Cornmeal-Crusted Tempeh with Smoked Tomato Sauce

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

When I was living in L.A., I had access to all kinds of great chiles from Mexico, so I developed a few Southwestern dishes. I like this spicy sauce with the slight sweetness of cornmeal. This is a hearty entree, down to the bean puree and the kale. If you want to tone down the spiciness, you can pull the chiles out of the sauce before you blend it.

Makes6 to 8 servings

Cooking Time2 min

Cooking Time - Text120

Cooking Methodbroiling, pan-frying, sauteeing


Total Timeunder 4 hours

OccasionCasual Dinner Party

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationdiabetic, egg-free, halal, healthy, high fiber, kosher, lactose-free, low cholesterol, peanut free, tree nut free, vegan, vegetarian

Equipmentblender, food processor



Taste and Texturechewy, crunchy, garlicky, hot & spicy, salty, savory, spiced, tangy, umami


  • 8 tablespoons shoyu soy sauce
  • 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 medium dried ancho chiles
  • 2 medium dried chipotle chiles
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 10 whole black peppercorns
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages tempeh
  • Sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 2 medium dried ancho chiles, stemmed
  • 2 medium dried chipotle chiles, stemmed
  • 2 (12-ounce) cans fire-roasted tomatoes, including juice
  • ½ cup vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons Earth Balance spread
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ onion, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, including liquid
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Anaheim chile
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ cup yellow cornmeal
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • Braised Kale


  1. Make the tempeh: In a large pot, combine the shoyu, ginger, garlic, chiles, bay leaf, peppercorns, and 6 cups water and bring to a boil. Cut each slab of tempeh on the bias into 1/4-inch slices. Place the tempeh in the boiling broth, reduce the heat, and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove the tempeh with a slotted spoon to a plate and reserve the cooking liquid. Let cool.

  2. Make the tomato sauce: Place a large saute pan over medium heat. Sprinkle the bottom with a pinch of salt and heat for 1 minute. Add the oil and heat for 30 seconds, being careful not to let it smoke. This will create a nonstick effect. Add the onion and saute for 3 minutes. Add the garlic, carrots, and celery and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned. Add the chiles, tomatoes, and stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes.

  3. Remove 1 ancho chile and 1 chipotle chile from the sauce and discard. Working in batches if necessary, pour the sauce into a blender, cover the lid with a towel (the hot liquid tends to erupt), and blend on high. Return the sauce to the pan and stir in the Earth Balance, 1 tablespoon at a time. Set aside, covered to keep warm.

  4. Make the black bean puree: In a small pot over medium heat, heat the oil for 30 seconds. Add the onion and garlic and saute, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the beans and their liquid, season with salt and pepper to taste, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Place the beans in a food processor and pulse until pureed.

  5. Make the green chile relish: Holding the chile with tongs, char over a gas burner until blackened, then peel, seed, and finely dice it. (Alternatively, put the chile on a baking sheet under a broiler and cook, turning, until blackened on all sides.) In a small bowl, combine the chile with the rest of the relish ingredients.

  6. Fry the tempeh and serve: In a mixing bowl, combine the cornmeal with salt and pepper to taste. Dredge each piece of tempeh in the mixture, coating it well. Place a large saute pan over medium heat. Sprinkle the bottom with a pinch of salt and heat for 1 minute. Add the oil and heat for 30 seconds, being careful not to let it smoke. Add the tempeh, in batches if necessary, and cook until well browned, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Remove from the pan. Serve with the Braised Kale, black bean puree, tomato sauce, and green chile relish.


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