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Tempeh Quinoa Bowls

Posted by on January 6, 2013

Tempeh is made of fermented soy and other grains. Although similar in theory to tofu, I think it’s far superior. It’s a good flavor absorber, but also has savory nutty flavors on its own.  You can find it at any Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, or similar store.

This tempeh quinoa bowl is endlessly customizable. It’s a deconstructed burrito, salad, and wrap all in a bowl. You can throw in whatever leftovers you have, or you can cook everything just before preparation.

Alternatives flavors: try a Mexican-flavored quinoa bowl. Use salsa instead of the avocado-cashew sauce, potatoes instead of butternut squash, and sliced green onions instead of spinach. Also, use your imagination.

Inspired by Native Foods Café.


Roasted Squash:

  • 2 pounds butternut (or other) squash, cut into a 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Coarse salt and freshly-ground black pepper


  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa
  • >3 cups water
  • Pinch of salt

Caramelized Onions:

  • 2 large onions, sliced thinly
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Avocado-Cashew Sauce:

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup cashews (roasted or not)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 large ripe avocado
  • 1 tablespoon tahini (sesame seed butter)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons water, more or less


  • 1 pound prepared tempeh
  • 1 tablespoon blackening seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Other ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound spinach, or other leafy stuff (I used red spinach, a.k.a. en choy), rinsed, stemmed, and patted dry
  • 3 carrots, shredded on a box grater
  • Sesame seeds, to top

I’m going to give directions for each step, all of which don’t have to happen simultaneously. There’s a lot of work involved overall, but the steps are not individually complex.

Preheat the oven to 350º F. Dice the butternut squash, toss with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, according to your preferred level of sweetness/mushiness. Remove and set aside. [This step can be done ahead of time, and the cooked squash refrigerated until ready to use.]

Meanwhile, combine the quinoa, water, and salt in a pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cooking for 20-30 minutes. When the grains are soft, drain the water and set aside. [This step can be done ahead of time, and the cooked quinoa refrigerated until ready to use. Warm before use.]

Slice the onions. In a large skillet/sauté pan, heat the vegetable oil over a medium flame. Add the onions and salt and cook for 45 minutes, stirring about every 5 minutes. Turn the heat lower if the onions start to burn to the bottom of the pan. Turn off the heat when your onions are sufficiently brown and sweet.  [This step can be done ahead of time.]

While the squash is roasting, quinoa simmering, and onions caramelizing, prepare the sauce.

Once you’ve Make the sauce by puréeing the garlic, cashews, and sesame oil in a blender or food processor. When no chunks remain, add the remaining sauce ingredients and blend until combined. Adjust the runniness by adding more water if the sauce is too thick. Don’t do this step days in advance unless you like a murky sauce.

To prepare the tempeh, cut into a few thin slices. To visualize this, imagine cutting a deck of cards before they are dealt. Tempeh shape and size varies, so use your judgement. Your goal is to increase surface area, so when you cook it, you’ll expose more area to awesome seasonings. Once you’ve cut the tempeh, rub both major surfaces with blackening seasoning (or another preferred seasoning, or simply salt and pepper.  Alternatively, you can marinate it in soy sauce for extra flavor.) Heat the oil on high in a skillet. Lay the tempeh slices in the skillet and sauté for 2 minutes each side, until they are well-blackened. Do this step right before serving.

You’re going to make four bowls. To assemble, spoon a quarter of the now-cooked quinoa into a large bowl. Lay many leaves of spinach (or other green stuff) over the quinoa. Spoon some of the roasted squash on one side of the bowl. Plop some caramelized onions on the other. Sprinkle with shredded carrots. Top with a spoonful of the sauce. Sprinkle some sesame seeds on the sauce. Finish it off with a slice or two of the blackened tempeh.

Boom. Tempeh quinoa bowls. Serves 4.

Tempeh Quinoa Bowl

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