Easy and versatile, this Tempeh Marinade uses simple ingredients and can be made days ahead of time. Try it when you’re craving irresistible and flavorful tempeh in sandwiches, tacos, salads, or grain bowls.
Say goodbye to flavorless meat substitutes! This quick and easy Tempeh Marinade infuses layers of flavor into all of your vegan proteins so you never have to suffer from a bland meal again. All your tempeh needs is a 30 minute bath in the marinade, then you’re ready to get cooking!
The simple and gluten free ingredients in this marinade recipe, like tamari, apple cider vinegar, broth, and maple syrup, keep your budget low while infusing deep flavors into the tempeh.
As a bonus, the marinade can be made days ahead of time and can be adjusted to fit any dietary need or taste buds. Try it out when you’re making vegan tacos or when you’re adding tempeh to a grain bowl or salad.
What is tempeh?
Tempeh (pronounced “tem-pei”) is made from fermented soybeans and formed into a cake or loaf shape. Originally from Indonesia, it’s a popular choice in Asian-inspired dishes like teriyaki tempeh and spicy sesame noodles. It’s much more meaty, nutty, and firm than tofu but still soaks in flavor like a dream.
You can add tempeh to bowls or salads for added protein or layer it in a sandwich or wrap.
What to look for when shopping for tempeh
You should be able to find tempeh in most grocery stores nowadays near the tofu or produce. It’s almost always available in health food stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.
Some of the most popular brands are Lightlife and Tofurky. Try to find an option that’s both organic and non-GMO.
Benefits of tempeh
Tempeh is packed with nutrients and is an excellent source of plant-based protein. It actually contains over 50% MORE protein than tofu. As a bonus, it’s also low in sodium and carbs, making it a great alternative to meat.
You can eat just a 3 oz serving to receive about 12% of your daily iron and because it’s fermented, tempeh can also help balance the healthy bacteria in our guts.
What’s in tempeh marinade?
All you need are a handful of easy and gluten free ingredients. In the end, you’ll have a sauce that’s full of flavor and perfectly balanced:
- Vegetable broth - You can use water, but I find veggie broth produces a much more flavorful marinade.
- Tamari - Or you can use soy sauce if you don’t need the recipe to be gluten-free.
- Apple cider vinegar - Vinegar in the marinade is necessary and provides a bold flavor. It also helps break down the food and allows all of the flavors to soak in.
- Maple syrup - For a touch of natural sweetness and to cut through the acidity of the vinegar.
- Garlic powder - Because you can never have enough garlic.
How to prepare tempeh for cooking
Tempeh is first prepared by steaming. This helps to tone down any bitter or strong earthy flavors:
- Cut the tempeh: Slice the brick of tempeh into triangles or squares. Sometimes I like to cut the tempeh through the middle first so you have two thinner, same size blocks. This works when you’re serving tempeh by itself but if you need sturdier tempeh for a stir fry, don’t cut it through the middle.
- Steam it!: Place the triangles or squares in a steamer basket and steam for 10 minutes.
Even if you’re going to marinate the tempeh right away, it’s always a good idea to start by steaming the pieces.
How to marinate tempeh
Once the tempeh is cut and steamed, it’s time to place it in a marinade bath. It’s very easy to whip a tempeh marinade together using simple ingredients:
- Make the marinade: Place all of the ingredients in a bowl and whisk together.
- Marinate the tempeh: Lay the pieces of tempeh in a glass or pyrex bowl and pour the marinade all over. Let it marinate for at least 30 minutes. The longer you marinate, the more flavor will be given to the tempeh.
- Flip the pieces: This is optional, but you can flip the tempeh triangles halfway during marinating to ensure the flavor seeps into both sides.
How to cook marinated tempeh
After it’s been marinated, the tempeh can be sautéed, fried, grilled, or baked. Once cooked, tempeh can be cut into cubes for stir-fries, grilled with veggies on skewers, or used as a bacon or chorizo substitute and crumbled over breakfast, salad, or in pasta. Find plenty of more delicious recipes using tempeh here.
Frequently asked questions
You’ll be making and marinating tempeh over and over again after learning all there is to know:
You can leave the tempeh to sit in the marinade for a minimum of 30 minutes, but a few hours is better. For the best flavor-soaked tempeh, leave it to marinate overnight in the fridge.
Marinating tempeh will reduce its natural bitterness and imparts flavor better. I highly recommend letting it marinate before cooking.
No, tempeh isn’t anything like dried beans. Steaming the tempeh first is better.
You should always start by steaming the tempeh to help it taste better. Letting it steam for 10 minutes will breaking down its natural bitter flavor. Go one step further by making a tempeh marinade. You can adjust your marinade to be savory, smoky, nutty, or Asian-inspired to achieve your favorite flavor.
The marinade on its own can be stored in a sealed jar and left in the fridge for up to 4 days. You can use it up on more tempeh or marinate some tofu steaks.
What goes well with this marinade recipe?
- Whisk marinade ingredients together.
- Cut 8oz of tempeh into triangles or squares and steam in a steamer basket for 10 minutes.*
- Put tempeh in a glass/pyrex bowl and pour marinade over tempeh.
- Let marinate for at least 30 minutes.
- You can flip the tempeh triangles again halfway during marinating to ensure the flavor seeps into both sides but this is not necessary.
- Nutritional info is for marinade only.
- I like to cut the tempeh through the middle first so you have 2 of the same size blocks as you started with but they’re thinner. This works for when you’re serving tempeh that is not incorporated into another dish, as with my Teriyaki Tempeh. If you're making a dish in which the tempeh will be incorporated/stirred like a tempeh stir fry, don’t cut tempeh through the middle to make it thinner.
PLEASE NOTE: Nutritional information data is computer generated and only an estimate so it should be used only as a guide.
Mary Ellen Valverde MS, CNS, LDN is a Licensed Nutritionist and Certified Nutrition Specialist who empowers vegans to feel clear and confident about what is uniquely nourishing to them. Mary Ellen's recipes and nutrition information have been featured on Yahoo News, Parade, VegNews, LIVESTRONG, Dr. Axe, Greatist, LIVEKINDLY, Brit+Co, Well+Good, and more.