Garden Tempeh Stew

With a Japanese Vinegar This Stew Marches to the Beat of a Different Drummer

Tempeh [TEM pay] is a whole soybean fermented dense cake that makes for a good meat substitute. Unlike tofu, which is made from only soy milk, it was introduced to the world from Indonesia. It has some funky taste and usually is best served in a strong marinade. I like to steam it for 10 minutes before frying to mellow it. 

 Garden Tempeh Stew is a great introduction to both tempeh and a Japanese vinegar — ume plum vinegar [ooo-may].* With the sour and salty quality of ume, there is a subtle blending of flavors to make a versatile stew. Feel free to substitute with other vegetables in season. Mushrooms, turnips, even daikon radish fit well.

There is something special in this dish that I can’t explain. There is a deep down centering taste.  —Recipes by B. Hettig

*For other ume recipes on search in the recipe section “ume.”

Garden Tempeh Stew Serves 4-5

INGREDIENTS: The toasted sesame oil adds a unique flavor. Olive oil works also. Plan on 5-6 cups total of vegetables. If using watery veggies, like summer squash, add them towards the end of cooking to preserve texture.

  • tempeh, one 8 oz. pkg, cut into 8 slices
  • toasted sesame oil, 2-3 TBS
  • cabbage, 2 cups (1/2 head), 1-inch pieces
  • garlic, 2 cloves, chopped
  • onion, 2 cups, chopped, 1-inch pieces
  • potatoes, new, 2 cups, (3-4), halved, then 1/4” slices
  • carrots, 1 cup, 1-inch chunks


  • water, 2 cupsume plum vinegar
  • ume plum vinegar, 2 + TBS
  • corn starch, 2 tsp
  • water, 2 TBS

HERBS: Along with the parsley, I sometimes like to add 2 tsp fresh rosemary, and 1 tsp sage.

  • parsley, 1/4 cup, minced


  1. Place whole slab of tempeh in a steamer basket and steam for 10 minutes. Then cool enough to handle.
  2. Meanwhile, prep the vegetables.
  3. Heat up a large pot 

    Tempeh: Fried
    Be sure to brown the cutlets well. – wikimedia
  4. Prepare the tempeh by cutting in half, then quarters, and then splitting the quarters through their thickness to yield 8 cutlets.
  5. In a large pot brown the cutlets in batches using the toasted sesame oil. Be sure to brown, then cut into bite-sized pieces and return to pot.
  6. Sprinkle one tablespoon of the ume vinegar over the tempeh and add the water. 
  7. Add all the vegetables except the parsley, then add the remaining TBS. ume vinegar.
  8. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer and cover. Cook until carrot and potato are tender, 15-20 minutes. Gently toss all. Check for sour-salty flavor and add more vinegar if needed.
  9. Using a slotted spoon, remove the ingredients and place on serving platter. Bring liquid to a simmer. Add the slurry of corn starch and water and stir until thickened. Pour over the dish.
  10. Add a few grinds of pepper, and the parsley.


Tempeh Stew with Lemon-Thyme

Add a half-teaspoon of dried thyme, or a teaspoon of fresh during the vegetable cooking stage. When the dish is done use a slotted spoon and remove the tempeh and vegetables. Add a teaspoon of lemon juice or more to taste to the pot juices; you could add a touch of butter, too. Pour over the vegetables and serve.

Tempeh Stew with Sage & Rosemary

Add 2 tsp minced, fresh rosemary and 1 tsp of fresh sage, or a teaspoon of dried during the vegetable cooking stage.

Garden Tempeh Stew gets even better as a leftover treat.

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