Tofu can be tricky to cook with until you know what you’re doing, but tempeh can be even harder. Like, what are you even supposed to do with that strange-looking block of fermented soybeans? Until you become a pro vegan chef—patience, young grasshopper!—there’s a four-step process you can use to prepare it perfectly every time.
Tempeh is an all-star protein source, as it contains a whopping 31 grams per cup. (Considering chicken is 38 grams per cup, that’s pretty impressive.) Unfortunately, it can be intimidating to work with in the beginning—even for Rachel Lessenden, a plant-based nutrition expert and the founder of Health My Lifestyle.
“Not sure how to prepare tempeh? Neither did I at first,” she writes in an Instagram post. “It can look a little off-putting. You may notice black spots on the tempeh, or ‘white stuff’—this is normal. Tempeh is inoculated with edible mold—similar to some cheeses—which is used to ferment and bind the beans together.”
Once you get past its weirdness, tempeh is kind of a catch. Aside from the high protein content, the fact that it’s also fermented means it contains gut-friendly bacteria that can help improve your digestion. “This gives it a nutty, mushroomy flavor,” Lessenden says. And to cook it, all you need to do is stick to the simple steps below.
How to Prepare and Cook Tempeh in 4 Easy Steps
1. Slice it.
Lessenden says your first step in cooking tempeh is taking your block and slicing it into strips. They don’t need to be perfect, but try and make them all a similar width—like 1/4-inch thick—so they cook evenly.
2. Flavor it.
After slicing your tempeh, there are so many different ways you can make it taste amazing. Like tofu, it will absorb the flavor of whatever you marinade it with. Lessenden recommends marinading with one—or a mix!—of the following choices: tamari, soy sauce, liquid smoke, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, dijon mustard, minced garlic, or ginger.
If you’d rather use a dry rub, she says to go for “any of your favorite spices,” including things like paprika, garlic powder, turmeric, coriander, cumin, oregano, and chili powder.
3. Cook it.
There are two main ways Lessenden says you can cook your tempeh: on the stove or in the oven. If you choose to cook it on the stove, heat up a few tablespoons of veggie broth or marinade, then cook your slices for three minutes on each side, or until they’re golden brown and crispy.
If you wake to cook it in the oven, use a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Then, Lessenden recommends baking the tempeh slices in a single layer at 350°F for 20 minutes until they’re browned and crispy.
4. Eat it.
The most fun step, hands down. “Add it to Buddha bowls, salads, sandwiches, wraps, stir-fries—the options are endless,” Lessenden writes. See? Cooking tempeh is easier than you thought.
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