Be Tempted by Tempeh! Curried Tempeh Salad Recipe

Tempeh might be one of the most misunderstood ingredients out there. From how to pronounce it (tem-pey), fear of black spots in it, to how to use it, I get lots of questions about it from clients and in social media. It is a great ingredient, found at most grocery stores (you can even make your own), and I encourage everyone to try it.

What is It?

As I described in a prior post, Make Tempeh in Your Instant Pot!, tempeh is slightly fermented beans or grains, usually soy beans, held together by a web of rhizopus oligosporus, a fungus, like a mushroom. It originated in Indonesia, where it’s been eaten for hundreds of years. Fermentation of the beans and growth of rhizopus throughout the tempeh makes the beans more digestible, reducing gas-producing oligosaccharides. It’s full of protein, 18 grams per 3 oz. serving, and a whopping 6 grams of fiber (see WTF? Where’s the Fiber on the importance of fiber in our diet)! And it takes on the flavor of whatever spice or marinade you put with it.

Buying Tempeh

Lightlife is a common brand of tempeh, you can even order it through Amazon.

You can find packages of tempeh in the refrigerated case in many grocery stores, often with the tofu. It’s commonly wrapped in layers of vacuum-sealed plastic in 8 oz. blocks, but you can often find sliced and pre-seasoned tempeh as well. Make sure the package is intact, that its still vacuum-sealed.

What About Those Black Areas?

Those black areas aren’t mold, they’re a normal part of tempeh! Photo by Cindy Thompson,

You may see some grey or black areas in your tempeh. It’s commonly along the edges, can run through the block as well, and it’s normal. These dark spots are spore-producing parts of the rhizobus mycellium, really just the dark gills under a mushroom cap! They won’t hurt the tempeh or you and it doesn’t mean the tempeh’s spoiled. Lots and lots of perfectly edible tempeh has been thrown away over the years from this misunderstanding. If you don’t like the look of the dark areas, you can cut them off, but it’s perfectly fine to leave them.

If you smell the tempeh, it is nutty, mushroomy smelling. Spoiled tempeh smells spoiled and may have pink or green areas.

Storing Tempeh

This is what makes tempeh so great—tempeh you buy at the grocery store in those vacuum sealed packages generally can keep in your refrigerator for months! Each package is marked with a sell by date (note, this is a sell by date, not a use by date…learn why this is an important distinction in Food Expiration Dates), and I’ve yet to find a package at the store that didn’t have a sell by date that was months away. Tuck that in your fridge to use when you need a fast, hearty meal.

But it also freezes beautifully! You can keep tempeh in the freezer for six months. Simply move the frozen package into the refrigerator and use within a day or two (don’t refreeze it). I keep several packages of tempeh in my freezer at all times.

Using Tempeh

Simmering tempeh cubes. Photo by Cindy Thompson,

Although you can eat tempeh as is, right out of the package, it tastes better if you give it a quick simmer or steam for about 30 minutes. It’s a lot like mushrooms in that regard. I like to gently simmer tempeh in a flavorful broth, like I do with my Czech Tempeh Guláš with Spaetzle, or use a steamer basket. This softens the tempeh and removes any bitterness. After simmering or steaming, you can spice or marinate your tempeh as desired then use as is, sauté, or bake.

Curried Tempeh Salad Sandwich

Rich and flavorful Curried Tempeh Salad. Photo by Cindy Thompson,

Growing up we often had chicken salad sandwiches, and it was always better with curry powder! Tempeh cubes simmered in a sage-flavored broth are a perfect substitute for chicken in this salad. We love raisins in ours, it gives it an extra zip and zing. If you want a really exotic salad, add chopped mango and a sprinkle of cilantro!

Curried Tempeh Salad in a Whole Wheat Pita is one of our favorites! Photo by Cindy Thompson,

If you are really tempted by tempeh, here are some other Trimazing! Tempeh recipes to try:

Blackened Tempeh

Czech Tempeh Guláš with Spaetzle

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5 from 3 votes

Curried Tempeh Salad

This veganized sandwich filler is a hit with everyone! For a tropical twist, substitute mango for the raisins!
Course Salad, Sandwiches and Handhelds
Cuisine Gluten-Free, Nut-Free
Keyword Curry, Nutritional Yeast, raisins, Red Bell Pepper, Tempeh
Servings 4
Calories 232.2kcal
Author Cindy Thompson, MS, NBC-HWC | Trimazing! Health & Lifestyle Coaching



  • 12 oz tempeh chopped in small cubes, about 2 packages
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp poultry seasoning or sage
  • ½ tsp salt


  • ½ cup plant-based mayo or plain plant-based yogurt
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon 1 tbsp
  • ½ tsp maple syrup
  • ¼ tsp prepared mustard
  • 1 tsp curry powder or more to taste
  • pinch salt


  • 2 stalks celery finely chopped
  • 2 green onions thinly sliced or 1 tbsp finely chopped onion/shallot
  • ½ red bell pepper finely chopped
  • ¼ cup raisins or chopped mango


  • Combine the water, nutritional yeast, poultry seasoning, and salt in a large saucepan, heat and stir to combine. Add chopped tempeh, and simmer 10 minutes. Drain (reserve broth for another use. Cool tempeh.
  • Combine dressing ingredients.
  • In mixing bowl, combine cooled tempeh cubes, celery, onions, red bell pepper, raisins (or mango). Pour dressing over and stir to combine.
  • Salad gets better as it sets and the flavors bloom. Serve in sandwiches, pita pockets, or on green salad with tomato, avocado, greens and sprouts, if desired.


Calories: 232.2kcal | Carbohydrates: 21.8g | Protein: 18.2g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 338mg | Potassium: 562.6mg | Fiber: 2.2g | Sugar: 3.2g | Vitamin A: 628.5IU | Vitamin C: 25mg | Calcium: 158.8mg | Iron: 3.1mg

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