There’s always a block or three of tempeh in my kitchen. This Indonesian plant-based protein lasts for months in the freezer and weeks in the fridge. It’s easy to work with (no cross-contamination or temperature checking) and has a savory, meaty flavor, thanks to the fact that it’s fermented.
If you haven’t worked with tempeh before, this cooking method is a foolproof way to start: Just crumble the tempeh into bite-size pieces by hand—uneven, craggy shapes mean crustier crusts. Toss these in a preferably-nonstick skillet with hot oil (neutral flavor with a high smoke point is best) and turn them as they brown. This takes a matter of minutes and gets you halfway to a million dinners: grain bowls with avocado, saucy-cheesy pasta, oversized salads, warm tacos.
These are inspired by Baja-style fried fish tacos with a creamy cabbage slaw. Note: You can use mayonnaise or a vegan mayonnaise. Cashews make for a similarly rich, but heartier mayo than traditional. Likewise, you can swap in flour tortillas if you want (or make your own!). Just don’t skip the hot sauce, which adds much-needed spice and acidity.
This is one of our Big Little Recipes, our weekly column all about dishes with big flavor and little ingredient lists. Do you know (and love) a recipe that’s low in ask, high in reward? Let us know in the comments. —Emma Laperruque
- Prep time 15 minutes
- Makes 6 tacos
shredded green cabbage (about ½ small head)
kosher salt, plus more to taste
plus 2 teaspoons canola oil, divided
(8-ounce) package tempeh, crumbled into bite-size nuggets
Hot sauce, with abandon
- Add the cabbage and salt to a bowl, and gently massage with your hands to combine. Add the cashews, 6 tablespoons of hot water, and a pinch of salt to a food processor.
- Set a nonstick skillet over medium heat and pour in the 2 tablespoons of canola oil. When the oil is hot, add the tempeh plus a pinch of salt, and toss a couple times so all the nuggets are coated. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, turning the tempeh as it browns, until deeply browned and crispy all over, then transfer to a plate. While the tempeh is cooking, toast the tortillas in another skillet—cast-iron works nicely here—until they’re warm, then turn off the heat. (Or, to save a dirty dish, you can wait until the tempeh is transferred to a plate, then toast the tortillas in that pan.)
- Once the tempeh is cooked and the tortillas are warmed, blend the cashews and water until smooth, scraping down as needed. With the machine running, stream in the remaining 2 teaspoons of canola oil. Keep going until the mixture resembles mayonnaise, adding more water if needed. Taste and adjust the salt as needed.
- Add a couple spoonfuls of cashew-mayo to the cabbage, along with a couple dashes of hot sauce. Toss until combined. Add more cashew-mayo and hot sauce as you see fit, and save any extra cashew-mayo for more tacos or sandwiches down the road.
- Divide the cabbage slaw between the tortillas. Top with the tempeh nuggets and lots of hot sauce.