This is perhaps the most “on-the-fly” blog post I’ve written since I got my butt back in gear earlier this month on Urban Garlic. Oh, I have tons of other blog posts lined up — muffins, breakfast bites, shepherd’s pie — but for some reason I just had to do tempeh skewers on March 26.

Now, if you’re not a tempeh fan, or if you’re one of those people who has to have it prepared just so, fear not: I was once like you. In fact, I still am, very much, like you. While there’s not much in the world that makes me happier than a Bloomer’s tempeh reuben, and my favourite “just passing by the fridge” snack is my tempeh mushroom mince, I’d still much rather top a bowl or salad with some lightly fried or baked tofu rather than tempeh.

Isn’t it funny how the right recipe can make you a believer, though? Much like Bloomer’s showed me that tempeh indeed made for a juicy and substantial sandwich, it was Hello 123, a new(-ish) vegan restaurant/bar on Queen West that showed me that tempeh can be fresh, fun finger-food (fffffff). I really love small bites and apps, but the truth is I’ve never made that many “fun” apps of my own. We’re a hummus family.

We decided to create our own take on the Hello 123 tempeh skewers. Now, I can safely say that we didn’t end up exactly recreating them (we’ve shared enough of them, you’d think we’d memorized the flavour profile), but what we created was something way more special: our own unique recipe. These skewers are savoury, tender and with just a bit of a spicy kick! We also came up with our own zesty green salsa for dipping. I guarantee you’ll be addicted to this recipe. It’s great for sharing with buddies, warming up on a cool night or munching on a sunny patio!

Blackened tempeh skewers with zesty green salsa, makes eight skewers

Information

  • Vegan
  • Gluten-free
    • Grain-free
  • Nut-free
  • Refined sugar-free
    • Sugar-free
  • Soy-free option
  • Prep time: 30 minutes
  • Cook time: 5-10 minutes (active)

* Soy-free tempeh is uncommon, but does exist. You can find soy-free versions in specialized health food stores (made from a variety of proteins from hemp to chickpeas), or if you’re so brave, you can make your own.

Ingredients

Blackened tempeh skewers

  • One block tempeh
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 2 tsp corn starch, arrowroot powder or potato starch (not tapioca starch)
  • One aquafaba egg (3 tbsp aquafaba+1 tbsp water)

Zesty green salsa

  • 1/3 cup cucumber, diced into tiny pieces
  • 1/3 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 small cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp minced ginger
  • 1/2 tsp lime zest
  • Juice from two limes
  • Salt

Instructions

  1. Place the tempeh in a stovetop steamer and steam for 15-20 minutes* (or just do a quick-steam in the microwave)
  2. While the tempeh is steaming, make the salsa: put the cucumbers in a bowl first and sprinkle with a generous amount of salt to release some of the moisture while chopping the rest of the veggies
  3. Add the chopped cilantro, jalapeno, red onion, garlic cloves, minced ginger and lime zest to the bowl. Mash/smash/crush (crush!!) slightly using either a potato masher, a pestle or anything else blunt. You don’t have to totally liquify things, it just helps make it more of a dippy salsa.
  4. Add the lime juice, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  5. Mix together the salt, cumin, garlic powder, cumin, smoked paprika, chilli powder, coriander, pepper, cayenne (if using) and the starch. Pour onto a large plate.
  6. Pour the aquafaba (chickpea liquid) water mix onto another plate (one that has a slight lip, obviously, to prevent spills).
  7. Bring a countertop grill or BBQ grill to medium-high heat.
  8. Remove the tempeh from the steamer. Pierce it with the skewers BEFORE cutting it (while the steaming makes it easier to pierce, it also is more prone to crumbling, so trying to pierce too small a piece will be bad news bears!) Dip each piece in the aquafaba first, then dredge in the blackening spice.
  9. Grill each piece for 5-10 minutes (depending on the strength of the grill and how charred you like your tempeh)
  10. Serve hot with salsa either on the side for dipping or poured right on top!

* Steaming the tempeh is crucial. Not only does it soften away a lot of the “bitter” taste of tempeh, it makes the tempeh softer and easier to pierce with the skewers.

This is a great side or app, but of course, because of its high protein content, it works great as a main too. In fact, right after I wrote this recipe (while munching on the very tempeh you see in that photo) I hit the gym with a big strong belly full of tempeh!

This is such a summery recipe that I think making it might very well bring on the warmer weather we’ve been missing. So give it a whirl and let me know if it indeed worked!