This marinated tempeh salad is such a great way to showcase this Indonesian favourite. A fantastic dish to serve up for Meatless Mondays, increasing your protein intake on a budget and also to impress your vegan friends.
Why You’ll love Baked Tempeh Salad
If you’re a tempeh lover, this is not only a delicious salad recipe but one that commands attention. You can serve it up at a dinner party as a vegan main dish or as a fancy side dish.
The marinated tempeh is baked to perfection and is full of salty and umami goodness. To counterbalance the strong taste, it is surrounded by ingredients that don’t have overpowering flavours so that they can gel together perfectly.
The cucumber offers crunch, the turnip and alfalfa offer delicate finishes, while the avocado and edamame provide natural creamy notes.
What is Tempeh?
Tempeh is a cake-like product that is packed with fermented soy beans. The traditional tempeh is made of pure soy beans only, which is soaked, hulled, cooked and then fermented.
Although you will find a ton of different variations these days which also include other beans, seeds, nuts and whole grains.
Originating in Indonesia, tempeh gained popularity for those following a vegan lifestyle and could be found in health food stores. But tempeh has surpassed the realm of such a narrow market and can now be found in almost all supermarkets.
My first foray into the world of tempeh was actually with Phenie. We were in Bali together many moons ago with our families and we decided to take a cooking class.
The first item on the menu was tempeh and while we have tried many different forms of soy products, including fermented ones, we had never tried tempeh before.
It was cut into small sticks and deep fried in coconut oil. It was delicious! The aromatic coconut infused itself into the packed soy beans and you can imagine the crunch when we bit into it.
I loved that meaty, nutty flavour, and I remember thinking that it was much firmer than I had expected, which made it the perfect product to deep fry.
Tempeh is a great source of protein because it is so densely packed. It is an excellent meat substitute just like our baked portobello mushroom salad. It is also high in fibre and promotes positive gut health.
Tempeh vs Tofu
Tempeh and tofu are 2 different products, although they share the common base of soy. Both are processed soy products, but their similarities end there.
Tofu is coagulated, unfermented soy milk that is pressed into solid blocks for varying firmness. This includes silken, soft or firm and is determined by how much whey is extracted.
Soy milk is essentially extracted by soaking the soy beans, removing their skin, blending with water and then pushing it through a cheesecloth to get the liquid. Just think of almond milk.
As it is then processed with a coagulant, many believe that tofu is a much more processed product than tempeh.
The difference in consistency between tempeh and tofu means that how you’d cook with the product is also very different. The firmness of the tempeh means that you can cook it as it holds its shape well.
Tofu has a neutral flavour, so it is often used to accompany other ingredients. Case in point with our tofu sides dishes such as silken tofu recipe with fried garlic and black beans, egg tofu salad with omelette and chives or salt and pepper tofu with sweet chilli jam.
Tempeh, on the other hand, is packed with flavour, and in fact, aged tempeh increases its taste.
How to Cook Tempeh
Because tempeh is so densely packed into a brick-like form, it needs to be softened before it is cooked. The best way to do this is to steam it for about 10 minutes.
The tempeh not only becomes easier to cook with, but it is also more willing to absorb marinades.
Tempeh is great for air frying, grilling, pan frying and baking.
Flavour/Texture: The salad showcases meaty chunks of marinated tempeh, baked to perfection. Marinated in soy sauce, brown sugar and rice wine vinegar, it is salty with umami flavours.
To balance that out, the salad is made of ingredients that are more neutral in flavour so as to showcase the baked tempeh.
The turnip slices are softened, while the alfalfa sprouts are fluffy and delicate. Continuing along the soy trajectory, edamame beans make for a lovely creamy addition right alongside the avocado.
Eat everything together in one mouthful to get the right balance.
Ease: This recipe needs a bit of planning with a few components requiring more attention than just chopping and tossing. Follow the recipe step by step and ensure you have all your kitchen tools ready to go, and you’ll have yourself a delicious salad!
Time: Quite a few things to bake and blanch which always takes up a bit of extra time. This recipe takes about 40 minutes so ensure that if you are also cooking other dishes to make sure you leave some time to create this salad.
Here are the ingredients to make baked tempeh salad:
Tempeh: A regular packet of tempeh will suffice for this recipe. It is best to purchase tempeh that is made of soy only for this recipe rather than one that is filled with other ingredients such as nut, seed and grain addons.
Soy sauce: An important ingredient that forms the base flavour for this recipe. Both as a marinade for the baked tempeh as well as the salad dressing.
Rice wine vinegar: Added into the marinade to tone down the soy sauce and give it a slight tartness.
Brown sugar: To sweeten the marinade as it seeps into the tempeh. Let the caramel-like flavours do the work in creating the perfect slice of meaty goodness.
Chilli flakes: Just to add a little kick without altering the flavour profile.
Turnip: The turnip is sliced thinly and then cooked in boiling water. The turnip is cooked to tame the slight peppery spiciness, making it a little sweeter. It also makes it softer which allows us to present it in a more sophisticated fashion.
Edamame: While on the soy train, let’s add some creaminess to the recipe. Just buy the frozen hulled beans and give them a quick blanch in boiling hot water. You can always use the extras for edamame pasta salad with asparagus or pearl oyster mushroom noodle salad recipe.
Continental cucumber: You want the long cucumber so that you can create nice long strips. This will allow you to roll them up and create those lovely ribbons.
Avocado: Adding more natural creaminess helps bind the ingredients in every mouthful. Tempeh is yet another ingredients that goes well with avocado.
Alfalfa sprouts: I wanted to add something delicate and healthy without using leaves. The sprouts absorb the dressing perfectly.
Ginger: Soy and ginger are such a great combination. Love the bit of ginger floating through the dressing as it adds to the flavours.
Lemon: Needing both the zest and the juice. Gives the salad dressing some natural tartness as well as the aromatic zest.
Variations and Substitutions
Gluten free option: Substitute soy sauce with tamari and ensure the tempeh is gluten free.
Reduce sodium: Use a light soy sauce or dial down the amount used for the recipe. You can add some water to dilute it too and even add a little more brown sugar.
Chilli flake substitute: You can, of course, use any fresh chilli pepper for this recipe. Great if you have some leftovers in the fridge.
Alfalfa sprouts replacement: If you are not a fan of alfalfa sprouts or can’t find any, you can use snow pea sprouts or some micro herbs. What you are after is some delicate leafy component to balance the overall textures.
Edamame in pods: If you can’t find hulled edamame beans, just buy them in the pods. About 185 g will yield ½ cup of beans.
Turnip substitute: If you can’t find turnips, use rutabagas, celeriac or parsnips.
Step by step instructions for how to make baked tempeh salad:
How to Bake Tempeh
Preheat the oven to 200°C or 400°F.
Slice tempeh about 1.5 cm to 2 cm thick. Sometimes tempeh comes with natural grooves so you can cut along those grooves. Slice thinner if you don’t want them too thick.
Mix the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, brown sugar and chilli flakes to make the marinade. In a small dish or bowl, marinate the sliced tempeh for at least 30 minutes. If the liquid doesn’t quite cover the tempeh, just turn them around every so often so they fully soak up the mixture.
Line a sheet pan with baking paper.
Remove the tempeh from the marinade (don’t discard the marinade) and place on the sheet pan.
Bake for 10 minutes on one side, turn and bake for a further 10 minutes.
How to Prepare the Rest of the Salad
Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil.
Peel the turnip, then using a mandoline slice at 2 cm thickness. Boil for 3 minutes. Remove and place in cold water to stop the cooking process. Place on paper towels and pat dry.
Add the edamame to the same boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Remove and place in cold water to stop the cooking process. Place on paper towels and pat dry.
Using a Y peeler, slice the cucumber lengthwise to create long ribbons. Stop at the core and turn the cucumber until you can’t peel anymore. Place the long strips of cucumber on paper towels and pat dry.
It is imperative that the turnip, edamame and cucumber are dry before use. Otherwise, the salad will turn into a soggy mess.
Cut the avocado in half. Discard pit and peel. Slice the avocado thinly to create 4 fans.
How to Make Soy Ginger Dressing
With a teaspoon, scrape the skin off the ginger and grate to yield 1 tsp.
I prefer to use a teaspoon to scrape the skin instead of a peeler as the ginger is always such an irregular shape and the peeler just takes off too much ginger! With the cost of ginger skyrocketing, I want to preserve as much of the ginger as possible!
With a micro plane or grater, grate the zest of a whole lemon. Then cut the lemon in half and extract the juice of ½ a lemon only.
In a small mixing bowl, add 2 tbsp of the tempeh marinade, olive oil, ginger, rice wine vinegar, lemon zest and lemon juice.
Whisk until well combined.
How to Assemble the Salad
To start, drizzle ¾ of the dressing on the base of the platter.
Put ¾ of the alfalfa sprouts on the top end.
Fold half the turnip slices into quarters and lay on the plate using the alfalfa to support them.
Add the edamame on the other side of the platter.
Place the tempeh on the top at different angles.
Place the avocado fans on the platter of which you can tuck some under the tempeh.
Roll the cucumber and place around the platter.
Using the rest of the turnip, fold them in quarters or like a flower and place them on the platter using the other ingredients to prop them up.
Drizzle the rest of the dressing and alfalfa sprouts on top.
Season with pepper only.
Great Mains for This Salad
Here are some great vegan main dishes ot go with this tempeh salad:
So many inspirational vegan recipes to accompany this baked tempeh salad. For an Asian style recipe, you can’t go past this creamy curried lentil soup with coconut. Particularly great for the warmer months.
How to Make This Salad Perfectly [Expert Tips!]
Cut tempeh evenly: Even slices will ensure they are marinated and baked evenly. Slight variation won’t affect it too much but to ensure every bite is consistent, it pays to do it consciously.
Marinating time: Allow at least 30 minutes for the marinate to really work the tempeh. The soy sauce based marinade will work its magic and you’ll be amazed how good the baked tempeh will taste when it’s done.
Turning the tempeh: When baking the tempeh it is essential that it is turned mid-way through the baking process to allow for even crisping of each side. You don’t want one side to be crisp and the other side soggy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Tempeh can easily be found in any health food store. It is also becoming more mainstream and you should be able to find them in the fridge section of your supermarket. They are often stored next to all the tofu.
Unless you’re in an Asian country, most tempeh comes in a vacuum sealed pack. Check for the expiry date before use and store in the fridge until required.
If you have leftover tempeh and think you may consume it in the next few days, you can store it in the fridge for about 5-7 days.
As the cultures are still working hard, tempeh needs to have a little bit of airflow so it can’t be wrapped up too loosely or tightly. Some parchment paper in a container would work best.
You can also freeze tempeh and will last for several months.
Turnips are usually available in the autumn to winter seasons. As the season turns, look out for this root vegetable for something a little different to add to your salad recipes.
Yes, you can eat turnips raw. They have a crunchy texture with a mild spiciness.
We are loving this tempeh salad as it showcases what you can do with this Indonesian favourite. Filled with umami flavours and varying textures, every mouthful is just a joy!
Baked Tempeh Salad
- 2 tbsp marinade
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp ginger, grated
- 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 lemon, zest
- ½ lemon, juiced
Click on the toggle below for conversion to US Cooking Units.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C or 400°F.Slice tempeh about 1.5 cm to 2 cm thick. Mix the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, brown sugar and chilli flakes to make the marinade. In a small dish or bowl, marinate the sliced tempeh for at least 30 minutes.Line a sheet pan with baking paper. Remove the tempeh from the marinade (don’t discard the marinade) and place on the sheet pan. Bake for 10 minutes on one side, turn and bake for a further 10 minutes.
- Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil.Peel the turnip, then using a mandoline, slice at 2 cm thickness. Boil for 3 minutes. Remove and place in cold water to stop the cooking process. Place on paper towels and pat dry.
- Add the edamame to the same boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Remove and place in cold water to stop the cooking process. Place on paper towels and pat dry.
- Using a Y peeler, slice the cucumber lengthwise to create long ribbons. Stop at the core and turn the cucumber until you can’t peel anymore. Place the long strips of cucumber on paper towels and pat dry.
- Cut the avocado in half. Discard pit and peel. Slice the avocado thinly to create 4 fans.
- With a teaspoon, scrape the skin off the ginger and grate to yield 1 tsp.
- With a micro plane or grater, grate the zest of a whole lemon. Then cut the lemon in half and extract the juice of ½ a lemon only.
- wine vinegar, lemon zest and lemon juice.
- Whisk until well combined.
- To start, drizzle ¾ of the dressing on the base of the platter.
- Put ¾ of the alfalfa sprouts on the top end.
- Fold half the turnip slices into quarters and lay on the plate using the alfalfa to support them.
- Add the edamame on the other side of the platter.
- Place the tempeh on the top at different angles.
- Place the avocado fans on the platter of which you can tuck some under the tempeh.
- Roll the cucumber and place around the platter.
- Fold the rest of the turnip in quarters or like a flower and place them on the platter using the other ingredients to prop them up.
- Drizzle the rest of the dressing and alfalfa sprouts on top.
- Season with pepper only. Serve
- To make this a gluten free version you can substitute soy sauce with tamari.
- The tempeh is quite salty. You can either dial down the soy sauce or increase the brown sugar to even out the flavours.
- You can substitute chilli flakes with any fresh chilli including jalapenos.
- Alfalfa sprouts can be replaced with snow pea sprouts or micro herbs.
- If you can only find edamame in its pod, about 185g will yield ½ cup of beans.
- If you can’t find turnips, use rutabagas, celeriac or parsnips.
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
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