be comfort food, but this tempeh soup recipe proves that it can be full of important nutrients as much as it is satiating.
You'll get plenty of fiber and protein thanks to the tempeh as well as the brown rice in this recipe. The delicious broth is flavored with soy sauce, scallions ginger and garlic for a savory bowl of comfort you'll want to make over and over again.
For less sodium, choose "low-sodium" or "reduced-sodium" broths.
Get the Gingery Asian Tempeh, Broccoli, and Rice Soup recipe and nutrition info.
3. Spicy Tempeh, Red Pepper and Sweet Potato Hash
- Calories: 269
- Protein: 13 grams
Eating eggs with hash is a popular breakfast option, but to keep it plant-based, try this tempeh breakfast recipe instead. This dish is perfectly balanced — as in, it's an ideal combo of protein, carbs and fat to keep you satiated.
Sweet potatoes are a good source of complex carbs and fiber, and olive oil brings the healthy fats.
Get the Spicy Tempeh, Red Pepper and Sweet Potato Hash recipe and nutrition info.
4. Sweet Potato Tempeh Bowl
- Calories: 712
- Protein: 23 grams
This dish is super filling with various sources of protein (edamame and tempeh) in addition to the 12 grams of fiber per serving (that's half your needs for the day!). The curry pecan dressing is what really amps up the flavor in this super nutritious bowl.
It's also on the higher calorie end, so if you'd like to reduce the overall calorie count, you can cut the amount of sweet potato and/or rice that's called for.
Get the Sweet Potato Buddha Bowl with Curry Pecan Dressing recipe and nutrition info.
5. Acorn Squash with Broccoli and Tempeh
- Calories: 157
- Protein: 9 grams
Swap tempeh for the tofu in this recipe and you'll have a delicious seasonally appropriate dish.
This tempeh recipe makes for a delicious side dish, or you can double the portion to enjoy it as a meal. The acorn squash and carrot bring a hint of sweetness, which pairs well with broccoli and the nutty tempeh flavors.
Almond butter is used to create a creamy sauce and amp up the flavors, but it's also a source of healthy fats and vitamin E.
You could serve this recipe on top of a bed of brown rice or even cauliflower rice if you're looking for a lower-calorie option.
Get the Acorn Squash With Broccoli and Tofu recipe and nutrition info.