These tempura vegetables are coated in a light batter, shallow fried to crispy perfection, and served with a savory-sweet soy sesame dipping sauce.
Vegetable tempura is such a simple dish! The batter is made with just a few ingredients, and everything comes together in just a few steps.
But that does not mean it’s easy. For a long time I was intimidated by tempura, because frying. Namely, deep frying. For those of us who don’t deep fry on the regular, it can be a little intimidating.
Since starting this blog I’ve experimented with different cooking techniques. I’m comfortable with deep frying now — I even make legit vegan doughnuts! But I know that a lot of readers aren’t. And I really prefer to avoid dealing with large quantities of hot oil when I don’t have to.
That’s why I use shallow frying whenever possible.
What is Shallow Frying?
Shallow frying is exactly what it sounds like: frying your food in a small amount of hot oil, as opposed to the large quantity used for deep frying. 1/8 to 1/2 inch of oil is usually a good depth to aim for when shallow frying.
Shallow frying is a great technique to use with the right foods.
You want to use foods that aren’t very thick, so that by frying each side you can get pretty much the entire outer surface cooked and crispy. In the case of tempura, you’re able to cut your veggies into whatever sized pieces you like, which is why shallow frying works so well!
Beer Tempura vs. Seltzer Tempura
This tempura batter can be made two ways. You have the option of using beer or seltzer water for the liquid component.
Beer will give you a more flavorful tempura batter, whereas seltzer water will give you a lighter tempura batter. I personally prefer beer tempura, but it’s up to you!
What You’ll Need
For Beer Tempura
- All-purpose flour. I haven’t tried the recipe with other types of flour, but experiment if you like, at your own risk!
- Beer. This needs to be ice cold. Use something that’s on the lighter side, like pilsner or pale ale. Check with Barnivore to make sure the brand you choose is vegan.
- Baking powder. This adds a little extra bubble to the batter, to lighten it up a bit.
For Seltzer Tempura
- All-purpose flour.
- Seltzer water. Also known as club soda. I don’t recommend using mineral water, and definitely don’t use tonic water. Your seltzer water needs to be super cold.
For Both Types
- Veggies. I’m using sweet potatoes, onions, broccoli, and asparagus. Cut them into smaller pieces if needed.
For the Dipping Sauce
- Soy sauce or tamari.
- Maple syrup. You can use another liquid sweetener like agave if you’d like.
- Toasted sesame oil.
How to Make Vegetable Tempura
The following is a detailed photo tutorial on how to make this dish. Scroll down if you’d like to skip right to the recipe!
- Start by prepping all of your veggies. Cut them into pieces that are thin enough for shallow frying — break the broccoli into florets, slice the onions and sweet potatoes, and simply trim the ends from your asparagus.
- To make your batter, mix the flour, salt, and baking soda (if you’re making beer tempura) together in a small bowl. Add the beer or seltzer water.
- Whisk everything together until the ingredients are combined.
- Heat up some oil in a large skillet. You want it to be about 1/4 inch deep. When the oil starts to shimmer, test it by adding a drop of batter. If it quickly starts to sizzle, the oil is ready.
- Now dip a vegetable into the batter to completely coat it. Shake off any excess batter after you remove it.
- Place the batter coated veggie in the skillet, then dip a few more and add them to the skillet in the same manner. Cook as many as you can fit at a time without crowding.
- Cook the vegetables for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until the coating is crispy.
- Take the veggies out of the skillet as they finish cooking and transfer them to a paper towel-lined surface to drain.
- Serve your vegetable tempura with some sesame soy dipping sauce.
Vegetable Tempura Tips & FAQ
- Can these tempura vegetables be made gluten-free? I’m afraid I’m not sure, as I haven’t tested any gluten-free versions. If you find one that works please leave a comment to let me know!
- Shelf life & storage: Veggie tempura is best served right away, but if you do end up with leftovers, store them in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 days. To reheat, place them on a baking sheet and pop them under the broiler. Broil for a few minutes on each side, until they crisp back up.
- Make sure your beer or seltzer water is super cold! This will help you get a super light and airy coating on your tempura veggies. I like to pop mine in the freezer for a few minutes before making the batter.
- Always be super careful when frying with hot oil. Never leave frying foods unattended. Never pour leftover oil down the drain — for a recipe like this one I usually blot it up with paper towels and throw them in the trash.
- Your oil will continue to heat up as you fry your vegetables. Keep an eye on it and turn down the heat if needed. You’ll probably find that later batches cook a bit quicker than earlier batches.
- If you’re not into any of the vegetables I’ve included in this recipe, feel free to substitute with those you like! Cauliflower, carrots, green beans, mushrooms and eggplant all make great tempura.
Easy Tempura Vegetables
For the Sesame-Soy Dipping Sauce
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
For the Batter
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1 1/2 cups seltzer water or beer (pale ale, pilsner, or another light beer), chilled
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder — only use if making beer tempura
For the Tempura Vegetables
- 1/2 cup peanut oil, or another high smoke point oil such as canola, plus more as needed
- 1 small sweet potato, sliced into 1/4 inch thick slabs
- 1 small broccoli crown, broken into small florets
- 10 asparagus spears, woody ends trimmed
- 1/2 large onion, sliced into thin strips or rings
Make the Soy Sesame Dipping Sauce
- Stir all ingredients together in a small bowl.
Make the Batter
- Whisk the flour, salt, and baking soda (for beer tempura only) together in a medium bowl
- Whisk in the beer or seltzer water until the ingredients are completely blended.
Fry the Vegetables
- Pour about 1/4 inch of oil into a large skillet and place it over medium heat.
- Give the oil a few minutes to heat up. When it begins to shimmer, test it by dropping in a small amount of batter into the skillet. If it starts to sizzle within a few seconds, the oil is ready.
- When the oil is ready, dip one of your veggies into the batter, coating all sides. Shake off any excess batter, then transfer the veggie to the hot oil.
- Repeat the process, adding as many veggies to the skillet as you can fit without crowding.
- Fry the vegetables for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until crispy.
- Transfer the tempura vegetables to a paper towel-lined plate to drain when they’re finished frying.
- Continue dipping and frying the vegetables, adding oil to the skillet as needed.
- Serve your tempura vegetables immediately, with the dipping sauce on the side.