Kering Tempe

I still remember my first time eating tempeh. Ten years ago I was in Yogyakarta, in a small family restaurant with a friend of mine. We had heard of tempeh, and when the waitress told us it was available, we jumped at the chance of trying some. I immediately fell in love with its complex and unique taste.

Back in Finland, my first shot at cooking tempeh was not very successful. Fortunately I had that great first experience tasting it, so I didn’t give up on it. Unless you’re really used to its strong, often overpowering taste, it can be a tricky thing to cook. Fortunately, there’s a very simple way to cook it – the way I had it the first time.

Tempe goreng

Kering tempe is Indonesian for dry or crispy tempeh. Most of the recipes in the internet that go with that name also make a spice mixture with fried onions, which is mixed with the tempe before serving, but I’m partial to a version where the tempeh is simply eaten as it is, without any garnishes.

Here’s what I use:

  • 1 dl oil (per frying pan)
  • 250 g tempeh, cut into 3 mm thick slices
  • salt to taste

I start by heating oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Using two pans makes the whole process a bit quicker, but (obviously) uses up more oil. Then I fry the tempeh slices on both sides, maybe about 3-5 minutes per side, but this depends on how hot the oil gets. It’s really easy to burn the tempeh, so I check the undersides often. The tempeh slices are ready when they are golden brown and feel crisp and hard in the middle when touched with a spatula. If they’re still soft, even just a little bit in the center, they are not ready yet!

After frying I put the slices on a kitchen towel to drain off the extra oil, and add the next batch to the frying pans. When I’ve fried all the tempeh I have, I put the slices in a bowl and add salt to my liking.

Fried tempeh keeps well, at least a couple of weeks if kept in an airtight container in the fridge. It’s a great snack, can be added to a salad or a sandwich, or eaten as a main protein in a light meal. Many people find tempeh’s taste a bit weird, but I guarantee that cooked this way it’s both delicious and addictive!


  1. Posted January 15, 2009 at 22:30 | Permalink

    Sounds good to me! I love tempeh and now that I’ve found a place that sells it reliably often I’m having it a lot and I experiment with it more because it’s not like the tempeh I have is the last I can get.

  2. Posted January 15, 2009 at 23:12 | Permalink

    I’ve never had tempeh before…I’m kind of scared =P

    This looks really good though!

  3. Deleilan
    Posted January 15, 2009 at 23:23 | Permalink

    I’ve often heard and read that steaming the tempeh before doing anything else to it makes it taste somewhat milder. I haven’t had tempeh yet, so I’ve never tested this theory.

  4. Posted January 16, 2009 at 00:23 | Permalink

    I remember the first time I had tempeh, I just tossed it in a stir fry and did not quite like it. I even felt sick with the taste! But something tells me I’ll like this version of yours! I’ll have to experiment! But first I need to find where I can actually get tempeh over here!

  5. Posted January 16, 2009 at 04:42 | Permalink

    I’m glad this recipe is really simple and virtually foolproof; tempeh can be rather expensive and more than once I’ve ruined a perfectly nutty block of the stuff haha!

  6. Posted January 16, 2009 at 11:45 | Permalink

    As someone who had a couple of false starts before becoming a tempeh addict, I’d like to suggest that the secret to loving tempeh is in browning it perfectly…the photo above is a good color to shoot for. Undercooked tempeh is much harder to love than perfectly fried tempeh.

    The other thing to do? After you’ve fried it, dip it in some tomato ketchup mixed with a little ketjap manis. Good luck!

  7. Heikki
    Posted January 16, 2009 at 15:57 | Permalink

    Thanks for the comments y’all!

    Deleilan — If you prepare it the way I’ve described above, in my opinion there’s no need to steam it. But if you’re planning to marinate it to use it in a stir fry later, for example, then I’ve found that steaming makes the tempeh taste milder.

    Mark — I agree completely! That’s why I test the crispiness from the middle of the tempeh slice before removing it from the frying pan. It’s easier to brown the tempeh thoroughly when you make the slices thin enough.

  8. Posted January 17, 2009 at 06:27 | Permalink

    your blog is so beautiful! i’m so glad i came across it. we’re a little spoiled in australia, tempeh is so easy to come by, we cook with it a lot. I love how ‘meaty’ and satisfying it is.

  9. s
    Posted January 17, 2009 at 12:30 | Permalink

    I love cooking with tempe. I almost always marinate it before cooking it, but I am very intrigued by this recipe!

  10. Posted January 17, 2009 at 14:55 | Permalink

    This sounds very interesting!I have only cooked tempeh once, and I must say I failed. It wasn’t bad, but you could tell it wasn’t cooked right. If I find tempeh in Greece, for sure I am going to try this one!

  11. Posted January 18, 2009 at 11:05 | Permalink

    oh yum, that looks great! The first time i had tempeh i hated it! But when i tried a flavored a variety a couple months later i fell (a little) in love with it, i must give your recipe a try thanks heaps
    have a fabulous day

  12. Posted January 20, 2009 at 12:17 | Permalink

    Oh wow, I never thought of eating tempeh this way!

  13. Posted January 21, 2009 at 02:08 | Permalink

    That looks so good – I also find that tempeh keeps forever, making it a very versatile ingredient to have knocking around in the fridge.

  14. Posted January 22, 2009 at 12:25 | Permalink

    I’ve never had tempeh, I can’t find it around here anywhere but I see loads of posts with people using it and it looks really good.

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