One of the hardest parts of being a new vegan (or even an old seasoned vegan) is trying to keep up with all the new products out there. I must have spent over $50 looking for the "right" vegan cheese my first year being a vegan and I have over 50 vegan/vegetarian cookbooks in my arsenal but not all the recipes are the greatest. I’m the first born so I’m used to being a Guinea Pig and now I’m your Vegan Guinea Pig. So here are my recommendations and critiques. Let me know what you think!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Vegan Brunch: Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes

Ok, I admit it. I bought Veganomicon the day it came out and still haven’t tried one recipe in it yet. I bought it with the best intentions to try at least 3 or 4 recipes but it never happened, as is the case with most of the cookbooks that sit on my shelf now-a-days. I’ve been so wrapped up in working on my own books that I haven’t had much time to branch out and see what else is going on the world of vegan eats. When Isa posted the recipe for Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes from her new book Vegan Brunch I promised myself that I would leave my own little vegan culinary cocoon and branch out to try Isa’s latest venture.

True to form, I didn’t make the recipe exactly to the letter but it’s the closest I’ve ever been to the original recipe in a long time. My only change was to take down the panko bread crumbs by ½ cup and I double the roumelade because I like to have a good amount of sauce. I might take down the mustard or use Dijon mustard next time in the roumelade and I'm considering baking the cakes to next time as well, but otherwise I thought it was a perfect recipe.

Make ahead: Make the entire mixture and the remoulade the night before. In the morning, form into cakes and pan fry.

For the cakes:
8 ounces tempeh (I used three grain)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon soy sauce (I used Bragg's liquid aminos)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons Vegenaisse
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard (stone ground Dijon works, too)
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 cup very finely chopped red bell pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
fresh black pepper
1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs, plus extra for dredging (I used 1 cup)
Optional: 1 finely chopped nori sheet or 1 tablespoon kelp granules (if you like a little fishiness)
Oil for pan frying

For the remoulade:
2 tablespoons Vegenaise
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard (stone ground dijon works, too)
1 tablespoon hot sauce
2 teaspoons capers (try not to get too much brine)

Lemon wedges for serving

First we’re going to steam the tempeh to get the bitterness out and also to infuse some flavor with the soy sauce. Crumble the tempeh into a saucier or small pan in little bits. Add the water, soy sauce, oil and bay leaf. The tempeh won’t be fully submerged, but that’s fine. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, let boil for 12 to 15 minutes, until most of the water has evaporated. Stir once during boiling.

Transfer contents to a mixing bowl, remove bay leaf, and mash with a fork. Let cool for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to hasten the cooling process. Make sure the tempeh is barely warm before you proceed, or the cakes may fall apart when you cook them. Add the mayo, mustard, hot sauce, vinegar, chopped bell pepper, spices salt and pepper, and mix well. Add the bread crumbs and nori and use your hands to incorporate.

Once you are ready to form the cakes, preheat a thin layer of oil in a heavy bottomed non-stick skillet (cast iron is great) over medium heat. Pour a few tablespoons of panko into a bowl. Scoop a little less than 1/4 cup batter into your hands and form into a ball. Flatten between your palms and then roll the sides gently with your hands cupped to smooth them. You should have ten 2 1/2 to 3- inch patties. I do them in batches of five. Press them into the panko to lightly coat. They don’t need to be thoroughly covered, just a little bit for some texture.

Fry a batch of five cakes for 4 minutes on one side and flip when dark golden brown. Fry for 2 minutes on the other side and transfer to a paper towel or paper bag to drain. Do your second batch and in the meantime make your remoulade by mixing all the ingredients together in a bowl.

Serve with lemon wedges.


  1. I wasn't going to try this recipe because of the mustard, but I am intrigued. Do you think I could just omit it entirely?

  2. Don't let the mustard scare you off. You won't taste it at all in the cakes themselves so I definitely wouldn't omit it there. But for the sauce you could definitely take the amount down. Omitting it all together would take away the "bite" the sauce has so if I were to omit mustard I would replace it with horseradish.

  3. I tried this too, but just can't get over the bitterness of tempeh. I guess some people are sensitive to it, and some people aren't.

  4. Yeah that's interesting. That's the first I've ever heard of tempeh tasting bitter. I've never experienced a bitter taste before. For me the texture of tempeh isn't really my favorite unless it's steamed and grated like in this recipe.

  5. I will try this. I like Veganomicon - like the snobby joe recipe from there but not everything I dont like that they use white sugar, white flour instead of healthier alternatives.
    By the way - tried the vegan hotdogs and no good again! Luckily though, this time the dogs are much older and they are liking them. These had no flavor whatsoever!!

  6. OH DJ Karma - did you try soaking the tempeh in hot water first? Dreena Burton recommends this methods to remove the bitterness. I did not experience bitterness myself.

  7. Mmm these look delicious - shame I can't get Tempeh where I live!


  8. chickpea cutlets are BOMB! try making those if you have not already. they are cheap to make, if you have access to vital wheat gluten, and oh so tasty with tobasco.

  9. If your tempeh was bitter, you DEFINITELY didn't steam it long enough. I thought tempeh was horrible the 1st time I tried it. Once I steamed it properly it was fine.

    My problem with these cakes is that I couldn't get them to hold together properly. But I've got some tempeh in the fridge I need to use up. So I'm game to try again. I'll add some egg replacer if I have too. The remoulade is AMAZING though. I need about 12 more dishes JUST be able to eat that sauce!!

  10. Did I misunderstand something in the recipe? I cut the amount of hot sauce in thirds and still had a remoulade with a LOT of kick. I am from Texas and not unused to heat, but cannot imagine if I had used the full portion stated in the recipe. I am assuming that this is a misunderstanding of colloquialism. To me, hot sauce is essentially liquid pepper (i.e. Tabasco). Is it possible that the "Yankees" use the term to mean salsa?

  11. Not sure why yours is coming out so hot. Hot sauce is a universal term you could use any variety of hot sauce like Tabasco, Texas pete or Louisiana Hot Sauce definitely do not use salsa.


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