Rice Noodle Bowls with Baked Tempeh

I finally ended my bad relationship with tempeh. It was time. No more buying a package, half-heartedly following a recipe (or not), only to be disappointed... the left-overs being pushed to the back of the fridge until I finally threw them out in disgust.

I learned two things: 1) stop treating tempeh like tofu, and 2) how to treat tempeh like tempeh. This is the method that FINALLY made me happy to be eating tempeh!

So what is tempeh anyway and how is it different from tofu? Tempeh is a traditional fermentation process whereby whole cooked soybeans are cultured and allowed to ferment in a controlled environment. This allows the bean to bind together firmly. It also gives the block both flavor and stiff texture, unlike tofu.

In the grocery stores that I have access to, I rarely see pure tempeh. Usually I find it mixed with something else, mostly grains like millet, rice and barley. This works well for me, but it does mean it contains gluten because of the barley. Even though the gluten contained in barley is much weaker than the gluten contained in wheat, anyone with celiac disease or gluten sensitivities would need to find an alternative.

The first step in treating tempeh like tempeh (and not like tofu) is to give it a brief steam or simmer before marinating. This accomplishes two things: 1) it removes the slight (or sometime more-than-slight) bitterness tempeh can have as a result of the fermentation process, and 2) it makes the tempeh less dense and more porous, which allows it to absorb flavors much more readily. It doesn't take long, 12 minutes total, and flip the pieces over half way through.

Now, we're ready to get started. Time to build some flavor. I adapted this version from The Minimalist Baker.

Total Time: 45-60 minutes, plus marinating Prep Time: 15 minutes, plus 3-24 hours for marinating Bake Time: 12 min. steam/simmer, plus 30-40 minutes baking PRINT HERE

Each package of tempeh will serve 2-3 people. Marinade Ingredients for one package:

3 Tbsp almond butter (or peanut butter)

3 Tbsp lime juice (about 2-3 limes, depending on size & juiciness)

zest from 2 limes

1/4 cup pure maple syrup (I'm lucky to have a syrup maker in the family!)

3 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce (use tamari for a gluten-free alternative)

2 minced garlic cloves

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl, set aside.

When the tempeh is cool enough to handle, cut it into your desired shapes. The more surface area it has, the more flavor it can absorb. I cut the rectangular block into two squares and then cut those squares in half so I ended up with four thinner squares. Each of these, I cut in half and then into triangles (shown below).

Now combine the tempeh with the marinade, either in a zip-lock bag or a container with a lid. It's best to marinate over-night, but at least several hours... the longer, the better! Preheat oven to 375 Fahrenheit. Line an 11" x 17" baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the tempeh from the marinade and spread evenly around the baking sheet. Bake for 30-40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. As they bake, these will become much darker and should no longer be goopy or gummy.

I probably could have pulled these out about 2-3 minutes sooner. However, they are PERFECT like this for being dunked in brothy noodle bowls.

While the tempeh is baking, prepare your vegetables. Use whatever you like to eat and include as many colors as possible. Below are various cuts: scallions, red bell peppers, purple dragon carrots, red cabbage, orange carrots, steamed broccolini, orange bell peppers and yellow bell peppers. Roughly chopped cilantro and basil, toasted sesame seeds and thinly sliced jalapeno peppers are delicious additions to these noodle bowls as well.

Prepare your rice noodles according to the package directions, ensuring you have plenty of flavorful broth. You can also use some of the left-over marinade to flavor the broth. Fill each bowl with some of the rice noodles, assorted veggies and baked tempeh. Pour some of the broth over all and top with herbs, sesame seeds and a squeeze of lime, if you'd like. DIG IN!

I made a couple of extra noodle bowls so I could see how the tempeh tasted after being surrounded by broth and colorful veggies overnight. I loved the left-overs even more! The longer the tempeh sits in the broth, the more the marinade flavors combine with the broth and veggies. What a delicious lunch this made the next day (first photo at the top)!

The nutrition information for this dish is highly dependent upon which vegetables, herbs and/or seeds are used so I won't include a profile for this dish. Below is the nutrition label from the package of tempeh above, just to give you an idea of the awesomeness tempeh is contributing to this meal.

If you prefer to use this baked tempeh in other ways (other than in soup or a brothy noodle bowl) you may want to use the leftover marinade to brush onto the baked pieced once they come out of the oven.

Some other options for using this baked tempeh:

  • Use it to make tacos or burritos

  • Add it to salads

  • Top baked sweet potatoes with some diced up pieces

  • Add some coarsely chopped pieces to stuffed squash

  • Add it to stir-fry

If you make this recipe, I'd love to hear how you and your guests liked it! Snap a photo and tag me too, #chefcatherinebrown. I love seeing what you make!

DISCLOSURES: None. This post was not created in affiliation with any product or brand. The opinions expressed are my own. I will only write about products I use and trust.

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CatherineeBrown@hotmail.com  603-237-1012  PO Box 253 Errol, NH 03579