15-Minute Tempeh Lunch Salad
5 from 3 votes

This 15-minute tempeh lunch salad delivers lots of plant protein and flavor, plus it’s quick and easy to make!

Two triangular slices of toast are topped with an easy tempeh lunch salad.

I was recently asked whether or not I ever run out of recipe ideas for the blog and books. My immediate answer was no. Of all the things that can be challenging about blogging–food photography, staying on top of the latest and greatest social media trends, sticking to a regular publishing schedule–recipe ideas are the easy part. They come to me at unexpected moments: while I’m commuting to meet a client, say, or while my attention wanders in class, or even as I’m dozing off to sleep.

What can I say? I love food, and I don’t seem to exhaust my own excitement about finding new ways to experience it. The effort it takes to make that food, though–to execute a recipe idea once it has come to me–well, that’s a different story.

The last few weeks have not been red letter weeks as far as my culinary life goes. The semester caught up to me, and it caught up hard, and with the pressures of work and finals, I just haven’t had much energy to give to cooking. This isn’t helped by the fact that I’ve been fighting off what seems like yet another in an interminable string of colds that I’ve gotten since the start of the year–probably a sign that I should slow down a little.

So, we’ve been eating a lot of frozen stuff (thank god for Sunshine Burgers), a lot of dinner salads, a lot of soup, and more takeout than I’d like to admit. Last week I ate some form of toast for lunch four days in a row. I probably drink more coffee than I do water at the moment. It isn’t pretty, and it isn’t the stuff that beautiful Instagram tapestries are made of. But it’s real life, and this blog is about sharing that–not just the recipe ideas that come to successful fruition.

What often comes to mind when we hear the words “comfort food” is the sort of dish we’d make on a Sunday, a casserole or a pasta bake or something else that involves breadcrumbs and creaminess. I love that sort of comfort food, but to me, comfort has a wider and slightly more capacious meaning. Oftentimes the things I find most comforting are simple and evocative of memory. They include toast, baked sweet potatoes, split pea soup, oatmeal, and massaged kale.

They also include a lot of the dishes I ate early in my transition to veganism, dishes that are now marked with a special kind of nostalgia, because I relied on them so heavily back then: hummus and avocado sandwiches. Tofu scramble. Sunshine burgers with baked sweet potato fries. Tofutti cream cheese and cucumber toast. Smashed chickpeas. The list goes on.

A closeup photo of a vegan protein and vegetables, which is served over toast.

One of the first vegan lunches I made at home was a tempeh version of conventional chicken salad, a simple mixture of steamed tempeh cubes, a mustardy dressing, carrots, and celery. In retrospect it was so simple that I’m sort of hesitant to call it a recipe, but let’s remember that I could barely boil pasta when I first went vegan, so anything that came together without a hitch and tasted pretty good was a win. I used to scoop the tempeh onto lunch salads, eat it with toast, stuff it into wraps, or even have it plain, with a baked sweet potato or a bunch of cooked rice. It was tasty, nutritious, and easy, which at the time was what I cared about most. And I guess it’s still what I care about most.

This past weekend, yearning for a little comfort food, I made the salad again. It’s as simple as it ever was, and I’m not sure how blog-worthy it really is. But right now, it’s what I’ve got, and it’s not bad company to keep.

Two slices of toast have been topped with a protein and vegetables. The toast is served on a round white plate.

Two triangular slices of toast are topped with an easy tempeh lunch salad.
5 from 3 votes

Fifteen Minute Tempeh Lunch Salad

Author – Gena Hamshaw
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Yields: 4 servings


  • 8 ounces tempeh, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (225g)
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup peeled and chopped carrot
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onion optional
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon tamari
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon mild curry powder (optional)


  • Bring a pot of water to boil. Insert a steamer attachment. Steam the tempeh for 10 minutes. Mix the tempeh with the carrot, celery and green onions (if using) in a medium sized mixing bowl.
  • Whisk together the mayonnaise or tahini, mustard, tamari, vinegar, and curry if desired. Pour over the tempeh and veggies. Mix well. Serve over toast, salad, grains, in a pita, or in a wrap. Leftover tempeh salad will keep for up to three days in an airtight container in the fridge.
A plant-based tempeh lunch salad has been served over slices of toast, which rest on a white, round plate.

After 7pm tonight, this very long semester of grad school will officially be over. My finals will be done, and though I have a summer class ahead of me, I’ll also have two weeks off from school this month. I plan to focus on my business, on this blog, on tidying my currently disastrously messy apartment (who knows, maybe I’ll even get ambitious and do some spring cleaning), and, oh yeah–being a person again. A person who loves to cook. I’m so ready to get back in the kitchen and whip up some new dishes, to feel the joy and the fun of cooking again.

For today, this tempeh salad is getting packed up in a sandwich as a portable, pre-exam lunch. I know it’ll give me the energy I need, and that it will taste very comforting indeed. Hope it gives you an easy nutrition boost sometime soon, too.


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Categories: Recipes, Side Dishes, Vegan Basics
Ingredients: Tempeh
Dietary Preferences: Gluten Free, Tree Nut Free, Vegan
Recipe Features: 30 Minute or Less, Meal Prep, Quick & Easy

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Recipe Rating

  1. 5 stars
    I love this salad. I totally agree with you. Nice post!

    – Gustavo Woltmann

  2. I made this yesterday, came out great! I’ll post it on my IG today & tag you 🙂

  3. Congrats on finishing the semester! Although I adored being in school for nutrition, as well as all the part time jobs I had on the side, this past year was particularly rough for me. Cooking was a thing of the past the last 3 months for me- I’m talking hummus sandwiches, cereal, frozen burritos, and frozen trader joes meals over here…. for months on end. My relationship with my boyfriend was completely neglected and that just made me feel worse. Mentally, I was getting completely burned out and depressed because I just never had any down time, ever. And after 5 years solid, it really was wearing me out. Everyone kept saying “You’re almost there! You’re so close” and even though I knew they were right, I still felt like I was going to absolutely explode. I just wanted you to know that you are not alone, and it sucks to be completely overworked. I hope you find some rest and rejuvenation time soon. xo.

    • Hi Amy!

      I want to thank you (belatedly!) for this comment. I totally agree that nutrition studies are deeply rewarding and ever so fascinating, but the pressures of keeping up school while also trying to support oneself can be really tough. I definitely struggled with giving nourishment and attention to my relationship with Steven this semester, too, and while he is/was totally understanding, it made me feel guilty and sad on top of already feel stressed.

      It’s certainly comforting to know that this it’s not just me, and that these kinds of feelings are normal for working grad students. Thanks for taking the time to share your experience with me — and congrats to you for being done!


  4. For some reason, my tummy does not do well with tempeh (drag). Could I use firm tofu?

    • Definitely! You might wish to press it first, but it’ll be plenty tasty. Use 8 ounces (about a half block) or double the sauce 🙂

  5. 5 stars
    Gena, this is one of my favorite posts of yours!
    I love the simple recipe. I love that you were upfront and honest that it’s a busy week, you still LOVE to cook and create, and sometimes, you still keep it simple- because it is easy, but still tastes great.
    i don’t think a recipe need be “blog-worthy”, as long as you love it and want to share it, it is.
    I hope your final exams went well. thank you for always sharing great content 🙂

  6. Congrats on finishing the semester, Gena!

    And never think that a recipe isn’t “blog-worthy”. Sharing these fast, simple, go-to recipes helps people (especially beginner cooks) see that eating vegan (or simply healthy) doesn’t need to be complicated and take lots of time, ingredients, or money.

    Thank you for your honesty, about your cooking and your eating disorder. Both are inspiring and helpful.

  7. Get some rest and take care of yourself first! Take a few days to savor some down time. And remember, for those of us who do not have the skill to come up with recipes on our own and rely on those of you who can, simple recipes are often much appreciated. So, although you may not consider this blog worthy – I not only appreciate your admitting to succumbing to ordering out or eating frozen foods, but also that simple can be so satisfying.

  8. Congrats on finishing the semester Gena!! Cheering you on from the sidelines. This looks really comforting. Tempeh usually upsets my stomach and I need to find the gluten free kind, but this recipe makes me want to try again! Thanks!

  9. I totally feel you on this week! I usually feel pretty balanced when it comes to meals, but this week has been a little hectic. I love that this is comfort food and fast, two of my favorites!