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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Black Pepper Tempeh

I just got a new cookbook: Super Natural Every Day from Heidi Swanson. I leafed through the cookbook and a lot of things look interesting and yummy. This is one of them.

I've tried to make tempeh several times but it's never really good. The recipe on the back of the package tells you to pan fried it with a little bit of oil and 2 Tbsp of soy sauce, until browned. I don't know you can just rely on soy sauce as the only seasoning, except maybe sushi, but even then I still need wasabi and pickled ginger. In the end the tempeh is usually pretty oily and blah tasting.

But let's back up for a second. What is tempeh?

Tempeh is a soy product originating from Indonesia. Similar to tofu in that it's made of soybean, but tempeh has different nutrition and texture than tofu. Tempeh, or tempe as it is called in Indonesia, is made by naturally culturing and controlling the fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form. Tempeh is used worldwide in vegetarian cuisine and can usually be found in the vegetarian section of your grocery store. You can read more about tempeh and see pictures of several tempeh dishes here on Wikipedia.

Heidi has a different approach to making tempeh. And this one is so good! Not to mention super easy, the whole thing, from prep to finish, takes less than 1/2 hour.

This recipe tells you to use sauteed 15 smashed garlic cloves, red pepper flakes, and ginger with coconut oil over low heat. Since I will be bringing this for lunch at work, the idea of using 15 garlic scares me. Imagine what my breath will be like - YIKES. So I chickened out and used only 3. I also didn't have coconut oil so I used safflower.

Black Pepper Tempeh
adapted from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson
Serves 2 for main dish, 4 for side dish

3 tablespoons extra-virgin coconut oil (if you don't have it, use safflower oil or canola oil)
15 small cloves garlic, smashed (or less)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp peeled and grated fresh ginger
4 Tbsp soy sauce
4 Tbsp of brown sugar
1/4 cup water, plus more if needed
8 ounces tempeh, sliced 1/2 inch thick
12 ounces cauliflower, very finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp of black pepper

In a large skilled over low heat, heat the oil for a couple of minutes. Add in the garlic, red pepper flakes, ginger and sauteed until they started to brown. Add in the tempeh and increase to medium heat (I used tempeh with wild rice, you can see the black rice in the picture). After a couple of minutes of sauteeing, add in a mixture of soy sauce, water, and brown sugar. Then add in the finely chopped cauliflower. Add a bit more water if they have evaporated, then close the pan. After 5 minutes, uncover, increase the heat to medium high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tempeh started to brown. Remove from the heat and stir in the black pepper.


  1. This sounds really good! Do you roast your own peppercorns? The difference in flavor is unbelievable. I use an organic mix of peppercorns from Spice Hunter and people now ask for my pepper. Never would have believed that!

  2. Vicki, do share your roast peppercorn recipe! It sounds good!

  3. Jenn-It's so easy it's ridiculous! I buy a bottle of mixed peppercorns, usually black, green, white, pink. Williams Sonoma is my favorite and I found out they use Spice Hunter which Whole Foods carries. I've tried other brands but they were bitter. Heat a cast iron skillet and pour the peppercorns in. Stir as they are roasting. They'll start to shrivel and pop a bit. Keep stirring until they smell done because they can burn. Grind in a spice or dedicated spice coffee grinder. That's it! Pour it back into the jar. Warning, once you do this you'll never go back to regular pepper. We put it on everything!

  4. Oh sorry, there's no oil in the pan and obviously the peppercorns need to cool completely on a plate before grinding.

  5. Vicki, thank you so much! I will try this weekend :).


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