April 18, 2009

Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes

by IsaChandra

All this cookie excitement made me almost forget that Vegan Brunch will be out in just a few weeks! I’m going to share a few recipes with you over the next month and maybe even a video if I can get it together. I know today is Saturday but maybe you’ve got enough time to procure the ingredients in time for Sunday for one of my favorite brunch appetizers, Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes.

Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes
Makes 10
I love the succulent little pieces of tempeh you get when biting into this crisp, flavorful cake. Crab cakes are the inspiration here. I used to spend lots of time in Baltimore and back then pollution in the Chesapeake Bay was a big issue. I think it’s doing much better now and these cakes are a tribute to it. Update: Came to find the Bay is actually doing worse. All the more reason to eat tempeh instead of crabbies!

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 (use the nori tempeh if you can find it, but plain soy tempeh is fine, too)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
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 teaspooon salt
fresh black pepper
1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs, plus extra for dredging
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.



  • April 18, 2009 at 3:33 pm: dreamin'itvegan

    I’m so excited to try these! Crab cakes used to be my all time favorite back in the day.

  • April 18, 2009 at 3:53 pm: Josiane

    Oh, another way to enjoy tempeh! Great! Thanks for sharing the recipe. I’m pretty sure it will become a favorite, and not only at brunch time.

  • April 18, 2009 at 4:05 pm: Jenn

    I’m off the couch to go make these now.

  • April 18, 2009 at 4:11 pm: jaxin (Kelly)

    These look spectacular. When I lived in Connecticut there was a veg restaurant in my town called It’s Only Natural, and the crab cakes so amazing that I had to force myself to try other things on the menu.

    Can’t wait to try them out!

  • April 18, 2009 at 4:25 pm: Ricki

    I was never a fan of crab cakes, but these, on the other hand, sound perfect! I cannot WAIT to make these! :)

  • April 18, 2009 at 4:34 pm: Shelby

    Sounds great!

  • April 18, 2009 at 7:59 pm: Jenn

    Oh, Isa, you are a genius. These are PERFECT! I love them.

    http://vegandance.blogspot.com/2009/04/chesapeake-tempeh-cakes-rock-my-ever.html

  • April 18, 2009 at 11:23 pm: DJ Karma (VegSpinz)

    Inspiring! Do you think they could be baked?

  • April 19, 2009 at 12:29 am: Afsoon

    Vegan Brunch is coming up!!! Yay!!!

  • April 19, 2009 at 1:09 am: paula

    these might be my favorite brunch recipe!

  • April 19, 2009 at 1:14 pm: Tracy

    These look so good! I used to love crab cakes when I ate them many years ago. Can’t wait to try these later! :) I also can’t wait to get the Vegan Brunch Book!

  • April 19, 2009 at 6:51 pm: fatcat

    Yay!!! Now I have a way to use up the tempeh in my fridge. Those look incredible.

  • April 19, 2009 at 9:00 pm: SallyT

    During your experimentation did you try some Old Bay seasoning in the cakes? Just wondering since that is so traditional. Maybe your seasoning choice is a dead ringer. Maybe I’ll try it both ways bcs the cakes sure do sound good!

  • April 19, 2009 at 9:27 pm: AblazeyDaisy

    So looking forward to trying this recipe. Thank you! Query on a ingredient: are you familiar with a lower-fat option/sub for Veganaise? I love this stuff and could eat it straight out of the jar with a spoon, but the fat content is higher than I’d prefer. Thanks for any suggestions!

  • April 19, 2009 at 9:30 pm: Laura

    whoa! those look a lot like a tofu krab cake recipe i created about a year ago! great vegan minds think alike, i suppose!! those look fantastic! do you think tofu, seitan, or tvp could be used instead of tempeh? i love tempeh…a lot…but i know some bad vegans (jk) who aren’t so fond…

  • April 19, 2009 at 11:47 pm: IsaChandra

    In answer to your Qs…
    I wouldn’t bake them, not my style. Just use a very small amount of oil for frying, preferably from a spray bottle.

    I don’t keep Old Bay on hand, but I think the ginger, red pepper and oregano have it covered.

    There’s a low fat vegan mayo out there, give it a shot! I think it would be good in here. You can also use a little pureed silken tofu with a little oil.

    I wouldn’t sub anything for the tempeh. Even tempeh haters will like this, I promise. Tofu or seitan won’t give the right texture.

  • April 20, 2009 at 12:39 pm: Sarah W.

    I’ve already pre-ordered the Brunch Book – super psyched. I’m also going to pre-order your cookiebook. I’m a MDer at heart (living in VA)…my father is from the Eastern Shore and crab cakes are my FAVORITE thing ever. I’m vegan for health reasons since December 2008.

    I’ve never tried tempeh before, but my cousin said she’s had it (she’s not vegan) and said it was pretty good…..I’m thinking I might test these out next weekend.

    My non-vegan friend likes to do “cookoffs” with me, so I need to test these on one of the judges (my hubby!) hehehehehe!

    I’m a huge fan of old bay so I’m thinking I will HAVE to use old bay just to get that authentic “crab” taste I hold near and dear.

    Thanks for the recipe!!!

  • April 20, 2009 at 10:47 pm: Abigail

    Ever since i saw that sexy picture of these Delectable Morsels aka Chesapeake Cakes teasingly plastered on the blog months ago, well i was hooked, (no pun intended) i have never tasted a crab or a crab cake or even been in chesapeake BUT if i didn’t love my denim collection, i could have devoured the whole batch, easily.

    I had everthing on hand, like a good girl, (YAY!) but i ran out of panko (BOO!) so i dregged in crumbled corn flakes.

    :Verdict: my batch yielded 15. i had 5 and my omni hubbie had 6. i served it with Sweet Potato + Kale (didn’t have watercress, which i love) 5spice hash. …. love love love love love …almost like lust in a patty? huh? yeah, that good

  • April 21, 2009 at 2:23 pm: IsaChandra

    I’m happy that people are liking them! They really shouldn’t fall apart with all that bindy stuff in there, just make sure they are cool enough when forming the cakes.

  • April 26, 2009 at 1:29 am: bugink

    yum…kids liked them too.

  • April 26, 2009 at 6:53 pm: Amy

    I made these tonight & they were outstanding! thank you!

  • May 11, 2009 at 11:04 pm: Kate

    I’m speechless… Isa, thank you. These are amazing, including the sauce. Quite easy too. I didn’t have capers so I just used chopped dill pickle. I’ll be making them often in the future, can’t wait to try them out on non-vegans. Thumbs way up!

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  • May 26, 2009 at 3:21 am: Esther

    I didn’t like them, sorry. The insides were mush and I didn’t find them flavorful at all.

  • May 30, 2009 at 11:04 am: Robyn

    I made these last night and they were incredible!! I can’t wait to get the book.

  • June 11, 2009 at 8:58 pm: Carrie

    Like Sarah W, I’m a native Marylander, too, and let me tell you: these are bomb. SO GOOD. I’m not even a fan of tempeh, but I could definitely eat these at least twice a week.

    To those who want to put Old Bay in it: it’s not necessary. Like Isa said, the ginger, red pepper, and and oregano give it that Old Bay-esque taste.

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  • July 15, 2009 at 1:22 am: cravescriminis

    These turned out AMAZING. I had to make two batches of the remoulade for my omni friends because we all liked it so much.

  • July 28, 2009 at 7:02 am: sonali

    Really it is gr8 post and too informative as well.

  • August 20, 2009 at 10:16 pm: Stella

    YES.

    I just made these, and they were shockingly quick, as well as easy and delicious!

  • August 30, 2009 at 10:36 pm: Emily

    Chesapeake?! AND NO OLD BAY?! As a Baltimorian, I am horrified… but as a veg, these sound delish I will definitely try them out… but, of course, loaded in Old Bay!

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  • October 7, 2009 at 2:42 pm: Stella

    Deeeelicious.

    Ridiculously easy, complexly flavored, and delicious. Loved the remoulade. Great with crunchy lettuce.

  • November 10, 2009 at 4:46 pm: Sally

    I tried this recipe and it was great. I’m sort of new at this vegan thing though, and I didn’t realize not all bread crumbs are vegan. So, you should really follow the Panko suggestion.

  • December 6, 2009 at 8:02 pm: Libbie

    I just made these tonight! I made a few changes due to lack of ingredients. Instead of hot sauce I used Chipotle tabasco, and instead of fresh red pepper I used crushed red pepper flakes. They were a little crumbly, but that is because I used too much breadcrumbs on the outside, live and learn! The sauce is amazing and the cakes tasted awesome!

  • December 27, 2009 at 3:07 pm: James B Pitt

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  • January 9, 2010 at 7:34 pm: Gillian Remifan

    that looks yummy!

  • January 15, 2010 at 10:38 pm: Calliope Kittenpants

    My lord. These are absolute heaven. There is a definite satisfaction from the mouth-feel, and the taste is out of this world. I altered this recipe only slightly to accommodate my wheat allergy by processing rice crackers to use in place of panko, and it was fantastic. Well done!

  • March 21, 2010 at 11:32 pm: Allison Hazel

    Just made these tonight with plain bread crumbs as I didn’t have panko. Absolutely amazing. A new household classic is born. ;)

  • August 10, 2010 at 3:55 pm: self feeder

    All my water was evaporated after 6 minutes of boiling over a medium- med/high flame. Hope that was long enough to get out the bitterness.

  • November 10, 2010 at 4:34 am: Emma

    Man these were divine. We aren’t fans of tempeh so we weren’t sure how they’d turn out for us, but we’ll definately be making them again! Especially loved the sauce. That’d go well on pretty much anything I think.

  • November 13, 2010 at 11:04 pm: Persephone

    Amazing! My favorite tempeh recipe ever! I ran out of Vegenaise before I could make the sauce, but my fella (an omni) and I still gobbled them up in minutes. I’m definitely making them again for a Thanksgiving appetizer, with remoulade.

  • December 7, 2010 at 9:15 pm: Esen Boyacigiller

    I’m making these now- has anyone tried baking them? I’m thinking 400 degrees for 20 minutes or so? Any suggestions?

  • December 7, 2010 at 10:53 pm: Esen

    So we just ate these and they are TO DIE FOR! Definitely recommend them for anyone who wants something impressive and yummy. The remoulade is great too.
    I also baked them, which made them lighter I think. I baked them for 20 minutes at 375 and they got lightly browned. I also sprayed them with non-stick cooking spray.
    Nice work Isa!

  • January 11, 2011 at 7:12 pm: Marlene

    Isa, do you think it’d be possible to make these without soy? Such as with chickpea instead of tempeh?

    Thanks!

    • January 11, 2011 at 8:03 pm: IsaChandra

      I haven’t used chickpeas but others have with success! I would actually be curious to try black eyes peas instead of tempeh.

  • January 21, 2011 at 12:47 am: Andrea

    holy vinegar.. these were great BUT i’d cut out some vinegar!

    • January 21, 2011 at 12:59 am: IsaChandra

      Wah? There’s a tablespoon of vinegar. That’s like hardly anything.

  • February 14, 2011 at 1:33 am: Laura in Taos

    These came out great! The vinegar was not an issue, but for moi, next time I’d probably cut way back on the hot sauce in the cake mixture. The dressing was a nice way to regulate the heat. Most of mine didn’t fall apart, which is a huge victory. What a wonderful addition to the repertoire. Thanks!

  • February 22, 2011 at 12:39 am: Steph

    We added some steamed cauliflower chopped up into the tempeh mix, and it came out great. Thanks.

  • March 8, 2011 at 2:13 pm: alexandra m

    I had my family over (mostly non-veg) and these were a hit! Even though only about half the batch made it to the table…. because i couldn’t resist ‘testing’ so many of them. Truely delectable.

  • March 31, 2011 at 1:58 am: lorrwill

    Where do you find vegan panko?!?!?!?

  • April 22, 2011 at 2:41 am: Jewel Gypsy

    This recipe sounds delicious. Is there any chance they can be baked instead of fried? I am trying to stay away from frying because of a previous gallbladder problem.

    • April 22, 2011 at 4:00 pm: IsaChandra

      Yep, I like them baked, too. But use a healthy dose of cooking spray.

  • April 23, 2011 at 12:41 pm: JessConrad

    @lorrwill – All panko is vegan, at least that I’ve seen in my life time. It’s just fancy cut bread crumbs from Japan. Believe it or not just plain bread, no coating!

  • April 28, 2011 at 1:17 am: Casey

    These were amazing. I definitely impressed my omnivorous roommate who is from Baltimore. We liked them so much that I’ve made them twice this week.

  • May 24, 2011 at 1:45 am: Mari

    These were amazing! I added a few tablespoons of sweet relish, some finely chopped red onion and a tablespoon of ground kelp flakes. They were so good I think even a die hard omni would go back for seconds…or thirds. I’m going to put them to the test the next time I cook for my in-laws.

  • May 25, 2011 at 8:42 pm: dani

    these are amazing. my husband doen’t like tempeh, but really really liked these.

  • June 15, 2011 at 12:53 pm: Chelle

    These turned out beautifully!Thanks for such an amazing recipe.

  • June 23, 2011 at 6:37 pm: Shelley

    Oh my god, just tried this cake and nearly cried!! After making a film for the last three years about cooking without meat and dairy, and meeting all these amazing chefs who cooked plant-based food, I finally have some time to make some food in my own kitchen and my first stop was the Veganomicon. Thanks Isa, you’re an absolute genius!! Going to try some more of your recipes… in the meantime check out our film on http://www.planeat.co.uk if you’re interested in what we cooked up :)

  • June 23, 2011 at 6:38 pm: Shelley

    Sorry i commented on the wrong recipe – i meant to comment on the chocolate cake recipe, but obviously had already moved on to your tempeh cakes i was so excited!

  • August 20, 2011 at 2:49 am: Cate

    WOW! Just made these for dinner and they were PHENOMENAL! The flavor and texture were perfect!

  • October 10, 2011 at 1:25 am: Allison

    Oy gavult. Just made these for the thousandth time. They have become a staple at our house. Just as good as always. Don’t be afraid to experiment! I top this version with slices of avocado. I’ve also made them Asian-style (wasabi!), Mexican (chipotle) and Indian (curry w/tamarind or mint cream remoulade). My husband gets giddy when it’s crabcakes night. Oh, and they blow omnivores away! Great option for a mixed dinner party or just an appetizer for cocktails.

  • October 25, 2011 at 7:55 pm: sherrie

    Made these last night and the two of us ATE THE ENTIRE BATCH

  • December 3, 2011 at 8:59 pm: Elisabetta Pendola

    I just ADORE tempeh, i can even eat it raw with soy sauce…..i can’t just figure out how delicious this way could be….divine!

  • January 25, 2012 at 7:10 pm: makemineirish

    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?

    • January 25, 2012 at 7:29 pm: IsaChandra

      Nope, it’s hot sauce! I use either Frank’s Red Hot or Cholula, never had any complaints. Sorry if it wasn’t your thing, though!

  • January 26, 2012 at 12:42 am: makemineirish

    No worries. Mine is straight habanero, which is probably the problem. I’ll try one of the brands that you suggested next time. As it was, the recipe turned out great.

  • April 8, 2012 at 7:42 pm: Marissa

    Made these for Easter brunch today and they were DELICIOUS! I was a bit worried that they wouldn’t hold together during frying, so I added some extra vegenaise and then ended up baking them anyway. I did 20 minutes at 375, flipping once after around 11-12 minutes. Then to crisp the outside turned the broiler on to 475 and broiled each side for a couple minutes. Fantastic! My husband loved them too!

  • July 29, 2012 at 7:54 pm: violet

    is there an alternative for veganaise?
    i abhor it’s “miracle whip-ness” sooo much… but really want to make this recipe!!! any info is appreciated.

  • August 11, 2012 at 9:05 pm: meg

    not even sure if anybody will see this because of how old this post is, but… like almost everyone else that commented here, these are one of my favorite recipes of all time. I’ve made them a ton, but I ALWAYS run into the problem of them falling apart when I go to fry them. I’ve tried a lot of variations, but nothing seems to work- has anyone else had this problem? and found a solution? the seriously crumbly ones are delicious, but I’d love to figure out why they always fall apart when I go to fry them.

  • August 20, 2012 at 8:02 pm: Ellie

    These were super yummy–made them out of my Vegan Brunch cookbook. I fried them, since I was craving that heavy crab-cake goodness. I was so excited for leftover, but the power went out and the ice in my makeshift cooler-fridge melted and made them a soggy mess. So sad. I’ll have to make these again!

  • October 12, 2012 at 2:56 pm: Doubleyou

    Making these tonight – my wife and I became vegan recently and she is originally from around the Chesapeake bay so hopefully she likes them! I boughyt ordinary tempeh with the intention of adding a few sheets of nori to the mixture, though I’m not too sure how many to use.

    Can I use tobasco for the hot sauce?

    Thanks for providing a newbie vegan with some incredible recipes!

  • February 7, 2013 at 10:34 pm: Chelsea

    I am SO excited to try these tonight! My mother used to make Tuna Cakes which were absolutely divine…but now that I’ve been eating vegan, I’ve been missing them terribly! I am utterly excited!!!

  • February 8, 2013 at 6:44 am: Chelsea

    Earlier today I decided I HAD to make these….they looked amazing, they seemed a better alternative to just simple baked tempeh, and they reminded me of my mother’s tuna cakes that were so tasty when I was a kid. Earlier today I was so very very very SUPER excited about this meal. Like jumping up and down like a child excited.
    I made these Tempeh Cakes with a side of mashed potatoes and Isa’s mushroom gravy. The ONLY changes I made to the Tempeh Cakes were A: I didn’t add any Nori or fishy tastes and B: I used sweet bread and butter pickles diced instead of the capers in the remoulade and C: I baked them with a bit of oil at 375 for around 20 minutes or so.
    THESE came out absolutely wonderfully mind blowingly amazing!!!! I cannot state how absolutely divine these are!! Crispy, meaty, savory and filling. Definitely an ALL TIME favorite and I will be making these regularly and sharing them with all my friends and family!

  • February 11, 2013 at 2:57 pm: Holly

    Is there a substitute for Vegenaise? Obviously I don’t do mayo, and I can’t do Vegenaise. It makes my skin crawl!

  • July 21, 2013 at 6:50 pm: Martha

    These were to die for! Followed the recipe and they were better than regular crab cakes! Paired with the New England Blam Chowder from Sexy Vegan, it was phenomenal!

  • November 4, 2013 at 7:39 pm: Caitlin

    these are soooooo good. thank you!

  • November 29, 2013 at 12:08 am: Wendy

    It would be great if you added the nutritional values.

  • December 14, 2013 at 2:30 am: Sara

    i have no idea what crab cakes are supposed to taste like, but holy shit these are amazing! i can’t get them in my face fast enough! also i imagine the remoulade would be great with EVERYTHING.

  • January 6, 2014 at 12:17 am: Jimmy

    First time I’ve eaten tempeh and enjoyed it! I would recommend this to others who are not that fond of tempeh. I added Old Bay to the second batch, grabbed some whole grun buns, arugula and tomato and made tempeh cake sandwiches. I know it was a lot of carbs but they were great!

    Now I have to try and brave a seitan recipe. I’ve been making the Irish Stew recipe from Apetite for Reduction and subbing TVP for the seitan and love it. Any suggestions for a seitan trial?

  • January 28, 2014 at 10:17 pm: Cathy

    I’m so glad this is here! I bought a few of these at a local natural foods store. 3 for five bucks!!! I paid less for this whole batch. And they are delicious!!! I added old bay instead of some of the seasonings.