Thai Coconut Tempeh with Pineapple Salsa is bursting with flavor, and it's a fun twist on the usual stir-fry. Think of it as a vegan version of Thai coconut chicken. It comes together quickly, so it's perfect for dinner on busy weeknights. This easy recipe is vegan with a gluten-free option.
Vegan Thai Coconut Chicken
I live in such a large vegan bubble, that I sometimes forget that there are still meat eaters out there in the world. I’m painfully reminded of the fact when I flip through a “mainstream” magazine and see recipes for all sorts of meaty dishes. Most of the recipes seem pretty gross to me, but every once in a while a dish will stand out as something that would taste really good if it was veganized.
Years ago I adapted this this Thai Coconut Tempeh from a chicken recipe in an issue of Martha Stewart Magazine. I was lured in by the words “coconut” and “pineapple”, and the recipe was easily veganized by swapping out chicken for tempeh. I also added some vegetables, because that's how I roll. So this recipe is really a vegan Thai coconut chicken.
I don't think I know anyone who doesn't love Thai food. With coconut milk, lots of flavorful spices, and loads off veggies, there's something to please everyone.
There was a local Thai restaurant that we used to frequent, but it's under new ownership now, and the food isn't quite up to par. Lately I've been trying to recreate my favorites at home. This coconut tempeh isn't exactly authentic to Thai cuisine, but it was inspired by it.
How to Make Thai Coconut Tempeh
This recipe is really easy to make!
- First you sauté your tempeh in a little oil until it browns.
- Then you set it aside while you prepare cook the vegetables. Add onions, peppers, and ½ cup of the pineapple to the pan and cook for about 10 minutes, or until they soften.
- If you have two pans, you can cook the tempeh in one and the vegetables in another to save time.
- While the vegetables are cooking, you mix together the coconut sauce. Add it to the pan along with the tempeh. You should allow everything to simmer for about 10 minutes.
- While the mixture is simmering, you can mix together the pineapple salsa.
- Finally, serve your coconut tempeh with cooked brown rice, topped with pineapple salsa.
I like to add a little heat to my dish, so I throw in some red pepper flakes. You can add more, if you like your food spicy. Or can omit them if you don't like spice at all. I sometimes drizzle on a little sriracha, too.
I love this dish so much that I may be guilty of eating the tempeh right out of the pan while it cooks.
How to Customize your Thai Coconut Tempeh
It's easy to change things up and make this recipe your own!
- If you're allergic to pineapple, you can use chopped mango.
- You can use seitan, vegan chicken, or tofu in the place of tempeh.
- Feel free to add more vegetables to the dish. You can try bok choy, mushrooms, or broccoli.
If you follow a gluten-free diet, make sure your tempeh doesn't contain glutenous grains and be sure to use gluten-free tamari.
What is Tempeh?
Tempeh is a fermented soybean cake that originated in Indonesia. You can slice and marinate it and then stir-fry, sauté, or bake it. You can also crumble it and add it to dishes like chili and pasta. It can usually be found in the same area of the grocery store as tofu, which is usually the produce are or the refrigerated section.
Because it’s fermented, it can have discolored spots that almost look moldy. It’s perfectly safe to eat, though.
Health coaching clients have told me that they don’t really like tempeh, because it tastes a too fermented. To get rid of that fermented taste, you can steam it before using it a recipe, or you can simmer it a bath of broth for about half an hour, like I do here in this recipe. The two brands I usually buy are Lightlife and Soy Boy.
Thai Coconut Tempeh with Pineapple Salsa
- 2 8-ounce packages tempeh cut into 1½-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- 1 small onion diced (about 1 cup)
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 2 teaspoons tamari
- 1 cup full fat coconut milk
- ¼ cup vegetable stock
- 1½ cups pineapple chopped, divided
- ¼ cup choppped fresh cilantro
- 2 scallions thinly sliced
- 1 chile pepper sedded and chopped
- pinch crushed red pepper optional
- 4 cups cooked brown rice
- Heat the coconut oil in a large pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the tempeh to the oil and cook for about 2 or 3 minutes per side, until each side is lightly golden. Remove the tempeh from heat and set aside.
- Add the onions, bell pepper, and ½ cup pineapple to the pan and heat for 5-10 minutes, until the onion is fragrant translucent.
- While the vegetables are cooking, mix together the coconut milk, broth soy sauce, ginger, and garlic in a small bowl.
- Add the tempeh back into the pan along with the coconut milk mixture and the crushed red pepper, if using. Bring to a boil. Stir, reduce heat to low and partially cover. Simmer for 5 to 8 minutes, until heated throughout.
- While the dish is simmering, mix together the scallions, cilantro, chile, and remaining pineapple in a small bowl.
- Divide the tempeh and vegetable mixture among serving dishes, and serve with cooked rice and pineapple salsa. Serve hot.
More Tempeh Recipes You Might Enjoy Include:
- Lemon Dijon Tempeh with Mushrooms
- Tempeh Marsala
- Apple Pecan Tempeh Salad
- Sloppy Joes with Tempeh and Mushrooms
- Tempeh Piccata