Tempeh Curry Recipe

A vibrant tempeh curry recipe loosely inspired by a recipe from Lora Zarubin's cookbook, I am Almost Always Hungry.

Tempeh Curry

I'm writing this as I'm eating dinner, which is not something I normally do. But I think this is one of those recipes that a lot of you are going to like, and I'm feeling the need to share it with you now rather than later. It came together as I was riffing off one of Lora Zarubin's recipes from I Am Almost Always Hungry - her Potatoes with Tomato Curry. I love an all-in-one-pot meal, and was cobbling together a hearty, vegetarian version of her recipe with tempeh. It wasn't at all complicated, just an onion sautéed with a short list of spices, diced tomatoes, a splash of cream, and eventually potatoes and tempeh. It all came together in a vibrant red-orange pot of curry. Finished with a bit of cilantro, it's fragrant, filling, and tastes so much more indulgent than it actually is.

Tempeh Curry Recipe

A bit of an aside, I picked up Lora's book while browsing the cooking section at the library down the street from me the other day. I had a bit of a mini-celebration right there on the spot. I had this book years ago, and must have lost it or loaned it to someone. Anyhow, it was like running into an old friend, and I was happy to be reacquainted.

Tempeh Curry Recipe

I should also mention, before we move on to the recipe, Lora's tomato and potato curry recipe is part of one of the most interesting Thanksgiving menus I've come across. Each time I read through it I promise myself I'm going to lobby my family to tackle it one year. There's plenty for a mixed crowd - vegetarians, vegans, the whole lot. The only dish inherently meat-centric is the turkey. Here's the menu: Roasted Turkey with Tandori Spices, Roasted Hubbard Squash Wedges with Garam Masala, Basmati Rice with Saffron and Cloves, Red Lentils with Tamarind and Dates, Potatoes with Tomato Curry, Creamed Spinach with Cardamom and Shiitake Duxelle, Steamed Brussels Sprouts with Ghee and Sea Salt, Cranberry and Ginger Chutney, Mint and Chile Raita, Clover Rolls with Rosemary, Pumpkin and Arborio Rice Pudding, and Shrikand (a creamy yogurt dessert) with Fresh Pomegranate Seeds.

Tempeh Curry Recipe

I hope you give the recipe a try, particularly those of you who aren't so sure about tempeh. I swear, it's just the thing to go along with the sun that has been setting early, and the colder nights as well. Have a glance at the head notes before you jump in though, there are a few things to consider before you start. I should also add, if you're in a pinch time-wise, cauliflower might be a perfect, quick-to-cook alternative to potatoes.

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Tempeh Curry Recipe

This curry has a bit of kick to it - so if you're cooking for a spice-sensitive crowd, scale back a bit - and season to taste at the end. Also, the recipe has you steam the potatoes. I couldn't find my big metal steamer, so I rigged one using a metal strainer suspended over a large pasta pot with a lid on. There was a bit of a gap, and it probably took longer than it would have otherwise, but it worked. A pasta pot insert would work too. In the end, the potatoes just need to be cooked, so you could boil them or even roast them (oven at 375F) - both slightly different approaches, but fine workarounds. As far as the cooking fats go, if you like to cook with ghee or clarified butter, you can substitute that, or even coconut oil.

1 1/2 pounds small waxy potatoes no bigger than a small lime, halved
2 teaspoons fine-grain sea salt

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
scant 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
3/4 cup water
splash of cream or a dollop of creme fraiche

8 ounces tempeh, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
a small handful of cilantro, loosely chopped

Bring a few inches of water to boil in a large pot. Place the potatoes in a steamer (see head notes), sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the salt and cook until tender throughout - about 20 - 30 minutes, depending on how large your potato pieces are.

In the meantime, in a large skillet, melt the butter in the olive oil, add the onion and cook over LOW heat until they are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cumin seeds, curry powder, turmeric, and cayenne pepper, wait about thirty seconds, then stir in the tomatoes, water, and the other teaspoon of salt. Remove from heat, stir in the cream and blend with a hand blender - (or leave it unpureed if you like!). Note: you might need to transfer it to a bowl to puree, then return it to the skillet.

Once the curry is back in the pan, add the tempeh and bring barely to a simmer. Let the tempeh cook for 5 minutes or so, then add the potatoes when they are finished steaming. Transfer to a large family-style bowl, and sprinkle with cilantro before serving.

Serves 4 - 6.

This recipe was inspired by the Potato with Tomato Curry recipe in Lora Zarubin's I Am Almost Always Hungry. Published by Stewart, Tabori and Chang in 2003.

Prep time: 15 minutes - Cook time: 30 minutes

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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I am definitely making this tonight. My sis is visiting and she'll be so surprised and excited: tempeh is her absolute favorite thing ever! And to me, there's just nothing better than an Indian-inspired dish. :) Thanks Heidi!

Danielle F

If I don't have cumin seeds, can I used grimed cumin?

Easy recipes

Even though I am not vegetarian I love eating a vegetable dish with my curry and rice. I will try this out sounds great


I used to love tempeh. Had a bad experience with getting sick off an overly moldy piece, but this recipe is tempting enough to get me back in the game.


Oh, I'm sold. Definitely my kind of Thanksgiving!

The Ordinary Vegetarian

How might a splash of coconut milk work in place of cream? I'd like to keep it vegan if I can! HS: I think that would be a delicious alternative!


This looks kind of like a Panang curry from Thailand, but it sounds more Indian. I've had good and bad tempeh, and I think it depends on the flavors and ingredients they add to it. Baked tofu would work well here too. I bake tofu slices with a marinade of soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar and Marsala wine at about 400 degrees for an hour or so until brown and caramelized. It's easy and cheaper than buying it already prepared.

Lentil Breakdown

We love tempeh and this looks AMAZING! We will definitely try with cauliflower, thanks a bundle!

Lauren and Jesse

I've yet to find tempeh I'm really thrilled with either, so I plan to try making some myself! I got Wild Fermentation and just have to work up the nerve... Recipe sounds delicious though and thanks for the links to Lora's sites.

Michelle @ Find Your Balance

I would recommend substituting either seitan or chickpeas for the tempeh... I tend not to cook with it because it upsets my stomach. Chickpeas are great because they're high in protein, easy to find, and add a nice flavor/texture to curries, stews, etc. Hope that helps!


This is a fantastic way to introduce people to tempeh who may be reluctant. Curry seems to be my go-to blend when I need to get healthier food in people. Everything tastes amazing curried.

Meghan (Making Love In The Kitchen)

This is a fantastic way to introduce people to tempeh who may be reluctant. Curry seems to be my go-to blend when I need to get healthier food in people. Everything tastes amazing curried.

Meghan (Making Love In The Kitchen)

Any ideas of what tempeh could be substituted with? I've never seen anywhere, yet feel like having a curry tonight and this one soulds lovely.. I'm sure there should be something that would go well with the rest..?


Heidi, this looks delicious! I have to admit I've never tried Tempeh before. I've seen it cooked some many different ways. I need to make a commitment to try tempeh!

Estela @ Weekly Bite

this looks delicious! do you have any substitution suggestions for those of us who can't buy tempeh (living in veggie unfriendly eastern europe!)?


Oh wow, that Thanksgiving menu sounds like one gathering I'd want to be at this week :)

Simply Life

Last night we had coconut curry, and it was so delicious, I was thinking 'I must learn to make more styles of curry'. This one looks great. Of course the photograph is absolutely beautiful, but the recipe sounds really fantastic. We will absolutely try this one! Thank you, Michaela

The Gardener's Eden

Mmm, I love tempeh and I love curry. Sounds good to me :)


Hate to ask this but er......... whats tempeh? I love your photoes ....


sounds delicious! except i'm on the fence about tempeh. i had it in Indonesia, and enjoyed the nutty, substantial, toothy flavor. plus it's high in protein, and veggie friendly. but last week when i spotted it in my coop, i decided to try, and put it in a stir fry with broccoli, spinach, and ginger...bad idea! it smelled like socks and tasted like sweat. heidi: thanks for your amazing recipes. i'll try substituting the tempeh with boiled eggs or even green beans, perhaps?

domestic diva

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