How to Make Tempeh Taste Good

Sharing my ideas for how to cook tempeh and if tempeh should be cooked!

Hi friends! How’s the day going so far? I’m catching a barre class from home this morning and am looking forward to taking the kiddos on a hike this afternoon. For today’s post, I thought I’d revisit an older post since the meat shelves are currently empty at the grocery stores. The past couple of times I’ve gone, I’ve been happy to see one of my favorite vegan protein options still in the refrigerated section: tempeh!

Tempeh is a little bit misunderstood as far as “health food” goes.

Tempeh has a bit of a bad rap. It’s kind of like kale. If you try it the wrong way, you never want it again. Much like kale, tempeh doesn’t taste wonderful all of the time, and definitely doesn’t taste that great on its own.

It’s one of those things people buy and are like “Yay, look at the protein content! This is healthy! I’m going to try it” and then they go home, take it out of the package, take a bite, and are like “Oh noooooooo.”

Said tempeh goes in the trash can, and said person is scarred for life.

But there’s good news here.

Tempeh CAN taste good. If you don’t like tempeh, keep reading to learn how to cook tempeh so you can enjoy it along with it’s hefty protein content. It’s one of my favorite non-meat protein sources and soon it might be one of yours, too.

Tips on how to make tempeh taste good.

It takes a little bit of seasoning, some oil, and voila! You’ll have a tasty protein source for your meal. (Word to the world: don’t try to cook it in the slow cooker. It was a nightmare haha.)

How to Cook Tempeh So That It Tastes Good

1. Bake it. I love baked BBQ tempeh (just coat in BBQ sauce and bake for 20 minutes at 350), or even plain with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder and smoked paprika.

2. Pan-fry it. This is my favorite method! Take the sliced tempeh and marinate in this following mixture: 3 tablespoons Tamari or coconut aminos, 1 tablespoon olive oil, splash of apple cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon maple syrup, 1/4 teaspoon each of garlic powder, chili powder, smoked paprika, and season well with salt and pepper.

Pan-fry in olive oil (don’t skimp on the oil; it makes it so crispy and good!) for about 3-5 minutes each side.

Blackened tempeh

For an amazing tempeh BLT, add slices of the pan-fried tempeh onto gluten-free bread. Next, spread homemade Thousand Island dressing (avocado mayo, orange juice, a little ketchup and chopped fresh herbs), and top it with kimchi. I’d pair it with a  vegan tomato soup recipe. You’d never know it was made without heavy cream.

Blackened tempeh with vegan tomato soup

3. Crumble it into dishes like you would with ground meat. Ground tempeh holds seasonings and sauces beautifully, so consider it a blank palette in stir fries and stovetop veggie dishes.

Tempeh taco meat

(You have to try these tempeh taco lettuce wraps!)

It’s also incredible in this tempeh BLT salad.

Even though I personally don’t eat a ton of soy, I do enjoy tempeh on a semi-regular basis.

Things to Love About Tempeh

Tempeh is fermented soy, and the fermentation process makes it easier to digest.

Tempeh also has a whole bean structure, so it’s less processed and retains more protein, fiber and vitamins.

This is a great article comparing tempeh and tofu if you’d like more insight. For me, I also prefer the taste.

So tell me friends: are you a tempeh fan? What are some of the *healthy* foods you dislike? 

I don’t like corn. It’s good on the cob in the summer (or in popcorn or kettle form), but otherwise, I’m not a huge fan.

Salad with tempeh




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  1. India on October 25, 2016 at 8:12 am

    I love tempeh! It’s so good. I even don’t mind it plain – Kath Eats Real Food once wrote about goat cheese, jam and tempeh sandwich and I’ve done that in a pinch. I really love Heidi’s recipe for tempeh too. It’s sweet and delicious. Can’t wait to try your suggestions now.

    • Fitnessista on October 25, 2016 at 10:44 pm

      that sounds amazing – thank you!

  2. Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious on October 25, 2016 at 8:53 am

    You know I’ve never had tempeh ever. It kind of scares me a little. Lol! Maybe I’ll give it a try using your tips. Good to know about the slow cooker. Haha!

    • Fitnessista on October 25, 2016 at 10:44 pm

      haha don’t be afraid 🙂 it’s really good!

  3. averie @ averie cooks on October 25, 2016 at 9:03 am

    I made tempeh almost every night – so much easier than tofu because you don’t have to press it! I throw it in my grill pan/basket and spray it with olive oil spray, S & P, along with veggies that I do the same to, put it all on the grill, and it’s done in like 5-10 minutes, depending on how hot the grill is, how charred you like it with the smoky grill flavor, etc. Loved reading this post because I’m always up for new ideas!

  4. Amanda on October 25, 2016 at 10:56 am

    I like tempeh over tofu because you can omit the whole pressing out the water part. Tempeh is super easy in that way.

    I love BBQ tempeh!

    The first recipe I ever made with it is here: Give it a try. Totally delicious.

    Also these bowls = <3

    • Fitnessista on October 25, 2016 at 10:44 pm

      ohhh i will check those out- thank you!

  5. Christina on October 25, 2016 at 12:06 pm

    Hey Gina! Just wondering if you had an update on the Feedly issue? I miss having this blog in my blog reader, thanks!

    • Fitnessista on October 25, 2016 at 1:01 pm

      i emailed them again today. hopefully i’ll hear something back! i’m so sorry for the inconvenience <3 thank you for checking in!

  6. Maribeth on October 25, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    i <3 tempeh! the trick is to marinade it. i'm going to put that sandwich on my list to try. this is my favorite tempeh sandwich –

    • Fitnessista on October 25, 2016 at 10:43 pm

      yes to the marinade! it makes a huge difference
      i will check out your sandwich recipe!

  7. Erin @ Her Heartland Soul on October 25, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    Tempeh can be delicious! I never used to like it until I met Josh and he showed me how to cook it.

    • Fitnessista on October 25, 2016 at 10:43 pm

      that is so cute that josh knew how to make it!

  8. Meagan @ My Life as Mrs on October 25, 2016 at 5:51 pm

    I love tofu and I’ve been interested in trying out tempeh for a long time but never gotten around to it. I’m saving this and definitely going to try it out soon!

    • Fitnessista on October 25, 2016 at 10:43 pm

      please let me know how it goes!

  9. Sara on October 25, 2016 at 6:13 pm

    My favorite tempeh recipe is from 101 cookbooks her tempeh bacon. Its so good I don’t think I’ve ever tried another recipe.

    • Fitnessista on October 25, 2016 at 10:43 pm

      oh i will check it out!!

  10. Jessica @ Semi-Sweet Tooth on October 26, 2016 at 7:07 am

    I was one of those people that was anti tempeh… pretty much right up until I tried your Warm Tempeh Salad!

    Using it as an ingredient, rather than the “main star” of the meal and preparing it in a slightly different way really made all the difference!

    Thanks for the tips!
    XO, Jessica

  11. Juliana on October 26, 2016 at 10:08 am

    I am one of those scarred people. It tastes like sadness straight out of the package. Maybe I will give tempeh another shot… I haven’t tried doing anything with it before…hmm…
    I also had a super scarring experience with tofu “egg” salad, and now I can’t stand the texture of tofu. Blegh.

    • emilie on January 9, 2017 at 10:31 am

      “It tastes like sadness straight out of the package.” HAHAHAHA!!!! Like you, I’m scarred, but my husband had tempeh at a restaurant the other day and it was delicious (he made me try it)! Turns out that the restaurant made their own and it wasn’t just soybeans and mold — it was yummy! I’ll give making it myself a shot now that I know there are other recipes for it.

  12. Christine on October 26, 2016 at 1:10 pm

    I make tempeh like 4 nights a week. I always slice it, put olive oil and soy sauce/Tamari in a pan and fry it. Then flip it over. Takes like 3 mins on each side and done. Then I throw it in whatever we are eating or on the side. My son used to eat it this way all the time (now he’s 3.5 and super picky).

  13. Rina on October 28, 2016 at 6:06 pm

    Sometimes the tempeh has a bitter flavor. Do you have a specific brand you like that tastes good straight into the pan?

    • Fitnessista on October 29, 2016 at 9:28 am

      no haha. i think everything i’ve tried needs a little love to taste good

    • Sarah C on November 1, 2016 at 7:45 pm

      The best thing to remove that bitter flavor is a bit of steaming–only 10 min or so before plunking the tempeh into a marinade or pan sauce.

      • Erika on November 4, 2016 at 12:06 pm

        I’m a little late here, but I was going to suggest this, too. I recently learned about steaming tempeh before frying/baking, etc. and it 100% takes away the weird, bitter flavor.

  14. Christy L. on October 28, 2016 at 8:58 pm

    I love tempeh, and have made your tempeh taco “meat” tons of times (and have won over non-veggie people with it!). We do a tempeh bacon a lot, and I pan fried it with some olive oil, salt and pepper the other day to throw on a salad. I had the best tempeh EVER on a salad at some brewery in Bellingham, WA last month. It was almost like crispy croutons. I love how it’s a bit nutty– I think it’s totally different from tofu.

  15. Sarah C on November 1, 2016 at 7:46 pm

    As I responded to Rina above, I think tempeh can benefit from a quick steam to remove some of the bitter flavors – just 10 min or so, then pop it into a marinade or pan sauce, and the bitterness that some people experience with tempeh is gone!

  16. Jennifer on November 9, 2016 at 6:10 am

    Another great tip is to cook the tempeh for longer amounts of time to remove the bitterness. I love that bitter taste, and it can grow on you. I know my husband wasn’t a fan at first, and now I think he is slowly growing a palette for it. A lot of vegans will steam the tempeh for 8-10 minutes before using it in a recipe for a curry or chili recipe. But steaming will make it harder to fry.

    • Jennifer on November 9, 2016 at 6:11 am

      Oh, and I’ve read that homemade tempeh tastes MUCH better than the packaged stuff. I’ve been a little too scared to make my own, but if you can find any local artisan tempeh, you should try it out.

  17. Anissa on January 14, 2020 at 10:28 am

    I tried tempeh in Indonesia and it was one of the greatest things I’ve ever tried. I craved it back in Europe and was so happy to find it in an Asian shop just in my building, but my first attempt to cook it wasn’t good. I boiled it a bit, then marinated and baked in the oven, but in 20 and even in 40 min it felt still undercooked and tasted bad. I bought another brick yesterday and will give it one more try. Thanks for sharing your tips

  18. Mollie on March 30, 2020 at 8:57 am

    Yea for tempeh! I first discovered tempeh in Bali back in 2003. Sadly I can’t get it here in Switzerland, but whenever I get the chance I jump on it. My favorite way is in the Indonesian dish Gado Gado. Boiled or steamed potatoes and green beans, peanut sauce and crispy fried tempeh (plus shrimp crackers if you want to be authentic). I second you on not skimping on the oil. In Bali they would chop it up into itty bitty pieces and fry to a crisp and I still find that’s the tastiest way 🙂 Thanks for sharing some new ideas! Now if I can only find a supplier…

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