Homemade Crunchy Tempura

November  1, 2021
2 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland, prop styling by Sophia Pappas, food styling by Yossy Arefi
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 15 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

Tempura is one of many Japanese dishes that are well-known and a crowd favorite. I love tempura, but I am terrified to try it in restaurants outside of Japan because they tend to disappoint me. Unfortunately, the tempura I eat in the states ends up being too greasy or too soggy, so ever since I had a couple of bad experiences, I hardly ever order it. You best believe that I tested a lot of batters to make sure I got a crispy crunch with each bite without the tempura being overly greasy. I would like to say I got as close to tempura that I would be able to buy in Japan, but I will let you be the judge.

The basic tempura batter typically includes all-purpose flour, water, and eggs. However, everyone has his or her own go-to’s such as using beer, panko bread crumbs, etc. Of course, adding different types of ingredients will enhance the texture or flavor of the batter and the finished product. You can also choose to fry several ingredients such as shrimp, shiso leaves, scallions, green peas, etc.

I wanted to keep my recipe fairly simple, so I tried not to add too many ingredients to the batter unless I deemed it essential. Using some potato starch instead of all-purpose flour as the base gives the tempura a lighter feel weight-wise. The carbonated water helps give the tempura a crispier texture compared to using plain water. Most importantly, the vodka tends to remove the excess moisture in the batter while the ingredients are frying, leaving you with the crispiest tempura ever. Make sure to use the batter immediately after making it or the tempura will not turn out as crispy and crunchy. —Catherine Yoo

What You'll Need
  • Batter and Frying
  • 4 cups canola oil
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup potato starch, divided
  • 1 large egg, cold
  • 1/4 cup vodka, cold
  • 3/4 cup carbonated water, cold
  • 1 pound silken tofu, cut into ½- to 1-inch cubes
  • 3 1/2 ounces beech mushrooms, quartered
  • 1/2 pound tail-on medium shrimp, deveined
  • 7 ounces delicata squash, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
  • 1/4 pound kabocha squash, cut into ¼-thick wedges
  • Tentsuyu Dipping Sauce
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup mirin
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons bonito flakes
  • 1/4 cup grated daikon radish, plus more as needed
  1. Batter and Frying
  2. In a large heavy pan, heat the oil until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350°F.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and ¼ cup of the potato starch. Spread the remaining potato starch on a plate.
  4. In a small bowl, mix the egg and vodka until well combined. Add the carbonated water and give it a quick mix. Pour into the flour-starch mixture and stir to combine. The batter should have lumps; do not overmix the batter or it will be chewy.
  5. Lightly coat the tofu, mushrooms, shrimp, and both squashes in the potato starch. Working in batches, dip the coated ingredients into the batter and shake off any excess before immediately frying. Carefully lower into the hot oil and deep-fry for 2 to 4 minutes, depending on the thickness of each ingredient, until pale in color (not golden brown). Using a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer to a large paper towel-lined plate and repeat with the remaining ingredients.
  1. Tentsuyu Dipping Sauce
  2. In a small pot, bring the water, mirin, soy sauce, and bonito flakes to a boil over high. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl.
  3. Portion the warm sauce into 4 small bowls. Mix in 1 tablespoon of the daikon radish before serving with the tempura. Add more daikon radish according to your preference.

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2 Reviews

Linda D. November 20, 2023
Thank you so very much, Catherine, for this delicious, light, and crunchy Tempura recipe. We like shrimp so very much that we just did shrimp. Next time, we will add onion and zucchini. Oh and my partner was making the sauce and missed the 2 cups of water! We liked the sauce and will continue to miss the water. If you celebrate, Happy Thanksgiving!
knoh July 3, 2023
I have always struggled with tempura that gets soggy. The recipe did the trick! I added the step of keeping the tempura warm in a 300 degree oven on sheet pan with a wire rack.