All About Tempeh (plus a Mizuna Salad with Miso)

April  4, 2013

Every other Thursday, Gena Hamshaw of the blog Choosing Raw shares satisfying, flavorful recipes that also happen to be vegan.

Today, Gena is boldly going where no Food52 column has gone before: she's cooking tempeh. And you are, too.


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When I mention to people that tempeh is one of my favorite foods, I’m often given a blank stare. “Tempeh?” they ask. “Is that sort of like tofu?” 

Sort of. Both tempeh and tofu are made from soybeans that have been shaped, in some way or another, into blocks. After that, the similarities start to dwindle. While tofu is made from soy milk, tempeh is made from whole and fermented soybeans, which makes it dense and textured. Like tofu, tempeh is versatile enough to be used in dishes from stir fries to salads, but it’s not a blank canvas in terms of flavor: it has a distinctively nutty taste, which people tend either to love or hate. Today, I’m determined to turn you into a tempeh lover.


I prepare tempeh a lot of different ways: I chop it into cubes and use it in stir fries; I make tempeh chili by grating it and stewing it with tomatoes and spices; I give it a spice rub and grill it. But my favorite way to eat tempeh is still one of the simplest: I marinate it with tamari (or soy sauce), vinegar, and ginger, and I either bake it or pan fry it. From there, I serve it over salads, layer it in sandwiches, or save it for stir fries. 

More: Read Gena's tips for rich, satisfying salads.

Below, you’ll find my tried-and-true recipe for marinated tempeh slices, as well as instructions for a cool, crispy salad that contrasts nicely with the earthy tempeh. I have included instructions for baking the tempeh, but my personal preference is to sear it in a little coconut oil. Once you’ve tasted it this way, it’s hard to go back!


Snow Pea, Cabbage, and Mizuna Salad with Marinated and Seared Tempeh

Serves 4

Basic Marinated Tempeh
2 tablespoons apple cider or rice vinegar (I prefer apple cider)
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon grated or minced ginger
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
8 ounces tempeh, sliced into thin strips (about 1/4 inch or a little less)
2 teaspoons coconut oil (optional, for frying)

Snow Pea, Cabbage, and Mizuna Salad with Miso Mustard Dressing
6 ounces snow peas, trimmed
2 cups shredded red cabbage
1 cup shredded carrot
2 cups mizuna
2 green onions, sliced thin
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons mellow white miso
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon maple syrup

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by James Ransom

Read More:
Cooking Whole Grains
Thinking Outside the Wrap
6 Hearty, Filling Vegan Breakfasts

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The Food52 Vegan Cookbook is here! With this book from Gena Hamshaw, anyone can learn how to eat more plants (and along the way, how to cook with and love cashew cheese, tofu, and nutritional yeast).

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Gena is a registered dietitian, recipe developer, and food blogger. She's the author of three cookbooks, including Power Plates (2017) and Food52 Vegan (2015). She enjoys cooking vegetables, making bread, and challenging herself with vegan baking projects.


Anitac July 29, 2017
Do you have a favorite. Rand of tempeh? How do I know which one to buy?
Angela M. February 28, 2014
rachel W. April 9, 2013
wonderful recipe!! I eat a vegan diet but am not a fan of tofu's texture...I had never experimented w/tempeh and am thrilled! I too am eating it plain (and dipped in spicy peanut sauce for a snack). I love this column.
Debi April 5, 2013
I luv, luv,luv tempeh! I'm having some right now for lunch! This looks yummy!!
nogaga April 4, 2013
I've been dying for some tempe all day. Its been waiting on my countertop, and then this recipe emerged, as if I had called for it. This is fabulous. I'm afraid I simply ate the strips as is.
Marian B. April 4, 2013
I kept stealing slices in the test kitchen and calling them "snacks". So tasty.
Makanapa April 4, 2013
I am from Indonesia, where Tempe originally from. I love tempe. Baked, fried, stew, bbq....etc
TheWimpyVegetarian April 4, 2013
I really, really want to like tempeh. I've tried and tried to like tofu and just haven't been able to get there unless it's hidden in a sauce. So I'm going to try tempeh!
Marian B. April 4, 2013
Tempeh is great because it's more inherently flavorful than tofu, and (for most people) its texture is more appealing. This is a great recipe to get yourself hooked!
darksideofthespoon April 4, 2013
Tempeh is the best. I've been keeping my eye out for it lately but it seems to be hiding. I haven't had it in ages, and your recipe makes me want to look a little harder for it. :)
creamcheese April 4, 2013
I LOVE tempeh! A restaurant near my old apartment had tempeh tacos and they were one of my favorite things, the crunch works so well. I can't wait to try this salad, thanks for the recipe.