There’s a reason I had to come up with a decent-tasting tempeh stir fry.

tempeh-stir-fry

Read about it, along with the step by step instructions, unless you want to just jump to the recipe. Also know that, if beef is your thing—or chicken or shrimp—this will work just fine.

I’ve been very open about my no-beef policy. But guess what picture stops my little heart every time I see it? (In a good way, mind you, not a CPR-requiring way.) Beef stir-fry. I see them all the time, the strips of meat looking all dark and salty next to bright green broccoli or asparagus and shocking red strips of bell pepper. And I think, hmmm, I want that. But….beef! Ick.

I’ve never been a huge burger fan, either, so this stir-fried beef visual craving is just plain weird.

(I’m not, by the way, going to try to convert any of you beef lovers out there. Truthfully, I don’t eat beef because the texture freaks me out, and I just don’t like how it tastes. BUT at a recent show at the California Academy of Sciences, this incredible museum in the middle of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, I saw the difference between the carbon footprint of a hamburger vs a turkey burger or veggie burger. Let’s just say I felt quite, quite smug and righteous, because that carbon footprint for one beef burger is Massive. Lessening your beef consumption really can make a huge positive difference to the planet. I mean, I believe the planet’s going to take care of itself; it’s just going to get pretty gnarly for us as a species to continue to live here, particularly with some of our more insane practices. One of which is destroying the rain forest—which we really require in order to breath—so MacDonald’s can make more money. And c’mon, those burgers are total crap, and also, how much money do those guys need? If you do eat beef, support a local ethical cattle farmer. They exist! That way, you help out a local farmer, which gets a big yay in my book, and you put higher quality fuel in your body. And if enough folks will make the switch, the rain forests and subsequently Planet Earth have a better shot at being healthy as well.)

Tempeh Stir-Fry: Why Tempeh?

According to many vegan cookbooks, the go-to alternative to beef is wheat gluten or seitan, which is pronounced very close to the name of the Great Deceiver Himself. Appropriate, because are you seriously going to chew on a big old piece of gluten? I mean, that just seems so, so wrong. Tofu I like, but it’s tofu. Nobody’s going to convince you it’s anything else, and I recognize that for most of the world, tofu is to them what beef is to me, i.e. a really bizarre texture and something most folks just don’t want to put in their mouths.

Tempeh Stir-Fry: The Marinade

So tempeh. Tempeh comes out of the package looking a bit weird and pebbly. You could just fry it, but you will probably be sad. Let’s admit that, in the flavor department, tempeh makes you wish for bland. Because bland is more interesting than tempeh. Here it is after marinating, and it STILL looks pretty boring.

tempeh stir-fry

But that marinade is the solution. And while I’m still experimenting, so far in my experience, only a soy-sauce based marinade does the trick. Tempeh needs the salt pretty seriously, or at least the salt flavor. A low sodium soy sauce will do the trick just fine. Give it at least four hours to soak, but for this recipe, I let it sit for 36 with no detriment.

My tempeh marinade was inspired by tempeh stir-fry

Last of all mix up a little sauce from sake. Yes, you can use cooking sherry or white wine if they’re what you have on hand. Sake, however, is my go to for cooking. For one thing, unlike wine, I’m not tempted to drink it. But that flavor I’m not crazy about in a glass is glorious in a saute pan: clean, bright, just a little sweet. Other sauce ingredients should include a little more soy—about 1 part to 2-3 parts sake—and a splash of rice vinegar, a pinch of sugar, and 4 parts broth or water. Carefully sprinkle in some cornstarch or potato starch, about a tablespoon for 1/4 cup of liquid, and whisk til smooth. This is how you get that syrupy finish that makes a classic Chinese stir-fry, well, classic. Make sure you have it made up ahead of time so you can just throw it in at the last minute.

Heat your pan, then your oil, and fry the tempeh first, about 4 minutes a side. Then remove it to a plate.

tempeh stir-fry

Add a little more oil—you really do need to be pretty generous with it if you don’t want stuff to stick. First add your minced garlic and ginger. Then sauté the veggies in the order of longest to shortest cooking time. Of this batch, eggplant cubes took the longest, then bell peppers, mushrooms, green beans, carrots, and scallions.

tempeh stir-fy

Give the starch/broth mix one last whisk, then pour it in. Steam will rise dramatically, so have a lid handy to capture it.

After a few minutes, remove the lid and mix in the cubed jicama and, if you like, chopped cilantro and a sprinkle of hemp hearts, sesame seeds, or even toasted nuts or seeds if you like. I put some noodles on the side, because I love them.

Enjoy with chopsticks or—sigh—if you must, a fork.

tempeh-stir-fry

Tempeh Stir Fry: The Recipe

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Tempeh Stir-Fry
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Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Passive Time 4-24 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Marinade
Vegetables
Stir-Fry Sauce
Garnish
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Passive Time 4-24 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Marinade
Vegetables
Stir-Fry Sauce
Garnish
Votes: 0
Rating: 0
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
  1. Mix the ingredients for the tempeh marinade in a bowl or zip top bag. Add cubed tempeh. Marinate at least 4 hours and up to 48.
  2. Remove tempeh from marinade. Cube eggplant and place in a colander over a plate or in the sink. Sprinkle lightly with salt and let sit while you prep the other vegetables. (This removes any bitterness from the eggplant.)
  3. Mince ginger and garlic. Stem mushrooms, and slice them and the bell pepper into strips. Halve the green beans vertically if they’re at all tough. Shred or thinly slice the carrot. Thinly slice the scallions. Cube the jicama.
  4. Mix all sauce ingredients in a small bowl except for the starch. Sprinkle the starch through a fine mesh sieve, then whisk sauce ingredients together.
  5. Heat a large saute pan (or a wok, if you have one) over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of cooking oil. Heat it til hot. Add the tempeh, which should sizzle slightly (you may want to add one piece to make sure the oil is hot enough). Sauté for about 4 minutes, until one side of tempeh has a nice light crust, then turn. Continue to sauté until the tempeh is nicely browned on as many sides as you have patience for. Remove to a plate.
  6. Add an additional tablespoon of oil to the pan and heat. Add the ginger and garlic, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds. Add the eggplant, and saute until golden on one side (this can take a few minutes, so be patient. Stir the eggplant gently, but not violently. When one side is nicely browned, turn the eggplant, then add the mushrooms and peppers to the pan. After about 2 minutes, add the green beans. At this point, your pan is really full; just keep stirring.
  7. Sprinkle the carrots on top. Give the sauce a quick whisk to reincorporate the starch, then pour it into the pan, which will steam dramatically. Cover with a lid.
  8. Steam for 3-4 minutes. Remove the lid, stir in the jicama.
  9. Serve in a bowl, over noodles, rice, or cauliflower rice if you like. Garnish with minced cilantro, hemp hearts, and/or toasted sesame seeds or chopped nuts.
Recipe Notes


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