Use this easy tempeh marinade to make super flavorful and crispy oven baked tempeh as the base for any delicious plant based meal.

Use this easy tempeh marinade to make super flavorful and crispy oven baked tempeh as the base for any delicious plant based meal.
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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.

Raw tempeh cut into triangles before marinating.

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.

Tempeh triangles ready to be marinated in tamari, maple syrup, balsamic, oil and garlic.

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.

Gluten-free tempeh marinade using tamari, maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, garlic and avocado oil.

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!

Simple oven baked crispy marinated tempeh.

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.

Marinated tempeh is oven baked until crispy golden edges and the perfect vegan based meal.

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!

Marinading tempeh brings an intense flavor to the otherwise bland vegetarian staple.

WHAT TYPE OF TEMPEH IS BEST?

Tempeh, by definition, is a plant based protein source made from fermented soy beans. It’s also a great source of probiotics. 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!

Crispy baked tempeh using a simple marinade for delicious umami flavor.

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!

Easy baked tempeh with a simple 5 ingredient 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.

Mexican Tempeh Skillet – craving comfort food? I highly suggest this easy skillet meal! Or, swap out the chicken for crumbled tempeh in my cheddar chicken quinoa bake.

And don’t miss my web story on how to make crispy baked tempeh for more details on this recipe!

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4.88 from 105 votes

Crispy Baked Marinated Tempeh

Servings: 2 servings
Prep: 35 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 55 minutes
Oven baked marinated tempeh
Use this easy tempeh marinade to make super flavorful and crispy oven baked tempeh as the base for any delicious plant based meal.

Ingredients 

  • 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

Instructions 

  • 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.

Notes

*Tamari can be substituted with soy sauce or coconut aminos.

Nutrition

Serving: 1SERVINGCalories: 361kcalCarbohydrates: 26gProtein: 25gFat: 20gSaturated Fat: 5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 13gSodium: 1028mgSugar: 15g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Main Dishes
Cuisine: American
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Founder and Writer at Running to the Kitchen | About

Gina Matsoukas is an AP syndicated writer. She is the founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.

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42 Comments

  1. When I’ve made tempeh in the past it hasn’t been anything to write home about. This recipe is totally different – so delicious! I love the marinade and the texture. Will definitely make this again.

  2. I love to try new flavors, and your Tempeh is new to me. I enjoyed preparing it and I loved the flavor and texture.
    Crispy and so rich in flavor.
    Making it again.

  3. 5 stars
    This was my first time havin tempeh. My husband brought it home and I had no idea what to do with it. When I saw this had maple syrup, I was sold. :) It was incredible! Can’t wait to have this again.

  4. I loved this new take on Tempeh. I love using it but often do t now how to make it more flavorful. This sweet and garlicky marinade was perfect and the pieces turned out so crispy! I added it to our salads for dinner. Will be making this again!

  5. This tempeh marinade is 10/10! I love to have tempeh as an alternative to tofu bc it has great texture and also super high protein. Great recipe!!

  6. Hello! This marinade is so yummy! I’m definitely going to be using this recipe again. However, I’d love to get some advice from ya’ll who have tried it. I followed the baking directions and the undersides blackened. I baked on the middle rack. And I didn’t flip them at the mid-mark, just brushed and returned to the oven. I wonder if I should have flipped them midway as well? Or maybe I need to reduce the baking time. But I’m pretty new to all this, so your advice is appreciated!

    Ps. Blackened or not, it’s not stopping me from eating them straight from the baking dish – they’re bomb!

    1. Hey Tammy- it’s possible your oven runs hot. Do you have an oven thermometer to verify the temp? If not though, just try lowering the temp a bit to maybe 400ish or flip halfway through as you suggested. Hope the next batch turns out perfect!

  7. I just discovered tempeh recently and am now obsessed. I came across your recipe yesterday and happened to have all the marinade ingredients in my pantry so I made it for dinner. We absolutely loved it. The marinade is so delicious! I’d never tried marinading tempeh before. Thank you for teaching me something new and for such a great recipe!

  8. I loved the marinade for this tempeh! I served it with steamed green beans and roasted cauliflower rice. I drizzled the marinade over everything it was so, so good. Making it again soon!