Want to make Vegetable Tempura just like your favorite Japanese restaurant? I’m going to tell you how to do it, step by step! This Vegetable Tempura Recipe is vegan, but you can easily change it up to make tempura shrimp or chicken!
There is nothing better than crispy tempura! It’s so addictive and delicious!
But how do you get that light, lacy texture? What temperature should the oil be? Which vegetables should you use?
I’m going to answer all those questions and more! Let’s get started!
Ingredients for Vegetable Tempura
This is a super simple recipe that uses only vegetables, Asian frying mix, and water! No eggs, and no mess from mixing up a bunch of dry ingredients and spices!
Here’s what you need:
- An assortment of vegetables, like bell peppers, zucchini, carrots, green beans, sweet potatoes, and onions. The Japanese also often use things such as shiso leaves, lotus root, mushrooms, and eggplant.
- Vegetable oil for frying.
- Asian Frying Mix (I like to use the Ottogi brand. You can find frying mix at any Asian market, and often in the Asian sections of your local grocery store. Or if all else fails, you can order it from Amazon).
Asian Frying Mix is usually a mix of wheat flour, corn starch, rice powder, baking powder, and spices like salt, garlic powder, and black pepper.
Do I really have to buy this frying mix? Can I just make my own?
You can certainly make your own frying mix. Just search “Asian frying mix recipe” on Google. However, I’ve never had great success when making my own. Additionally, most of the recipes you find online don’t have the rice powder, and some of them use eggs (which is what we’re avoiding in order to keep this vegan).
So yes–I think it’s totally worth it to get buy the frying mix, because you’ll get perfect results with that wonderful crispy texture, every time.
How to Make Vegetable Tempura
First, you’ll want to start heating your oil. I recommend either using a dedicated fryer, or an electric skillet. That way, you can control the oil temperature.
If you don’t have a fryer or electric skillet, you can use a deep pot, but you’ll definitely want to have a kitchen thermometer to test the temperature of the oil. You’ll need to keep testing the temperature and raising or lowering the heat accordingly during the time you’re deep frying. (This is why I recommend a fryer or electric skillet. It’s so much easier to keep the oil temperature at 365 degrees without having to constantly adjust!)
Make sure you have 1-2 inches of oil in your fryer or electric skillet, and heat the oil to 365 degrees F.
While your oil heats, prep your vegetables.
Slice each vegetable into thin strips or rounds–about 1/4″ thick. I usually cut my carrots into carrot sticks, and cut my bell peppers across the middle so that they stay in their circular form. But you can also cut them in strips length-wise.
Now it’s time to prep the tempura batter. Just add one cup of frying mix to a large bowl. Then add 2/3 cup ice water and whisk together. I typically throw a couple of ice cubes into the batter as well to keep it really cold. It’s o.k. if the batter is lumpy and has pockets of dry flour. You don’t want to stir it too much and develop any gluten.
If desired, you can set your bowl of batter in an ice water bath. Just put it in a larger bowl with a small amount of cold water and ice cubes. This will keep your tempura batter cold. This is especially useful if you’ve got a lot of vegetables to fry and are worried about your batter becoming too warm.
Why do I need to have cold batter?
Cold=less gluten. This results in a super light, airy coating that you want for good tempura.
Warm=more gluten. This results in a rubbery, stretchy texture, which is the opposite of what we want for good tempura.
The batter will be quite thin and runny. This is what you want so you can get that light, crispy, lacy texture.
You want to make your tempura batter right before you are ready to fry. Don’t make it first and let it sit. Otherwise, gluten will develop, and it won’t be as cold as it should be to get ideal results.
Start Dipping and Frying
Just add a few cut vegetables to the batter and make sure they are fully covered. Then quickly transfer them to the hot oil. (Have your bowl of batter right next to your hot oil). You want to fry in small batches so that the temperature of your oil doesn’t drop too much. The more vegetables you add, the more the temperature of your oil will drop, and your results will not be ideal.
Fry for about a minute on each side. The batter will NOT turn golden brown, but will stay a light blonde color.
Use tongs to carefully remove the vegetables from the oil and place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain the excess oil. Depending on how many vegetables you make, you may need several large plates with paper towels. Try to avoid stacking the vegetables, as the residual steam and heat can make the crispy coating go a little soft.
Alternately, you can place the fried tempura on a cooling rack (a wire rack like you use for cooling cookies) to let the oil drain. Just make sure to place paper towels underneath to catch any dripping oil.
(You’ll get a lot of batter drips in the oil. Use a slotted spoon to remove these as much as you can before frying subsequent batches. Otherwise, they’ll burn and attach themselves to your beautiful tempura vegetables, and we don’t want that!)
Repeat this process until all the vegetables have been fried. If you run out of batter, you can always make more.
Tempura is best eaten fresh and hot! The longer it sits, the softer the coating will become.
Tempura is great on its own, but there is actually special tempura dipping sauce you can buy! Look for it at your local Asian market. You could also just dip it in a little low-sodium soy sauce if desired.
Do I Need to Add Spices to the Batter?
If you use an Asian frying mix, it is already perfectly seasoned with things like salt, garlic powder, and pepper. No additional seasoning is needed!
How to Make Chicken or Shrimp Tempura
The Japanese make “Ebi Furai” (Shrimp fry) by using peeled shrimp (usually jumbo shrimp). Just dip the shrimp into the batter, holding the tail, and fry as usual.
(Another version with shrimp is to dip the shrimp in flour, then egg, then panko (Japanese bread crumbs). Panko literally means “little bread” and you can find it in most supermarkets in the Asian section).
For chicken, cut the chicken into thin strips, about 1/4″ thick. Dip into the batter and fry as usual. To check for doneness, just cut a piece in half once you remove it from the oil to make sure no pink remains in the chicken. Since the chicken will be sliced so thinly, it won’t take long to cook.
How to Reheat Leftover Tempura
When you refrigerate leftover tempura, the crisp coating will turn soft. To reheat and re-crisp your veggie tempura, whatever you do, don’t use a microwave! This will just make your coating soggy and hot.
Just pop any leftover tempura into a toaster oven set to 400 degrees for 3-5 minutes. Make sure you put it on a non-stick or foil-lined baking sheet first. And check on it frequently to make sure it’s not burning. When things are sizzling, and the coating looks crunchy, take it out and enjoy!
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 green bell pepper
- 3 large carrots
- 1 small zucchini
- 1 small yellow onion
- 1 cup Asian frying mix
- 2/3 cup ice water
- vegetable oil for frying
- Pour vegetable oil into a fryer or electric skillet. You should have 1-2 inches of oil. Heat to 365 degrees F.
- Thinly slice all your vegetables and set aside.
- When oil is hot, add your frying mix and ice water to a medium-sized bowl and whisk together. If desired, drop a couple ice cubes in the batter to keep it cold.
- Add several sliced vegetables to the batter and stir to fully coat. Carefully transfer to the hot oil and fry on both sides for about a minute on each side. Batter will be a light blonde color. It will not turn brown.
- Using tongs, transfer fried vegetables from the hot oil to a paper towel-lined plate.
- Repeat with the rest of the vegetables.
- Eat immediately.
- Store any leftovers in the refrigerator. Reheat in a toaster oven (not a microwave) on a foil-lined baking sheet at 400 degrees F. for 3-5 minutes. Watch carefully to avoid burning.
You can use any type of vegetables you like! In Japan, they often use sweet potatoes, lotus roots, and parsley!