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How Tempeh Works

What Goes Well With Tempeh?
You can even add tempeh to a salad.
You can even add tempeh to a salad.
John Block/Blend Images/Getty Images

It might be easier to ask, what doesn't? Much like tofu, tempeh takes on the flavors of the ingredients with which it's cooked. Yet it also has a nutty, mushroom-like flavor of its own (tofu, on the other hand, has almost no flavor). Despite its earthy taste, tempeh goes well with pretty much everything because, in the end, it will mimic the flavor of its companion ingredients.

Tempeh fans often marinate the product overnight, because the process softens it, allowing it to accept more flavors. Marinades can be as simple as vegetable stock or a mixture of soy sauce, garlic and water. Of course, you can add in peppercorns, ginger, Liquid Smoke -- whatever flavors you like or will correspond to the dish you're cooking. To marinate the tempeh, spread the chopped/crumbled/sliced pieces on a baking dish and top with the marinade. Cover the dish and let it sit for 30 minutes minimum to as long as overnight. When you're ready to use it, drain off the marinade, pat the tempeh dry and you're ready to roll. Another alternative is to dry-rub your tempeh with your favorite spice blend, just as you would a steak. Simply rub the spices over both sides of sliced tempeh, or toss crumbled tempeh with the spice blend, and let sit for five to 10 minutes [source: Parsons].

Once your tempeh is ready, you can crumble and toss it into chili or spaghetti sauces, add to your favorite stir-fry dish or breakfast burrito, or pan fry and substitute for sandwich meat, topping it with spinach, onions, tomato slices and ranch dressing, for example. A lot of vegan restaurants have tempeh Reuben sandwiches on the menu. (Because tempeh has a somewhat firm, chewy texture similar to meat, it works much better as a sandwich meat substitute than tofu.) You can also cube it and use in a hearty salad.

Not a creative cook? These foods definitely work well with tempeh [source: Knutson]:

  • Barbecue sauce
  • Caraway seeds
  • Cayenne
  • Celery
  • Cinnamon
  • Dijon mustard
  • Green onions
  • Lemon and lime juice
  • Maple syrup
  • Mayonnaise
  • Pasta
  • Peanut butter
  • Peppers
  • Sauerkraut
  • Vinegar

As you can see, tempeh can work for just about any type of American or international cooking. And it's very nutritious. too. Why not give it a try?