Quick weeknight dinner starts with tempeh


Thirty minutes. That’s about all the time I have to make dinner. For some folks, that’s about all the time they want to take to make dinner. I get it. On a busy weeknight, I’m in the same boat.

There are whole cookbooks devoted to meals in 30 minutes or less. I think I even own some of those cookbooks and they have great ideas. But, if you’re like me, you get bored quickly. How many days in a row can one eat a quick pasta meal with a sauce? Not too many.

In my quest this year to include non-meat protein to my diet, I have encountered some familiar and not-so-familiar protein alternatives. Among the familiar choices: tofu, eggs, yogurt, beans, nuts, seeds and some veggies like broccoli.

Among the not-so-familiar alternatives? Seitan, which was featured in one of my column recipes in June, and tempeh. Although I had heard of tempeh, I had never cooked or eaten it until recently. If you are serious about adding plant-based proteins to your life, tempeh is your new BFF.

You might be wondering, like I did, what is tempeh, exactly? I was surprised to learn that, like tofu, tempeh is made from soybeans.

But unlike tofu, which hearkens back to China, tempeh originates from Indonesia.

While tempeh is similar to tofu in that it is made from soybeans, that is where the similarity ends. Tempeh retains the whole soybean, is minimally processed and goes through a controlled fermentation process that binds the beans into a cake form.

The fermentation that makes tempeh allows for the carbohydrates in soybeans to become more easily digestible. It also reduces certain acids, like phytic acid, allowing our bodies to more readily absorb the minerals that soybeans provide.

Tempeh has a texture that is firm, earthy, and chewy. Because of its firmer texture, tempeh can be used as a substitute for ground beef in many dishes and added to soups, salads, and casseroles for extra protein and fiber.

Still not convinced you want to try this plant-based protein? The nutritional stats might change your mind. I was amazed to discover that one cup of tempeh provides 31 grams of protein at around 320 calories.

Tempeh also clocks in at providing 20 percent of potassium and vitamin B6, 25 percent of iron and 33 percent of magnesium daily needs for adults. It’s no wonder that tempeh has been a staple source of protein and nutrition in Indonesia since the thirteenth century.

This week’s recipe is from the website ohmyveggies.com and transforms tempeh into sloppy joes for a quick weeknight dinner that is ready in 30 minutes.


Veggie & Tempeh Sloppy Joes

Serves 4 to 6


  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 16 oz. tempeh, crumbled
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 small green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 small zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 ear of corn, removed from cob (or 1/2 c. frozen corn)
  • 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce or tamari
  • 1-15 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 rolls, sliced in half
  • Sliced onion and arugula for garnish


Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, and zucchini and sauté until softened, about five minutes. Stir in crumbled tempeh and cook two minutes more. Add sugar, garlic powder, and cayenne and stir for one minute. Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, salt, and pepper and simmer on low for 15 minutes. Add corn, red wine vinegar and soy sauce to skillet; cook for five minutes more, until vegetables are softened, stirring constantly. Spoon onto rolls, top with onion and arugula, and serve.