T is for Tempeh

I love quick and easy meals that are healthy, delicious, and versatile. Those are usually the ones that I go back to often, adapting them as the ingredients in my refrigerator change. Especially, as the week comes to a close, my kitchen creativity sometimes dwindles along with it, waiting for that long awaited Saturday morning slumber that rejuvenates my foodie love. With nine solid hours of uninterrupted sleep, and no more steel cut oats left over for quick reheating, I felt inspired and motivated to create one of those true and tried recipes for our Saturday breakfast and share it with you!

Once again, this recipe is an inspiration from our Bali honeymoon. Although the concept is unique, the ingredients in this recipe are common staples found in any plant-based kitchen. And if you do not happen to have every single ingredient, you can easily swap it with something else that is hidden in your veggie bin. Also, this recipe lends itself perfectly as a light lunch or dinner entrée, that can become even heartier if paired with a side of whole-wheat toast or a fruit salad.

Tahu Telur, or translated tofu and eggs, is the common name for this typical Balian dish. The base consists of eggs and tofu, and is topped with fresh veggies, including grated carrots and cabbage, as well as mung beans and chopped peanuts. A light sauce is served alongside, as a dressing for the vegetables. Although my version is similar, there are a few twists that I think make it even better. Let me tell you why.

Just like in the book “Eat Pray Love”, I feel in love in Bali, with tempeh. I have to be honest; at that time I had never cooked tempeh. As a nutritionist and health food blogger, this may seem unheard of. Tempeh was foreign while tofu was and still is a common staple in my kitchen. However in Bali, tempeh was on every menu, as fries, as a side, or as part of an entrée. I had to try it! Within two weeks I was transformed from a tempeh novice to a tempeh advocate. It didn’t even dawn on me until the last few days of our visit, that tempeh originated in Indonesia!

This fermented whole soybean patty may seem foreign to you too, with its unique flavor, texture, and smell. However, when well seasoned and added to flavorful meals, not only does the flavor become enjoyable, but the nutritional benefits far outweigh tofu. Because the whole soybean is utilized, sprouted and fermented, the protein and fiber content, as well as vitamins and minerals, are much higher in tempeh. For example, in a 4oz serving of tempeh, you will find 20g of plant-based protein and 12g of fiber. The fiber will help keep you full longer, bind to toxins for elimination, feed healthy bacteria, and reduce constipation. Whereas the protein increases satiety and offers the building blocks to keep your muscles strong and healthy. A 4 oz serving of extra firm tofu, on the other hand, has about 12g of protein and 1g of fiber. Furthermore, the minerals found in tempeh, such as iron and calcium, are much more bioavailable because the phytic acid content is reduced during the soaking and fermentation process. Why is this important? Phytic acid binds to minerals such as iron and calcium, and instead of absorbing these minerals, you excrete them. But wait there is more! Tempeh also has beneficial active cultures, just like yogurt or kefir, that can help keep your digestive tract healthy by culturing good bacteria in your large intestine. Isn’t tempeh a soybean rockstar?

So are you ready to fall in love with tempeh? Here are some things to keep in mind when buying tempeh:
  • Tempeh can be found in the refrigerated or frozen section.
  • Since soybeans are a GMO crop, choose organic tempeh when possible.
  • You can find a variety of tempeh products, including original and multigrain. 
  • A whitish covering on the tempeh is normal, as are a few black or gray spots.
  • Quality tempeh has a natural aroma that smells earthy and mushroom-like. 

Because I exchanged the tofu with tempeh, my version is called Tempeh Telur, using veggies that I found in my veggie bin, including cherry tomatoes, onions, radish sprouts, and avocado. If I had a cucumber I would have tossed that into the mix as well. And instead of the traditional chopped peanuts, I used chopped macadamia nuts. You can use whatever floats your boat!

Tempeh Telur
Serves 1

1 teaspoon ghee or coconut oil
½ serving of tempeh, cut into small cubes (I used Surata Multi-Grain)
2 tablespoons minced onion
2 eggs
1 large clove garlic, finely minced
Splash of soymilk (or regular milk)
¼ cup radish sprouts (can use any type of sprouts)
4 cherry tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon chopped macadamia nuts (or peanuts)
¼ avocado, sliced
Cilantro for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste

½ tablespoon reduced sodium tamari
1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
Siracha to taste


Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add the ghee and the tempeh and sauté for a couple minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add the minced onion and sauté until glassy. Season with a sprinkle of sea salt and fresh pepper.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a small bowl, add the garlic, and the splash of milk. Mix well and season with a pinch of sea salt and fresh pepper.

Pour the egg mixture evenly over the sautéed tempeh and onions. Cook on low until the egg mixture has set, about 5 minutes. Carefully, flip the “egg pancake” over and sauté on the other side for a minute.

Transfer the “egg pancake” to a warmed plate (I do this in the microwave), and top with sprouts, cherry tomatoes, macadamia nuts, avocado, and cilantro. Serve immediately with a side of sauce. Drizzle the sauce over the fresh veggies as needed.

Note: You can easily double this recipe and make two servings at once, you just need two small skillets to cook the “egg pancakes” at the same time. Or you could preheat your oven to low and keep one warm, while you cook the second.

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