By now, we all know that we can get more than enough protein from a plant-based diet, which is good news for active women who want to support their bodies while eating sustainably. But you need not rely on repetitive alternations of tofu and chickpeas to get enough of the macronutrient. Instead, get cooking with lesser-known plant-based protein sources like tempeh.
Like tofu, “tempeh is a fermented food made from soybeans”, explains Karine Patel, nutritionist and founder of Dietitian Fit & Co. It’s slightly harder and darker in appearance than tofu and, crucially, contains even more protein. Every brand is different, but on average tempeh has 20g of protein per 100g compared to tofu’s 13g.
The benefits of tempeh
As tempeh is a ‘complete’ protein, it means that you get all essential amino acids from the ingredient. But the benefits don’t stop there. “Tempeh is really high in fibre and contains lots of prebiotics that promote gut health by feeding the good bacteria in your system,” explains Lisa Marley, plant-based chef and nutrition coach.
It’s also packed with vitamins. “It’s a good source of iron, vitamin B2, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus and manganese,” explains Patel, with many of these nutrients being harder to get in vegan diets. “Tempeh is also very versatile, so it can be added in sandwiches and salads or used in most recipes to replace meat such as burgers, tacos, chilli or spaghetti sauce.”
Tempted by tempeh? Here are some excellent recipes to start experimenting with.
Four tempeh recipes
Sriracha marinated tempeh with buckwheat noodles and peanut sauce
1.5 tbsp sriracha
2 tbsp coriander leaves (stems removed)
100g edamame beans
150g bok choi, broccoli or other green veg
½ tsp sesame oil
¼ tsp garlic powder
150g buckwheat noodles (uncooked)
For the sauce
1 tsp water
2 tbsp peanut butter
1 tbsp coconut milk
2 tbsp sriracha
Pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 190°C.
Dice the tempeh into roughly 1.5cm cubes and mix with a small amount of rapeseed oil and a pinch of salt.
Place the tempeh in a baking tray and roast the tempeh for approximately 20 minutes or until it is beginning to get crispy.
Meanwhile, wash the bok choi and separate the leaves.
Bring a pan of water to the boil and steam the bok choi and the edamame for 3-4 minutes over the pan.
Once steamed, mix through the sesame oil and ginger powder, and season with a pinch of salt.
Roughly chop the kimchi and mix in a bowl with the bok choi and the edamame. Then, leave this to the side.
Use the same pan of boiling water to cook the noodles (as per the packet instructions). Once cooked, drain the noodles.
Make the sauce by placing all ingredients into a bowl or a blender and whisk or blend all ingredients thoroughly until smooth.
Mix the sauce through the tempeh until it is evenly spread and serve over the noodles and veg with chopped coriander leaves.
Recipe and image courtesy of Fresh Fitness Food.
Tempeh, lettuce and tomato sandwich
7ml balsamic vinegar
1 tsp chilli powder
1tbsp smoked paprika
Sea salt and black pepper (to taste)
100g tempeh, cut into thin slices
10g dijon mustard
4 slices whole grain bread (toasted)
2 handfuls mixed greens
1 tomato, sliced
Preheat the oven to 190°C.
In a zipper-lock bag or shallow bowl, mix the tamari, balsamic vinegar, chilli powder, paprika, salt and pepper together.
Add in the tempeh and let it marinate for 10 to 15 minutes.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the tempeh in an even layer on the baking sheet.
Bake for 18-20 minutes, flipping halfway through.
Remove from the oven and set aside.
Spread the mustard on one slice of toast.
Layer the mixed greens, tomato, and tempeh and season to taste with salt and pepper before closing the sandwich.
Recipe and image courtesy of Dietitian Fit & Co.
Teriyaki tempeh skewers
200g original tempeh
150g brown basmati rice
150ml boiling water
4 bamboo skewers
50g teriyaki sauce
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 red onion
2 spring onions
50g sweet salad leaves
Fill and boil your kettle, then fill a medium pan with the hot water and bring back to the boil.
Chop the tempeh into around 12 chunks and add the tempeh to the boiling water. Turn the heat down and little and simmer for 10 mins.
Rinse the rice under cold water and tip it into a small pan. Add 150ml boiling water to the rice with a pinch of salt. Pop on a lid, bring to the boil, then turn the heat right down and very gently simmer for 25 mins till the rice has absorbed the water.
Take the pan off the heat and let the rice steam in the pan, lid on, for five to 10 minutes to finish cooking it. The rice will stay warm in the pan.
Put the skewers into a dish or bowl and cover with cold water – this will help to stop the skewers catching and burning when you grill them.
Mix the teriyaki sauce with the juice from half the lime and stir to mix.
When the tempeh has cooked for 10 mins, drain it and add to the teriyaki sauce. Turn the tempeh to coat in the sauce and set aside.
Prep the veg by halving the peppers, scooping out the white seeds and pith, then chop into bite-sized chunks. Peel the red onion and slice into eight wedges. Trim the roots and any ragged greens off the spring onions, then slice the white parts into chunks around 2cm long and finely slice the green parts.
Preheat your grill to high and line a baking tray with foil.
Thread the tempeh and veg onto the skewers and place them on the baking tray. Any veg or tempeh that won’t fit on the skewers can be placed on the baking tray around the skewers.
Slide the tray under the grill and cook for eight to 10 minutes, turning the skewers (and any veg and tempeh on the tray) over halfway through. The veg and tempeh should be lighted charred at the edges and tender.
Fluff the rice with a fork and divide it between two warm plates, along with the salad leaves. Top with the teriyaki tempeh skewers and serve with wedges of the remaining lime half for squeezing.
Recipe and image courtesy of Abel & Cole.
Tempeh and apple burger
1 block of tempeh (about 200g)
1 cup of rinsed and drained black beans
3/4 cup of oats
1 carrot roughly chopped
1/2 apple, finely grated
1 small red onion, chopped
2 tbsp of tamari sauce
A generous sprinkle of black pepper
Optional: 1-2 tbsp of hot sauce
Lettuce or rocket
Sauerkraut or pickle
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Cut the tempeh into pieces and place into a pan. Cover with boiling water and cook the tempeh on a medium heat for 10 minutes.
Drain the tempeh chunks and place them in the food processor with all the other ingredients for the patties.
Blitz everything for few seconds until you have a chunky paste. Don’t over-process it as you don’t want to end up with a puree.
Shape the mixture into patties and place them on a baking tray covered with parchment paper. Bake them in the oven for 20 minutes.
Remove them from the oven and let the patties cool down for few minutes before assembling the burger.
Spread a layer of mayo on the bottom half before adding your salad, the burger, tomato, avocado and sauerkraut or pickle.
You can store the patties in the fridge for a week and they are also suitable for freezing.
Recipe and image courtesy of Happy Skin Kitchen.