Moroccan tempeh tagine with spring vegetables

June 4, 2009 at 1:59 am (B plus (3.5 stars, like a lot), Derek's faves, Grains, Middle East / N. Africa, Peter Berley, Spring recipes, Tempeh, Yearly menu plan)

I finally found tempeh in Saarbrücken.  I’m so excited!  It’s a beautiful tempeh too:  big and fat and covered in a soft white layer that looks almost like paper.  I tried to take it off at first before I realized it was part of the tempeh.  Rather than use the tempeh in one of our old tempeh recipes, we decide to try a new one from Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast.  We chose one of the spring menus:  charmoula baked tempeh with vegetable couscous.  Apparently charmoula is a spicy Moroccan marinade.  Derek was worried, as he claims not to like Moroccan food but I thought the combination of spices looked good.

Basically you make a marinade with olive oil, cilantro, lemon juice, garlic, paprika, cumin, coriander, and cayenne.    You cube the tempeh and place it in a large skillet, then pour the marinade over it, cover, and simmer until the liquid is absorbed.  After the suggested simmer time, however, our liquid was only half absorbed.  We decided to eat it anyway.  I’m glad we didn’t keep cooking it, because the marinade was really tasty!  In any case, I can’t imagine the tempeh ever absorbing all that liquid, no matter how long we cooked it for.  Tempeh is simply not that absorbent.

Berley’s spring menu 2 also calls for a spring vegetable couscous, but I used bulgur instead.  I screwed up though, in that I added the vegetables with the bulgur, and by the time the bulgur was cooked the vegetables were all faded looking instead of a pretty bright green.  I forgot how much longer bulgur takes to cook than couscous.  Next time I’d cook the bulgur separately and just add in the cooked vegetables once it was done.  The bulgur dish had onions, mushrooms, asparagus, and snow peas (we couldn’t find sugar snaps).  It made a really nice base for the tempeh dish–the bulgur absorbed all the sauce nicely and the vegetables added a bit of crunch.

Our tempeh had a great texture.  I’m not sure if it’s the brand I bought, or if it’s the process of simmering it in the marinade, but it was meltingly tender–not a texture I associate with tempeh.  The flavors in the marinade completely masked the strong tempeh flavor that I don’t care for.  To me the soupy marinade really did taste Moroccan, just without all the typical carrots etc. in a Moroccan tagine.  The asparagus, mushrooms, and snow peas were actually a really nice combination with the moroccan flavors.  I’d definitely make this dish again.  I think it would be a great dish to serve for company, especially for someone who’s never tried tempeh before.  Next time, however, I’ll find couscous.

The one thing I didn’t like about the dish was that after cooking the cilantro turns a sort of putrid green color.  I think I will add some more fresh cilantro once it’s done to brighten the dish up.  Also, as always, I think the salt and fat need to be reduced.  We added 1/3 cup olive oil instead of 1/2 cup, and 1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt instead of 2 1/2 teaspoons.  Even with these reductions the dish is still very rich and very salty.  It tasted like restaurant food!

One last comment:  In FFF the recipe is called “charmoula baked tempeh,”  but the tempeh is simmered on the stovetop not baked.  I wonder if that’s a mistake, or if Berley simply has a loose definition of baking?

Berley’s menu also includes a carrot mint salad with currants.

Update June 14, 2009:

I made the tempeh dish again, but I multiplied it by 1.5 because we had 4 people at lunch and I was hoping to have some leftovers.    I didn’t make extra of the bulgur, however, as we had too much of it last time.   The proportion of bulgur to tempeh was better this time, although still we had a little too much bulgur I think.   Since I had so much tempeh, I didn’t have a pan large enough to fit all the tempeh squares in a single layer.  I decided to use my dutch oven to cook it instead of a skillet, because I was worried that even a 12 inch skillet wouldn’t be bit enough.  Even though the tempeh wasn’t completely covered, the texture was still quite nice and soft.  I made sure to stir it a few times so that every tempeh square got his “5 minutes of fame.”  I cooked the tempeh for about 25 minutes, but I think it was too long because almost all of the liquid was absorbed.  (And I said it couldn’t happen!)  Next time I’ll just cook it for the suggested 15 minutes.  Also, next time I make the tempeh I’m going to try cutting the oil even more, and see if the recipe is still as good..

I couldn’t find sugar snap peas so I just used real peas from the farmer’s market.  They worked well.  I cooked the bulgur ahead of time so that the vegetables didn’t get overcooked.  I added a skimpy 1/2 tsp. of kosher salt to the bulgur, but I think next time I’d add a full 1/2 tsp, as the bulgur was slightly undersalted.  I’d also add a little salt or soy sauce to the vegetables while they cook.

Update August 14, 2009:

I’ve now made this recipe four times!  The last time I threw in some frozen spinach and just ate the tempeh with the spinach.  It was good, and the spinach helped brighten up the muted green and orange colors.  The last two times I cut the oil to 1/4 cup and used the full 1 pound of tempeh (my tempeh blocks here are only 12-14 ounces).  The tempeh was definitely not as rich tasting, but still was extremely tasty.  I think both 4 Tbs. of oil and 5.33 Tbs. of oil are good–it just depends whether you’re in the mood for really oily and really tasty, or less oily and a little less decadent.    Again, I forgot to save a little cilantro for the end for the bright green effect.  I’m sure I’ll be making this recipe again, and I’ll try to remember to add some cilantro at the end next time.  We didn’t quite have enough sauce these last two times.   I think next time I might try adding a little extra water to make sure that there’s enough yummy liquid leftover.

This time I served the tempeh over quinoa, which was excellent.  The flavors went well together, and the quinoa effectively sops up all the great sauce.  I also made the sweet spiced chard that I recently posted to my blog.  We liked the combo a lot, although I did miss having something raw and a little crisp.  If I’m inspired next time, I might make the chard and the carrot salad!

Update Sept 12, 2009:

After making this recipe a half dozen times I figured I better post the recipe!  Below are my version of the ingredients and instructions, slightly modified from Berley’s original recipe.  This recipe makes 8 medium-sized servings.


  • 1/4 to 3/4 cups olive oil (depending on how rich you want it–Berley calls for 1 cup! I usually use 1/2 cup when making this for company)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro (not tightly packed, plus an optional 1/2 cup to be added at end)
  • 8 garlic cloves, chopped (about 1.5-2? Tbs.)
  • 2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 cups of water
  • 2 1/2 tsp. kosher salt or 2 tsp. fine salt
  • 4 tsp. sweet paprika
  • 4 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp. coriander seeds (or 4? last time I used 4 and it was good I think)
  • 1 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 3/4 pounds soy tempeh, cut into 1-inch cubes


  1. In a wide 3- or 4-quart pot or skillet, mix the olive oil, 1 cup of the cilantro, the lemon juice, the garlic, the water, and the salt.  In a spice grinder or mortar, grind the paprika, cumin, coriander, and cayenne.  Mix the ground spices into the olive oil.  Cube the tempeh, and add it to the pot, stirring to cover all the tempeh with the marinade.
  2. Over high heat, bring the mixture to a simmer.  Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove the cover, stir to submerge any tempeh that’s not in the liquid, and simmer for another 5 minutes, until the liquid is slightly reduced.  You want it to be pretty soupy, however, so don’t reduce all the liquid.
  3. When the tempeh is soft, stir in the remaining 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, and serve over a grain (e.g. quinoa, cous cous, or bulgur) which will absorb the delicious “pot liquor.”

On my last attempt I served the tempeh with the carrot salad, plain quinoa, and a simple mix of steamed green vegetables. It worked well.

I’ve also served this over bulgur with carrot salad, quinoa salad, and a dish of roasted cauliflower, onions, olives, tomatoes, and oregano.

Rating: B+
Derek: A

Update June 2016: Derek and I made this for dinner (along with the spring vegetable couscous) two nights ago and 16-month-old Alma had the leftovers for dinner last night. We halved the cayenne so it wouldn’t be too spicy. Alma had several bites of the tempeh, several bites of the vegetable couscous, then proceeded to pick out only the asparagus and avoid everything else. She ate all the rest of the asparagus in the pot, but wouldn’t touch the snow peas (I think she didn’t like the texture) or the mushrooms (even though she normally likes mushrooms).

Nutritional information

Serving Size: 1/8 recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 237
Total Fat 17.9g
Saturated Fat 2.4g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 687mg
Carbohydrate 10.3g
Dietary Fiber 5.5g
Sugars 0.8g
Protein 10.5g
Vitamin A 18% Vitamin C 20%
Calcium    7% Iron 14%

Macronutrients (using 1/2 cup olive oil): 66% calories from fat, 17% from protein, 17% from carbs. If you eat one serving of the tempeh with 2/3 cup quinoa, 1 cup mint, carrot salad, and mixed veggies (e.g., asparagus, mushrooms, snap peas), then the stats would end up closer to 35% fat, 15% protein, and 50% carbs.

Another review of this dish from the blog “Kitchen notes from an aspiring herbivore.”


  1. austingardener said,

    where did you find the tempeh?

  2. tom said,

    yeah, where did you buy it?

    • captious said,

      I replied in the other post where you asked about the tempeh.

      Are you a vegetarian Tom? I didn’t know that they existed in Saarbruecken.

  3. austingardener said,

    i followed the recipe (with your oil specifications) except I omitted the cayenne and added all the cilantro at the end.Dad loved it . He gave it an A. What a surprise. This is the first time he has liked tempeh. Ta da.

  4. Bruce said,

    Sourcing tempeh is not easy, I have taken to making my own. supply the spores and soy beans are everywhere. So if you can’t find it do like I do and make your own.

  5. Paul said,

    Very tasty. Being softies in regard to cayenne, I put in just 1/4 t. cayenne and still found it quite hot. So, beware of putting in the full 1-1/4 t. of that. You can always add, but you can’t subtract!

  6. Moroccan Baked Tempeh and Sweet Garlic and Almond Bulgar. | fightcancerwithfood said,

    […] this salad recipe from BBC Good Food, and another quick search for Moroccan Baked Tempeh showed me this blog post. I decided to combine the two to create something […]

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