my favourite kung pao tempeh

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This Kung Pao Tempeh stir fry is the perfectly little meal for when you’re stuck on what to have for lunch or dinner. You’ve heard of Kung Pao chicken, tofu, cauliflower, but today we’re cooking with tempeh. Tempeh is the chewy, nutty less-processed cousin of tofu. It has more of an earthy taste and sausage-like texture compared to the plain flavour and soft texture of tofu, and it works perfectly in stir fries like this one. Each bite maintains that classic spiciness that Kung Pao dishes bring, along with crunchy cashew nuts, plenty of garlic, and a sweet tang of fresh ginger. Nothing says summer whilst still being seasonal in the winter like this Kung Pao Tempeh!

If you didn’t know, I am obsessed with Szechuan cuisine. Eating spicy foods is a beloved hobby of mine and I absolutely adore trying out new recipes from all over the world all the time, but the classic flavours of the Chinese cuisine, particularly Szechuan, are really my overall favourite. One of my favourite dishes to prepare for a large family meal is a Kung Pao cauliflower recipe, but this time I thought I would switch it up and try something new!

I made this Kung Pao Tempeh using my usual sauce and spice recipe but added a few special changes to give it a little extra kick! Think chewy, crispy, crunchy, sticky, spicy… my mouth is watering at the thought of it! If I had some more tempeh I’d be cooking this up right now! Add a sprinkling of spring onions and sesame seeds… the perfect meal to supply your cold day with a bit more than a touch of warmth.

The perfect easy-as-pie lunch or dinner for any day of the week.

Let’s look at this a little closer

First of all, you can use tofu instead if you can’t find any tempeh, just make sure that you get extra firm tofu. Truthfully, I’m not a big fan of tofu in chunks, I much prefer it crumbled up inside some jiaozi. But, whether you’re using tofu or tempeh, you must absolutely take the time to marinade your base! The marinading step is essential for me, otherwise the tempeh doesn’t take in any of that garlic-soy goodness. Coating the tempeh in cornflour first is also crucial to me, as it really helps to crispen up the tempeh and thicken the sauce later on. Season the marinade with plenty of garlic, soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil.

Whilst the tempeh is marinading, I like to get all of my other ingredients ready. This just quickens up the cooking process ten-fold later on, helping you to simplify your kitchen routine. When mixing the Kung Pao sauce, make sure you don’t hold back on the rice wine vinegar. It really helps to enhance the flavours of the sauce once it’s nice and thick and sticky. I love to use a really rich and dark soy sauce for this step too. It gives everything a real nice rich and earthy undertone. I also fully recommend getting roasted sesame oil – you can use regular oil but there’s something about the nutty flavour of sesame oil that just makes this dish!

The stir fry mix is what completely transforms this dish. I like leaving my ginger and garlic a little chunky when I mince then. The same goes for the cashews, you want to make sure there’s some crunch left in there! Fry the chilli, peppercorns, ginger, and garlic until everything is beautifully golden and the kitchen smells divine. Just be extra careful not to fry on too high of a heat, because the chilli tend to burn quickly. I like to add some of the spring onions into the stir fry too. They go all caramelly and sticky and delicious.

Toss the marinaded tempeh into the stir fried veggies, add in the sauce, and stir everything together until its simmering, sticky, and fragrant. Make sure the tempeh is hot through and nicely crisp on the outside (chef’s tasting privileges, am I right?!) Serve immediately whilst it’s still nice and hot, either as a side dish or the centre piece. And that’s all there is too it! Nothing too fancy, just good and spicy plant-goodness.

My final notes

If using tofu instead of tempeh, make sure you get it plain and extra-firm. I always make sure that both my tofu and tempeh are organic (you can read THIS blog post to learn more about the importance of eating organic). You should be able to get tempeh in your local supermarket, but if you can’t then tofu does work just fine!

When it comes to the chilli and peppercorns, you can use regular chilli peppers and regular black peppercorns. I prefer using Szechuan peppers because they do pack more of a punch that every-day chilli peppers, perfect for those of you who love your food on the spicy end of the spectrum.

You CAN choose to leave this dish to cool completely, storing it in an airtight container in the fridge until you’re ready to use, but it’s just not as good reheated. I fully recommend serving this Kung Pao tempeh up right away. Reheating it for a couple of minutes in the microwave (or even a frying pan) does work but the tempeh goes a little rubbery and it’s not as crispy. Definitely just treat yourself on the day!

I am honestly in love with this dish, it’s now my new favourite thing! I’ll be turning to this Kung Pao tempeh for a quick, easy, and delicious meal every time I’ve run out of ideas. My favourite way to enjoy this dish is served over freshly prepared fluffy rice with some stir fried broccoli on the side, a drizzle of extra Kung Pao sauce, and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. Absolutely divine!

Final tip – make extra sauce so you can soak any accompaniments in spicy, sticky, deliciousness too!

Finally, if you make this Kung Pao Tempeh, make sure you leave a like and a comment down below! I absolutely love hearing from you guys, and you can be sure that I’ll try my best to get back to you soon! And of course, if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram @rhythmandgreen I love seeing the photos of recipes you’ve all made!

Have a beautiful week, happy February, and I wish you a safe and warm rest of the winter! I look forward to hearing from your soon!

Love, Katherine x

my favourite kung pao tempeh

  • preparation time: 1 hour
  • cook time: 15 minutes
  • total time: 1+ hour
  • servings: 2-3

Ingredients:

For the tempeh marinade:

  • 250g plain, organic tempeh
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp rich dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice wine
  • 1 tbsp roasted sesame oil

For the kung pao sauce:

  • 1 tbsp rich dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp roasted sesame oil

For the stir fry:

  • 1 tbsp roasted sesame oil
  • 1-2 tsp Szechuan chilli peppers, minced
  • 1 tsp Szechuan peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp minced root ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 70g cashew nuts, chopped
  • 3 spring onions, thinly sliced
  • Sesame seeds, for garnish

Method:

To make the tempeh marinade:

  1. Cut the tempeh into 1 cm cubes (doesn’t need to be perfect) and add it to a bowl along with the cornflour. Stir until the tempeh is covered and the cornflour has dissolved. Add in the garlic, soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil. Stir everything together until the tempeh is completely coated and leave to mature for 1 hour.

To make the kung pao sauce:

  1. In a separate bowl to the tempeh, whisk together the soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, and sesame oil until everything is completely combined.

To make the stir fry:

  1. In a large frying pan, heat the sesame oil over a medium heat. Add in the chilli, peppercorns, ginger, and garlic, and sauté until the mixture is golden and fragrant (be very careful not to burn the chilli).
  2. Add in the marinated tempeh and stir fry until it is hot through. Add in the chopped cashews, half the spring onions, and kung pao sauce, stir frying until everything is cooked through and the sauce is thickened and glossy.
  3. Serve with a sprinkling of sliced green onions and sesame seeds, either as a side dish or the main event. Enjoy!

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