Recipe | Sweet and Sour Tempeh

Sweet and Sour Tempeh
If you’ve been a vegetarian for a while, maybe you remember that in the mid-aughts, Gardenburger was a really big deal. (Sidenote: Don’t you love the word “aught”? It’s so old timey.) When it came to vegetarian convenience foods, there was Gardenburger and there was Amy’s. But then Gardenburger went bankrupt and they were bought out by Kellogg’s and suddenly all the yummy frozen meals were no more. They still make the burgers, but even those aren’t in every grocery store like they used to be. And when I can find them, it’s only the Original flavor, not any of the others. This makes me sad!

When I had a bunch of pineapple to use, I was brainstorming for ideas and I remembered the Gardenburger Sweet and Sour Pork that I used to buy constantly when I was in school–my favorite part was always the little bits of pineapple. The whole faux pork thing doesn’t appeal to me so much anymore, but I still think of that frozen meal once in a while, so I thought I’d try recreating it using tempeh.

Tempeh Pieces
I’ve written about using tempeh before; for a recipe like this, I like to cut the tempeh into thin pieces so the sauce is fully absorbed. I’m not fond of tempeh’s natural flavor and bigger chunks mean the center usually tastes like tempeh. For me, I want the texture of tempeh, but the flavor of the sauce.

Pineapple and Coconut Oil
And let’s talk about the sauce! The nice thing about making your own sweet and sour sauce is that you can control the sweet-to-sour ratio. I think the default at a lot of restaurants is to error on the side of sweet. I like my sauce on the sweet side too, but not that sweet. I used coconut oil to cook the tempeh, green pepper, and pineapple, which adds a subtle tropical flavor to the dish. I’m not on the “let’s add heaping tablespoons of coconut oil to everything we eat!” train (because let’s face it, even if it’s better than other oils, it’s still an oil and it’s still high in calories), but I do like substituting it for other oils, especially when I feel the coconut flavor would work well with the other flavors in a recipe.

I was pretty excited about how my Sweet And Sour Tempeh turned out (and Chris was too). Tempeh is way better than fake pork and fresh pineapple chunks beat frozen little bits any day of the week. Although I love all the recipes I post, this one definitely makes my list of favorites for 2013. So I guess what I’m saying is, I think you’re going to like it too.

Sweet And Sour Tempeh

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Sweet And Sour Tempeh

Tempeh, green pepper, and pineapple cooked in a sweet and sour sauce.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce (or tamari)
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1/3 c. rice vinegar
  • 1/4 c. ketchup
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages tempeh, quartered and cut into thin strips
  • 1 large green pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 c. fresh pineapple chunks
  • 5 cloves garlic, sliced
  • cooked white rice, for serving

Instructions

  1. Whisk together soy sauce, cornstarch, rice vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar, and water. Set aside.
  2. Heat coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add tempeh, green pepper, pineapple, and garlic. Cook until just beginning to brown, 5-7 minutes.
  3. Whisk sauce again and add to skillet. Cook until sauce is thickened, 1-2 minutes more, then remove from heat. Serve over rice.

Notes

I like my sauce more sweet than sour, but if you're the opposite, start with one tablespoon of brown sugar and add more, one teaspoon at a time.

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Kiersten Frase

About Kiersten

Kiersten is the founder and head writer of Oh My Veggies. She lives just outside of Raleigh with her husband and their 4 wonky-eyed rescue cats.   Read more from Kiersten →

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Comments

  1. says

    I often use pineapple, tempeh, and bell peppers together in stir-fries so this is a meal I know I would love, especially since I love sweet and sour sauce! Coconut is such a natural combination with pineapple, good choice for the oil.

  2. Christy says

    I am about to eat this recipe. Looks and smells delicious! I like things a little more saucy than the picture so I made 1.5x the sauce called for above….I have to say it is a much nicer texture and flavor than the icky, gelatinous sauces that come from the Chinese restaurants. Thanks for a quick and easy recipe that uses tempeh!

      • Christy says

        I thought it was delicious. And I just reheated the leftovers for lunch. All my co-workers with their gross frozen lean cuisine entres are jealous.

  3. Jana says

    I just made this and I am blown away!! I have been a vegetarian since the first grade, but only recently have started trying to eat like one and not like a carbitarian…. This recipe was easy to make and delicious, even to someone who never cooks. and it didn’t even contain french fries! Keep up the great work, I am going to Pinterest now to look up more of your stuff to make soon :-)

    • Kiersten Frase says

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it! And I know exactly what you mean–I spent so many of my early years as a vegetarian eating bagels and potato chips. And yes, lots of fries. :)

  4. Holly says

    Very yummy! Husband and I are attempting to go vegan. I am a huge fan of many of your vegetarian recipes (did the majority of my Holiday meals using recipes from your blog).

    Husband was a serious meat and potatoes fellow. Was concerned about his ability to really let go of meat, but was thrilled when he tasted this dish and said, ” that’s really good. I like that.”

    Simple and quick recipe to make. Uses ingredients I can easily find — other than needing to make the 30 mile trip to Trader Joe’s in Winston-Salem. I will be making this regularly.

    • Kiersten Frase says

      I live in Wake Forest and our Harris Teeter sells tempeh! That’s a bummer that you have to drive so far for it. :( But I’m glad to hear you (and your husband!) enjoyed the recipe. Good luck with the transition to veganism!

  5. Heather K says

    I made this with tofu tonight, and it was delicious! One of these days I’ll be brave enough to try tempeh. :) I also think I will double the sauce next time so I have extra for my rice. I especially loved that the sauce wasn’t all oily like it gets so often with take out Chinese food.

  6. Monica says

    I’m attempting this tonight (half with chicken for my omnivore boyfriend) and it will be the first time I’ve ever had tempeh. Hope it’s successful!

    I’ve been devouring your blog the past week or so and have bookmarked TONS of recipes. It’s such an awesome resource and I’m so excited to try everything.

    • Kiersten Frase says

      I hope you like it! Tempeh is definitely one of my favorite veggie proteins. You can crumble it up and it makes an awesome ground beef sub. :)

      • Monica says

        I liked the tempeh! I’m with you – its natural flavor isn’t great, but I *loved* the texture. And as someone who’s used to dealing with tofu, being able to just take it out of the package and start cooking is awesome.

        This was yummy :)

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