Delicious Vegetable Tempura has a light, crisp outer coating that isn't overly greasy. This classic Japanese dish can be made at home with restaurant-quality results. It makes a great appetizer or side dish!
You're family will love eating vegetables when they are served tempura-style! Some of our other favorite ways of eating vegetables are Easy Oven Roasted Cauliflower, Bacon Wrapped Asparagus, and Stir-Fried Baby Bok Choy.
It always feels like such a special treat whenever we get vegetable tempura when eating at a Japanese restaurant. But it's not something I have ever even thought to make at home until I was brainstorming some of our favorite Japanese foods to make to celebrate the start of the Tokyo summer games.
If you struggle with family members who are picky about eating vegetables, this is a great way to get them to really enjoy veggies and try different ones. My personal favorites are the broccoli and sweet potato, but the girls love the asparagus and red pepper, and Paul is always snatching up the tempura onion pieces.
I mean, how can you really go wrong when you batter and fry something and then serve it with a savory sauce to dip it in? If you love tempura vegetables, you will likely also really enjoy my family's Fried Yellow Squash that I make every summer with crookneck squash from the garden.
The key to really good tempura vegetables is to not overwork the batter. Using cold water and mixing with chopsticks makes a big difference so the batter stays nice and light, just like at a restaurant.
And there is no need to be intimidated by frying. I just used an inch or so of oil in my large cast iron skillet and it was easy peasy!
- Vegetables: We like to have a variety of vegetables for our tempura. I usually just rummage through the crisper drawer to see what I can find so there is a selection to choose from. Bell peppers, broccoli florets, onion wedges, scallions, asparagus, green beans, mushrooms, and sliced sweet potatoes are all excellent choices though.
- Flour: Regular all-purpose flour is all you need.
- Egg: One egg helps bind the batter so it sticks well to the vegetables.
- Ice water: It does make a difference using ice cold water in your tempura batter.
- Oil: A neutral frying oil like vegetable oil will work well for frying your tempura.
How to Make Vegetable Tempura
- Make the dipping sauce: Combine dipping sauce ingredients in a small saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until boiling and the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
- Prepare the vegetables: Wash and slice the vegetables. If using sweet potatoes, peel and slice into discs, then soak in cold water for 15 minutes to remove some of the starch from the potatoes.
- Heat the oil: Fill a large cast iron skillet or dutch oven with about 2 inches of oil and heat over medium-high heat until the oil reaches 325 to 350 degrees F.
- Make the tempura batter: While the oil is heating, beat the egg in a small bowl, then add it, along with the ice water, to the flour in a large bowl. Use chopsticks to stir the batter until combined, but try not to overwork it. It's okay if the batter is lumpy.
- Dip, then fry vegetables: Dip 6-7 vegetable pieces at a time in the tempura batter, shaking off excess before adding them to the oil. Fry for 4 minutes for root vegetables like the sweet potato, or about 2 minutes for most other vegetables. The tempura coating should stay fairly light, rather than turning a deep golden brown.
- Drain and serve: Transfer the fried vegetables to a wire rack set over a baking sheet to drain while you fry the remaining vegetable pieces. Serve with the dipping sauce.
No, you really want to make the tempura batter and fry the vegetables right before serving. The good news is that none of it takes too long.
Yes! While this post is specifically about tempura vegetables, which is one of our favorite things, you could coat shrimp or chicken tenders with the batter and fry those as well. Be sure to pat them dry first and dust them with a light coating of flour before dipping them in the batter and frying.
- Don't overmix the tempura batter. Overmixing causes the gluten in the flour to develop, which results in a thicker batter instead of the light coating that is the hallmark of Japanese tempura.
- Use very cold water. This is another technique used to keep the batter nice and light when fried.
- Make sure the vegetables are all dry. If your vegetables are damp, either the batter won't stick as well, or the coating will steam and be less crisp after frying.
- Use a thermometer to monitor the oil temperature. If the oil temperature is too low, the tempura will take longer to cook and absorb more of the oil. If it's too high, the tempura will fry faster than the vegetables can cook inside. You want to try to maintain a temperature between 325 and 350 degrees, which might mean turning the heat up or down periodically.
I always do my best to research recipes from other cultures thoroughly to represent them as best I can. If this recipe is from your country or culture and you have suggestions for how I can improve its authenticity, please let me know in the comments below! It's important to us to share beloved foods of other cultures with as much accuracy as possible, while also considering things like accessibility of ingredients and ease of preparation for most home cooks.
More Appetizer Recipes
- Oven Baked Korean BBQ Chicken Wings
- Bacon-Wrapped Scallops
- Yakitori (Japanese Chicken Skewers)
- Slow Cooker Asian Pulled Pork Sliders
- Korean Pancakes with Scallions (Pajeon or Pa Jun)
Did you make this recipe?
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Tempura Dipping Sauce
- ¾ cup chicken broth
- 3 Tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 Tablespoons mirin
- 2 teaspoons sugar granulated or brown sugar
Vegetables (about 24 pieces)
- sweet potato peeled and sliced into ¼-inch discs
- broccoli florets
- onion sliced into wedges
- Japanese eggplant sliced into discs
- oyster mushrooms
- bell pepper strips
- 1 egg
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup ice water
- Vegetable or canola oil for frying (about 4 cups)
- Make the tempura sauce by combining the broth, soy sauce, mirin, and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and simmer for 3-4 minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Cool to room temperature.
Prepare the Vegetables
- If using sweet potatoes, peel and slice, then soak them in a bowl filled with cold water for 15 minutes to remove some of the starch before battering and frying.
- Slice any vegetables as needed. If the broccoli florets are particularly large, you may want to cut them in half.
Make the Tempura Batter
- Heat 2 inches of oil in a cast iron skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat until it reaches 325-350 degrees F. It helps to have a thermometer handy to monitor the oil temperature.
- Combine 1 cup of ice with 1 cup of water in a bowl and let this sit for a minute or so until the water is very cold. Measure your water from this to get 1 full cup for use in the recipe.
- Add the flour to a large bowl. Beat the egg in another bowl, then add the egg and cold water to the flour. Stir in a figure-8 motion using chopsticks to gently combine the ingredients into a batter. It's okay if there are some lumps. Keep the batter cold by sticking it in the fridge when you aren't using it. Or stick the bowl of tempura batter in a larger bowl filled with an ice water bath to keep the batter completely cold.
- Dry any veggies before dipping, especially the sweet potatoes, by patting them with paper towels so the batter will stick.
- Dip each vegetable in the batter, then shake off excess and add them to the hot oil. Fry the root vegetables like sweet potatoes first since they take a little bit longer. Don't over crowd the pan or the oil temperature will drop quite a bit.
- Fry the sweet potatoes for 3-4 minutes, flipping halfway through. For other vegetables like broccoli, onion, and bell pepper, they will only need to fry for 1-2 minutes typically.
- Transfer the vegetable tempura to a wire rack over a baking sheet as they finish so they can drain without becoming soggy on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, if desired, to season. Serve with dipping sauce.