This super flavorful, easy, and protein-packed sticky tempeh is a healthy recipe that tastes much better than takeout!
Tutorial Video Here
In this post you’ll learn:
- Why you will love this recipe
- Toppings & serving suggestions
- Meal prep, storage, and freezing instructions
- More recipes like this!
Why You Will Love This Recipe
- It’s packed with flavor!
- Everything is done in 35 minutes from end-to-end.
- Tempeh is naturally rich in protein.
- 100% vegan.
- A healthy lunch and dinner recipe.
- Much better than takeout!
- I’ve included a tutorial video above to make it extra easy for you!
- Tempeh: Our good old friend! This plant-based protein not only has all 9 essential amino acids, but it is also full of health benefits ranging from lowering your cholesterol, protecting your heart, being a good source of B vitamins, and promoting bone health!
- Garlic: Packed with a lot of flavor, garlic is a must in stir-fries including this one.
- Ginger: An additional aromatic that packs even more flavor into this recipe!
- Soy sauce: Adds that umami flavor and helps to darken the color into that deep, rich, dark brown color.
- Maple syrup: The secret ingredient that will help caramelize the tempeh!
- Lime juice: A bit of tang to round off the flavor.
- Sriracha (optional): A bit of heat for a kick!
- Green onion (optional): Some garnish for serving.
What is Sticky Tempeh?
Sticky Tempeh is a recipe using tempeh, a vegan protein source made from fermented soybeans (which btw made it to my List of 35 Brown Vegetables + Photos!). Tempeh itself originated from Indonesia (which is also where I come from 😉) and it is a very cheap plant-based protein source that is commonly found especially on the island of Java.
Sticky Tempeh uses a savory, umami sauce to glaze the tempeh. It is made by first stir-frying some crumbled tempeh, then allowing the sauce to caramelize and thicken to infuse flavor into the tempeh.
A fan of fermented food? Then check out my Kimchi Sushi recipe, or this Kimchi Aioli recipe that is a sure-fire way to add an oomph to your meals! And if you like both soybeans and fermented food, definitely check out this Natto Rolls (Japanese fermented soybeans sushi) recipe!
What is the Texture of Tempeh?
Tempeh has a firm but slightly chewy texture. As a result, tempeh will hold up its shape when cooked. Tempeh also absorbs flavor well so it is perfect as a meat substitute when you are making vegan recipes. In terms of flavor, it has a nutty flavor with a slight mushroom tone to it.
Four simple steps are all you need to make this recipe!
1. Prepare: Peel and mince the garlic and ginger. Then crumble the tempeh until they have a mince-like texture.
2. Mix: Mix together all the ingredients for the sauce.
3. Stir fry time! First, add the aromatics (garlic and ginger) to the skillet and stir fry for 2-3 minutes until they turn slightly brown. Then add the crumbled tempeh and fry until golden brown for about 5-6 minutes.
4. Glaze: Glaze the pan with the sauce and cook further for 4-6 more minutes until it’s caramelized!
Do I Need to Steam my Tempeh?
You can, but it’s unnecessary if you don’t mind (or even better, if you love) the taste of tempeh.
Steaming your tempeh reduces the slight bitterness that tempeh has, making this dish more accessible to people who are not used to tempeh/don’t like the flavor.
How Long Should Tempeh be Steamed?
If you would like to steam your tempeh, you don’t need a steamer for this. You can just use the pan you’re going to stir fry the tempeh in. Just slice the tempeh, add them to the pan, and cover it with water over medium heat. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the tempeh using tongs and let it cool down before crumbling it.
Ways to Serve Your Sticky Ginger Tempeh
I recommend serving this on a bed of warm rice. I just used normal brown rice but if you want to take it up a notch, below are some tasty options:
- Brown jasmine rice
- A more aromatic and nutty type of rice, native to Southeast Asia. I recommend this for a more authentic way to serve your sticky tempeh with.
- Brown basmati rice
- Similar to brown jasmine rice but they are less starchy and have longer grains. This means that the rice grains will stay separated from one another. It’s still super aromatic so it’s definitely a good option to pair with your sticky tempeh.
- Turmeric rice / nasi kuning
- Make fancy-looking rice by adding just a tinge of turmeric powder! I would start with 1/4 teaspoon per 1 cup of uncooked rice, added before cooking the rice. Be careful to not add too much since it can taste bitter.
- Not only is turmeric rice commonly eaten in India, but we Indonesians also have a variety that we love: nasi kuning (literally translated to yellow rice)!
- Originally, nasi kuning also uses coconut milk, bay leaves, kaffir lime leaves, and lemongrass, but I think adding a bit of turmeric powder is an easy solution to give this tempeh recipe a bit of an Indonesian flair while keeping it simple!
- Regarded as a super food, turmeric has so many health benefits too due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. A quick tip is to add a pinch of black pepper too so your body can absorb the curcumin better!
- Coconut rice
- Adding coconut milk to your rice makes it even more aromatic! Just add 1/4 cup (about 60ml) of coconut milk per 1 cup of uncooked rice! Add this before boiling so the rice can absorb the flavor well!
For some garnish, I could recommend these:
- Top with 1 tbsp chopped green onions and/or 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds for every serving!
- Mix in 1/2 tsp of sesame oil just before turning the heat off to make it irresistibly fragrant!
Storage and Meal Prep Instructions
Storage: Store your sticky tempeh in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Meal prep: You can make this recipe 5 days ahead which is perfect for a weekday lunch/dinner!
However, if you want it fresh, you can make ahead the sauce and stir-fry your tempeh + aromatics in the weekend (so steps 1-4). Store them in the fridge and just before you want to serve them, reheat the stir-fried tempeh + aromatics on a pan/skillet, then add the sauce to glaze them (steps 5-6). You would then be done in just 5 minutes!
For sure! I tried substituting it with brown sugar and agave nectar and they both work well. I have not tested it with other types of sweetener but I can imagine it would work!
Yes! You can substitute it with lemon juice.
Sure you can! You might get less flavor due to the lower surface area in tempeh slices or tempeh cubes, but when pressed for time, this will still be an excellent recipe!
Another option which is good for meal prepping is to make the sauce and stir fry your tempeh + aromatics, then store them in the fridge. Just before you want to serve them, reheat the stir-fried tempeh + aromatics on a pan, then add the sauce to glaze them. You would then be done in just 5 minutes!
Looking for More Easy Lunch/Dinner Recipes?
A fan of Indonesian food? Then check out My Mum’s Vegan Rendang Recipe (Indonesian Curry-like Dish)
If you like your spices, I highly recommend this Creamy Tandoori Sauce Pasta which combines Indian spices and the creamy comfort of pasta meals!
And if you are a fan of Asian food in general, check out my 30-Minute Rainbow Poke Bowl and my Easy Marinated Tofu recipes! Or this Gochujang Aioli recipe for a Korean twist in your dips! Or may I suggest my sushi series of recipes? 😉
- Cucumber Roll (Kappa Maki)
- Shiitake Roll
- Natto Rolls (Japanese fermented soybeans sushi)
- Kimchi Sushi
- Umeshiso Roll (Japanese pickled plum and shiso leaves sushi)
If you prefer a Middle Eastern recipe instead, then check out this 5-Minute Hummus (Way Better Than Store-bought) recipe!
- ½ cup brown rice uncooked (95 grams)
- 1 cup water (240 ml)
- 4 garlic cloves finely minced
- 2 inches ginger finely minced (5cm)
- 1 block tempeh (8oz) crumbled (225 grams)
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil or any other cooking oil
- 3 Tablespoons soy sauce (45 ml)
- 1 Tablespoon maple syrup sub with agave nectar or another sweetener of choice
- 1 Tablespoon lime juice (from about 1 medium lime), or sub with lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons sriracha or sambal oelek (optional)
- 1 medium green onion for garnish chopped (optional)
- Cook the rice: Cook the rice according to package instructions.If the package instruction is missing, here is the general instruction for cooking brown rice.Add 1/2 cup of uncooked rice and 1 cup of water to a saucepan or a small pot, then bring to a boil.Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until all the water is absorbed and the rice is fluffy. Afterward, turn off the heat and cover the pot to let it steam for 5 more minutes.
- Mince: Peel and finely mince the garlic and ginger into small pieces.Quick tip: It's so much easier to peel your ginger using a spoon. See video above on top of the blog post for a demonstration!
- Crumble: Crumble the tempeh by first slicing them thinly, then cutting it lengthwise into thin sticks before mincing it into small crumbles (see video above).
- Mix: Meanwhile, mix the sauce ingredients in a small bowl with a fork or a whisk.
Now the real cooking!
- Heat: Put the pan/skillet on the stove over medium heat. Then add the oil.
- Fry garlic and ginger: Once the oil is hot (after about 30 seconds), add the minced garlic and ginger. Fry until fragrant and the garlic turns slightly brown (but not burnt), for about 2-3 minutes.
- Add tempeh: Add the crumbled or cubed tempeh to the pan. Turn up the heat to high. Sautee until the tempeh turns golden brown, about 5-6 minutes.
- Check: By now, your brown rice should be ready. Turn off the heat and cover the pot to let it steam.
- Add sauce: Once the tempeh turns golden brown, pour the sauce mixture into the pan. Turn the heat to medium low and keep stirring until the sauce coats the tempeh evenly and caramelizes into a deep, rich dark brown color. This will take about 4-6 more minutes.
- Serve: Serve on a bed of fragrant brown rice and top with spring onions! Note that the flavor of the sticky tempeh itself might be too strong for you when its on its own, but it's absolutely delicious when paired with some plain rice!
- Storage: Store your sticky tempeh in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- Meal prep: You can make this recipe 5 days ahead which is perfect for a weekday lunch/dinner!
- However, if you want it fresh, you can make ahead the sauce and stir-fry your tempeh + aromatics in the weekend (so steps 1-4). Store them in the fridge and just before you want to serve them, reheat the stir-fried tempeh + aromatics on a pan/skillet, then add the sauce to glaze them (steps 5-6). You would then be done in just 5 minutes!