What is tempeh and how do you use it in vegan cooking? 20 ideas to get you started

Tempeh is similar to tofu and great for adding protein and texture in dishes. Here's we discover how to use it in a delicious section of vegan tempeh recipes.

An argument between two vegans is not called a beef. Just two people with bad ‘tempehs’!

But all jokes aside, tempeh has been soaring in popularity in Western cooking in recent years thanks to its firm yet ever-so-slightly chewy texture which makes it a delicious vegan meat substitute protein in dishes.

If you’ve not tried vegan tempeh recipes before or if you’re looking for high protein vegan recipes, here’s a delicious section of vegan dinner recipes to try today.

What is tempeh?

Tempeh is a high-protein and fibre-rich ingredient that is similar to tofu and great for adding protein and texture in dishes thanks to its meaty texture.

Originating from Indonesia, tempeh is made by fermenting whole beans – traditionally soya – with a live culture so it has a higher protein content and also a meatier texture. It’s packed with whole food goodness, heaps of fibre and healthy gut bacteria.

Although tempeh is often used in place of meat thanks to its high-protein content, it’s also a healthier alternative as it’s loaded with vitamins and minerals such as calcium, manganese, phosphorus, and iron.

It has a much firmer texture than tofu which makes it a great alternative for those who don’t enjoy the softer texture of tofu but want something with a bit more bite to add to their meals.

Tempeh can be crumbled into salads and pasta dishes to add more texture or added to curries and stews in chunks instead of mock meats. You can even marinate it and fry it to create a deliciously crispy bacon alternative.

How to make tempeh

Although tempeh has been used in Indonesian cuisine for centuries, this versatile ingredient is only just starting to become popular in the West with the rise in popularity of veganism.

This means that tempeh is often much harder to find than tofu as it is typically only sold online and in health food stores. In fact, it was only sold in UK supermarkets for the first time ever in 2019.

Are you struggling to get hold of tempeh but want to try cooking with it? Why not have a go at making your own from scratch!

With a delicious nutty flavour, you’ll never want to go back to store-bought tempeh after you have made your own. Made through a process of controlled fermentation, all you’ll need to get started is some beans (soybeans are most often used), a spoonful of tempeh starter, and a warm place to allow your tempeh to ferment.

To make this fermented bean cake, treat your beans with a starter culture that contains Rhizopusmold spores, and then leave it to ferment at a warm temperature. As the mycelium mould grows, it binds the beans into a dense, white cake.

Having trouble finding tempeh and want to know how to make your own? This helpful video will show you how to make your own to use in vegan tempeh recipes. 

How to cook tempeh

As with tofu, one of the best ways to enjoy tempeh is to bake it first so that it takes on a firmer texture with deliciously crisp edges. Before you bake or grill tempeh, make sure you steam it as this is an important step that will help it to soak up more or the marinade and make it more flavourful.

To ensure your tempeh is infused with flavour, the next step is to marinade it for 30 minutes. Looking for delicious marinade recipes for your tofu and tempeh dishes? Try these 26 truly tasty marinade recipes here.

Once your tempeh has soaked up all the delicious flavours, the next step is to bake it in the oven for around 20 minutes before adding it to your favourite vegan tempeh recipes.

1. Vegan Tempeh Shish Kebab Recipe

Shish kebab is a popular dish from the Middle East that has been cleverly reimagined using tempeh in place of meat. The perfect alternative to a Friday night takeaway or served at a summer BBQ, this is a real crowd-pleaser!

2. Ginger Sesame Tempeh Stir Fry Recipe

This simple vegan tempeh stir fry recipe is packed full of punchy flavours such as ginger, sesame and soy sauce. It’s sticky, savoury and oh-so-delicious! 

3. Vegetable & Tempeh Wellington with Shiitake Gravy

This wonderful wellington might take a bit of preparation to make, but it’s well worth it. It makes for a stunning centrepiece for a Sunday roast, or even on your Christmas dinner table. 


4. Kimchi Fried Rice with Smoky Tempeh and Broccoli

This kimchi fried rice is super hearty, spicy, mildly funky, protein-rich, and simple to prepare. If you like your food with a kick then this one will be a hit! 

vegan tempeh recipes

5. Vegan Tempeh Reuben Sandwich

A tower of saucy, spicy, smoky, sauerkraut-filled goodness – what’s not to love about this epic vegan Reuben sandwich?! 

vegan tempeh recipes

6. Peanut & Lemongrass Tempeh Satay

This tempeh satay is easy to make and perfect for adding to just about any noodle or salad dish. The combination of peanut and lemongrass will have you dreaming of tropical climes.

vegan tempeh recipes

7. Vegan Gado Gado Salad

This vibrant bowl is brimming with a selection of raw and gently cooked veggies and satisfying chunks of gut-healthy tempeh smothered with lashings of an addictive peanut sauce.

vegan tempeh recipes

8. Smoky Tempeh Burrito Bowls

This burrito bowl would make a great weeknight meal when you’re craving something hearty and satisfying yet healthy. You can add any leftover bits and bobs to customise it to your own tastes. 

vegan tempeh recipes

9. 1-Pan Tempeh Bolognese

You only need one pan and 30 minutes to make this filling tempeh bolognese! A winner for those nights where you can be bothered to spend ages in the kitchen cooking and washing up. 

vegan tempeh recipes

10. Chickpea Tempeh

Tempeh is not the easiest product to find in supermarkets in the UK just yet, so if you want to try making your own at home, here’s a great recipe to try using chickpeas. You can find a recipe for black bean tempeh here.

vegan tempeh recipes

11. Tempeh Khao Soi

Khao Soi is a spicy Thai coconut curry soup served with noodles and tempeh. It’s super creamy thanks to the coconut milk, full of Thai flavours and simple to make.

vegan tempeh recipes

12. Smoky Tempeh Black Bean Burgers

This tempeh and black bean burger glazed with a sweet and spicy sauce is incredibly moist and packed with textures and delicious flavours. It’s topped with crunchy coconut bacon and drizzled with creamy garlic smoked paprika sauce for an epic treat! 

vegan tempeh recipes

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13. Tempeh Hash with Brussels Sprouts

This protein-packed dish is a great way to start the day and will show anyone who thinks they don’t like Brussels sprouts how delicious they can be when cooked properly. 

vegan tempeh recipes

14. Vegan BLT with Tempeh Bacon

This BLT is technically a TLT, but either way, it’s a delicious take on the traditional sandwich, without the cruelty! 

15. Tempeh Vegan Ribs

Serve your tempeh smothered in BBQ sauce if you want to replicate the taste and to an extent the texture, of ribs at your next BBQ. You can use this Tempeh BBQ to replace a hamburger patty and it’s also delicious in your salad! 

Watch how to make vegan tempeh ribs here.

16. Chipotle Tempeh Tacos

Hearty, crumbly, and packed with protein…tempeh makes the best vegan taco filling! These chipotle tempeh tacos are delicious, super easy to whip up, and perfect for weeknight dinners.

17. Blackened Tempeh with Avocado, Kale and Vegan Cajun Ranch

Blackened tempeh with avocado, kale, radishes, pickled onions and vegan ranch spiked with cajun spices combine to make one tasty bowl of goodness! 

18. Bejing Tempeh

This copy-cat Panda Express Bejing tempeh dish is utterly delicious and so much healthier than the real thing! 

19. Baked Sticky Tempeh Potstickers

These Sticky Tempeh Potstickers are baked, not fried, and filled with a “meaty” mix of tempeh and vegetables. Serve as an entree or appetizer with soy sauce for dipping! 

Loved these vegan tempeh recipes? Try these delicious vegan jackfruit recipes

Written by

Rachel Smith

Rachel Smith

Having launched the brand's digital presence in 2015, Rachel shares her love for animals and the planet through her work as Vegan Food & Living’s Digital Editor. As a passionate vegan for over eight years, Rachel loves creating delicious vegan dessert recipes for her award-winning blog, Rawberry Fields. Rachel's recipes and photography have been featured in numerous international print and digital publications including the Daily Mail, Huffington Post, Thrive, and Buzzfeed. You can follow Rachel at @rawberryfields


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