I was chatting with a friend recently, and she mentioned that she likes the idea of tempeh, but every time she plans to make it and goes searching for recipes, she gets overwhelmed. “Do I really have to steam it first?” she asked. “Is it that bitter?” My answers were no, and no. For the most part, I think that tempeh can be really easy to prepare, so long as you use a good marinade. Today, I’m sharing my favorite lemon pepper baked tempeh cubes, which can be used to add flavor and a protein boost to any grain bowl or salad.
The idea behind steaming tempeh prior to cooking is that tempeh has a naturally bitter taste. To me, it tastes more earthy than bitter, but in any case I understand that it’s a distinctive and unusual flavor if you’ve never encountered it before. I’ve never found that steaming tempeh improves it very much, though: instead, I like to marinate tempeh strips or cubes before I cook them. I find that this takes away any of the bitterness, and it also allows them tempeh to soak up plenty of flavor before cooking.
Once the cubes are baked, you can use them for essentially any type of dish. As you’ll see, I love to pair them with rice and veggies in a grain bowl, but you can also throw them onto a lunch salad for quick, easy protein, stuff them into your favorite wrap, add them to tacos, or even use them to top a bowl of savory oats.
Personally, I love to pick up on the lemony flavors by pairing the tempeh cubes with an easy batch of the herbed rice I’m sharing today and whatever veggies I have on hand. I use roasted broccoli in this particular recipe, but beets, roasted carrots, sweet potato, rutabaga, or cabbage would all be great additions! As would a scoop of homemade lacto-fermented veggies, kimchee, or hummus.
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons low sodium tamari
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons agave or maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon (heaping) black pepper, plus extra.
- 1 8-ounce block tempeh, cut into cubes (or strips)
- Whisk all of the ingredients except for the tempeh together in a small bowl. Place the tempeh cubes in an airtight storage container and pour the marinade over them. Cover and shake the container so that the tempeh is coated on all sides. Allow the tempeh to marinate for at least two hours in the fridge, or up to a day (I usually do it overnight).
- Preheat your oven to 350F. Place the tempeh cubes on a parchment lined baking sheet and give them an extra turn of black pepper. Bake the tempeh for 15-20 minutes, or until the edges of the cubes are golden brown, flipping the cubes over halfway through baking. Serve.
- 1 cup brown basmati or long-grain brown rice
- 2 cups water
- ¼ cup green onions, roughly chopped (white and green parts)
- 1 cup loosely packed parsley leaves
- 1 small clove garlic, crushed
- 1½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Pinch black pepper
- 2 cups roasted, baked, or steamed broccoli
- 6 cups shredded raw kale or salad greens of choice (baby spinach, arugula, etc.)
- 1 batch lemon pepper baked tempeh (recipe above)
- 1 batch lemon hemp dressing (or any dressing of your choice)
- Soak the brown rice overnight, if possible. To prepare the rice, put a medium sized pot over medium/low flame. Drain and rinse the soaked rice and add it to the pot. Toast the rice, stirring constantly, until it appears dry and smells nutty. Add 2 cups water (or low sodium vegetable broth) and bring the rice to a boil. Lower to a simmer. Cover and simmer the rice for 30-40 minutes, or until all of the water has been absorbed. Fluff the rice with a fork and allow it to rest for a few minutes.
- Place the onions, garlic, lemon, oil, salt, and pepper in a food processor fitted with the S blade. Pulse until the herbs and onions are finely minced. Add the mixture to the rice and stir well to combine. Check for seasoning and adjust salt and pepper to taste.
- To assemble the bowls, pile four bowls with 1½ cups kale or other greens. Top the greens with ½ cup broccoli, a heaping half cup of the rice, a quarter of the tempeh cubes, and a nice drizzle (2-3 tablespoons) of lemon hemp dressing. Serve.
I love what the creamy hemp dressing adds to this bowl: a little extra lemony zing and a creamy texture that contrasts so nicely with the crispy greens and broccoli.
Of course, you can use any favorite dressing here; my delightfully green tahini dressing, turmeric tahini dressing, or creamy hemp basil sauce would all be great. A simple vinaigrette would also be fine, or just some avocado slices and a squeeze of lemon!
This is a hearty bowl of ingredients for cold days. I’ve always thought that there’s something particularly nourishing about tempeh. Maybe it’s the knowledge that I’m getting protein, calcium, B Vitamins, and zinc; maybe it’s the hearty texture or that earthy, grounding flavor. Whatever it is, it makes including tempeh in my meals a pleasure, and lemon pepper baked tempeh cubes are a pretty fun, low stress way to do it.
Hope you’ll enjoy the cubes and the bowl! I’ll be back on Thursday with a spicy, lemony, and seasonal vegan pasta recipe.