Basic Browned Tempeh

Editor's Note: What is tempeh, you ask? It's a high-protein food similar to tofu that's a staple for many vegan and vegetarian recipes, but it can be hard to know how to cook it if you've never tried it before. This Basic Browned Tempeh recipe will show you a delicious way to cook tempeh properly every time! You can substitute it for meat in many situations, but there are also many delicious tempeh recipes out there that are perfect for vegans and vegetarians. The texture and flavor of this tempeh are great for a wide variety of vegetarian meals.
Tempeh is a partially cooked product, and it needs to be cooked further before it is edible. After years of experimenting, I have found this browning treatment to be the very best way to go about it. When you brown tempeh in hot oil in an uncrowded pan, it becomes crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside, with a delightful nutty-toasty flavor. Basic Browned Tempeh is a terrific staple for your cooking repertoire—a launching pad for many variations and a very satisfying protein solution, especially for breakfast. This recipe uses two 8-ounce packages of tempeh. Several different types of tempeh are available (some are made with grains, some are straight soy). You can use any kind here. You can brown the tempeh up to several days ahead of time. Store it in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator, and reheat it shortly before serving in a hot pan lightly sprayed with nonstick spray or in a microwave. Another great use for Basic Browned Tempeh: Throw some into your dinner salad as high-protein, full-flavored “croutons.”

Serves4 to 5 servings, depending on the context

Preparation Time - TextPREPARATION TIME: About 20 minutes

Cooking MethodSauteeing



Make Ahead RecipeYes

One Pot MealYes

Recipe CourseMain Course

Dietary ConsiderationDiabetic, Egg-free, Gluten-free, Halal, Healthy, Kosher, Lactose-free, Low Cholesterol, Low Saturated Fat, Low-fat, Peanut Free, Tree Nut Free, Vegan, Vegetarian

MealDinner, Lunch


Taste and TextureTangy, Tart



  1. Place a 10-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil, wait another 10 seconds or so, then swirl to coat the pan.

  2. When the pan is hot enough to sizzle a bread crumb, add the tempeh and spread it into a single layer. Sprinkle in the salt, and cook for a good 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tempeh turns golden brown on all surfaces. If it appears to be sticking, push it to one side, lightly spray the pan with nonstick spray—or add up to another tablespoon of olive oil—and then resume sautéing until all surfaces are golden.

  3. Sprinkle in the vinegar, letting it hit the hot surface of the pan (it makes a great sizzling sound) so it can reduce slightly on contact. Stir and cook over medium heat for another 5 minutes or so.

  4. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature, passing a pepper mill and the topping of your choice.

What exactly is tempeh?

Originally from Indonesia, tempeh is a firm, chewy, fermented “cake” made from partially cooked soybeans (sometimes with grain added) that have been inoculated with spores and then incubated. It is a very versatile, high-protein food that can be used in a wide range of savory dishes. Look for tempeh in the refrigerator or freezer section of natural food stores, shrink-wrapped in 8-ounce packages. If it frozen, defrost it before using.


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