Vegan Kung Pao Tempeh

One thing about not eating meat is that you don’t get to enjoy common dishes like everyone else does. Being a plant-based eater doesn’t mean I don’t miss the occasional meaty meal, especially comforting favorites I grew up eating. My Aunt Bea’s meatballs, my Uncle Louie’s “Louie Salad” (made with Italian cold cuts), my Grandmother’s Sunday gravy – these classic dishes are a big part of my food history. Given the opportunity again, I would eat the heck out of them!

Then there are certain dishes that have no emotional connection for me but are just synonymous with a specific protein. Chicken noodle soup, a Reuben sandwich, pasta Bolognese, and turkey chili, to name a few. In these dishes I don’t miss the meat, I just miss the flavor. This is especially true with Chinese food. Chinese veggie dishes usually don’t cut it and tofu is not my favorite, so I rarely really enjoy Chinese food.

I actually love the challenge of re-creating meat dishes veggie-style. I’ve doctored up many a recipe using meatless substitutes. Sometimes it works and other times it’s a total failure. Tempeh is my go-to for replacing certain types of meat in recipes, but you do have to work with it a little bit. You also have to get used to the texture, which is meaty but kind of crumbly. 

This Kung Pao Tempeh is inspired by this recipe. Since a big ole' bowl of Chickpeas would be hard for me to digest, I gave the concept a try using tempeh. The trick for getting tempeh to absorb the most flavor is to steam it first. I steamed one brick of tempeh (cut into 4 squares) for about 10 minutes while I was preparing the marinade. Once steamed, I chopped into squares and then let it sit in the marinade while I prepped the veggies and cleaned up. Then I just sautéed everything together and served it over rice.


  • 8 ounces organic tempeh
  • 1/2 cup tamari soy sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons agave nectar or honey
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon arrowroot or cornstarch
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup peanuts
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped


  1. Place a small colander or steamer basket over a small pot of boiling water. Slice tempeh into 4 pieces and place in steamer basket. Steam for about 10 minutes.
  2. While the tempeh is steaming, whisk together the tamari, ginger, agave, garlic, sesame oil, and rice vinegar in a bowl. Slice the tempeh into bite size chunks and add to the marinade. Let it marinate for as long as you can (at least 10 minutes).
  3. ...............................

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