Ever wonder what tempeh is and how to transform this simple plant protein into a mouthwatering meal? This garlicky balsamic maple marinated tempeh is ultra flavorful, easy to make and perfect in rice bowls, sandwiches or salads.
My other favorite way to eat tempeh? Tempeh Bacon!
What is tempeh?
Tempeh (pronounced tem-pei not tem-pah as I used to say!) is believed to have originated in Indonesia many years ago and is still popular there today. It’s typically made from fermented soybeans, but often you will find other ingredients in the mix, such as barley, other grains or beans. It’s an excellent source of protein and the texture is completely different from tofu.
What does tempeh taste like?
It has a nutty flavor but is really quite mild. I wouldn’t suggest eating it plain (same goes for tofu) but rather cook it with flavoring and sauces, as it absorbs other flavors beautifully. It’s not as soft as tofu, but is quite firm and meaty.
Tempeh vs tofu
While they are both made out of soy, tempeh has a completely different flavor and texture than tofu. It’s more firm, meaty with a nutty texture that is nothing like tofu. It also doesn’t need to be pressed, making it easier to prepare. If you haven’t figured out how to make tofu taste good, check out my Marinated Tofu (The Best Tofu Ever!)
How to make marinated tempeh
There are multiple ways to prepare tempeh. For this easy marinated tempeh recipe, we will first steam the tempeh blocks. Steaming releases any bitter flavors while also helping the delicious marinade seep in when marinating. You can skip steaming if you want, but it does bring the flavor up a notch, in my opinion.
Find the complete printable recipe with measurements below in the recipe card. This is an overview with photos.
Open the packages and cut each block into 2 pieces. Steam for 10 minutes.
Marinade: In a large dish, combine balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, soy sauce, garlic and olive oil. Whisk to combine right in the dish.
Slice into triangles, or any other shape you like. I do this by first cutting the steamed squares in half, once they are cool enough to handle.
Then, slice each piece lengthwise. Next cut those thinner squares in a diagonal, making triangles.
Place the tempeh in the dish with the marinade and turn all the pieces over until they are coated in the sauce. Let marinate for at least an hour, or overnight, in the refrigerator.
I’ve also only marinated it for 30 minutes and it turned out fine, but it will be more flavorful the longer you can marinate!
Baked marinated tempeh
Baking is my preferred way to cook this tempeh. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer the tempeh pieces to the baking sheet, but reserve the marinade for later.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, brushing with more marinade about halfway through. Remove from the oven and brush with even more marinade before serving.
Pan fry or air fry options
Pan Fry – Add a few tablespoons of olive oil to a large pan and fry the tempeh pieces for a few minutes on each side. Add a little more marinade to coat the pieces at the end if desired for more flavor.
Air Fry – You can also air fry tempeh. Air fry at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, shaking occasionally until golden brown. Brush with a little leftover marinade once done cooking, then serve.
What to serve marinated tempeh with?
Or put the slices on a sandwich with vegan mayo, lettuce and tomato. The possibilities are endless!
Frequently asked questions
- Where to buy tempeh? Most grocery stores carry it now as it’s quite popular, but health food stores will always have it, such as Whole Foods, Sprouts and other local stores. Trader Joe’s also carries it.
- Can you eat tempeh raw? Technically it’s safe to do so, but I wouldn’t! It does not taste good. I recommend cooking it and adding flavor.
- Is tempeh gluten free? Unfortunately, most tempeh is not gluten free because there is often barley or some other grain added. However, Lightlife original tempeh contains only soy and brown rice as far as I know, so that should be safe. Check the ingredients list to be safe if you are allergic/intolerant to gluten.
- Can you freeze tempeh? Yes, you can absolutely freeze tempeh. So stock up the next time you make a trip to Trader Joes! Simply thaw overnight in the refrigerator or quickly thaw in a bowl of warm water, when ready to use.
More incredible tempeh recipes!
Garlicky Balsamic Maple Marinated Tempeh
- Prepare the tempeh: Remove tempeh from packages, cut each in half and steam for 10 minutes. Slice into small triangles or cubes once cool enough to handle.
- Make the marinade: In a shallow dish (such as a 9×13 inch dish) add the balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, soy sauce, garlic and olive oil. Whisk right in the dish to combine.
- Marinate tempeh: Add the sliced tempeh to the dish and toss to coat each piece in the marinade. Cover and let the tempeh marinate for at least an hour in the refrigerator and up to 24 hours for more flavor. The longer you let it sit, the more flavorful it will be.
- Bake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer the marinated tempeh to the baking sheet. Don't throw away the marinade, you will use it. Bake for 25-30 minutes, brushing with more marinade halfway through cooking for extra flavor.
- Remove from the oven and brush with even more marinade, if desired for more flavor. Serve and enjoy!
- To pan fry instead: Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat in a large non-stick or cast iron skillet. Add the tempeh pieces, leaving the extra marinade in the dish for now. Cook until a little golden brown on each side, flipping often with a spatula. Add a little extra marinade to the pan and toss the tempeh in it for more flavor.
- To air fry instead: Air fry at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, shaking occasionally until golden brown. Brush with a little leftover marinade once done cooking, then serve.
- Gluten free: Make sure the tempeh you buy is gluten free and not made with barley or gluten containing products. Check the ingredients list carefully. And substitute gluten free tamari for the soy sauce.
- I recommend Grand Reserve Balsamic Vinegar. It’s seriously the best, I use it alone as a salad dressing!