Miss Understood

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When I first encountered tempeh at the grocery store, I wasn’t really sure what it was or what to do with it.   It looked and smelled weird.  There were spots along the back that kind of looked like mold – but the packaging assured me this was ‘normal.’  Tempeh was a little scary, to say the least.

tempeh is scary

Tempeh is cooked and slightly fermented soybeans.  If tofu is bland (without marinade, of course), then tempeh is super nutty and flavorful.   Tofu is also very soft, even the extra firm kind, in comparison to tempeh.


My favorite way to prepare tempeh is to pan-fry it at a high temperature in a sweet marinade.  The outside caramelizes, and the nutty and sweet tastes are a perfect complement.


Here’s how I prepared this delicious lunch:


I poured 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar and 1/4 cup agave nectar into a hot wok.  Once the mixture started to bubble, I carefully placed the tempeh triangles onto the wok and let them stand for 3 – 5 minutes, or until the bottoms began to brown.  Before flipping, I drizzled the uncooked sides with a little more agave.   Then, I let it cook for another minute or so. 


Perfect tempeh in under 10 minutes!


Served on top of a bed of quinoa (here’s how to prepare quinoa), peas, mushrooms, and pea sprouts.



My other favorite way to prepare tempeh is by encrusting it in coconut!  Yum yum.  See – tempeh isn’t so scary!  It’s just misunderstood.



  • Laine September 4, 2011, 1:28 pm

    Yum, I used to boil it in veggie broth and then shred and add celery, mayo and onions for a tuna-ish salad.

  • Khushboo September 4, 2011, 1:28 pm

    Even better when the tempeh comes pre-marinated! This looks delicious and I’m going to try the mixture with tofu (no tempeh in Mumbai)!

  • Jenny @ Fitness Health and Food September 4, 2011, 1:29 pm

    mmm I do love tempeh but I’ve never tried pan searing with a sweet marinade – such a delicious idea! 🙂

  • @MasPublicHealth September 4, 2011, 1:32 pm

    Thanks for these tempeh tips! The ACV + agave sounds wonderfully tangy. The organic market near me makes a BBQ tempeh that’s absolutely delicious, too… one of these days I’ll try to recreate it. One of the biggest problems–I’ve found–with making your own dish from packaged is that it’s very hard to get rid of the bitter/slimy/nutty-ish taste that professionals seem to do so well!

  • Sweet and Savvy September 4, 2011, 1:33 pm

    I really need to give tempeh a try!

  • Penny September 4, 2011, 1:40 pm

    Never tried it, but have been meaning to for a while. Love the tips. I wouldn’t have a clue what to do with it otherwise. 🙂

  • Ashley September 4, 2011, 1:52 pm

    I love tempeh! I often buy the bacon tempeh and use it on salads and to make BLTs. Mmm!!

  • April @ Grits and Granola Bars September 4, 2011, 1:59 pm

    I tried tempeh when I made Mama Pea’s tacos and it was pretty good! My tofu hating husband even enjoyed it.

  • Sarena (The Non Dairy Queen) September 4, 2011, 2:21 pm

    I LOVED tempeh! I miss it so much…darn soy allergy! This meal looks amazing!

  • Baking N Books September 4, 2011, 2:28 pm

    I never would of thought of combining the vinegar and sugar to the pan first. I always just saute it in a little olive oil.

    What kind do you buy? I haven’t seen just a regular tempeh. It’s either quinoa, 3-grain or sea vegetable. It’s not a marinade over it either – just how it’s made. But still no added ingredients so healthy. I have the seaweed one here now – tastes like regular – a little green in color!

    • CaitlinHTP September 5, 2011, 10:24 am

      I just grab whichever one I see 🙂 I wanna try the seaweed flavor though!

  • Luv What You Do September 4, 2011, 2:32 pm

    I love tempeh out but have never been successful making it at home. Did you use it straight from the package? I had heard you need to prep it ahead of time to improve the flavor.

    • CaitlinHTP September 5, 2011, 10:25 am

      Sounds like some people boil it but I didn’t and it was fine!

  • Clare September 4, 2011, 2:33 pm

    Ok, I think the tempeh bacon is delicious! But my tum-tum does not like it! I digest tofu fine-but not tempeh. Does anyone have this problem?

    • CaitlinHTP September 5, 2011, 10:24 am

      Maybe it’s the fermination?

  • Alison (Fueling for Fitness) September 4, 2011, 2:38 pm

    Wow, that DOES look really good! I like this recipe / method a lot because most tempeh recipes I find call for marinating and I’m not exactly the best at pre-planning things. When I want to cook – I want to cook! Looks perfect on top of those pea sprouts too.

  • Jen September 4, 2011, 2:40 pm

    I love tempeh! I haven’t cooked with it in a really long time. You don’t boil or steam it beforehand? I know a lot of recipes recommend doing so to get rid of some of the bitterness.

    • CaitlinHTP September 5, 2011, 10:25 am

      I didn’t! But it seems like a lot of other people do.

  • Charlie September 4, 2011, 2:55 pm

    I REALLY want to try tempeh but can’t find it anywhere :(.

  • Chelsea September 4, 2011, 3:10 pm

    I’ve tried tempeh before and hatedd it =/ I hated the nuttiness of it and just..blah not my thing lol.

  • kathleen @ the daily crumb September 4, 2011, 3:13 pm

    tempeh has always scared me as well!! but in all fairness, i have never tried it and i do try to give everything a chance 🙂 thanks for the tutorial!

  • CJ @ http://healthy-happy-whole.com/ September 4, 2011, 3:25 pm

    wow that looks so pretty on that plate!!! i have never tried tempeh but maybe Ill have to sometime! thanks for the tips!

  • Lindsay @ biking before bed September 4, 2011, 3:46 pm

    I am very intrigued to try cooking tempah now. I’ve only had it once or twice but was never a huge fan. Thanks for the suggestion.

  • Jenny September 4, 2011, 3:59 pm

    Yum! I made tempeh for dinner last night. Roasted it with sweet potatoes and eggplant with a pomegranate glaze over brown rice with feta on top.

  • Annette @ EnjoyYourHealthyLife September 4, 2011, 4:07 pm

    I need to go and buy some–I hope to find it at a regular grocery store??

    I LOVE quinoa! Yumm. I am going to have some this week-thanks for the idea!

    • CaitlinHTP September 5, 2011, 10:26 am

      Yup near the tofu!

  • Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga September 4, 2011, 5:05 pm

    Great tempeh tips. I love cooking with ACV because of the bubbles and great (chemical) reactions that you can get from it. I’ve tried baking/preparing tofu with everything from vinegar, komboucha, orange juice, lemon juice..any acid like that is fun.

    Plus of course brown sugar, agave, etc to balance it.

    GREAT job on that tempeh!

  • Hillary September 4, 2011, 5:15 pm

    I’ve still never made tempeh because, quite honestly, it wigs me out a little. But you just made it seem way less scary. Maybe I can give it a go?

  • Katie @ Peace Love and Oats September 4, 2011, 5:28 pm

    I’ve been scared to try it because it looks scary! this looks delicious, though! I’ll have to give it a try

  • Lisa (bakebikeblog) September 4, 2011, 5:47 pm

    Try as I might – the taste of tempeh does NOTHING for me!!

  • Lindsay@ In Sweetness and In Health September 4, 2011, 5:56 pm

    Yum! I had tempeh for the first time the other night. I used it instead of meat in chili…it was great!

  • chelsey @ clean eating chelsey September 4, 2011, 6:14 pm

    Does tempeh have wheat in it? I always forget!

    • CaitlinHTP September 5, 2011, 10:28 am

      Not sure… I think it’s just soy.

    • Amber K September 5, 2011, 5:49 pm

      Definitely read labels. I have seen gluten-free tempeh and tempeh that has a sauce with it that contains wheat.

  • chelsey @ clean eating chelsey September 4, 2011, 6:14 pm

    Does tempeh have wheat in it? I always forget!

  • Sarah@The Flying ONION September 4, 2011, 6:54 pm

    I absolutely *love* tempeh!

    I have been into eating it raw between toasted ezekiel bread with jam. I realize this makes me sound like some sort of hippy, but I totally love it. I can’t wait to try your agave/sauteed method. Sounds wonderfully delicious! 😀

  • Mary @ Bites and Bliss September 4, 2011, 7:25 pm

    I really do love tempeh but hardly every have it due to it being too expensive. The Mellow Mushroom here makes a fantastic tempeh pizza, though!

  • Emily @ Relishments September 4, 2011, 7:29 pm

    I LOVE tempeh as well. It’s definitely a thousand times better than tofu.

  • Kristin@Operation Nutrition September 4, 2011, 7:33 pm

    Hi! I’m a newbie vegetarian (about 2 months) and just bought my first package of tempeh. I’m not going to lie, I’ve been putting off making it because I’m scared of it. Im planning to make it like you would make ground beef tacos. Have you ever made it this way? Your dish looks amazing!
    Ps. Love your blog!

    • CaitlinHTP September 5, 2011, 10:29 am

      I think Mama Pea has a recipe for tempeh tacos – check out her site!!

      Thank you sweet ie 🙂

  • Izzyy September 4, 2011, 7:40 pm

    I’ve had tempeh in tempeh-bacon form (courtesy of Tofurky), but I’ve been wanting to try cooking it from scratch for a while now! It is NOT easy to come by in my parts, unfortunately 🙁

    Dumb question: did you have to oil/spray your pan/wok before adding the sweet marinade? I’m totally stealing your technique it looks great!


    • CaitlinHTP September 5, 2011, 10:29 am

      My wok is non stick so no. I need to switch to a stainless steel (healthier) and then you would need to spray!

  • Jessi @ Quirky Cookery September 4, 2011, 8:00 pm

    Hmm, looking like it has mold is normal? What is it that makes it look that way? Or is the moldiness just okay? heh

    • CaitlinHTP September 5, 2011, 10:30 am

      It’s normal. I’m not sure why it does it. But it’s a little scary!

      • Jessi @ Quirky Cookery September 5, 2011, 4:05 pm

        Yeah, that might be enough to make me not want to buy it, ha.

  • Evan Thomas September 4, 2011, 8:27 pm

    Since I was moving and half my food/pans were in boxes, my dinner tonight was raw veggies, hummus, and a plain piece of tempeh. If you can learn to love it that way, you can learn to love it any way.

    Also, now you have me jamming out to Better Than Ezra. “She’s not crazy knock on wood, just a little misunderstood”

  • Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin September 4, 2011, 9:02 pm

    I always like doing tempeh in sweet marinades too. Coating it in coconut sounds amazing – I’ve got to try that!

  • Mi-an d. September 4, 2011, 9:21 pm

    I absolutely love tempeh! i tried making tempeh bacon (google recipe) which turned out awesome! Then i made teriyaki marinade and it also turned out well. Cant to wrong with tempeh!

  • Melissa September 4, 2011, 9:25 pm

    I have all the ingredients…looks like I know what I’m having for lunch tmrw!!! Thanks 🙂 I usually steam my tempeh a bit before cooking…I guess I’ll try sans steaming tmrw and let you know how it turns out!!

  • Alex G September 4, 2011, 10:08 pm

    I’ve had a package of TJ’s tempeh sitting in my fridge for almost a month b/c I had no clue what to do with it (it’s pretty scary looking…) Now I’m so excited to try this ‘sweet and sour’ style marinade 🙂

  • Mandy @ The Fat Girl's Guide to Life September 4, 2011, 10:46 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. I’ve heard that fermenting soy is the only way to get rid of the harmful hormonal and dementia risks that come from eating soy. So this “slightly fermented” thing sounds perfect!

    Do you happen to know if “slightly fermented” means that it has *fully* purged the harmful stuff from the soy?

  • peacebeme September 5, 2011, 1:43 am

    I actually like tempeh better than tofu!

  • Sophie @ threetimesf September 5, 2011, 3:11 am

    Thanks for this – I also had no idea what tempeh was until now!

  • Stephanie September 5, 2011, 3:18 pm

    Hi Caitlin! 🙂 I have been following your blog for a while, but being completely new to blogging, have not yet left you a comment.

    I remember my first experience with tempeh. It honestly looked very unappetizing. 😛 I really appreciate the tempeh preparation recipe! I really enjoy tempeh, but I never know what to do with it. I’ll definitely need to give this a try since I have a package waiting for me in the fridge!

  • Koko @ KokoLikes September 6, 2011, 12:18 am

    LOVE your marinade idea- I have both those things sitting around at home, so will definitely be trying this!

  • AmandaonMaui October 16, 2011, 5:08 am

    Be aware, not all tempeh is created equally. Many of them (including the majority in this line) contain added gluten. I’ve been a little wary about trying it, especially because of the price. However, we are eating a lot less meat so I might be able to justify it.

    • CaitlinHTP October 16, 2011, 10:18 am

      Oh, this is good to know!

      • AmandaonMaui October 16, 2011, 4:23 pm

        Yup! Oh, and seitan is definitely not gluten free. The whole idea behind it is wheat gluten.

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