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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Looks delish Mmmm, The photography is soo good that it seems like I can smell it. and even taste the turmeric. I got to make this one.

Don Evans

I saw the comment about soy and cancer. It might be a good idea for you to do some research on this. Plant based estrogen and animal based are not the same, although some physicians don't distinguish between the two. I have read that plant based estrogens actually block the animal based variety, and so, are protective. Read books like The China Study (Campbell). Wish you a long healthy life!


Hi Heidi! I am a big fan of your site being a food lover & a vegetarian as well. Just a note: This recipe & the first picture reminds me a lot of an Indian dish which is very similar called Dum Aloo. It's a spicier version of this and just as delish! It's amazing how many dishes around the world can often be similar and yet subtly different.

Divya Trivedi

Wow; this looks amazing and I am surely going to be whipping this dish up tomorrow night. Thank you for this tasty recipe...Yummmm!!!

The Healthy Apple

Technical question! Is there any simmering done after adding the tomatoes? At least heating them, before adding the cream? Well, I'm about half way through and got to this step and realized I hadn't quite thought of this when starting to cook.... The smells are amazing! Cheers!

Sam (The Second Lunch)

This was so good, and even better the next day. All the seasonings were right in line and once again you have not let me down.


Every recipe that I have tried of yours has turned out beautifully & some I make over and over - such as the amazing black bean brownie recipe. Just love vegetable curries, so will make this one very soon. Living here in Brunei, I sometimes have to make minor adjustments to the ingredients or stock up on trips back to England...Also just bought your book and love that too. The rest of the thanksgiving menu sounds interesting!! Diana

Diana Price

I love curry food:D

If it comes in pink

The Tempeh Curry looks more like a great dish to try by the bowlful than by buying all the ingredients and trying to do all the preparations. I'm not sure I'll like this dish, but I'd sure like to try a bowl! About Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving is such a day filled with tradition, I'm not sure I'd want a whole different group of side dishes (as you suggested trying to talk your group into), as it just wouldn't seem like Thanksgiving (it'd just be another meal with turkey). I long for traditional side dishes on Thanksgiving and think of the collective of flavors throughout the year. Your ideas sound fantastic, though, for any of the other 364 dinners we may have in a year!


This is an exciting recipe for Thanksgiving. I adore curry spices, and its combination with potatoes and tempeh, so hearty and flavorful! I also like the tip on coconut milk in place of cream.

Christine @ Fresh Local and Best

Hmm, I too have never been fully sold on tempeh but this sounds really good. What an amazing Thanksgiving menu too - thanks!

nithya at hungrydesi

Looks amazing, I'm definitely going to give it a try!


heidi and fans, i'm on week seven of the kitchen remodel from hell with possibly another month to go (sob!)...what are your thoughts about making this in a crock pot? simmer the potatoes in water first, drain, then proceed? both the BF and i gag at the mention of any of our favorite restaurants anymore. too...much...takeout! regardless, it looks lovely and will be made by me, one way or another. :)


Thank you Marc up there for telling the truth about Tempe!!! :) You rock! Yes, it IS more challenging to find good tempe outside of Indonesia, which is where tempe comes from. And thanks Heidi for putting up a curry recipe with tempe! Yummy. I'd put extra green beans in it, to veg it up another notch. Btw Heidi, why do you keep spelling it with an extra 'h' like a lot Westerners do? I've found that your site honors food origins, and as such wonder why you don't spell this wonderful food the original way. It's akin to, say, peeps in the other corner of the globe adding an extra consonant to "broccolih" for example. ;) While it's not a big deal, I've found it rather, well, I don't know the right word to describe it really. HS: Your broccolih example made me laugh. So, to answer your question - I guess it's because most of the packaging here spells it with an "h" in the stores. And many of the cookbooks written for Westerners spell it that way as well...


I spent many years in Indonesia and simply loved tahu and tempe! You can find tempe at Wholefoods in Chicago. It is such a versatile ingredient and can be added to any dish in lieu of meat. It is great in gado-gado. Thank you for featuring this nutritious food, Heidi.

Shanta Sunderdas

Wow, Heide...Thx, finally u cooked something original from Indonesia. Yes, we called it "Tempe" not "Tempeh". All the best and keep up the hard work. Great one.


Thanks, Heidi! This made a yummy dinner tonight. No tempeh here, but yes on green beans and roasted japanese sweet potatoes with brown basmati rice. Wish i had made more for leftovers!

Sherry H.

Nice recipee, I'll try it with coconut milk

claudia leimoko

Sounds similar to a fish curry I do - only, instead of cream, I use about a cup of coconut milk. Also, I slice the potatoes very thin, and often do half potatoes/half butternut squash - or sometimes all butternut squash. I'd love to try it with tempeh! I've found the trick to tempeh is to cut it very small (quarter-inch or so pieces). If the pieces are too big, it can have a bitterness to it. If done right, I really enjoy it. Looking forward to checking out the cookbook, and her terrific Thanksgiving menu!


One can never have too many curry recipes. I have a block of tempeh in my vegetable drawer and a tempeh-phobic crowd to cook for, so this looks perfect.


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