Should You Marinade Tempeh?

On its own, tempeh is a bland, fermented soy cake. Sounds yummy, right? But add a marinade, and tempeh is a delicious, plant-based meat alternative. The right marinade will infuse the tempeh full of flavors, making it the star of your dish.

Tempeh marinades are similar to a sauce, but instead of putting them on tempeh after cooking, the tempeh is soaked in the marinade before cooking. Tempeh is a sponge and soaks up any flavors the marinade provides. The flavors can range from spicy to sweet, depending on the ingredients. 

For a different approach, which isn’t intended for foods commonly coated with the marinade, tempeh marinade is a unique choice. Scroll through this article slowly, as you read, to learn how to make various marinades for tempeh. 

What is a Tempeh Marinade?

The traditional tempeh marinade is a mixture of tamari, olive oil, vinegar, garlic powder, and salt to create a coating for tempeh, a soy-based product. 

Tempeh is often confused with tofu (also soy-based) because both have a similar appearance and are bland. This is where the marinade comes in. Considering tempeh is absorbent, it takes on the flavor of whatever marinade is used. On its own, tempeh has a slightly bitter taste. A marinade conceals the bitterness.

Homemade Tempeh Marinade Vs. Processed Tempeh Marinade

In general, marinades can either be made from scratch, or you can opt for a bottled version from the store. Most marinades in the store are meant for meat, but can still be used for tempeh if you’re crunched for time. 

Processed marinades tend to be higher in sugars and often contain preservatives. They also contain other artificial ingredients. 

A homemade marinade allows you to have more control over the ingredients, so you can go as natural as you want, and you know exactly what’s being added. Whether how much or how little, it’s all up to you. 

How to Make Tempeh Marinade

To make a tempeh marinade, you can start with a simple recipe and either stick with that or improvise. You’ll then allow your tempeh to soak in the marinade, according to the specific recipes’ directions.  After that, the tempeh is baked, fried, or even grilled according to your favorite cooking method. 

Different Styles of Tempeh Marinade

There are plenty of marinades to choose from, both store-bought and homemade. Some are culture-inspired, while others are intended for a healthier approach. But only a few ingredients for each can give them an intense flavor that will satisfy your taste buds.

The majority of marinades are based on ingredients that you most likely have at home. Many standard marinade recipes are meant to be customized, so you can spice them up however you please. 

Here are some basic styles of marinades, all effortless to tailor to your taste:

  • Chipotle
  • Teriyaki
  • Balsamic
  • Peanut
  • Ginger and garlic

Recipes for Tempeh Marinade

There are DIY recipes that are simple for you to follow and require only several minutes until ready. You don’t need any heavy-duty equipment to make the marinades. All you have to do is some stirring and brushing. 

Chipotle Tempeh Marinade

This Mexican/Tex Mex inspired marinade is spicy. It requires strong tastebuds that can handle such an intense degree of dry but hot Jalapeño flavor. Along with the combination of smokiness that adds a touch of a barbequed flavor.

How to Make It


  • 2 tablespoons Jalapeño chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of adobo sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin


  • Combine the Jalapeño chili powder, olive oil, adobo sauce, salt, chopped or minced garlic cloves, and cumin in a bowl. Mix well and carefully with a spoon.
  • Add water then mix.
  • Brush sliced or cubed tempeh with the marinade and then put them in the oven at 400 degrees for 25 – 30 minutes.
  • Serve with a side dish or without. Then enjoy!

Teriyaki Tempeh Marinade

The flavor of Teriyaki is typical among marinades. It’s both sweet and sour with a thickness that provides a golden-brown coating. While this flavor is associated with chicken combined with broccoli, it can also be a delicious addition to tempeh. Teriyaki marinades are great for using before you make stir-fried tempeh.

How to Make It


  • 4 tablespoons tamari
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil or olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha
  • 1 teaspoon rice wine or apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon corn starch
  • 1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1 clove fresh garlic (chopped or minced)


  • Set the cornstarch aside and mix the other ingredients in a large bowl and then add to a medium-sized pot. Bring to a boil.
  • In a small bowl, add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch to the pot and let it thicken.
  • Spoon the marinade into a large bowl then add sliced or cubed tempeh. Mix well.
  • On a 9×13 inch pan, spread each piece of tempeh at least 10 inches apart—Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. Then enjoy!

Source: Teriyaki Tempeh – VNutrition and Wellness

Balsamic-Marinated Tempeh

Balsamic vinegar tends to be overpowering. But when added to tempeh, the two meet in the  And as for the Balsamic vinegar flavor as a marinade, and it plays a huge role in an intensely sour flavor. Balsamic marinated tempeh is fantastic in salads or with pasta.

How to Make It


  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil


  • Mix all of the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl.
  • Place each sliced or cubed piece of tempeh in a plastic Ziplock bag.
  • Add the ingredients and then shake, along with the tempeh, in the bag.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 25 – 30 minutes. Then enjoy!

Source: Balsamic-Marinated Tempeh – SOS Cuisine

Marinated Baked Peanut Tempeh

This marinade originates from Indonesia. Its nutty flavor is a guilty pleasure, and peanut butter is a source of protein. This marinade makes tempeh feel rich and packs a flavorful punch. Once you’ve marinaded and cooked peanut tempeh, it pairs well with an Asian noodle dish. 

How to Make It


  • 1 whole fresh or dried bird’s eye chili (minced/crushed)
  • 11/2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons salted peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons tamari (gluten-free)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup


  • Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl.
  • Brush the mixture on sliced or cubed pieces of tempeh until all of the pieces are completely coated.
  • Bake on 375 degrees for 22 – 30 minutes. Then enjoy!

Source: Marinated Peanut Baked Tempeh – Minimalist Baker Recipes

Ginger Garlic Marinade

This marinade earns bonus points for being oil free. The two star ingredients, ginger and garlic, don’t need any oily help to make this marinade delicious and nutritious. Instead of oil, the sherry works as an emollient to mix the flavors together. Ginger garlic flavors are the perfect balance of sweet and spicy.

How to Make It


  • 1/4 soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup chili sauce
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon grated gingerroot


  • Shake the ingredients, along with the sliced or cubed tempeh, in a plastic Ziplock bag.
  • Let it bake on 400 degrees for 25 – 30 minutes. Then enjoy!

Source: Ginger Garlic Marinade Recipe – Betty Crocker

Final Thoughts

Tempeh on its own isn’t the most exciting meat alternative. But using a delicious marinade will kick the flavors into high gear, making any tempeh dish one that’s delicious, and nutritious. Try marinading your tempeh before adding it to any of your favorite dishes instead of meat.

“It’s all in the marinade. Tempeh cooked in veggie stock for 20 mins then into bacon mode (top, with soy, liquid smoke and maple syrup plus black treacle) and ‘plain’ (bottom, with leftover stock, nutritional yeast and olive oil)” by saharacook is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0


  • Hi, I'm Marvin! In early 2019 I started fermenting sauerkraut, kefir, and kombucha and noticed the incredible health benefits that came with it. I was less irritated, had fewer allergies and my skin got better. I started this blog to share how fermented foods have helped me and how simple they are to prepare! Look around and see what speaks to you and all the best on your fermentation journey!

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