This tasty recipe comes together in less than half hour with ingredients that you can always keep in store ready for days when you have nothing in the fridge! It uses super healthy tempeh and an abundance of frozen green beans each coated in a thick glossy tamari and sesame sauce. I love the vibrant colour of this dish with the bright green beans and the tiny little flecks of red chilli. It is truly a feast for the eyes as much as it is for the tummy! It's also easily adapted for children so a fantastically easy and quick family meal.
While we lived in Singapore, one of my favourite Chinese dishes to order in restaurants was stir-fried green beans with mince. It was unbelievably good but for some reason you never see it on restaurant menus back in the UK. I almost forgot about it entirely until my daughter mentioned it a month ago and that set me off thinking about how I could do a vegan version. Substituting the pork mince for wonderfully healthy tempeh has transformed this dish into a nutritious vegan tempeh recipe with lots of greens.
What is Tempeh?
Tempeh is a nutritional powerhouse! It is chock-full of vitamins and minerals and prebiotics, which makes it one of my favourite plant-based sources of protein. If you want to learn more about the many health benefits of Tempeh, please have a look at this page on the Healthline website which is a fantastic source of nutritional information. The lesser-known cousin of tofu, tempeh is a traditional Indonesian food made from fermented soy beans. Unlike tofu, the beans are left whole and packed closely together for a distinctly chewy texture that appeals to people who like a bit more bite than tofu provides.
Tempeh can look a bit strange when you first come across it and, to be perfectly honest, it took me a few years to pluck up the courage to try cooking it after my Indonesian mother-in-law introduced me to tempeh years ago! It is becoming more and more popular now though, because of its superior health benefits, and you can easily find it in most supermarkets, usually in a jar in the store-cupboard section, or sometimes with the tofu (in a similar looking pack) in the chilled section. It keeps for ages so it’s useful to keep some at home for cooking.
Frozen Green Beans
Now I’ll admit that this vegan version of the Chinese green bean recipe is not a true like-for-like vegan substitute because I decided to make it super convenient by using frozen green beans instead of fresh ones. You see, having a stash of frozen vegetables in the freezer means that you can still make healthy food even when you’ve run out of vegetables in the fridge! Frozen vegetables are actually pretty healthy too because they’re usually frozen as soon as they’re picked so that the nutrients are preserved. So, using frozen green beans here makes this recipe one of those easy-to-throw-together-at-a-moment’s-notice, grab the frozen green beans out of the freezer and the jar of tempeh out of the cupboard, types of meals for making when you’re rushing into the house and everyone’s starving and you have no inspiration for what to make!
The convenience of frozen beans does mean that they don’t blister in the same way as if you were frying fresh green beans in a very hot wok (which you could of course choose to do instead!) BUT (and this is a big but) I think it probably makes it more palatable for the littlies because it doesn’t have that bitter burnt taste, as well as obviously making it much more convenient!
Cooking tempeh for children
I think one of the best things about this Chinese green bean recipe is that the children (who don’t like tempeh) didn’t even realise they were eating tempeh! (Admittedly, it might be because they were complaining so much about the fact that I’d just put a big bowl full of green beans in front of them, that they didn’t notice the tempeh!). I think though, it was because I had made the tempeh almost indistinguishable from pork mince by briefly whizzing it in the food processor to break it up into tiny mince-like pieces.
Once the tempeh had been cooked and smothered in the delicious sauce, the children couldn’t see or taste the tempeh so they ate it up without any fuss! My middle daughter (the biggest meat lover of the family), even insisted that I couldn’t eat this meal because it had chicken mince in it. Ha ha, I would say that is the ultimate successful deception! This is a big win for me because I have been trying to get them to eat tempeh for so long now. So this might actually be the all-time best way to cook tempeh for children who don’t like eating tempeh!
The general method for cooking this mince-like fried tempeh in any dish is as follows:
- drain the tempeh out of the jar or pack and rinse it.
- chop it up into tiny pieces with a knife, or whiz it very briefly in the food processor (I did 3 secs / sp. 4 in my Thermomix). Once whizzed, it looks like it might go to mush but it doesn’t!
- steam it for 15 minutes to remove any bitterness and then drain and rinse.
After that, it’s ready to fry in the pan.
As for the green beans, although the kids made a big fuss at first about having to eat green beans (which they all hate), they actually all gobbled up all their food. Once I explained that these green beans were in a really delicious Chinese sauce and they could spray on their own coconut aminos (we have the Bragg’s coconut aminos in a spray bottle which the kids ADORE), there was no more fuss! So, it's always worth remembering that putting food they don’t like into a really tasty sauce, really does help to get kids to diversify their veggies.
The obvious contender here is a big bowl of rice. I like brown rice for the extra fibre (or cauliflower rice if you want to go low carb). I’m sure this would go well with noodles as well if you wanted an even quicker accompaniment. The good thing is that while you’re cooking the rice, you could steam your tempeh over the rice so that you can get started with the onions and garlic in the meantime.
As for toppings, a few sesame seeds always look pretty on top and go well with the sesame oil in the sauce or the obligatory fried onions that my husband loves so much! Of course, you also need a dash of tamari to get to your personal salt preference.
Adapting for children
Obviously I didn’t put the chilli into the kids version. I also added carrots to their version (because I thought they might have a fit if I only served them green beans and tempeh!). This worked well and made it slightly less “all green”! If you want to do that, just chop a carrot into small dice and add it to the frying pan after you’ve fried the onion, garlic and tempeh. Add ½ cup of water and put the lid on to cook for 3 minutes. Then you can add the green beans and sauce and continue cooking as for the main recipe card.
📖 Recipe 📖
Quick and Easy Chinese Green Beans with Tempeh (Vegan)
- wok or frying pan, steaming basket
- 90 g tempeh, drained and rinsed
- 200 g frozen green beans
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ red chilli, finely diced
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon tamari
- 1 tablespoon rice wine
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon brown rice syrup
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper
- ¼ cup water
- First deal with the tempeh: drain and rinse the tempeh, then either chop it into very small cubes or chop into chunks and then briefly whizz in the food processor for a couple of seconds so that it is chopped really small. Then steam the chopped tempeh for 15 minutes over boiling water (if you’re making rice as well, you could steam the tempeh over the rice). After this time, drain the tempeh and rinse under fresh water.
- Meanwhile, make the sauce: Mix the cornflour with the tamari until smooth, then add the rest of the ingredients and mix together until well combined.
- Stir fry the onion, garlic and chilli for 2 minutes over a medium high heat until browned.
- Add the drained tempeh and fry for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently, to get a little browning on the tempeh, but being careful not to burn the onion, garlic and chilli.
- Add the frozen green beans and the sauce (give the sauce a little stir before pouring into the pan so that the cornflour is well mixed in still). The sauce will bubble up and you need to stir constantly for a few minutes while the beans defrost and cook and the cornflour cooks through and thickens the sauce. This happens very quickly - be careful not to overcook or the beans will lose their vibrant green colour and go soggy!
- Serve with rice or noodles and garnish with a dash of tamari and a sprinkling of sesame seeds and/or fried shallots
- The tempeh can either be chopped really small or whizzed briefly in the food processor (For thermomix users, I did 3 secs / sp. 4). The steaming helps to remove the bitter flavour from the tempeh before frying it.
- You could, of course, use fresh green beans instead of frozen. Just increase the cooking time by a couple of minutes once the beans go in the pan and add a little more water if it starts to look dry.
- This needs to be made quickly so get everything ready before you start stir-frying.
Did you make this recipe? Please leave a ⭐ star rating ⭐ on the recipe card!
If you like this recipe, you may like these other delicious vegan and gluten-free main courses too!