Can you air fry tempeh (AKA tempe)? Yes! Learn how to marinate tempeh, tempeh air fryer time, air fryer temperature, and more! Air fryer tempeh is a healthy plant based protein. You’ll love using air fried tempeh as a base for high protein vegan meals. Use it to make tempeh stir fry, a tempeh sandwich or burrito, top a salad with it, or whatever you’re craving!
Have you ever tried tempeh? My red wine and balsamic marinated tempeh is a delicious way to prepare this soy food.
Do you think you’d enjoy your tempeh savory, with no breading, firm or slightly crisp on the outside, and more tender inside? Then this is the best tempeh recipe around!
(And if you DON’T think your family or you will like the strong taste of tempeh? Try this Tempeh Bolognese Sauce first. Served over noodles, it’s a real crowd pleaser and perfect for tempeh beginners!)
Today I’m going to show you how to cook tempeh in the air fryer. However, no worries if you don’t have an air fryer! You can make grilled tempeh or pan-fried tempeh. After marinating, just pan fry or grill tempeh for a few minutes per side.
But before we get to cooking tempeh in the air fryer, let’s back up a minute! Tempeh isn’t the most common food in my country, so we need to cover some basics.
- 🤔 What is tempeh?
- 🤷 Can you eat tempeh raw?
- 📋 Calories, Net Carbs, Protein
- ⭐ Benefits
- 🥘 Ingredients
- 🍽 Equipment
- 🔪 How to Make Air Fryer Tempeh
- ️⏲️ Cooking Time and Temperature
- 🌡️ Leftovers
- 🥗 What to Serve with Tempeh
- 💭 Expert Tips from a Dietitian
- 👩🏻🍳 Other Vegan Air Fryer Recipes
- The Disclaimer…
- 📖 Recipe
🤔 What is tempeh?
Tempeh is a fermented soybean cake that originates from Indonesia. It is particularly popular on the island of Java, where it serves as a staple protein. To make traditional tempeh, you need soybeans and tempeh starter or tempeh culture (Rhizopus oligosporus).
Tempeh was classically a soy product which may include some grains. However, soy-free tempeh can be found, made of oats, barley, hemp, or other seeds and grains.
In the United States, you can find tempeh at most health food stores, including Whole Foods. Tempeh is also available near the produce in the refrigerated section of many mainstream grocery stores. Look for it near the tofu!
🤷 Can you eat tempeh raw?
Does Lightlife tempeh need to be cooked? Tempeh should be fully cooked or pasteurized before it is eaten. Most tempeh sold in the U.S. has already been cooked/pasteurized, but check the packaging if you’re unsure.
Because tempeh is cooked, it’s not considered a probiotic food, even though it is fermented.
Though you can eat pasteurized tempeh straight from the package, it’s bitter and better thought of as an ingredient to use in recipes. Seasoning tempeh, marinating tempeh, or otherwise flavoring it is the best way to enjoy tempeh.
📋 Calories, Net Carbs, Protein
One serving of this tempeh airfryer recipe has 200 calories, 7.5 grams net carbs, and 22.5 grams protein. This is for 4 ounces (113 grams) of Lightlife tempeh original, and does not include the marinade (which is mostly discarded). Nutrition information for tempeh varies a bit by flavor and brand:
|Type||Calories||Net Carbs (g)||Protein (g)|
|Lightlife Tempeh (Original)||200||7.5||22.5|
|SoyBoy Tempeh (Organic Soy)||188||4||20|
|Franklin Farms Tempeh (Five Grain)||255||17||20|
|Franklin Farms Original Tempeh||255||9||26|
|Trader Joe’s Tempeh (3 Grain)||240||7||20|
|Smiling Hara Hempeh (Smoked Salt and Pepper)||470||22||7|
Nutrition information given above is per 4 ounce (113 gram) serving. Smiling Hara Hempeh (made with peanuts and hemp seeds) is per 3 ounce (85 gram) serving.
Most types of tempeh are rich in protein, a great option for high protein vegan diets. Some types of tempeh are also compatible with very low carb or keto diets.
Why make baked tempeh in the air fryer? Here are some of the advantages of air fried tempeh:
- Easy meal prep: You can use this tempeh as a protein option in meal prepping. Tempeh keeps well in the fridge for several days and works well as part of breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
- Simple tempeh marinade: Marinating tempeh is one of the simplest ways to give tempeh flavor. Crispy breaded tempeh is another great option, but it is a bit more work! You don’t need to worry about how to season tempeh when you have a good marinade on hand.
- Vegan: Tempeh is a vegan, whole foods plant based protein. It fits with most “clean eating” diets (though most of us dietitians don’t like to categorize foods as “clean”).
- Dairy free: Tempeh is a dairy-free source of calcium. That said, the amount of calcium in the tempeh brands I tried wasn’t very much. Compare nutrition labels to find the tempeh brands that contain the most of this mineral.
- Gluten free: Some varieties of tempeh are gluten free, while others contain barley and other ingredients with gluten. To avoid cross-contamination issues, look for tempeh labeled certified gluten free. You’ll also want to use a tempeh marinade without soy sauce (like this one).
- Plant based protein: Tempeh is a high-quality protein and a whole food alternative to ultra-processed fake meats. Most varieties of this plant protein are nut free. Tempeh also provides iron (eat vitamin C-containing foods with tempeh to increase the bioavailability of the iron).
- Delicious: If you're looking for a tasty way to prepare tempeh, I hope you love this. Though tempeh is nutritious, I think satisfying the taste buds is important too!
What do you need to make marinated tempeh in the air fryer? Here's what to shop for:
- Tempeh (any unflavored soy and/or grain variety)
- Red wine
- Balsamic vinegar
- Olive oil
- Crushed garlic cloves
- Grainy Dijon mustard
- Ground coriander
- Dried rosemary
- Salt and pepper
You can use any unflavored soy or grain variety of tempeh for this recipe. I used Lightlife Original Tempeh and Soyboy Organic Soy Tempeh.
Something to be aware of is that sometimes tempeh has dark spots on it. You can see what this looks like in the photo above.
These dark tempeh spots are normal and edible, and don’t indicate that the tempeh went bad. The spots are a sign that the tempeh has matured, and they don’t affect the flavor.
We’re going to be discarding the marinade after marinating tempeh, so don’t use expensive wine! I used a cheap pinot noir from Costco, and it worked well here.
If you don’t like what I’m using in this tempeh marinade recipe, don’t be afraid to mix things up! Add some sesame oil, soy sauce, coconut aminos, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, or whatever sounds good to you. Note: added sugars (maple syrup, honey, etc.) may impact the cooking time.
To make this tempeh, you need a food-safe container with a tight lid, a good knife, and an air fryer. We’re going to marinate tempeh in the container, so make sure it’s big enough to fit the food.
I use a 10-Quart Kalorik Digital Air Fryer Oven for my air fryer recipes. You can air fry marinated tempeh in a Ninja Foodi, Philips, Nuwave, Pampered Chef, Actifry, Instant Pot Vortex, Cosori, Breville, etc. However, you may need to tweak the air frying time slightly if you use a different air fryer than I’m using.
I recommend keeping a close eye on the food anytime you try a new air fryer recipe. That way there’s no risk of overcooking the food.
🔪 How to Make Air Fryer Tempeh
Time to learn how to air fry tempeh! First up, we need to slice our tempeh. I cut ½-inch by 2½-inch pieces (1.27-cm by 6.4-cm).
You want to make the pieces uniform for more even cooking. However, the thickness of the tempeh blocks can vary a little by brand. If you use two different brands (as I did) there can be some size variation with the tempeh pieces.
One claim I see often is that steaming helps temper tempeh’s natural bitterness a little. You don’t have to steam tempeh or precook tempeh before air frying- I never do this. However, it’s something that may help if you tend to find tempeh too bitter.
After preparing the tempeh, it’s time to make the tempeh marinade. Mix together the wine, vinegar, oil, garlic, mustard, coriander, rosemary, salt, and pepper.
Put the tempeh slices in a large food-safe container and pour the marinade over the top. Allow the tempeh to marinate for 30-60 minutes at room temperature. If you’ll be marinating tempeh for longer than 2 hours, put the container in the fridge.
I like to use a tightly lidded container and flip it every so often. This makes it easier for all of the tempeh pieces to soak up marinade.
Tempeh doesn’t readily absorb flavors as easily as tofu. However, unlike tofu, tempeh by itself has a strong, nutty flavor. It’s not bland at all, and while some may consider it an acquired taste, others immediately develop a liking for it.
After the marinating time is up, we can get air frying. Isn’t this easy?
️⏲️ Cooking Time and Temperature
How long to air fry tempeh? What temperature to air fry tempeh? It takes a total of 14 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190C) to air fry tempeh.
Lift the tempeh pieces out of the marinade and put them in a single layer on your air fryer basket or tray. If they don’t all fit, you may need to cook them in two batches. The marinade can be discarded.
Put the tray with the tempeh in the air fryer. (Use the top rack position for air fryer ovens.) Air fry for 7 minutes.
Flip the tempeh pieces over, put the tray back in the air fryer and air fry 7 more minutes. That’s it! You don’t even need cooking oil spray for this tempeh recipe.
Leftover cooked marinated tempeh can be kept in a covered container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Reheat the tempeh in a skillet on the stovetop with a little oil. Alternatively, microwave the tempeh on high for 1-2 minutes until heated through.
Tempeh can be frozen in vacuum sealed bags or regular freezer bags. Defrost the tempeh and air fry it to help it firm back up.
🥗 What to Serve with Tempeh
What goes with tempeh? Practically everything! The last time I made this recipe, I served it with mashed potatoes and broccoli with carrot leaves pesto (YUM).
You could also serve this recipe as air fryer tempeh nuggets or tempeh strips. Add a dip on the side like vegan ranch dressing, ketchup, peanut sauce, or BBQ sauce. It’s a nice way to make tempeh more appealing to picky eaters.
Another idea is to use this recipe as a sort of “tempeh bacon.” Make a tempeh BLT sandwich, or add the tempeh to a stir fry, salad, burrito, or scramble. How about some air fryer tempeh tacos?
💭 Expert Tips from a Dietitian
This is a level 1 recipe (may help support fat loss). A big disadvantage of vegan diets in terms of weight loss is it knocks out most of the protein group. What’s left are nuts and seeds (which IMO should be thought of more as fats than proteins). You also have legumes (many of which are high in carbs and not very protein dense), plus faux meat ultra-processed foods.
Tempeh (plus many other soyfoods, such as tofu and black soy beans) are some of my favorite options for plant-based protein. These foods (unlike many whole food sources of plant protein) count as high quality “complete” protein.
These are lean proteins that are (usually) low in carbs and low calorie. If you tend not to find vegan or vegetarian meals very filling, try adding soy foods such as tempeh. Omnivores may be surprised at how satisfying meat-free meals can be when you include adequate protein.
My one major issue with soy foods is that they can be overconsumed with certain diet patterns.
In the MyPlate model, calcium fortified soymilk is supposed to be used if a person doesn’t consume dairy. That’s because dairy alternatives like oat milk and almond milk tend to contain little protein. Some plant milks aren’t even fortified with calcium!
Thus, in vegan diets, soy may replace the dairy group plus most of the protein group (particularly if a lot of meat substitutes are used). It’s not that soy is “bad,” but crowding out so many other healthful food options can increase the risk of nutrient deficiencies.
If you’re vegan, you can help avoid problems by choosing varied protein sources. Enjoy tempeh and other soy foods sometimes, but also enjoy the many other legume options out there. Black beans, lentils, chickpeas, and split peas are some favorites.
Some brands of tempeh are gluten free and others are not, so check the label! The Tofurky Company has some tempeh options that are certified gluten-free and safe for celiac disease.
Depending on the tempeh you use, this is a keto marinated tempeh. With only 4 grams of net carbs per serving, SoyBoy Organic Soy Tempeh is a good choice for keto.
Most tempeh is not soy free. Smiling Hara makes a tempeh alternative product (“hempeh”) made with peanuts, hemp, and brown rice flour. Two of the flavors (raspberry habanero BBQ and smoked salt + pepper steak) are soy-free.
To make oil free tempeh, you can skip the olive oil in this recipe. Most air fryer trays and air fryer baskets are non-stick, so the tempeh shouldn’t stick. Use parchment paper for the air fryer if you’re worried the no oil tempeh will stick.
According to the Lightlife tempeh packaging, you can keep tempeh in the fridge for 5-7 days after opening. Wrap the tempeh tightly with plastic wrap before storing in the refrigerator.
How long to marinate tempeh is optimal? I prefer to marinate tempeh for 30-60 minutes, but you can keep tempeh in marinade overnight. Marinating tempeh longer will give it stronger flavor but makes it more crumbly.
You can’t marinate frozen tempeh, but you do have some options. Put the frozen tempeh in the air fryer for a few minutes to thaw. Then cut the tempeh into slices and brush the marinade on it a couple times while it finishes air frying.
👩🏻🍳 Other Vegan Air Fryer Recipes
Want more air fryer recipes that are vegan? After making this marinated tempeh, try these next:
Also, don’t miss the entire collection of Vegan Recipes.
All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
The nutrition information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don't sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to my overnight oats no sugar post. Let's get cooking!
Marinated Tempeh (Air Fryer)
- 1 lb tempeh (454 grams)
- ⅓ cup red wine
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Slice tempeh into ½-inch by 2½-inch pieces (1.27-cm by 6.4-cm). The thickness of the tempeh blocks may vary a little by brand.
- In a small bowl, mix together the wine, vinegar, oil, garlic, mustard, coriander, rosemary, salt, and pepper.
- Put the tempeh slices in a large food-safe container and pour the marinade over the top. Allow the tempeh to marinate for 30-60 minutes at room temperature. If marinating tempeh for longer than 2 hours, put the container in the fridge. I like to use a tightly lidded container and flip it every so often.
- After marinating, lift the tempeh pieces out of the marinade and place them in a single layer on the air fryer basket or tray.
- Put the tray with the tempeh in the air fryer. (Use the top rack position for air fryer ovens.) Air fry for 7 minutes. Flip the tempeh pieces over, put the tray back in the air fryer and air fry 7 more minutes. That's it!