This lemon pepper baked tempeh is so versatile and flavorful! It’s a perfect way to add plant protein to salads, bowls, wraps, and more. Easy to prepare, healthy, and great for meal prep.
Tempeh is probably my favorite plant protein. I love tofu, seitan, vegan meats, and beans. But if I had to choose one protein to sustain me, tempeh would be the winner.
This lemon pepper baked tempeh recipe is the way that I prepare tempeh most often.
Nutrition clients ask me about tempeh all the time. They want to know what tempeh is is and how best to prepare it. Tempeh isn’t as familiar a protein as beans or tofu, but it’s well worth getting to know. Especially since its protein content and overall nutrition is so strong.
I really hesitate to use the word “favorite” when it comes to tempeh recipes, because there are so many that I love. But when it comes to delivering on flavor, versatility, and convenience, lemon pepper baked tempeh can’t be beat.
Tempeh, like tofu, is made from soy beans. Tempeh contains whole, cooked soy beans, which have been fermented in the form of a block.
On the other hand, tofu is made from soy beans that have been blended and boiled. The solids are separated and coagulated—a process that’s sort of similar to cheese-making.
Thanks to the whole soy beans, tempeh has a dense and “meaty” texture. It also has an earthy, distinctive flavor that can be a little polarizing. I absolutely love tempeh’s toothsome texture and taste.
Another question that I’m often asked is whether or not tempeh is gluten free.
Theoretically, yes, tempeh is gluten-free. Some tempeh varieties incorporate grains into the fermented soy bean block. If a gluten-containing grain is used, then the resulting tempeh product might not be gluten-free.
If you’re celiac of follow a gluten-free diet, be sure to check labels before you purchase a block of tempeh, so that you can enjoy it without worry.
There’s a laundry list of ways that you can use tempeh in vegan recipes. It can be sliced thinly and turned into plant-based bacon. It can be crumbled and turned into plant-based sausage or taco meat.
As far as preparation method goes, you can steam, sauté, bake, roast, pan fry, and braise tempeh.
I think that tempeh almost always tastes best when it’s marinated prior to cooking. The marinade for this lemon pepper baked tempeh is, of course, made with lemon and black pepper, along with tamari and Dijon mustard. I’ve also used marinades with smoked paprika and chili powder, balsamic vinegar, and herbs.
You have the choice to steam your tempeh before marinating and cooking.
Steaming tempeh has two possible benefits. First, it reduces the slight bitter taste that tempeh can have. This may be a desirable step for those who are newcomers to cooking and eating tempeh.
Second, steaming tempeh can also help to soften its texture. I find that pre-steamed tempeh is more tender than tempeh I haven’t steamed. I also think that steamed tempeh absorbs marinades better than un-steamed tempeh, though I’m not sure whether that’s just my impression!
That said, steaming tempeh isn’t a necessary step. For a long time, I never pre-steamed my tempeh, and I enjoyed it plenty. I still skip the steaming step when I make tempeh bacon at home.
For most other tempeh preparations—including this lemon pepper baked tempeh—I do choose to steam more often than not. I recommend giving the tempeh a ten-minute steam if you have the time to do it. If not, you can skip.
Few ingredients feel more nourishing to me than tempeh does.
To start, there’s the impressive amount of protein: about 17 grams per 3 ounces. Tempeh also delivers on iron (about 10% of the RDA). It’s got five grams of dietary fiber and a small amount of zinc.
On its own, tempeh is low in sodium. It’s also free of cholesterol and low in saturated fat.
The ingredient list for my favorite tempeh is pretty simple.
Freshly squeezed lemon juice will have the best flavor here. But I’ve used bottled lemon juice in a pinch (I keep some in my pantry for emergencies, AKA running out of lemons). The lemon pepper baked tempeh tasted just fine.
Tamari is a type of soy sauce that’s made without wheat. As a result, it’s almost always suitable for gluten-free eaters. Always check the label of a tamari bottle to be sure that it’s listed as gluten-free if this is a priority for you.
I love the flavor of a little Dijon mustard in my lemon pepper baked tempeh. Yellow mustard is a good substitute.
I have a real soft spot for adding a little bit of sweetness to otherwise savory recipes. That’s why agave (or maple) syrup makes an appearance in my marinade for the lemon pepper baked tempeh. It also helps the marinade to take on a “glazed” effect.
Of course, the star ingredient here is tempeh itself! Tempeh is typically sold in 7.5- or 8-ounce blocks, which is the amount that this recipe calls for. You can use any tempeh brand or variety that you like. I’m a big fan of SoyBoy’s soy tempeh.
I love to compliment the flavors of this lemon pepper baked tempeh by serving it with a green-specked, herb rice. I cook and fluff the rice. While I allow it to rest, I use my food processor to chop up green onion tops, parsley, oil, and some lemon juice.
After I’ve blended up those herbacious add-ins, I stir them into my cooked rice, along with some salt. It’s a quick and easy grain recipe that can easily become the foundation of a great vegan bowl.
Here’s what else I love to put into rice bowls with the lemon pepper baked tempeh:
No reason to confine the lemon pepper baked tempeh to a bowl, though. Toss it into a grain pilaf or stir-fry, throw the cubes into a salad, or try folding it into a simple pasta meal.
This is versatile plant-based protein that can be used to make many dishes a little more nourishing and satisfying.
My other favorite thing about lemon pepper baked tempeh? It’s so easy to meal prep!
I’m all about batch cooking when I have the organizational skills to make it happen. These tempeh cubes are easy to prepare and can be doubled if you’d like to have extra. They’ll keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days.
I’ve wondered about this myself, and a few experiments have shown me that yes, tempeh can be frozen!
In fact, you can freeze tempeh before you cook it, which is good keep in mind if you’d like to stock up but aren’t sure when you’ll have time to actually prepare the protein.
Tempeh can also be frozen after cooking. You can freeze it for up to four weeks. The texture remains toothsome after defrosting, though I don’t recommend refreezing.
If you fall in love with the lemon pepper baked tempeh and want to try a few more preparations, here are some of my favorites:
Hope you’ll enjoy the cubes and whatever culinary creations they inspire!