Zesty Lemon Tempeh

You may have had lemon chicken before at a Chinese restaurant, now is your chance to have zesty lemon tempeh. It has taken me a year to post a recipe that uses tempeh. This is surprising since it goes into my mouth so easily, and I live in a town called Tempe (pronounced Tem-pee), which people confuse with the word tempeh (pronounced tem-pay), so you’d think that this healthy food would be more to the forefront of my mind. The truth is that as I was new to blogging, the reason I didn’t post a tempeh recipe earlier was that I really didn’t want to scare my readers away. I love the stuff, and there is no need to be afraid of trying it. Tempeh originated on the island of Java in Indonesia. It is made from whole fermented soy beans which are pressed into a cake.  It has a nutty earthy flavor and it is more nutritious, and higher in fiber and vitamins than tofu. Though unlike tofu which requires no cooking, tempeh does require cooking.

I learned to love tempeh when I was the Chef at Mum’s Vegetarian Restaurant in Sacramento, more years ago than I like to count. It took me a little while to get used to the grainy texture that it has, but appreciation for it came quickly as I felt how good it made my stomach feel, and I learned that many dishes that you cook using chicken or beef you can do with this soybean product. The cake can be broken up to resemble ground beef and you can use it in recipes like tacos, sloppy joes, chile, enchiladas; or, it can be cubed and used in recipes like Guinness stew, orange chicken tempeh, stroganoff, etc. I find it even more versatile than tofu.

There are different brands that make tempeh, and I found nothing to complain about with any of the brands that I tried. Sometimes you may see dark spots that look like mold and that is normal. According to Jose Caraballo, who has been making GMO free, organic tempeh for 25 years, “connoisseurs praise blackened tempeh for its richer flavor and subtle qualities.”

The following recipe for lemon tempeh is my own.  Though I have liked lemon chicken when I’ve eaten it in Chinese restaurants, most often I find the sauce too sweet, and that the flavors are bland.  In this alternative protein,  healthy recipe, I have reduced the amount of sugar and spiced up the sauce with extra lemon, garlic, and red pepper flakes.  Use vegetable stock for the sauce for a vegan dish. Hope you like it!


Servings: 4

Cooking time: 8 minutes

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Ingredients for the Marinade:

2 teaspoons Tamari soy

2 teaspoons cooking sherry

2 tablespoons stock, chicken or vegetable (vegetable stock for Vegans)

 Ingredients for the Sauce:

2 teaspoons arrowroot

2 teaspoons honey

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons lemon zest

2 teaspoons Tamari soy

2 teaspoons cooking sherry

1 ½ cup stock, chicken or vegetable (vegetable stock for Vegans)

Additional Ingredients:

2 -1/2 tablespoons olive oil

3 medium cloves garlic

¾ teaspoon red pepper flakes

8 ounces tempeh, cut into ½ inch cubes

1 bunch green onions

7 to 8 ounces buckwheat soba noodles

1/4 of a red pepper, cut into narrow lengthwise strips

(* Note – I used Westsoy Tempeh and Yamaimo soba noodles but other brands work just a s well.)


1)  Put a pot of salted water on the stove to bring it to a boil. You’ll use it to cook the pasta.

2)  Place the cubed tempeh in an 8×8 inch square pan. Stir in the marinade to wet all sides of the cubes. Let the cubes sit in the marinade while you prepare the ingredients for the sauce.

3)   Mix the sauce ingredients in a pitcher. (*Tip If you don’t have a good zester, you can use a vegetable peeler the peel off the skin of the lemon. Avoid the white part under the skin because it is bitter. Finely mince the skin after you have peeled it.)

4) Wash and dry the green onions. Line the stalks up and cut off the ends on both sides. Now cut the stalks into thirds lengthwise.

5) Take half of the white stalks and take the same amount of green stalks and shred them lengthwise. Now 1/3 of the stalks are shredded to use as a garnish. Set the shredded stalks aside.

6)  Place a pasta strainer in the sink so you are ready to strain the pasta when it is done cooking. Begin to cook the pasta but watch it carefully. It cooks in 3-4 minutes.

7)  Heat the oil in a 10 to 12 inch skillet. Cook the tempeh until it is golden brown. When the tempeh is half-way to being golden, add the white stalks of the green onion to the pan and cook 2 minutes, and then add the garlic and the red pepper flakes. If the pan is dry you may need to add a touch more oil. Cook one minute and then add the remaining green onions. Stir the sauce mixture and then pour it into the pan. Stir the sauce in the pan until the it thickens, approximately 2 minutes.

8)  Strain the soba noodles and place them in a wide pasta bowl. Pour the tempeh and the sauce over the pasta and then decorate the top with the reserved shredded green onions and the sliced red bell pepper.