February 28, 2012

Indonesian Tempeh Stew

With the winter weather still hanging on here in Ontario, I thought this would be a good time to post some tropical recipes to try to ward off the winter blues.  So I bought myself a pineapple at a much higher price than I would usually be willing to pay, and I easily used it all up within a few days!

Most of that pineapple went into smoothies and a mini loaf, but the rest was used in this Indonesian-inspired stew from the Vegan Planet cookbook. The original recipe called for a mixture of tempeh and sweet potato simmered in a spicy tomato and coconut milk broth.  I wanted to include a couple more ingredients to make the stew a bit more interesting, so I added pineapple and yellow beans, which I thought would go well with the other Indonesian flavours.

After tasting the stew, I was really glad I added the pineapple! The pieces of fresh pineapple were my favourite part of the dish, and they gave it a nice overall balance between sweet and spicy.

This was also the first time I've ever used tempeh in a recipe and I have to admit, I was a bit nervous when I first took the tempeh out of its package and cooked it - the smell was not very appealing and I didn't really like the taste of it plain.  But all of my worries disappeared when I tasted the final product! I really liked the texture of the tempeh and the way it soaked up the flavours of the stew.  I'm not really a fan of meat substitutes that taste or look a lot like actual meat, but with tempeh (which is made from fermented soybeans) I found that the taste and texture are more nutty rather than meaty, which I liked.

Overall, I loved the combination of flavours and textures in this stew, and it was the perfect mix of a hearty, warm stew for winter with notes of brighter tropical flavours.  And don't leave out the finishing touches of the lime juice and cilantro, they really helped bring everything together!

Indonesian Tempeh Stew
Adapted from Vegan Planet

One 8 oz package tempeh
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
3 shallots, peeled and diced
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1 small chili pepper, seeded and minced (I used jalapeno)
1/4 tsp chili flakes (optional if you like more heat)
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 cup water
1 14.5 oz can crushed tomatoes (or half of a 28 oz can)
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (I used the kind from a carton)
1.5 cups chopped fresh pineapple
About 4 oz green or yellow beans, trimmed and cut in half
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Zest and juice of half a lime
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

First, poach the tempeh – place the block of tempeh in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a simmer and continue simmering for 10 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Cut tempeh into cubes.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tempeh and cook for about 5 minutes, turning occasionally to brown all sides. Remove from heat and set aside.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots, garlic, chili pepper, chili flakes (if using) and ginger. Cover and cook until onion is softened, 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the sweet potato, water, crushed tomatoes and soy sauce. Cover and cook until potato is tender, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove lid and reduce heat to low. Add the coconut milk, cooked tempeh, pineapple, beans, salt and pepper. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 10 minutes.

Add the lime zest and juice and cilantro just before serving.  Garnish with additional cilantro and lime wedges if desired.

Makes 4 servings. 


  1. you know, i have never had tempeh! never, in the six plus years i've been vegan. i'm like you, not into meat substitutes. but it's great you were willing to try new things and enjoyed it!

    this stew looks so delicious, and i love the variety of ingredients in there. i'm particularly interested in the yellow beans. i honestly don't think i've ever seen them before! maybe they're a canadian delicacy? ;)

    1. I'm glad I'm not the only one who hadn't tried it! I was seeing a lot of recipes for tempeh that sounded really good, so I decided it was time to choose one and give it a try, and I'm glad I did!
      I'm also surprised you've never seen yellow beans - I just assumed they were commonplace...from what I understand, they're pretty much the same as green beans except in color

  2. I've heard of tempeh but have no idea what it is or how to really use it. Sounds pretty awesome! This stew looks incredible!! Great pictures!

    1. Thanks so much Annie! If you pick up a good vegan or vegetarian cookbook, there will probably be lots of tempeh recipes and general instructions for how to cook it. Vegan Planet recommends poaching the tempeh first as a general rule - it's supposed to mellow the flavor and help digestion, so that's what I did!

  3. Yummmmm!!!!! :) This stew looks fantastic. I love the addition of pineapple.

    I've not really tried tempeh before myself. I'm in the same boat as you ladies - I don't like meat substitutes either. Well, except for veggies dogs in the summer. *hehe* I am also struggling to like tofu. It's sad. I've been a vegetarian for 15 years and I cannot seem to get used to the texture of tofu. I love it deep fried...but that's not so healthy! *hah*

    I'll have to try this recipe & see if I like tempeh. Could be a really nice addition to my diet to add some extra protein.
    Thanks for the recipe! xoxo

    1. Thanks Courtney :)
      I think tempeh can work really well in certain recipes, like tacos (there's a Veg Times recipe for Jamaican tempeh tacos on my list!) but I'd say I still prefer tofu, since it's the least "meat-like". I don't really like the texture of the soft kind of tofu, but I really like the firm kind. Have you tried baking it? I'd probably recommend that option if you find the texture weird.

  4. I love tempeh! Definitely prefer it to tofu but it isn't as versatile. Definitely steam the tempeh to get rid of the funny taste if it won't be in a stew. I've made this recipe before and I love how you added pineapple to lighten it up! Looks delicious. :)

    1. Thanks! And you're the first one to say they like tempeh! I guess it's something you have to learn how to cook properly and use it in the right recipes to enjoy it. This does seem like the type of recipe you would like, so I'm not surprised you've already tried it :)

  5. I felt the same way about tempeh...I actually have a pachage sitting in my fridge to try out on Cara's tempeh bacon reicpe...I am loving the flavors in this dish (I absolutely LOVE Pineappple) so I think I amy go an buy another packages and a Pineapple to make this next week!

    Your recipes are always so exotic; LOVE it!

    1. I've seen that tempeh bacon at the store and I've been a bit scared of it...but Cara's version does sound pretty good! I'm interested to see how you like it! And I love pineapple too, especially in savory dishes :)

  6. I love Indonesian food, but have never made it myself. This sounds SO good and it's definitely going on my short-list of recipes to make.

    I love Field Roast (because it's made with grains and not very meaty) and sometimes I eat Quorn (mostly because my husband likes it), but I'm with you on the fake meats. They just don't appeal to me. (I actually mentioned this on my blog today!) Tempeh is one of my favorite proteins. And tempeh bacon is so good--it's basically tempeh with a smoky flavor, not very bacon-y but very tasty. :)

    1. Thanks, I'm glad you like the recipe! I think I should learn more about Indonesian food because I really liked this stew! I rarely eat storebought veggie products either, but I will keep your recommendations in mind :)

  7. Ah I looove tempeh, glad you tried something new! I've never used it in a soup before. Usually I just pan-fry it in BBQ sauce, but I will add this to my recipe file for sure.

    1. Thanks Kate! BBQ tempeh does sound good, I think I have a recipe for that from the same cookbook that I've bookmarked to try next!



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