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Sweet Soy Tempeh (Tempe Manis)

Sweet Soy Tempeh (Tempe Manis) 4.000

Scott Suchman for the Washington Post; food styling by Carolyn Robb for The Washington Post

Weeknight Vegetarian Jan 20, 2021

This traditional dish from central Java, Indonesia, gets its stickiness from one of the country’s greatest culinary exports: kecap manis, sweetened soy sauce. It also happens to be an excellent way to cook tempeh, one of its other famous foods. Serve with red or brown rice, or another favorite grain.

Total time: 20 mins

Storage Notes: The finished tempeh can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Where to Buy: Kecap manis can be found in Asian and large international supermarkets. If you don't see a bottle with that name, look for something labeled "sweet soy sauce" or "dark sweet soy sauce" from Indonesia.


When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 4 servings

  • 1/4 cup coconut oil or sunflower oil, plus more as needed
  • 1 pound tempeh, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, divided, plus more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 3 large shallots (6 ounces), thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 4 long red chiles, such as Asian finger peppers, thinly sliced (deseeded if you prefer less heat)
  • 1 lemon grass stalk, smashed and tied in a knot
  • 4 makrut lime leaves (may substitute 2 bay leaves)
  • 6 thin slices unpeeled fresh ginger
  • 8 ounces snow peas, trimmed
  • 3/4 cup (4 ounces) unsalted roasted peanuts
  • 3 tablespoons kecap manis (may substitute 1 tablespoon soy sauce plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar)


In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add half the tempeh and fry until golden, turning as needed to get most sides browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate lined with paper towels or a clean dish towel, and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Repeat with the remaining tempeh and salt, adding a little more oil, if needed.

In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar and water.

Add the shallots, garlic, chiles, lemongrass, lime leaves and ginger slices to the now-empty skillet and cook, stirring, until the shallots soften, about 2 minutes. Add the snow peas and cook, stirring, until they are barely crisp-tender, about 1 minute. Add the fried tempeh and peanuts, then add the kecap manis and sugar-water mixture, stirring until the sauce is bubbling and clinging to the other ingredients, about 1 minute. Taste, and season with more salt, if needed.

Discard the lemongrass stalk, lime leaves and ginger slices, and serve hot.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from “Coconut & Sambal” by Lara Lee (Bloomsbury, 2020).

Tested by Joe Yonan.

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Nutritional Facts

Calories per serving: 650

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 40g 62%

Saturated Fat: 16g 80%

Cholesterol: 0mg 0%

Sodium: 648mg 27%

Total Carbohydrates: 51g 17%

Dietary Fiber: 5g 20%

Sugar: 25g

Protein: 31g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

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