These skewers are a perfect main dish to serve for a summer BBQ. Left-overs are great tossed on a salad or eaten for breakfast! Just marinate cubes of tempeh along with your favourite veggies and these tasty skewers are sure to satisfy any guest – whether vegan, vegetarian, or even hard-core meat lovers.
Tempeh is made of fermented bean curds (most often soy, but other beans will do apparently!), and while many people have food allergies/sensitivities to soy products like tofu, soy milk and soy lecithin, the fermentation process makes this calcium, fibre and protein-rich alternative more digestible than other soy-based foods (thanks to helpful bacteria – woohoo natural anti-inflammatory probiotics!). With its tender meat-like texture, tempeh is a great meat substitute for anyone trying to decrease their meat consumption, and even for vegans and vegetarians, tempeh offers a more satisfying texture than tofu, plus it’s more easily digested. As with most meats and meat alternatives, tempeh is fairly tasteless on its own, but tends to take on the flavour of whatever it is marinated in. You can literally marinate it in anything as you would with meat, tofu or veggies.
Where to find Tempeh
Tempeh can be found in either the refrigerated section or the freezer section of most local health food stores, or you can make your own by fermenting organic soy beans or other types of beans [check out this post about Tempeh-making by Milkwood Permaculture]. After taking a fermentation workshop with Corrie at Radical Homestead in Ottawa, I have been fermenting many things at home lately (like sauerkraut, kimchi, sourdough bread) – though I have not attempted tempeh yet. Maybe when I retire………. For now, I’m happy to support Noble Bean’s locally-made organic tempeh.
Did you know… it takes years to get a steak from cow to table? Tempeh fermentation takes just days! (not to mention all the water/food consumption, methane/waste, land requirements for raising cattle…. if interested, check out David Suzuki’s page for more info on sustainable eating.)
I like reusable skewers – not only are they more eco-friendly with less packaging and waste, but they are also more sturdy and they don’t require pre-soaking like bamboo skewers. Sure you have to wash them afterwards, but chances are, you will already be washing some other dishes too!
- 1 package organic tempeh (240 grams)
- 4-6 cups assorted vegetables (e.g. onions, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, eggplant)
- ⅓ cup balsamic vinegar
- ¼ cup oil of choice (e.g. olive oil, grapeseed oil or softened coconut oil)
- ⅛ cup tamari or Bragg’s aminos (soy sauce alternatives)
- 1 Tbsp maple syrup or honey
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
- A few dashes of hot sauce or cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1 Tbsp fresh ginger root, grated (optional)
- 2 tsp arrowroot or tapioca starch (optional)
- Sea salt and pepper
- Defrost tempeh by leaving it to thaw at room temperature – or, if you’re in more of a hurry, you can soak the package in warm water until just soft enough to slice with a knife.
- Cut tempeh into cubes (I like my tempeh cubes to be bite-sized to absorb more of the tasty marinade, but also big enough so the skewers you are using will puncture a hole through the centre without splitting the cube and leaving it un-skewerable. That should be a word).
- Place tempeh into a large bowl, jar or casserole dish – I like to use one with a lid for easy storage in the fridge or transport to the BBQ host.
- Mix up your marinade by placing all remaining ingredients into a lidded jar and shaking vigorously – when possible, I like to use nearly-empty honey jars, since shaking up the marinade will help to clean out every last bit of the sticky sweetness, plus this method adds a little extra sweetness to your marinade. The optional starch can be added to thicken the marinade and help it stick to the tempeh, but I find marinating for a longer time has the same effect... your call.
- Pour marinade over tempeh*. You will want your tempeh to marinate for at least an hour – or you can leave it to marinate for up to a few days in the fridge (the longer it marinates, the more flavour the tempeh will absorb).
- Select other desired veggies (or fruits, or even local meats). Depending on how many people you will be serving, and if you want leftovers (which are great on top of a salad, pizza, in a stir-fry, quiche or on their own), cut veggies into similarly-sized pieces that are suitable to your skewers. Some of our favourite skewer add-ons include: bell peppers, red onion, eggplant, cherry tomatoes, pineapple, mushrooms.
- *You may wish to incorporate all your veggies and add-ons with the tempeh and marinade at once, or, alternatively, you can marinate the tempeh on its own and add the veggies prior to skewering. I tend to toss all skewer bits into the marinade at once, so they will all soak in the same flavour, but you can add the veggies at any time!
- When it’s BBQ time, begin skewering the marinated pieces. I tend to like a random assortment, but my husband and kids often like to make patterns…. Whatever works.
- Place completed skewers on a hot grill for about 15 minutes, until edges of tempeh and veggies look nicely browned. Tempeh doesn’t need to be cooked the same way meat does, but if you also have raw meat on a skewer, you will want to ensure it’s thoroughly cooked. Try to avoid charring your skewers – that black crap is not good for you.
- Remove skewers and serve as is, or with a bit of spicy mustard or cilantro-hemp sauce.