Tempeh is the underdog of the plant-based protein world. It shouldn’t be. Like it’s better-known, squishier cousin, tofu, if you think you hate tempeh, you simply aren’t cooking it the right way. In other words, with all due respect, it’s you, not the food.

Getting to Know Tempeh

A centuries-old Indonesian heritage food, tempeh is a soy-based, protein-rich ingredient that beautifully sops up any sauce you cook up. Watch this quick 2-minute tutorial to get acquainted with the versatile, low-cal, high-nutrient food that deserves a spot in your kitchen: What is Tempeh?

New Ways to Taste Tempeh

You can substitute tempeh in any recipe that calls for meat. (Note: Most, but not all, tempeh is gluten-free. Check the package for ingredients). I prefer tempeh one of three ways:

Crumbled & Meatball-ed
  • Make these 10-minute Tempeh Crumbles or these 15-minute Italian Tempeh Crumbles, to add a flavorful punch of protein to any spaghetti sauce.
  • For a Mexican spin, go for Tempeh Tacos, which I typically turn into burritos. And top with lots of lettuce, guac, and salsa.
  • Hands-down, my favorite tempeh treat is Post Punk Kitchen’s Spaghetti and Meatballs. Isa does it again! Last summer, I had the opportunity to cook dinner for two exchange students visiting from Myanmar. They requested “a typical American dinner.” This is what I served them. They loved it!
Chunked in Stir-fry
  • This quick Chinese-inspired stir-fry is slightly salty, tangy, and as spicy as you want it to be. Most important, it uses lots of veggies (4 cups!), and anything you have in your fridge will do.
  • Gingery peanut sauce makes this Tempeh Stir-Fry a speedy, healthful, Indonesian-inspired weeknight supper.
  • Sometimes I get inspiration from unlikely recipes. A Google search on “Green beans and stir fry” unearthed this Szechuan style stir-fry. Substitute tempeh (crumbles or small chunks) for the pork and use green beans and/or broccoli as your veggie, to create a greener plate and save a pig.
Cubed or Sliced for Wraps and Bowls
  • BBQ Tempeh makes any bowl sing. Nisha Vora’s recipe is the best of the best. You’ll never buy BBQ sauce again after you make her 10-minute version. She even shows you how to do it, in this video.
  • Crispy Sesame Tempeh is equally at home in the Stir Fry section and this one. The optional tahini sauce adds another layer of deep umami flavor. Any grain (rice, couscous, or whatever is in your pantry screaming “use me already!”) and veggies like cauliflower or broccoli will feel honored to share a bowl with these protein-rich cubes of flavor.
  • Maple Marinated Tempeh Wraps were on the menu the first night (my now close friend) Diana Goldman of Beantown Kitchen catered a party at our house. My husband Max loved them so much he begged Diana for the recipe. She said yes, and sent the video, too.

Enjoy these tasty twists on tempeh and subscribe for the latest tips and recipes in plant-based eating.