Gluten-Free Penne Pesto with Black-Eyed Pea Tempeh and Artichoke Hearts

There are many reasons why some folks avoid soy-based foods—allergies, GMOs, digestibility issues, etc. And for those who are transitioning to a plant-inspired diet, it can be tough to get away from eating meat and also avoid soy too, since many transitional foods like tempeh and tofu are often the go-to meat replacements. Whether you eat soy or not, this recipe is one that everyone can enjoy because thanks to a tip from my pal Matt from, I know about Smiling Hara Tempeh.

Smiling Hara makes the tastiest soy-based and non-soy tempeh I have ever had. There’s a small catch though (boo), only folks in the southeast can enjoy it for now because they are a small company based in North Carolina (a staff of seven makes fresh batches every week).

Smiling Hara Tempeh Team
Photo © Smiling Hara

I am hopeful that soon enough though word will spread, demand will grow and (all fingers and toes crossed) they will make their product available for tempeh lovers all over the nation. It’s very difficult to find non-soy tempeh so this company and what they are doing is very exciting. Make sure you show them some love on their site, Facebook, TwitterInstagram and Pinterest.

YU may be asking “What is tempeh?”

Well, tempeh (pronounced tem-pay), is made by a natural culturing and controlled incubation process that binds soybeans into a cake form (check out other beneficial cultured foods like dairy-free kefir yogurt, kimchi and kombucha, too). Tempeh is unique amoung major traditional soy-foods in that it is the only one that did not originate in China or Japan. It originated in today’s Indonesia, and is especially popular on the island of Java, where it is a staple source of protein.

The protein in tempeh becomes more digestible as a result of the culturing process—especially important for the digestibility of soy if soy foods are a part of your diet. In particular, the oligosaccharides that are associated with gas and indigestion are greatly reduced by the Rhizopus culture. In traditional tempeh making shops, the starter culture often contains beneficial bacteria that produce vitamins such as B12 (incredibly important for herbivores). The culture Smiling Hara adds to their beans is a Rhizophus culture (either Rhizophus Oligosporus or Oryzae) which is a fungus spore inoculum.

Smiling Hara Tempeh
Photo © Smiling Hara

The Rhizophus culture also produces a type of antibiotic that is effective against certain bacteria, including staphylococcus aureus which can cause pneumonia and sepsis. The amazing thing about this natural antibiotic is that it’s heat resistant and can withstand a wide range of pH levels so cooking doesn’t diminish the beneficial bacteria. There’s a ton of cool info about tempeh that you can learn more about here.

Want to try tempeh?
Our friends at Smiling Hara have offered to send a sample pack to one lucky giveaway winner anywhere in the U.S.A. Yay! THIS GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED. 

Now, this recipe can be made with more traditional soy tempeh, or you can substitute the tempeh with cooked chickpeas, lentils or beans and it’s still a scrumptious recipe that is super quick to prepare. Give it a try.

Chef’s knife
Sauté pan or skillet
Stock pot (optional)

Try to buy everything organic. Here’s why.
1 cup gluten-free penne pasta
(or any GF pasta you like best)
1 cup Black-Eyed Pea Tempeh, diced
(or any soy-free tempeh you like)
1 packed cup chopped Lacinato kale
(or any kale you like)
1/4–1/3 cup Walnut & Kale Pesto
(or any kind you like)
6–10 marinated artichoke hearts, quartered
1 ripe avocado, pitted and diced
1 tsp unrefined, virgin coconut oil
Sea salt to taste
Fresh-cracked black pepper to taste


(Make sure you have some fun and play if the mood strikes… )

Gluten-Free Pesto Penne Pasta with Black-Eyed Pea Tempeh and Artichokes

This black-eyed pea tempeh has such a rich, unique flavor that almost has a hint of blue cheese taste (which I always loved). Dare I say I’m bonkers for this stuff? Guilty.

Smiling Hara Black-Eyed Pea Tempeh

Let’s get started.

Slice and cube your tempeh. Warm skillet to medium-high and then add oil and tempeh. Season with a pinch of salt and a grind or two of fresh-cracked pepper.

Sauté tempeh—turning cubes over to brown all sides—for 5–10 minutes.


While tempeh cooks, prepare your kale…


… artichoke hearts and…


… avocado.


By now, your tempeh should be golden brown and making the kitchen smell incredible. So, transfer all ingredients either to your sauté pan or a stock pot and stir together until mixed well. Season more to taste with pesto, salt and pepper if you like.


Enjoy. Enjoy. Enjoy.

Are you curious about soy-free tempeh? 

I’ll choose one winner at random on June 20, 2014. Congrats to Janet, the winner of this giveaway! (giveaway now closed)

Know someone who would like this recipe or the chance to win?
Click here to tweet this post.

Be sure to tell me with a comment below what you think of this recipe. I’d love to hear from YU.

Read the comments or add yours.

Comment Rules

  1. I’m definitely trying this one! I love everything about it.
    Unfortunately even normal tempeh isn’t that widely available in the UK, let alone soy-free tempeh. I love the stuff though and always keep a supply in my freezer!

  2. Rosanna

    Glad you are back!.. This recipe looks delish and hopefully Whole Foods will carry their products in Richmond soon!

  3. Your pictures are so pretty! Can’t wait to try this…Smiling Hara is the BEST!

    • Heather Crosby

      Thanks Deane! How sweet and yes, Smiling Hara IS the best 😉

  4. Joyce

    I really like the black-eyed pea tempeh from The Hearty Vegan, which is a mother-daughter business in Austin, Texas. Their products are available in Central Texas. I also love their (NOT soy-free) spicy breakfast sausage — makes great breakfast tacos.

    • Heather Crosby

      Oooo, thanks for sharing more soy-free tempeh options, Joyce! Awesome.

  5. Wow, what an amazing, healthy and delicious dish! I have eaten tempeh but I have never encountered black eyed pea tempeh so I am incredibly curious about the taste of it! I will check out the giveaway and explore this new vegan culinary option.

  6. Deanne O

    I love walnuts in my pesto and I love every item in this dish. I am so excited to try it.

  7. Anja

    I love the idea of soy-free tempeh since I am allergic to soy. Is this brand organic?
    The recipe sounds yum!

    • Heather Crosby

      Hi Anja,
      Yep, non-GMO organic 😉

  8. Jane

    I don’t eat, well, um,………………..a lot of things, including soy, so this IS exciting. I’ve been vegan, mostly raw for 6 months and my cholesterol test was the best it’s ever been, (especially my LDL), with no medication. Thank you for your pioneering efforts for those of us trying so hard to get healthier and eat delicious alternatives. ::))

    • Heather Crosby

      Congrats Jane! I am very excited about Smiling Hara and they are growing, so do let them know that you appreciate what they are doing and that their product is wanted all over… keep up the great work and have fun with it all. x H

  9. Caresse

    This recipe sounds wonderful! I’m so excited to hear about these new and unique kinds of tempeh. Eating gluten free is a necessity for me (celiac). So finding new plant based meat subs is wonderful! I hope we start carrying these products in ohio. Until then I will have to try this recipe with soy based tempeh.

    • Heather Crosby

      I’m with you on the gluten-free meat substitutes. It’s very exciting what Smiling Hara is offering and I know all my fingers and toes are crossed that they will soon sell all over. I know there are loads of folks like us who are ready to buy! Remember, this recipe is really delicious with black-eyed peas and chickpeas, too. x H

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