Tempeh stew loaded with veggies, 2 kinds of beans, lentils, tempeh crumbles and a rich, savory sauce. Sound like a deliberate plan for a hearty, complete meal-in-a bowl? You’re correct. It is.
Loaded tempeh stew – and a lot of other good things.
When you hear that term ‘loaded’ you might be thinking: Am I going to end up with an overabundance of tempeh in a bit of sauce? Nope. Loaded means we’ll be loading up on some ‘standard’ veg – onions, carrots and small potatoes that don’t even need peeling. Two types of beans, kidney and fava (broad beans) and easy cooking French lentils plus simmered that tempeh crumbles give you a load more substance. The sauce starts with a foundation of garlic, just half a cup of wine (no loaded there, the alcohol dissipates) for a bit of deglaze with tomato sauce and vegetable broth. The final flavor comes from a combination of tarragon and caraway.
Gather, plan, prepare and execute
The term mise en place refers to the practice of preparing all your ingredients before you begin cooking anything. It’s really important when you are going sauté and then deglaze the pan as we do for loaded tempeh stew. I also use it a lot when I am preparing spice mixes so I don’t have to spend time digging around in the cupboards.
The practice of mise en place also forces you to consider the timing of the cooking process. This is particularly true when we are working with tempeh as we’ll want time to prep it. Fortunately, for this recipe, I’ve gotten terrific results cooking all the ingredients and adding the tempeh the last 10 minutes. If you aren’t familiar with my method for preparing tempeh, read on and I promise all this will make sense in short order.
Which comes first: the tempeh or the lentils?
When I plan for recipes, I always start by considering which ingredients need the longest time to cook. There are two ingredients in tempeh stew that take time – the tempeh and the lentils. The good news is that they will cook separately and need about 10 minutes to mingle together in the pot.
The lentil part
The lentil part of tempeh stew is actually everything except the tempeh and just like the tempeh, the active time is minimal. Start with an initial cooking process of sautéing the onions, layering in the garlic, tarragon and caraway and then just deglaze the bottom of the pot with the the red wine. If you are not a wine cooking person, no worries, just substitute with vegetable broth. After that 10 minute cooking spree, you’re just mixing in the tomato sauce, broth, carrots, potatoes and lentils.
Here’s where the planning comes in. Once you add the lentils, you’ll need about 30 minutes for them to get tender and the potatoes to cook. So why am I bringing all this up? Once we discuss how to cook tempeh, you’ll understand that it will need at least 20 minutes to simmer. So, the choice is really yours as to which comes first – the tempeh or the lentils.
How to cook tempeh
If you’ve never tried tempeh, you should. If you are relying on packaged veggie ‘meats’, now’s the time to make a switch. Tempeh is less expensive, but more importantly, you get control over what is and isn’t in your food. When I first cooked tempeh, I was less than excited at the result. Then I discovered a loosely held secret – you need to simmer tempeh before you cook with it. Tempeh happily relinquishes its bitter taste when you do this, and happy tempeh becomes softer and invites other flavors to hang out.
The only process I use
- Crumble, cube or slice your tempeh depending on the desired size for your recipe. For tempeh stew, we’ll be crumbling it.
- For 8 oz. of tempeh, in a medium pan add the tempeh plus 4 cups of broth or 4 cups water plus 2 veggie bouillon cubes and 1 Tbsp. tamari or soy sauce.
- Bring the pan to a boil and then cut the heat, cover and simmer the tempeh for at least 20 minutes. If you go overtime, just make sure that the liquid doesn’t completely absorb.
- Drain the tempeh and then use as called for in your recipe.
Timing your cooking
Hopefully, you can understand why I’m bringing up the timing of everything here. Now, I’m a bit of creature of habit so I normally start this recipe by getting the tempeh simmering and then I turn my attention to prepping the rest of the ingredients and getting to the point in the stew cooking process that the lentils are simmering. By that time, the tempeh usually just needs 5-10 minutes more to simmer before I drain it. That’s the way I’ve timed this recipe; however, if you want to streamline the process, you could start with the tempeh after you get the lentils simmering. This one is your call.
I’m bringing all this to your attention because I have had many an experience, and resulting frustration when I start on a recipe, only to get to the part where “if I’d only known” becomes evident and I failed to plan properly. I know this is mostly on me because I usually ‘skim’ a recipe and I fail to do thoughtful planning. That’s why the concept of mise en place – everything in it’s place starts with a plan about what needs to cook and how and when I’m taking that on.
The concept of mise en place has relieved my cooking stress and transformed it to a time of peace and joy. I realize that we can’t always be prepared for what life throws at us. If, however, we can take proactive steps toward our knowns, then perhaps our reactions to the unknowns won’t topple us of our paths. I’m not denying that chance favors the prepared mind. However, being proactive clears a path for us to recognize the chance worth the chase rather than being stuck in the battle of reaction. Peace.Print
Delicious loaded tempeh stew is filled with hearty and healthy vegan comfort featuring simmered tempeh, lentils, beans, veggies and a rich, savory sauce.
- 8 oz. tempeh
- 6–8 cups vegetable broth
- 1 large onion diced (2 cups)
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp. tarragon
- 1 tsp. caraway seeds
- ½ cup red wine (or vegetable broth)
- 1 – 15 oz. can tomato sauce (2 cups)
- 4 cups vegetable broth (or water)
- 1 ½ cups carrots diced
- 4 cups petite potatoes with skins on (or diced potatoes)
- 2 cups French lentils, rinsed
- 1– 15 oz. can red kidney beans
- 1 cup frozen or canned fava (broad) beans (or green peas)
Prepare the tempeh
- Break (crumble) the tempeh into bite-sized pieces.
- Place the tempeh in a pan and cover it with vegetable broth.
- Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
Make the stew
- While the tempeh simmers, preheat a large soup pot and sauté the onions until they start to brown (about 8 minutes). Add water a tablespoon at a time if the onions start to stick.
- Add the garlic, tarragon and caraway seeds and stir for about 30 seconds.
- Deglaze the pot by adding the red wine.
- Add the tomato sauce, 4 cups vegetable broth, carrots, potatoes and lentils. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce to medium and simmer for about 30 minutes until the potatoes are soft and the lentils are cooked.
- Your tempeh will be done about 10 minutes after the tempeh is done, so drain it and let it sit until the lentils are done.
- Once the lentils potatoes and lentils are cooked through, add the tempeh, kidney beans and fava beans. Stir and heat everything through (about 10 minutes for frozen fava beans).
- Add salt or pepper if desired.
- I’ve found that it’s easier to crumble tempeh if you slice it in pieces first. You can make the tempeh a day ahead and store it in a tightly sealed container in the fridge.
- If you’re not a fava (broad) bean fan, substitute lima beans or peas in this recipe.
- If you want a stronger tarragon or caraway taste, add either to the simmer broth for the tempeh.
- Loaded tempeh stew is even more flavorful the next day, so make it ahead or look forward to tomorrow’s leftovers.
- Category: Soups & Stews
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: loaded tempeh stew