Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I'll be burgered if these taste like tempeh!

Tempeh has been troubling me for many months. Several experiments with tempeh have left me totally underwhelmed and extremely frustrated. Despite my efforts at pre-steaming, marinating, baking, stewing and pan-frying, tempeh has always left a funny taste in my mouth, literally speaking.

My first experiment was a tempeh bacon recipe to which the man, son and I had an unanimous agreement. It wasn't that bad but we all preferred tofu bacon. My next foray with tempeh was using a Viva Vegan recipe, tempeh asado. The tempeh was pre-steamed to remove the bitter taste, marinated in lime juice and spices and then pan-fried. The only thing that made me happy that night was the delicious gallo pinto (Costa Rican refried rice and beans) that was served with the unappetising tempeh. Tempeh asado was the first recipe from Viva Vegan to get a big thumbs down from me.

A smoky tempeh, white beans and greens stew from Appetite for Reduction was a slight improvement on my last tempeh trial although I did ensure that the amount of beans and greens on my plate was significantly greater than the tempeh pieces. Baked marinated tempeh was my next attempt which was another miserable fail. At this stage, the man was the only one interested in tempeh but I felt like I needed to persevere. Surely, there must be a way that I could enjoy it!

The tempeh experiments were given a rest for a couple of months until I recently discovered a packet of marinated tempeh hiding in the back of the fridge which was almost due to expire. I thought about how to use the tempeh and decided on burgers as they are usually a winner and were something that I hadn't tried yet. A quick search let me to Vegan Dad who had a tempeh burger recipe that sounded promising as it was full of an abundance of herbs and spices plus none of his recipes had let me down so far.

My son made a face when I told him we were having tempeh burgers for dinner. Like me, he hadn't been a fan up to that point. I tried to keep his interest up by stressing that I had high hope for these burgers and that we needed to keep an open mind. One bite was all that it took to win us both over! The burgers were delicious, so many wonderful herbs and spices could be detected (they were probably over flavoured due to using pre-marinated tempeh but it worked for us!) and there was no disgusting taste at all this time around.  

Although I have finally had success with a tempeh recipe, I'm still no convert and would choose tofu over tempeh any day of the week. I would like to keep trying tempeh recipes in the hope that it will grow on me eventually. So I wanted to ask bloggers and readers their thoughts about tempeh.

What's your favorite tempeh recipe? Was it love at first bite or did it take some time for you to embrace tempeh?

Tempeh burgers (Adapted from Vegan Dad)

300g packet marinated tempeh, grated
1/2 generous cup breadcrumbs
1/3 generous cup gluten flour
2 teaspoons ground fennel seed
1 teaspoon sage
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 tablespoons tamari
1 tablespoon BBQ sauce
1 tablespoon ketchup
1/2 teaspoon massell gravy powder
2-4 tablespoons water (I used about 2.5)

Place the grated tempeh, breadcrumbs, gluten flour, ground fennel seed, sage, thyme, oregano, parsley, garlic and onion powder in a large bowl and mix well. Add the tamari, BBQ sauce, ketchup and enough water to make a pliable dough. Knead in the bowl for a few minutes until the ingredients are well combined.

Divide dough into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball then flatten into a thin burger. Spray a frying pan with olive oil spray and cook for about 5 minutes on each side until lightly browned.


  1. I know how you feel about tempeh. It doesn't always enthuse me. The way it has worked best for me is when you fry it and glaze it so it is both crispy and full of flavour - though I also loved it in a corn soup - instead of giving you the links, I will give you the link to a recent post asking for tempeh ideas that had some links you might want to follow up (including mine)

  2. I'm glad you found these burgers after so many disappointing tempeh attempts! I was ambivalent about tempeh for years before eventually developing a taste for it. Like Johanna, I reckon that frying thin slices to crispness with a glaze (soy sauce, lemon/lime juice, maple syrup... whatever you're into) is the easiest way in.

  3. Thanks for the link Johanna! I will have a go at one or two of these recipes. It's interesting that you say it doesn't always enthuse you.

    I was pretty relieved to finally enjoy a recipe Cindy. Perhaps the tempeh has been cut too thick the times I haven't really enjoyed it which hasn't helped. I might have to get the cheese slicer out next time which I also use to slice tofu for tofu bacon.

  4. I like tempeh, but I'd still rather have tofu, beans, or seitan. There's something about its fermented flavor that can turn me off sometimes. I go through phases with tempeh. At first I didn't like it. Then I loved it. Now I prefer tempeh when it has been soaking in a strong marinade. My favorite way to have it is the hot sauce glazed tempeh from Veganomicon. It's so spicy and flavorful, the heat and texture weighs more heavily than the tempeh-ness of the dish. My second favorite cooking method is tempeh bacon in a BLT from Vegan Table. From Viva Vegan, you might like the Tempeh Pot Pie. If you break the tempeh down as much as possible (maybe even using a cheese grater to get it really small), it gives a satisfying texture without being the dominant flavor.

    After hearing about your reaction to Vegan Dad's burger, I look forward to trying it out for myself!

  5. Thanks for stopping by and for your helpful comments Cadry!!! I thought I should stick to grating tempeh for a while until hopefully I can get used to it. The hot sauce glazed tempeh sounds very tempting though, perhaps I will enjoy it if I use thin pieces of tempeh. I should try the Viva Vegan pot pie too as I love pot pies and adore Viva Vegan!

  6. Good idea about making the tempeh as thin as possible on the hot sauce glazed tempeh! That's what I do too. First I cut the tempeh block in half, then into four triangles. Then I turn the triangles on their sides and slice them down their center, so that they're twice as skinny. (Does that make sense? It's hard to describe...)

    Isn't Viva Vegan awesome? I've been cooking out of it regularly for over a year, but I'm still finding new favorites all the time.

  7. Nice work! I gave tempeh 3 chances and no dice. I might re-visit it in a year or two but it really did scare me off.

  8. Thanks again Cadry. I think I will even try to get the tempeh slices twice as thin as you are describing as I'm sure that is how I have prepared it in the past and not liked it. The packets in Australia could be chunkier than yours as well. I love Viva Vegan so much and cook something out of it almost every week!

    Thanks Nachos. I really didn't want to give up on tempeh but there were times I seriously wondered why I was persevering. I think grated tempeh could be the way to go for newbies.

  9. Hi there!

    I personally *LOVE* Tempeh! I originally had to ease into it myself, but since I've got the hang of it I haven't even thought about tofu for savory dishes. The first recipe that really got me hooked was this Tempeh Mock-Chicken Salad recipe. Since then I have made everything from Tempeh meatballs to Tempeh shepherds pie.

    Don't give up on it! :D

    1. Sorry for the slow response Becky, I've been neglecting this blog for a while... It did take a while for me to come around to tempeh but I'm totally converted now and have been finding all sorts of ways to use it recently. I'm a fan of tempeh meatballs and also love a Thai style tempeh salad but haven't used it in a shepherds pie before - thanks for that tip!