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Crispy, crunchy, and bursting flavors, what’s not to love about this mouthwatering Japanese dish. However, if you are on a restricted diet then there might be a reason to worry. We like calling these food ‘guilty pleasures’ because we can’t stop craving them any time of the day. In today’s post, we will clear the air for those on a vegan and gluten-free diet.
So, is tempura batter vegan and gluten-free? If we assume that it is vegetable tempura prepared in a traditional method using soft wheat flour (no eggs) then it’s a ‘yes’ for vegan. However, the tempura batter is not gluten-free because the wheat flour contains gluten.
Some places may use animal products for making tempura batter so don’t assume that vegetable tempura is vegan without confirming it with the chef. In most cases, however, you can take it easy because both the simple and slightly complicated tempura batter recipes will be vegan-friendly.
While the non-vegan and gluten-laden variations are more popular in their western interpretations, the popularity of veganism has now made restaurants cater to vegan guests. Some restaurants even accommodate the special dietary needs for people sensitive to gluten but it still comes with some risks from the dipping sauces and contamination from the same knife used.
Tempura Batter For Vegan Beginners
Even if you are a beginner for tempura, you have probably heard about this scrumptious Japanese dish from your friends or seen images online. While seafood is the most common option for tempura there are a plethora of vegetarian choices which make this dish fairly vegan in nature.
Traditionally, the tempura batter only constitutes of rice flour and water to keep it light and crispy, but some restaurants may add wheat flour and eggs. Another concern when eating out is the oil in which the tempura is fried. If the fryer oil is also used for frying meat/ fish then the dish is not purely vegan.
If you are strict about your veganism, make sure you ask the server how the food is prepared and let them know that you want purely vegan tempura. To cut short the hassle of researching and looking for a restaurant that offers vegan tempura, we suggest you make your own vegetable tempura at home.
You will just need a few ingredients to get started and even the ready-to-mix tempura batters available in the supermarket are mostly vegan in nature. Some of the common vegetables used are broccoli, mushrooms, onions, peppers, and potatoes.
There’s no reason why vegetable tempura may not be suitable for vegans unless you are eating at a restaurant that also makes seafood and meat varieties. Other than that, even if the batter becomes slightly complicated in nature, it will primarily remain vegan-friendly.
In some cases, spices may be added to enhance the flavor of the batter and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) may be used as the leavening agent. The chances of finding non-vegan tempura rise when the batter contains eggs, milk, or butter, although this is rare.
Recipe for Vegan Tempura
Ingredients you will need:
- Veggies (Cauliflower, zucchini, green beans, radishes, green tomatoes, celery root, onion rings, sweet potato, kale, collard greens, asparagus, or pickled anything)
- 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
- 4 cups high-heat cooking oil (heat to 350 degrees)
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cups ice-cold carbonated water or ice water
Instructions for cooking
Wash the veggies and slice them as needed and keep aside. If using cauliflowers, sprinkle them with a little curry flour first).
Put a deep pot on the stove and pour oil as needed. Allow the oil to heat up to 350 degrees.
Now, whisk up all the dry ingredients along with water to make a light batter. Make sure you don’t over mix and don’t worry if there are a few lumps.
Now, take the veggie slices, dip them in the batter (or use brush) one by one and carefully drop them in the hot oil. Be careful to not splash oil out of the pan.
Turn the veggies a few times to ensure that it cooks evenly on all sides. It takes 1-2 minutes only for the batter to turn golden and crispy. Take them out on a paper towel and serve hot with tempura sauce.
Tempura Batter For People With Gluten-Sensitivity
One of the biggest differences between tempura batter and other batters used for frying is that the former is extremely light in texture. It is made from low-gluten flour and very few other ingredients. Iced or sparkling water is then used to make a soft and light batter.
Despite being an extremely popular Japanese dish, after sushi, people with celiac disease find it hard to enjoy this crispy delicacy due to the presence of gluten, even in small amounts. In the last few decades, a gluten-free diet has increased in popularity with a rise in allergies
In the past, a gluten-free diet was only meant for those with celiac disease but it has now become a much-preferred diet for the health-conscious population in the US. You can already find a lot of gluten-free products such as bread and sweets made of gluten-free flour in the supermarket.
So, if you have a celiac disease or you are simply health-conscious, you are lucky because many restaurants make tempura from gluten-free flour. However, similar to the concerns mentioned above, you run the risk of cross-contamination in a restaurant.
As a result, making tempura at home may seem like a safer option. You can buy the gluten-free tempura batter mix which usually contains a mix of rice flour, potato starch, and tapioca flour. When using wheat flour for tempura, make sure you don’t mix the batter too much or else it may develop gluten.
This type of gluten-free tempura batter works best to make delicious and crispy vegan tempura. Serve this with gluten-free tamari sauce instead of soy sauce and you have a healthy guilty-free dish you can enjoy as much as you like.
Recipe For Gluten-Free Tempura Vegetables
Ingredients you will need:
- 1 cup chickpea flour (see Amazon)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/3 cup sparkling spring water
- Slices of peeled sweet potatoes
- Onion rings (preferably thick)
- Asparagus (thick slices)
- Any other fresh or pickled vegetable of your choice
Instructions for cooking
We suggest that you use all organic ingredients and organic sesame oil like this for frying too. Pour oil in a deep bottom pan and let it heat up to 350 degrees.
Whisk together all the dry ingredients (chickpea flour, baking powder) and then add sparkling water as needed to make a uniform batter.
Now, dip the veggies in the batter to cover both sides and fry in sesame oil. Cook both the sides for 1-2 minutes each or until it achieves a golden color and gets crispy. Take the fried tempura on a plate lined with a paper towel to remove excess oil. Serve with tamari sauce.
5 Tips For Making Perfect Vegan And Gluten-Free Tempura Batter
- Put water in a mixing bowl inside the fridge with 5-6 ice cubs in it as this helps in keeping the tempura batter really cold. It also prevents gluten from getting activated.
- Avoid mixing the tempura batter too much or else this will result in a doughy exterior instead of a nice crispy and crunchy coating.
- Keep about a half cup of flour in a shallow plate to lightly coat the veggies in it before dipping in the tempura batter. This helps the tempura batter stick on the veggies much better.
- Although over-mixing is not recommended, we suggest that whisk the batter each time you coat the veggies as this helps in creating bubbles or foam that stay on. This helps in giving a crispier texture to tempura batter.
- The fine rice flour grain tends to stay at the bottom of the vessel, so we recommend that you whisk the batter to maintain good consistency.
How to make vegan and gluten-free tempura dipping?
To make tempura dipping, add 3 tablespoon of mirin in a small saucepan and bring it to boil on medium heat, allowing the alcohol to evaporate. Now add ¾ cup of dashi and 3 tablespoons of gluten-free soy sauce. Bring to boil and then set aside.
What type of oil is best for tempura?
If you are making vegan or gluten-free tempura at home, we would suggest that you use organic corn, canola, or peanut oil. Another healthy choice is extra virgin olive oil. Taking tempura out in a paper towel is essential to ensure that excess oil gets absorbed.
Can I reheat vegetable tempura?
Tempura tastes its crispiest best when freshly prepared and still hot. However, if you have some leftovers, keep them in an airtight container inside the refrigerator. To make them eatable again, preheat the oven to 220ºC and keep the tempura on a lined baking sheet. Bake for 3 minutes on each side and serve with sauce. You may also use a skillet or microwave, but an oven is the best choice.
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