I’ve mentioned a couple times this summer that I haven’t been doing much cooking. I’ve been having my meals at home, though, which begs the question of, what the heck am I eating?
The answer is bowls: lots and lots of bowls. Usually with components (like grains, beans and roasted veggies) that I batch cook at some point during the week. I love this way of eating for summer, when my apartment overheats quickly and it’s best to do as much cooking as possible at once, enjoying cool or reheated meals as the week goes by. And I love it because it encourages me to find new favorite “basics” for my bowls, whether a new dressing or a new plant based protein.
Earlier in the summer, I fell in love with balsamic Dijon tahini dressing. Today’s recipe is also in the balsamic Dijon family, though a totally different type of food: a simple, savory, balsamic mustard backed tempeh.
This tempeh preparation actually isn’t new around here: it’s a staple for me, but one I didn’t really think about sharing until recently. People (clients, readers, veg-curious friends) are always asking me about the best way to prepare tempeh, which leads me to believe that more recipe ideas are welcome, even if they’re as simple as this one.
When I first started making tempeh this way—baked first under foil, then uncovered and allowed to get sticky and glazed in the oven—I used a two-ingredient mixture of balsamic vinegar and tamari. Over time, I added the mustard, which intensifies the flavor and makes things a little zestier, and I switched from tamari to coconut aminos.
I feel the same way about coconut aminos that I do about coconut sugar or nectar: it’s easy to replace with another, more accessible ingredient (in this case, tamari or soy sauce). But, just the way coconut sugar has distinctive, caramel flavor, coconut aminos offers something unique, too: it’s sweeter and less salty than tamari, and I like how the subtle sweetness works with the balsamic in this recipe. If you don’t have coconut aminos, it’s no problem. Tamari and soy sauce are fine: I just use a slightly smaller amount if that’s what I’ve got and am cooking with.
I’m often asked about whether it’s really necessary to steam tempeh. I think it’s helpful if the ingredient is new to you and you’re struggling at all with the slightly bitter, earthy flavor. If you love tempeh, as I do, it gets easier and easier to marinate it and cook it without any steaming beforehand. In this recipe, the tempeh has plenty of time to simmer in the marinade before the sauce gets reduced, so I find that it’s not at all bitter by the time it’s done. And you don’t need to let it sit in the marinade before cooking: 40-45 minutes in the oven is plenty.
- 1 8- ounce block tempeh cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
- 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/3 cup coconut aminos or 2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce + 3 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup agave, or coconut nectar (optional: adds extra sweetness if you like the sweet/salty duo)
Preheat your oven to 350F. Lightly spray or coat a square, nonstick, 8 x 8 baking dish with vegetable oil or line it with parchment. Arrange the tempeh slices in the dish.
Whisk together the vinegar, aminos or tamari/soy/water mixture, mustard, and maple syrup if using. Pour this marinade over the tempeh.
Cover the baking dish with foil and bake, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes, or until the marinade is completely reduced and sticky and the tempeh is dark and glazed. Serve in salads, bowls, or as a side dish with your favorite meal!
The sauce really does thicken up in the oven, which is what makes the flavor so concentrated and good, so I recommend a nonstick baking dish if you’ve got one (less soaking and scrubbing later on!).
I love the tempeh strips in bowls just like this one: quinoa, tempeh, roasted zucchini, tomatoes, greens, and that balsamic Dijon dressing I’ve been so hooked on all summer long. But it’s also delicious with avocado or hummus in a sandwich or wrap, chopped and thrown into a salad, or served as a protein side with other plant fare. You can double the recipe and bake it in a larger serving dish, too: once made, it’ll keep for about 5 days in an airtight container in the fridge, so it’s a great staple to have for a whole week’s worth of protein-rich vegan eats.
Hope you enjoy this recipe and the many meals it can inspire, friends. See you on Sunday for the usual roundup.