It took me a while to realize that tempeh isn’t for everyone. I first tasted the stuff back in my early days as a vegetarian, when I wasn’t into tofu. I expected it to be similar to tofu, and was pleasantly surprised by the strong contrast. I loved it, and as a result, I pushed it on everyone I perceived as a tofu hater, thinking they would too. I didn’t believe anyone who told me tempeh wasn’t for them.
Tempeh was the main ingredient in one of the first meals I prepared for my husband after we met (he was fond of tofu). He wasn’t into it. Here I went on babbling about what an awesome vegetarian cook I was, and I introduced him to an ingredient that he didn’t really like. He told me this later, and I eventually came to learn that lots of folks aren’t down with tempeh. It’s a little bitter and a little grainy, but I tend to like those things.
My husband’s distaste for tempeh comes in handy though. Even though he’s not much of a tempeh fan, he’s always willing to taste test. When his reaction tells me that a tempeh-based dish is a new favorite, I know it must be pretty amazing. That’s what happened here. The day after I made this he was scanning the fridge for leftovers.
It’s hard to go wrong when you soak something in a savory marinade and coat it with crispy panko breadcrumbs. Such was the case here. I call these fries, because, well, the idea of fries makes me happy, but if you’ve got kids you can call them tempeh fingers or nuggets or whatever your kids are into. They work as a snack, appetizer, main. I snacked on a few with mustard, and then ended up smothering the rest of the batch with marinara for dinner. You could even top it with some cashew Parmesan for a hearty Italian main course.
Crispy Panko Crusted Tempeh Fries
- 1-8 oz. package tempeh
For the Marinade
- 1/4 cup vegetable broth
- 1 tbsp. soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 garlic clove minced
For the Batter
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 tbsp. ground flax seeds
- 1/2 tbsp. all purpose flour
For the Panko Coating
- 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1/2 tsp. paprika
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper
- 1-2 tbsp. vegetable oil
- dipping sauce for serving
Cut tempeh into 1/2 inch wide strips.
Whisk marinade ingredients together and place in a shallow dish. Add tempeh strips and stir gently to coat. Allow to marinate for 30 minutes or more, stirring once or twice to recoat strips.
When tempeh has about 10 minutes left to marinate, whisk batter ingredients together in a small bowl and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425º.
Stir panko coating ingredients together in a small bowl. Generously coat a baking sheet with oil.
Remove a tempeh strip from marinade and transfer to batter mixture. Lay each side in batter to coat. Transfer to panko coating mixture and lay each side in mixture to coat. Transfer to baking sheet. Repeat for all strips.
Bake 25 minutes, gently turning half way through. Add a bit more oil to baking sheet if needed. Strips should be lightly browned when finished.