Coconut Curry Tempeh

Tempeh is a cultured soy product with a somewhat nutty flavor; it also takes on the flavor of a marinade or any sauce in which is cooked. Be sure to use tempeh without added grains. The key to success with this dish is to cook the tempeh long enough to absorb the flavor of the coconut sauce. If you don’t have toasted sesame oil, use plain sesame or even olive oil. If you are zesting the lime, be sure to do so before juicing it. Serve with Cilantro-Lime-Roasted Asparagus.

Chef Mark Reinfeld

  • Enlarge Thumbnail for Coconut Curry Tempeh
    • Phases34
    • 4
    • 15 Minutes
    • 10 Minutes
    • 25 Minutes
    • 50 Minutes
    •  US  Metric
  • Nutritional information per serving

    • 17g
    • 18g
    • 1g
    • 26g
    • 42g
    • 510


  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 8 teaspoons tamari, divided
  • 2 tablespoons toasted (dark) sesame oil, divided
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages soy tempeh*, cut into 8 triangular cutlets
  • ½ cup thinly sliced onion
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and minced ginger
  • 1 can (13.5-ounce) unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • ½ teaspoon lime zest**, loosely packed, optional
  • 1 tablespoon creamy peanut or almond butter
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin***
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro, for garnish


  1. Place the water, 2 tablespoons of tamari and 1 tablespoon of sesame oil in a 9-inch by 13-inch casserole dish and mix well. Add the tempeh and flip occasionally for about 5–10 minutes, until all of the liquid is absorbed by the tempeh.

  2. To a large sauté pan or skillet over medium-high heat, add the remaining tablespoon of sesame oil and heat for 30 seconds. Add the onion and ginger, and cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tempeh and cook for 5 minutes, flipping each cutlet occasionally until it is browned on each side.

  3. Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl, combine the coconut milk, lime juice, lime zest (if using), peanut butter, curry powder, cumin, cayenne, salt and remaining 2 teaspoons of tamari and mix well. Add 1 cup of this mixture to the sauté pan, reduce the heat to low and simmer for approximately 18 minutes, flipping the cutlets and stirring the sauce occasionally.****

  4. Add the remaining half-cup of coconut milk mixture to the pan, and stir gently but well. Cook for 2 minutes before removing from the heat.

  5. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with cilantro.

*Tempeh is available in either the refrigerated or frozen section of all natural foods stores and many larger supermarkets.

**To zest the lime, use a zester, microplane or the fine portion of a box grater. Be careful to zest only the outer skin of the lime as the inner, white portion is bitter.

***For added flavor, toast the ground cumin in a dry sauté pan over high heat, stirring constantly until it turns golden-brown and releases its fragrant aroma, approximately 3 minutes. Toast ¼ cup at a time and store in a glass jar for other uses.

****For optimal flavor, remove the sauté pan from the heat after step 3 and allow to sit for 20 minutes. Return to the heat, add the remaining ½ cup of coconut milk sauce and cook for 5 minutes before serving.

  • Variation 1

    Coconut Curry Tofu Follow the basic recipe but substitute a 14-ounce package of extra-firm tofu for the tempeh. It will not absorb all the marinade. Instead, pour any remaining marinade in the sauté pan in Step 2.

  • Variation 2

    Coconut Curry Vegetables Follow the basic recipe but substitute six cups of mixed vegetables such as onion, celery, cabbage, zucchini and/or portobello mushrooms for the tempeh. Again, the vegetables will not absorb all the marinade, so add it the sauté pan.