Simple Indonesian Fried Tempeh (Tempe Goreng)

5 from 5 votes
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This Indonesian fried tempeh dish (aka Tempe Goreng) combines tempeh slices with an aromatic combination of ingredients to simmer, then shallow fry until wonderfully fragrant and crispy! The resulting pan-fried tempeh is perfect for serving alongside rice, noodles, stir-fries, and more! Plus, this recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, and 100% naturally vegan!

Pan-fried tempeh

If you’re looking for the perfect accompaniment to my recently posted Indonesian coconut milk rice (nasi uduk), you’ve found it. Tempe Goreng is a popular Indonesian tempeh dish translating to “fried tempeh”. It is available in several levels of spice and cooking methods.

Though most traditional Tempe Goreng recipes I’ve seen have deep-fried the tempeh, I wanted a lighter version. For that reason, this tempe Goreng lightly boils the tempe slices in the aromatic “sauce” before shallow-frying it until crispy. As tempeh (similar to tofu) acts as a sponge to the surrounding ingredients, the results are fried tempeh packed with an oomph of flavor.

In fact, this recipe combines the nutty flavor of tempeh with classic Southeast Asian flavors. These include lemongrass, galangal, and ginger, as well as shallots, garlic, and turmeric. The resulting dish is ridiculously flavorful!

Fried tempeh nasi uduk rice

Not only is this simple Indonesian tempeh side 100% naturally vegan, but it’s also packed with plant-based protein and healthful properties. Best of all, you can use this method for cooking tempeh with all sorts of spice/aromatic combinations for delicious results every single time!

Want more Southeast Asian recipe inspiration? You might like this Thai green or red curry, stir-fried Thai basil vegan beef (pad krapow), and creamy Tom Yum soup!

The Ingredients

  • Tempeh: I used homemade tempeh, but store-bought will work fine.
  • Palm sugar: you can use unrefined palm sugar, coconut palm sugar, or brown sugar. This is important to balance out the flavors.
  • Aromatics: this Indonesian rice uses a combination of ginger (or ginger paste), garlic (or garlic paste), galangal (Thai ginger), turmeric (or turmeric powder), shallots, and lemongrass as the aromatics. If you’re unable to find any of the ingredients in your local supermarket, they should be available in Asian/Thai stores.
  • Salt: to season.
Ingredients for panfried tempeh

Optional Add-Ins and recipe variations

  • Sambal Goreng tempe: you can add chili and/or sambal oelek to the aromatic mixture for a spicy version of this dish. Traditionally sambal tempe will include a mix of sambal paste with tomato puree, soy sauce, and coconut sugar. So feel free to experiment. Adjust the amount to taste. I recommend between 1-2 small red chilies (de-veined and de-seeded).
  • Vegetables: to make a quick tempeh stir-fry, you can lightly sauté some vegetables with the pan-fried tempeh. I recommend kale, green beans, mini corn, and/or cauliflower florets.
  • Lime: you can serve with some lime wedges or simply add a little lime juice to the pan when boiling for added “brightness” to the fried tempeh.

How to Cook Tempeh Goreng

Step 1: Prepare the ingredients

First, slice the tempeh into ¼-inch thick strips (about 0.6-0.7 cm).

Then prepare the remaining ingredients. Peel and roughly chop the shallots, peel the turmeric, ginger, and galangal, and roughly chop the lemongrass into smaller pieces. Add all the aromatics and the salt to a small food processor or blender and process until finely chopped.

Alternatively, you can mince the ingredients individually or manually grind them using a mortar and pestle. If you want to serve the tempe goreng as a stir-fried dish WITH the sauce, make sure all the ingredients are very finely diced/processed (particularly the lemongrass).

Steps for grinding spices

Step 2: Simmer the tempeh

Add the aromatic mixture to a large pan (to fit as many of the tempeh slices as possible) with the water and stir. Then add the tempeh slices and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Then reduce to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the water evaporates.

During this time, the tempeh will soak up the aromatic flavors that it’s stewing with and pick up a golden yellow color thanks to the turmeric.

The steps for cooking tempeh

After this, the tempeh is technically fine to eat but will be very tender. So I like to go one more step to crisp it up for delicious tempe Goreng (fried tempeh).

Cooked tempeh on a plate

Step 3: Fry the tempeh

Add a swirl of oil to a skillet (enough to cover the bottom of the pan for a shallow fry) and wait for it to heat over medium-high heat. Then add the tempe to the pan and lightly fry for several minutes per side until a dark golden brown and crispy. Then serve and enjoy!

Steps for pan-frying tempeh

How to Store?

Store: I like to eat the fried tempeh as soon as it’s cooked. However, you may be able to save the leftovers. I recommend storing them in an airtight container for 1-2 days.

Reheat: I recommend reheating the Tempe Goreng in a pan on the stovetop to bring them back to a crispy consistency. Heat until warmed through.

How to Serve?

Once cooked, serve the aromatic fried tempeh with the side of your choice.

I served this with Indonesian coconut milk rice (nasi uduk) and lightly toasted cashews (peanuts would also work). Other small sides that would complete the dish include sliced cucumber, sambal, thinly rolled omelet, or hard-boiled eggs (not vegan), etc.

However, there are several other ways to enjoy this aromatic pan-fried tempeh, including:

  • Tempeh stir-fry: you can serve this tempe goreng as part of a stir-fry with vegetables (to serve alongside rice or noodles) or combined with to make stir-fried rice (nasi goreng) or stir-fried noodles (Mie Goreng).
  • Serving over grains: whether you’re serving alongside another type of rice (coconut rice, brown rice, basmati rice) or quinoa, or serving as part of a grain salad like a quinoa kale salad.
  • Lettuce wraps: you could also pair the tempe goreng with a grain and veggies to serve in summery lettuce wraps. Perfect for serving as a flavorful appetizer.
A plate with pan-fried tempeh

Recipe Tips and FAQs

  • For crumbled fried tempeh: this dish works well when frying tempeh in slices OR as crumbs. To make the tempeh “crumbs,” finely dice the boiled tempeh before adding it to the pan. That way, it will become even crispier!
  • This method will also work with tofu: if you cannot get your hands on tempeh, then use firm tofu (pressed).
  • Can I cook the tempe Goreng without boiling? There is a method for the fried tempeh without the pre-boiling, but I find it doesn’t infuse the tempeh with as much flavor, and the tempeh may be slightly ‘sour’ without at least steaming it. However, it is quicker and can be done in a pinch. First, shallow fry the tempeh for several minutes until browned and crispy. Then remove from the pan, add a little more oil with the shallot (very finely diced), and fry for 2-3 minutes. Then add the garlic, ginger, galangal, lemongrass, and turmeric, and sauté for a further 3-4 minutes. Finally, add the sugar, salt, and some sambal oelek or finely diced chili and a splash of water. Allow to simmer gently for several minutes into a sauce, and then add the temper and stir to coat thoroughly. Then serve.
  • If you cant find galangal: You can simply omit it and use a little additional ginger if preferred (or omit entirely).

Related Tempeh and Tofu Recipe

If you try this simple fried tempeh (Tempe Goreng) recipe, I’d love to hear your thoughts/questions below. Also, I’d appreciate a recipe card rating below, and feel free to tag me in your recipe recreations on Instagram @Alphafoodie!

Simple Indonesian Fried Tempeh (Tempe Goreng)

5 from 5 votes
By: Samira
This Indonesian fried tempeh dish (aka Tempe Goreng) combines tempeh slices with an aromatic combination of ingredients to simmer, then shallow fry until wonderfully fragrant and crispy! Perfect for serving alongside rice, noodles, stir-fries, and more! Gluten-free, dairy-free, and 100% naturally vegan.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients 
 

  • 15 oz tempeh
  • 16 floz water 2 cups
  • 2 lemongrass stalks
  • 3 oz shallots 3 medium-sized
  • 0.9 oz garlic 5 cloves
  • 1 oz galangal
  • 0.4 oz ginger
  • 0.1 oz turmeric just a small piece
  • 1/2 Tbsp palm sugar or coconut sugar/brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt

Instructions 

Step 1: Prepare the ingredients

  • Slice the tempeh into ¼-inch thick strips (about 0.6-0.7 cm).
  • Prepare the remaining ingredients. Peel and roughly chop the shallots. Peel the turmeric, ginger, and galangal. Roughly chop the lemongrass into smaller pieces.
  • Add all the aromatics and the salt to a small food processor or blender and process until finely chopped.
    Alternatively, you can mince the ingredients individually or manually grind them using a mortar and pestle. If you want to serve the tempe goreng as a stir-fried dish WITH the sauce, make sure all the ingredients are very finely diced/processed (particularly the lemongrass).

Step 2: Simmer the tempeh

  • Add the aromatic mixture to a large pan (to fit as many of the tempeh slices as possible) with the water and stir.
  • Add the tempeh slices, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the water evaporates.
    During this time, the tempeh will soak up the aromatic flavors that it's stewing with and pick up a golden yellow color thanks to the turmeric.
  • After this, the tempeh is technically fine to eat but will be very tender. So I like to go one more step to crisp it up for delicious tempe Goreng (fried tempeh).

Step 3: Fry the tempeh

  • Add a swirl of oil to a skillet (enough to cover the bottom of the pan for a shallow fry) and wait for it to heat over medium-high heat.
  • Then add the tempe to the pan and lightly fry for several minutes per side until a dark golden brown and crispy. Then serve and enjoy!

How to Store?

  • Store: I like to eat the fried tempeh as soon as it's cooked. However, you may be able to save the leftovers. I recommend storing them in an airtight container for 1-2 days.
    Reheat: I recommend reheating the Tempe Goreng in a pan on the stovetop to bring it back to a crispy consistency. Heat until warmed through.

Notes

  • For crumbled fried tempeh: this dish works well when frying tempeh in slices OR as crumbs. To make the tempeh “crumbs,” finely dice the boiled tempeh before adding it to the pan. That way, it will become even crispier!  
  • This method will also work with tofu: if you cannot get your hands on tempeh, then use firm tofu (pressed).
  • If you can’t find galangal: you can simply omit it and use a little additional ginger if preferred (or omit entirely).
 
Optional Add-Ins and recipe variations:
  • Sambal Goreng tempe: you can add chili and/or sambal oelek to the aromatic mixture for a spicy version of this dish. Traditionally sambal tempe will include a mix of sambal paste with tomato puree, soy sauce, and coconut sugar. So feel free to experiment. Adjust the amount to taste. I recommend between 1-2 small red chilies (de-veined and de-seeded).
  • Vegetables: to make a quick tempeh stir-fry, you can light sauté some vegetables with the pan-fried tempeh. I recommend kale, green beans, mini corn, and/or cauliflower florets.
  • Lime: You can serve with some lime wedges or simply add a little lime juice to the pan when boiling for added ‘brightness’ to the fried tempeh.
 
Check the blog post for more tips and serving suggestions!
Course: Appetizer, Side
Cuisine: Asian, Indonesian
Shelf life: 1-2 Days

Nutrition

Calories: 246kcal, Carbohydrates: 19g, Protein: 21g, Fat: 12g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g, Monounsaturated Fat: 3g, Sodium: 604mg, Potassium: 565mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 2IU, Vitamin C: 4mg, Calcium: 143mg, Iron: 3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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