Piccata is a wonderful thing. There’s something magical that happens when you combine white wine, lemon juice, and capers. I love to make cauliflower piccata, seitan piccata, and of course, tempeh piccata.
Piccata is an Italian word that means “annoyed,” but when used in reference to food, it means “sliced, sautéed, and served in a sauce containing lemon, butter, and spices”. Traditionally, piccata dishes are made with breaded meat that is fried in butter or oil. The pan drippings are then combined with lemon juice, white wine, and stock. Shallots, garlic, capers, and chopped parsley can be added.
When eating out at vegan restaurants, if there’s something picatta on the menu, it’s usually first choice. Blossom in New York City is famous for their seitan piccata, and it definitely lives up the hype. I’ve often ordered seitan scallopini from restaurants too, because it seems very piccata-like. I was curious, so I looked it to see the difference. “Scallopini” refers to the thin cut of meat (or seitan), while piccata refers to the cooking method or the sauce.
This Tempeh Piccata recipe is actually rather easy to make. You just cut the tempeh, dredge it through flour, cook it, and then make the sauce with lemon juice and white wine. I love it because it’s easy enough to make on a weeknight, but it’s fancy enough for date night or a dinner party.
If you don’t like the fermented flavor of tempeh, steam it for a few minutes before breading it. You can also let it simmer for 20-39 minutes in vegetable stock.
If you follow a gluten-free diet, this dish can easily be made gluten-free by using all-purpose gluten-free flour. Read the tempeh package to make sure it doesn’t contain gluten. I usually buy the “original” type of tempeh, which is just made with soy beans. Some of the varieties made with grains might contain some gluten, though. If you don’t want to use wine in your dish, you can use vegetable stock in its place.
Vegan Tempeh Piccata
- 1 8-ounce package tempeh
- ¼ cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ¼ cup whole wheat flour (use all-purpose gluten-free flour, if gluten-free)
- 2 tablespoons cornmeal
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 teaspoons neutral-flavored vegetable oil, divided
- 2 medium-shallots, thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 3/4 cup white wine
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons capers, drained
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch, dissolved in 3 tablespoons warm water
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Cut the tempeh into 3 square (or square-ish pieces). Cut each piece into two triangles.
Whisk together the non-dairy milk and Dijon mustard in a small bowl.
Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, nutritional yeast, sea salt, and pepper in another small bowl.
Use one hand for the wet ingredients and the other for the dry. Dip the tempeh pieces into the non-dairy milk mixture and then dredge them through the flour mixture.
Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.
Add the tempeh to the pan and cook until golden-brown, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook the other side until golden-brown as well.
Remove them from the tempeh from the pan and keep warm in an oven set to low or on a covered plate.
Add the rest of the oil to the pan along with the shallots. Cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to brown and caramelize, about 5 minutes. Scrape down any of the breading mixture that might be left in the pan for extra flavor. Add the garlic, and cook another minute or two until it’s fragrant.
Add the wine, lemon juice, and capers to the pan and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the liquid reduces slightly. Add the cornstarch mixture to the pan, and continue to cook until the liquid thickens, about 2 or 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Arrange the tempeh on two plates, and top with the lemon-wine sauce. Garnish with parsley and serve hot.