Use this easy tempeh marinade to make super flavorful and crispy oven baked tempeh as the base for any delicious plant based meal.
Tempeh is a weird food. There, I said it. It’s probably the hardest one to figure out how to enjoy in the plant based world.
Whether you’re a full-time plant based eater or, like me, someone who just enjoys plant-based meals a bit more frequently than the average person, tempeh can be tricky.
I remember back in the day when I was first trying it out and making tempeh sandwiches in its uncooked state, it would take some severe manipulation (aka a TON of jam) to distract me from the texture and taste. The passage of time has been good for our relationship though. Tempeh and I are now on much better terms after a solid 9 years of testing out different ways to enjoy it.
Today, I’m sharing quite possibly my favorite one – marinated tempeh. This simple 5 ingredient tempeh marinade completely transforms the ingredient and creates intensely flavorful caramelized baked tempeh.
The end result is a crispy golden edged marinated tempeh that can be enjoyed however you like. Whether that’s with rice and vegetables, as a salad topper or anything in between.
TEMPEH MARINADE RECIPE
Marinades are great but if the ingredient list goes on for more than 7 or 8 items, I tend to lose interest.
This tempeh marinade has just five simple ingredients. All of which I guarantee you have on hand. I follow the same rules for tofu and can’t say enough delicious things about this tofu marinade. It’s good with tempeh too!
TEMPEH MARINADE INGREDIENTS
Tamari – brings a lovely umami salty flavor to the marinade. And yes, you can use soy sauce (I recommend low sodium) or coconut aminos if you prefer.
Maple Syrup – boosts a nice balance of sweetness to the salty tamari and helps with that lovely golden caramelization of the tempeh when it bakes.
Balsamic Vinegar – acid rounds out the trifecta of flavors and balsamic vinegar is always a favorite of mine when baking for its hint of sweetness and syrupy baked result.
Avocado oil – a neutral, high smoke point oil is used to help the marinade stick to the tempeh and perform well in a hot oven while baking.
Garlic – what marinade would be complete without garlic? Enough said.
HOW TO MARINATE TEMPEH
I first like to cut my tempeh into triangles like shown. While cubes are just fine, I tend to reserve that shape for tofu (like air fryer tofu). I find the points get nice and crispy once marinated and baked and their texture is the highlight to each bite.
Once cut into shape, place the tempeh pieces in a large dish that has enough surface area for all the pieces to sit flat without overlapping. This helps the marinade absorb evenly.
Whisk the tempeh marinade ingredients together in a small bowl then pour over top of each piece of tempeh in the dish. Gently flip the tempeh to coat each side in the marinade then cover and let rest.
HOW LONG SHOULD TEMPEH MARINATE?
As with most marinades, the longer, the better.
That said, I’ve marinated tempeh for as little as 30 minutes and as long as overnight.
Even just 30 minutes of marinating time can result in a super flavorful baked tempeh.
No matter how long you’re able to let the tempeh marinate, flip the pieces at least once half way through the process. I also like to spoon the marinade over them when I do this to really help it set in.
When marinating meat, like with a chicken wing marinade, you have to be cognizant of marinating for too long as it can break down the meat too much. This isn’t as much of an issue with tempeh. The longer it soaks up those flavors, the tastier it becomes!
BAKING MARINATED TEMPEH
Once the tempeh has marinated, the next step is baking it for a crispy crunchy, deliciously caramelized plant based protein. I find a high temperature oven to be the easiest method for baking tempeh.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (don’t skip this otherwise the marinade will make the tempeh stick to the pan) and preheat your oven to 425°F. Place the tempeh on the baking sheet letting any excess marinade drip off each piece.
Do not throw away the marinade! Reserve it as we’ll be using it to impart even more flavor throughout the baking process.
HOW LONG TO BAKE TEMPEH
Bake for 10 minutes then remove from the oven and brush or spoon each piece of tempeh with the reserved marinade.
Return to the oven and bake for another 10 minutes until the edges are golden brown and starting to caramelize.
Remove from the oven and once again, use the rest of the marinade to brush the tempeh. Alternatively, you can spoon it on top of the tempeh once served.
USE THE MARINADE AS A TEMPEH SAUCE
If I’m serving the baked tempeh with rice, I like to spoon the marinade over both the tempeh and rice, using it like a sauce for some extra flavor.
You can even make some more marinade than the recipe calls for just to have extra to use as a tempeh sauce for the finished dish.
HOW TO SERVE CRISPY BAKED TEMPEH
These crispy little tempeh nuggets are honestly the best blank slate for almost any meal! I love enjoying them with cooked white rice and a simple vegetable like grilled baby bok choy or sautéed swiss chard. Even just microwaved frozen mixed vegetables are great for a simple dinner!
The crispy tempeh makes a great protein packed salad topping and I sometimes enjoy it in place of crispy chickpeas on this baby kale salad. It’s also great with Thai kohlrabi noodles, a bok choy salad or this pad Thai salad.
If you wanted to swap it out for the tofu in my sweet and sour tofu recipe, that’d be a great option as well!
WHAT TYPE OF TEMPEH IS BEST?
Tempeh, by definition, is a plant based protein source made from fermented soy beans. It’s formed into a block and usually has added ingredients/grains to it. That said, some tempeh will be naturally gluten-free while others, will not depending on the grain used.
So, be sure to read the ingredient list as not all tempeh is the same.
I like to buy organic, gluten-free tempeh varieties that use ingredients like brown rice or millet in addition to the fermented soybeans rather than those that use gluten containing grains like barley, spelt or rye.
No matter which you choose though, any type of tempeh will work with this marinade. The end result will still be the same delicious best baked tempeh there is!
DO I NEED TO STEAM THE TEMPEH BEFORE MARINATING & BAKING?
Many tempeh recipes call for a steaming step before baking. Much like with jicama fries, I find this to be completely unnecessary. I’ve tried both steaming and not steaming tempeh before marinating and baking and see no added benefit to the extra step of steaming.
I think steaming tempeh has its time and place but when you’re marinating the tempeh in something as flavorful as this tempeh marinade, there’s really no reason. Steaming the tempeh helps to minimize the slight bitterness to the raw product but the marinade does all that for you.
There’s no reason to add this step to your baked tempeh recipe when using a marinade!
LOVE THIS BAKED TEMPEH RECIPE? TRY THESE TOO:
Vegan Picadillo – uses tempeh in ground form for a delicious plant based spin to the traditional Cuban dish.
Creamy White Bean Pasta – I highly recommend the suggestion to use baked tempeh crumbled on top of this pasta for some added protein!
BBQ Mango Tofu – this sheet pan meal has “easy” written all over it for a lovely plant based recipe as well.
And don’t miss my web story on how to make crispy baked tempeh for more details on this recipe!
If you make and love this recipe, please leave a ★★★★★ review below! I’d love to know how it goes. Leave a comment below if you have any questions. Tag @runningtothekitchen on Instagram & Facebook.
Crispy Baked Marinated Tempeh
- 8 ounce block tempeh cut into triangles (use gluten-free variety if necessary)
For the marinade
- 2 tablespoons tamari
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil
- 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
- Combine all the marinade ingredients in a small bowl, whisk to combine.
- Place the tempeh in a large dish or bowl so that each piece can lay flat in the container.
- Pour the marinade over the tempeh pieces, turn to coat in the mixture. Cover and let marinate for at least 30 minutes up to overnight. Flip the pieces half way through marinating time.
- Preheat oven to 425°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Transfer the marinated pieces of tempeh to the prepared baking sheet, reserving the extra marinade.
- Bake for 10 minutes, remove from the oven and brush with the marinade.
- Return to the oven and bake for another 10 minutes until golden brown and crispy on the edges.
- Remove from oven, drizzle any remaining marinade over the tempeh when served.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For the most precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator based on the actual ingredients you used in the recipe.
Gina Matsoukas is the writer, founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients as much as possible. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.