Easy Vegan Thai Basil Tempeh Rice Bowls

by Kaitlynn Fenley

This Thai Basil Tempeh is quick, easy to make, healthy, and perfect for a delicious vegan meal. Serve it up with some rice and your favorite steamed veggies.

How to Properly Prepare Tempeh

When cooking tempeh, it is vital to soak it in boiling water first, then drain and rinse. Since tempeh is a fermented food, it is slightly acidic. To neutralize the sour flavor of tempeh and make it more pleasant tasting, you have to boil/soak it and then rinse it before using it.

So What is Tempeh?

Tempeh is a fermented “bean cake.” It’s just tender cooked legumes bound together by a dense mycelium of white Rhizopus mold. Tempeh originated as a byproduct of tofu and soybean oil manufacturing in Java, Indonesia.

When food crafters would press oils from nuts and seeds and liquids from soybeans, the resulting waste products were fibrous and dense seed, bean, and nut cakes to be discarded. This soybean waste is called okara.

It’s speculated that the okara got contaminated with fungi used for soy sauce production. Accidentally inoculating okara waste with fungi brought about a protein-packed, fiber-rich food that is quite delicious… and economical. So, accident or not, if you love tempeh, you can thank Indonesia for this delicious food!

In our Fermented Foods Semester online course, I teach students how to make tempeh at home. Click here to enroll in the course and use code CGBLOG for 20% off.

What is Thai Basil Tempeh?

Thai basil tempeh is a savory vegan meal inspired by the Thai dish “pad krapow gai.” (Thai basil chicken).

Tempeh is still a fairly new fermented food, and it is becoming more and more popular as a vegan protein option. Tempeh is a great vegan chicken substitute because of the texture of the mycelium and the beans. It crumbles into a consistency similar to ground chicken, making it perfect for this recipe.

You should use Thai basil, specifically, for this recipe. It is a type of basil with the sweetest anise flavor. You can use regular basil, too, though. I’ve used both, and it was delicious each time.

two bowls of thai basil tempeh over white rice, with chopsticks in each bowl

Other Recipes to pair with Thai Basil Tempeh


Thai Basil Tempeh Rice Bowls

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This Thai Basil Tempeh is quick, easy to make, healthy, and perfect for a delicious vegan meal! Serve it up with some rice and your favorite steamed veggies!

  • Author: Kaitlynn Fenley
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Cook
  • Cuisine: Thai
  • Diet: Vegan


  • 2 blocks of tempeh (about 400 grams)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 green onion sprigs, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 cups rice, steamed/cooked


  • 2 tablespoons miso paste
  • 1 tablespoons gochujang 
  • 4 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 4 tablespoons water


  1. Soak the tempeh in boiling hot water for 10 minutes (you cannot skip this step if you want this recipe to taste good).
  2. Drain and rinse the tempeh twice, then crumble into pieces.
  3. Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat, and add in the crumbled tempeh and salt.
  4. Stir until the tempeh starts to brown evenly.
  5. Once the tempeh is browned, add in the garlic, onion, and basil. Stir until it’s evenly combined. 
  6. Mix all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl, then add to the skillet and stir. Simmer for about 5 minutes.
  7. Serve with rice and enjoy! 

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Nutrition information is auto-calculated and estimated as close as possible. We are not responsible for any errors. We have tested the recipe for accuracy, but your results may vary. We are not liable for any damages caused by your use of this content.

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Kaitlynn Fenley Author, Educator, Food Microbiologist
Kaitlynn is a food microbiologist and fermentation expert teaching people how to ferment foods and drinks at home.

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