Vegetable Tempura Recipe

This deep-frying method is a great way to enjoy garden veggies.
Vegetable Tempura

Vegetable Tempura

Tempura is a style of deep-frying that emphasizes the fresh flavors of vegetables within a light, crispy coating.

Tempura is a style of deep-frying that emphasizes the fresh flavors of vegetables within a light, crispy coating.

Lightly coated in batter and deep fried, vegetable tempura is tender and flavorful, but with a distinctive crispy crust. Along with sushi, tempura is among the most easily recognized dishes in Japanese cuisine, but one might be surprised to learn its origins lie elsewhere.

In the late 16th century, Portuguese missionaries arrived in Japan, bringing with them a popular method for cooking seafood and vegetables in hot oil. The technique became very popular with the Japanese and became known as tempura when references to “Tempora,” a Latin term referring to times when Catholics refrain from eating meat, were mistaken by the Japanese adopters as the name of the new food. Over time, the cooking style and serving practices evolved to reflect an emphasis on fresh, natural flavors and tempura became an inextricable part of Japanese culture.

Unlike many deep-fried foods, the batter used for tempura is intended to be light and delicate, absorbing less oil and allowing the flavors of the vegetables (or seafood) within to shine. No bread crumbs are used and the batter ingredients are surprisingly few. Water, egg and flour are all it takes to prepare an ideal batter, but the batter must be handled carefully to achieve the delicate quality that makes tempura so good.

When making tempura, use cold ingredients and prepare batter immediately before use. Cold batter will soak up less oil in the cooking process and help to achieve the light and crispy texture associated with the dish. Work quickly and stir in flour only until wet. Many choose to stir using a chopstick to avoid over-blending. When it comes to good tempura, less is more.

Also key to successful tempura is oil temperature. Tempura cooked too hot or too cold will result in a soggy crust or undercooked vegetables. Monitor heat carefully and “reset” the temperature between batches.

If your exposure to deep-fried foods has been limited to state fairs or fast food restaurants, the thought of dropping lovingly grown garden-fresh veggies into a vat of boiling oil may seem like an unworthy fate, but tempura may change your mind. You may be surprised to find just how nuanced the flavors in vegetables can be when you use this centuries old cooking method.

Vegetable Tempura

  • Canola oil, for deep frying
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 cold egg
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 cups raw vegetable pieces (sweet potato, squash, onion, broccoli, green beans, eggplant, bell peppers, mushrooms, etc.) cut into uniform pieces and patted dry.
  • Salt for seasoning

In a heavy saucepan or deep fryer, pour canola to a depth of about 3 inches and heat to 350 degrees.

Whisk cold water and egg together in a bowl.

Add flour to bowl and stir just to combine. Batter should be lumpy.

Dip vegetables in batter to coat and place in oil in small batches. No more than half of the surface of the oil should be covered by vegetables to ensure even cooking.

Cook 2-3 minutes, then transfer to wire rack or paper towels to drain.

Allow oil to return to 350 degrees between batches and remove crumbs from oil before adding more vegetables.

Salt to taste and serve with soy or tempura sauce.

4-6 servings

Keep Reading

Next Up

Chili and Garlic Roasted Napa Cabbage Recipe

Add Asian flair to your dinner tonight with this quick side dish.

A Savory Vegetable Soup Recipe

Whip up a satisfying batch of comfort food.

Garden-Fresh Salsa Fresca Recipe

This salsa recipe takes little effort and there’s no better way to bring the fresh flavors of the garden together with such versatility.

A Garden Gnocchi Recipe

Summer pastas don't have to be cold to be light and bright.

Chow Chow Recipe

Use late-season green tomatoes to make this classic Southern relish.

Succotash Salad Recipe

Fill a big bowl with the fresh, bright flavors of summer.

This Mushroom Soup Recipe Offers More

Foraged fungi are a great way to start this super recipe.

Black-Eyed Peas and Braised Greens Recipe

Braised greens topped with pickled stems bring good luck in the new year.

More Recipes to Get You Out of Your Roasting Rut

We’re on a mission to get you out of the same-ole, same-ole root vegetables routine.

Kebabs Recipe

Planning a barbecue, or need a tasty side dish? Then try out this colorful kebab recipe, using zucchini from your home garden.