If tofu is the Zelig of soy-based food products, then tempeh is its nutty cousin with a personality. The fermented soy-based product that hails from Indonesia is making its way into kitchens around the country. Once a food co-op staple, tempeh is now more hip than hippie, as health-conscious cooks seek alternatives to meat consumption.
In January 2015, Joe Yonan, the food editor of the Washington Post, sang its praises, and here's why: tempeh is packed with protein and is very versatile. Rather than seem like penance, the nutty taste and crunchy texture of baked or pan-fried tempeh has depth, and the taste of well-seasoned tempeh is fabulous.
Many people come to it after eating their fair share of tofu. Like tofu, tempeh can be incorporated into soups, salads and sandwiches. Unlike tofu, however, you don't have to disguise it as something else. Tempeh absorbs marinades well, transforming fermented soybeans into toothsome fare. Getting the most out of tempeh, however, does take some getting used to. But once mastered, tempeh deserves a spot in your rotation of go-to meals. A rainbow slaw salad paired with pan-fried tempeh is a great introduction to this ingredient. Once prepped, the elements come together in minutes. Vegetarians will welcome the change, and carnivores will be none the wiser.

Prep time: 20 minutes 

Total time: 25 minutes

Yields: 6 serving

Tempeh Salad

Equipment you'll need

  • Chef's knife
  • Cutting board
  • Griddle spatula
  • Potato peeler
  • Large skillet
  • Mixing bowl
  • Canning jar with lid
Ingredients for tempeh salad


  • 8 oz. 5-grain tempeh, cubed
  • 1/3 cup canola oil, divided
  • 2 tbs. light soy
  • 1 tbs. hot sauce like Tabasco
  • 2 cups red cabbage, shredded
  • 1 red pepper, stemmed, seeded and sliced
  • 2 organic carrots, shredded
  • 1 bundle spring onions, stemmed and trimmed
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbs. sweet chili sauce
  • 1 tbs. sesame oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 oz. chow mein noodles
  • 2 tbs. sesame seeds, toasted
Cooking directions
  1. To make the tempeh, heat 4 tbs. canola oil in a large skillet for 2 minutes over medium-high heat. Add cubed tempeh to skillet. Sauté for 5 or 6 minutes and chop with griddle spatula until it crumbles. Reduce heat to low, add light soy and hot sauce. Set aside. Cubed tempeh
  2. To make the salad, combine, cabbage, pepper, carrots, spring onions in a large mixing bowl. Gently fold ingredients, about 1 minute.
  3. To make the dressing, take a small caning jar and combine lime juice, 3 tbs. canola oil, sesame oil, garlic cloves, and sweet chili sauce. Seal and shake vigorously. Tempeh salad ready for dressing and seasonings
  4. Add dressing to salad and top with chow mein noodles and toasted sesame seeds. Toss salad and serve.

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How to make Tempeh Salad
Once a food co-op staple, tempeh is now more hip than hippie, as health-conscious cooks seek alternatives to meat consumption.