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Tempeh Kecap - Fried Tempeh in Sweet Soy Sauce

Indonesian crispy fried tempe/tempeh (soybean cake) sticks with a delicious coating of spicy kecap manis sauce. Vegan and gluten-free.

Tempeh Kecap - Fried Tempeh in Sweet Soy Sauce

Tempeh Kecap - Fried Tempeh in Sweet Soy Sauce

Many Indonesian tempeh dishes start by deep-frying tempeh slices until golden brown and crispy, then further dress with a choice of sauce or dressing.

In this tempeh kecap recipe, the said sauce is a delicious, thick, sweet, and spicy sauce with kecap manis as the main ingredient.

This is a great introductory recipe to prepare tempeh, and it just happens to be vegan-friendly and gluten-free too.

What is Indonesian tempeh?

Tempeh (we actually spelled it as “tempe” in Indonesia) is a traditional Indonesian food made from fermented soybeans. Most tempeh in Indonesia is wrapped and sold in banana leaves, though in the US, almost every tempeh that I have seen in the groceries is sold in a vacuum packed plastic packaging.

Where can I buy tempe/tempeh?

Once upon a time, many decades ago, if you ask people where you can buy tempeh, you will draw a blank look. Nowadays, it is so much easier to find tempeh.

From my experience, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s almost always have these in their stores. Health food stores, vegan stores, organic stores, and Asian/Chinese markets also often stock tempeh.

You can even place an online order for fresh tempeh if you want to.

How to make your own homemade tempe/tempeh?

Tempeh is one of the easiest things to make yourself. All you need are soybeans, tempeh starter, and distilled white vinegar.

You can learn how to make your very own homemade tempeh with my super detailed guide. Of course, if you are currently in Indonesia, you can simply go to pretty much any wet market, or any supermarket, and buy fresh tempeh at any time. :)

How do you eat tempeh?

The easiest and best way to enjoy a freshly made tempeh is, in my opinion, a simple pan-frying with salt. I can eat tempeh like this every single day and won’t ever get sick of them.

But in this recipe, I am going to show you how to prepare and cook tempeh into a delicious Indonesian dish called tempeh kecap, using super common Indonesian sauce, called kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce).

Fresh homemade tempeh

Fresh homemade tempeh

How to prepare and cook tempeh

Your typical tempeh comes in a block, rather like tofu. So the first thing to do is cut the block of tempeh into matchsticks. If you don’t like the matchsticks (baton) shape, you can also cut into thin slices, about 1/8-inch thick.

Next, prepare a pot of hot oil for deep frying. Once the oil is hot (~ 170 Celsius/340 Fahrenheit), deep fry the tempeh sticks/slices until crispy and golden brown. Use a spider strainer (or a slotted spoon) to remove tempeh from hot oil, and drain over a wire rack to remove excess oil.

How to prepare the spicy kecap manis sauce

The next part is to prepare the spicy kecap manis sauce, which is super easy.

Sauté spice paste and all the other herbs (except chilies) until fragrant, then the chilies until wilted. Add the fried tempeh along with salt, palm sugar, and of course, the kecap manis.

Once the tempeh pieces are fully coated, it’s done! ♥

Tempeh Kecap - Fried Tempeh in Sweet Soy Sauce

Tempeh Kecap - Fried Tempeh in Sweet Soy Sauce

Other tempeh recipes for you to try

If you love tempeh, you may want to try some of these recipes too:

Tempeh Kecap - Fried Tempeh in Sweet Soy Sauce

4.9 from 15 reviews

Author: Anita Jacobson




Prep Time: 15 mins

Cook Time: 30 mins

Total Time: 45 mins

Serves: 4

Print Recipe


  • 300 gram tempeh, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 lemongrass (Indonesian: sereh), bruised and knotted
  • 2 Indonesian bay leaves (Indonesian: daun salam)
  • 2 red chilies (Indonesian: cabe merah besar), thinly sliced diagonally
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar (Indonesian: gula Jawa)
  • 3 tablespoon sweet soy sauce (Indonesian: kecap manis), either from Bango or ABC
  • oil, for deep frying and for sautéing
  • Grind the following into spice paste
  • 50 gram shallots (Indonesian: bawang merah)
  • 3 cloves garlic (Indonesian: bawang putih)
  • 1 inch galangal (Indonesian: lengkuas)


  1. Heat enough oil in a frying pan for deep frying. Deep fry tempeh until golden brown, drain on wire rack/paper towel.
  2. Remove almost all the oil from the frying pan, and leave about 2 tablespoon of oil. Sauté spice paste, lemongrass, and bay leaves until fragrant, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add red chilies and sauté until wilted, about 2 minutes.
  4. Return the fried tempeh to the pan, season with salt, palm sugar, and sweet soy sauce. Toss/stir until the tempeh pieces are fully coated with the sweet soy sauce. Turn off heat and serve immediately with steamed white rice.
Indonesian Pantry
Indonesian Kitchen


  • Jenné @ Sweet Potato Soul Jenné @ Sweet Potato Soul says:

    Wow Anita! That looks delicious. When I was in Bali I had something similar to this. I've always loved tempeh, but fried with soy sauce is extra special. Thanks for the recipe : )

    • Anita Anita says:

      So glad you like it Jenné :) Do give it a try sometimes, okay? ♥

  • Michael Michael says:

    This looks amazing! I cannot wait to try it. Thank you for sharing your recipes.

  • Jenny Jernie Lim Jenny Jernie Lim says:

    I will try one recipe every weekend, starting tomorrow.

  • Amallia @DesireToEat Amallia @DesireToEat says:

    I just tried your recipe. It was so delicious. Thanks for sharing :-)

    • Anita Anita says:

      Thanks for trying Amallia :)

  • Alicia Alicia says:

    Greetings, Anita. Thank you very much for sharing the recipe. The ingredients explanation in English & Indonesian really helped me a lot! It was the first time I made it and my friends liked it! Thanks for helping me introducing Indonesian cuisine to the world :) All the best for you!

    • Anita Anita says:

      You are welcome Alicia. I am happy the recipe helped :)

  • Siggy Siggy says:

    Hi Anita I'm looking to buy Tempeh but its from a Philippine store but they don't know what it is. Can you help me ? Thanks Siggy

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Siggy, if you are in the United States, I have found that Whole Foods Market usually carry tempeh in their stores if you cannot find any in your regular Asian market. Although the taste is not quite the same as the one from Indonesia, it is still one of the easiest way to get a hold of tempeh in the States. Here in west coast, my best luck finding one closest to the ones sold in Indonesia is from Ranch 99.

  • Nate Nate says:

    Trader Joe's has Tempe as well

  • Nate Nate says:

    Dear Anita, Thank you so very much for sharing all these recipes! They are beautifully photographed as well! Has anyone offered you to write a book yet? :) Anyway, how do you manage to get Indonesian Bay Leaves in US?

    • Anita Anita says:

      Thanks Nate! No plan to write a book yet at the moment, though I have been toying with the idea, but haven't really found the schedule to do so :D Anyway, I got Indonesian bay leaves from Marina (the one in Bay Area), they have about half an aisle stocked with Indonesian goodies.

  • Samuel Carter Samuel Carter says:

    Hi Anita, I have had this dish before and am about to attempt your recipe. I wanted to know if there was a type of oil you would recommend and how much you would usually use for the deep frying? Thanks Samuel

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Samuel, the most common oil we use in Indonesia for deep frying is probably peanut oil. But in the States I regularly use Canola oil with no detrimental effect :)

  • Natalie Levin Natalie Levin says:

    Looks so delicious and comforting! I love that sweet soy sauce - makes it so tempting!

    • Anita Anita says:

      That sweet sauce (kecap manis) is definitely one of Indonesian most beloved sauce. We use it for cooking, or just as condiment with pretty much anything. :D

  • Dannii Dannii says:

    This looks like a delicious easy meal. Definitely going to try it.

  • estee estee says:

    Wow this looks so good, I I normally don't like tempeh!!! love the spice paste!

  • Ashley Ashley says:

    This looks so so good!! Can't wait to try it!

  • Demeter Demeter says:

    What a flavorful dish!! Everyone kept raving about how much they enjoyed it. Thank you for making our dinner party a success.

    • Anita Anita says:

      I'm super happy everyone loved it too, Demeter. :)

  • Umrih Umrih says:

    The first time I see this tempeh kecap, I suddenly remember my Mom. This tempeh kecap is my favourite when I was child. Anyway, thanks Anita for the recipes.

  • Venny Venny says:

    Hi Anita ^^
    I found out about your blog accidentally during stay-at-home period and am so glad I did!
    Since my job has to stop temporarily, I have more time to spend on cooking.
    Unofficially you can say am a full-time home chef now. New role. LOL
    Fyi, I stay di Singapore so it is quite easy to find Indonesian food ingredients here
    I have tried some recipes including this Tempeh Kecap or Tempe Orak-Arik ^^

    Just to share my experience, I did not deep fry the tempeh. Instead I used air fryer.
    I lightly coated tempeh pieces with oil then fried them at 185 degress Celcius for 5 minutes.
    Tossed the tempeh slightly and continued frying for another 5 minutes. The tempeh was nice!
    And I substituted daun salam (No daun salam stock at home :p) with keffir lime leaves.

    Planning to try more recipes next week. Xoxo
    Thanks a bunch for your detailed blog and stay safe!
    Cheers ^^

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Venny, thanks for trying my recipes. I still don't own an air-fryer, but I'll be sure to follow your guide when I finally give in and buy one. :D

  • Bavanie Bavanie says:

    Hi Anita! Tried your recipe two times and everyone loves it. But together with the sweet soy sauce, I add two teaspoons of Gochujang paste. And i Tumbuk the onion, garlic and lengkuas with mortar and pestle and also add curry leaves when sauting this. Taste is super enhanced! Thank you :)

  • Nan Nan says:

    Hi Anita. I’m looking to add more vegetarian dishes to my rijsttafel and this recipe looks great. I make many of the dishes in advance and am wondering if I could do this with this dish. Can you let me know if it can be made in advance and how long it will keep before serving. Thanks.

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Nan, if you don't mind some loss in crispiness, you can definitely prepare the dish a couple of days in advance. When I make multiple batches, I store the extras in a clean tupperware in the fridge, and it should stay fresh for up to 1 week.

      You can either return the cooked dish to room temperature by taking it out from the fridge about 1-2 hours in advance and let it sit in the kitchen counter, or simply reheat with a microwave. The microwave route usually will make it even less crispy, so please bear that in mind if you want to take this option.

  • Simon B Simon B says:

    Best meal we ever tried. We made this for our Indonesian class and they loved it! Pedas, manis dan pasti enak!!

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