How To Make Balsamic Reduction In 10 Minutes with Tempeh and Cucumber Skewers

This is the fastest party appetizer known to man.

Or the fastest and most flavorful snack known to busy woman.

It’s a slice it ‘n spear it special.

Make the brown sugar and balsamic reduction dipping sauce in just a few minutes.

How To Make Balsamic Reduction In 10 Minutes (vegan, GF) - Save money and stop buying overpriced balsamic reduction. Make your own in 10 minutes with this fast, easy, foolproof recipe!

And clear out your sinuses from the vinegar vapors in the process.

My $5 thrift store find dishes were begging to be used and I wouldn’t say I made this just so I could use them  in some photographs, but I kind of did.

Normally when I think of food on-a-stick, I think corn dogs or cotton candy. Never raw, vegan, vegetables, or healthy. I guess there’s a first time for everything.

I wish I had a party to bring my toothpick creations to but I didn’t, so I had a festive protein-packed vegan snack on the couch instead.

A party with me, my sticks, and my dip.

The balsamic dipping sauce is not for the faint of heart. A little goes a long way.

It’s powerful stuff, but I love it. I love dips of all kinds and usually like a little food with my dip.

Print Print Recipe

How To Make Balsamic Reduction In 10 Minutes with Tempeh and Cucumbers (vegan, GF if GF tempeh is used)

For a fast appetizer or snack, chewy tempeh with crisp cucumbers is a refreshing and easy option. I enjoy the tempeh sticks dipped in homemade balsamic reduction. It's so easy to make your own, it's ready in less than 10 minutes, is far cheaper than storebought, and keeps for months in the fridge. I drizzle balsamic reduction on salads, vegetables, bread, or any time I want a tangy kick.

Yield: about 1/2 cup balsamic reduction and 1 serving tempeh sticks

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: about 10 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes


1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup diced tempeh

1/2 cup diced cucumber (English cucumbers have fewer seeds and less water than traditional cucumbers; or use zucchini, bell peppers, radishes, carrots, or mushrooms)


  1. Combine the vinegar and brown sugar in a medium sauce pan, stir to combine, and bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. Reduce to medium heat and allow sauce to boil for approximately 6 to 8 minutes, or until reduced by half, or is as thick as desired. Stir occasionally while boiling and keep an eye on it so it doesn't bubble over or get too thick.
  3. Pour the reduction into heat-safe container so it can cool while preparing the tempeh and cucumber. Tip - Immediately put your dirty saucepan into the sink with running water and dish soap or it will become a sticky, stubborn mess if sauce is allowed to cool on the saucepan.After reduction has cooled (or been refrigerated), it will thicken considerably. It can be used hot, warm, or cold. Reduction will keep airtight for at least 1 month in the refrigerator.
  4. Dice equal portions of tempeh and cucumber and spear with toothpicks. Serve with sauce on the side. I do not sautee my tempeh first (I use it straight from the package), but if desired, pan-sautee diced tempeh over medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon of oil (or just use cooking spray) in a non-stick pan for 3 minutes or until golden brown, sprinkling with salt, pepper, and other seasonings (garlic, onion powder, curry, turmeric, Mrs. Dash etc.) if desired.
  5. Spear the tempeh cubes with the cucumber on toothpicks, dip into reduction, and serve.

Related Recipes

I love all things vinegary:

Homemade Salad Dressing (vegan) with apple cider vinegar

Homemade Komboucha. There is something about the tang of vinegar I have always loved and kombucha is right up my alley

Hot Pepper Jelly (Vegan, GF) – with an intro to canning

Stovetop Hot Pepper Jelly (Vegan, GF) – no canning required but vinegar is required

I’ve been on quite the tempeh kick lately. It’s so easy because unlike tofu, no pressing is required, and tempeh is packed with plant-based protein.

I love the way it tastes both raw or in a Fig Butter and Cumin Tempeh Stir Fry.

This toothpick creation is slightly classier than eating tempeh straight out of the package and nearly as easy.

If I would have had carrots, radishes, bell peppers, zucchini, or mushrooms on hand, I would have added them to my mini raw kebobs but went with just cucumbers and tempeh.

Springtime at the farmers market is coming up.

There will no shortage of vegetables to spear along with the tempeh cubes.

Another easy, no-fuss, wrap ‘n eat favorite to make with spring and summer vegetables are Fresh Vegan Spring Rolls with 2-Minute Peanut Sauce

Do you like tempeh? Do you enjoy vinegary foods?

I’m sure you could do the same thing with tofu on sticks but the thought of raw, unpressed tofu, straight out of the package is not appetizing to me.

It’s too mushy in comparison to tempeh, which is firm, has plenty of texture, heartiness, and chewiness. Combined with the crunch of the cucumbers, and that nasal-clearing balsamic reduction, I was in heaven with my little sticks.

Do you have a favorite fast and easy party appetizer you make? Or a fast and easy go-to snack or small meal?

Thanks for the Baking Supplies Giveaway entries


80 Responses to “How To Make Balsamic Reduction In 10 Minutes with Tempeh and Cucumber Skewers”

  1. Ellen — March 21, 2012 at 12:40 am (#

    Yea more tempeh! I love the simple elegance of this…

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks — March 21, 2012 at 12:46 am (#

      Thank you. That’s what I was hoping to convey in the pictures…simple elegance. Not sure if I succeeded but that was the goal!

  2. marissa @ the boot — March 21, 2012 at 2:46 am (#

    i love all things cucumber – and the dipping sauce sounds divine. what a great recipe!

  3. Mike @TheIronYou — March 21, 2012 at 2:46 am (#

    I just made my first batch of Kombucha…after three consecutive failures, I’m so proud of it (even though it tastes a bit too much as vinegar!)
    Happy to know that you’re also part of the Kombucha family. And, by the way, that tempeh looks amazing!

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks — March 21, 2012 at 7:57 am (#

      With the ‘booch, if it’s too vinegary, you just fermented a bit too long/too many days. To stop the fermentation process, put the booch you intend to drink in the fridge to slow it down, before you begin again with the next batch’s brewing. Are you familiar with The guy has not left a stone unturned. FABULOUS resource for all things booch.

  4. Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar — March 21, 2012 at 3:21 am (#

    Mmm this looks so yummy!!

  5. AmandaRunsNY — March 21, 2012 at 3:28 am (#

    Pretty pictures! Wow, I’m shocked that you like raw tempeh. I thought eating it raw,was something no one did ! I like my tempeh at least slightly sauteed, because I think that raw it has a slightly bitter taste. But I love it cooked, and you’re right it’s a great source of protein.

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks — March 21, 2012 at 7:55 am (#

      There are some blocks of tempeh that I buy that are more bitter than others. Some are not bitter in the least, some are. If one is not accustomed to that taste, I’m sure it’s really jarring and not so good…but I actually like it…haha!

  6. Jordan Lynn (Ciao Cow) — March 21, 2012 at 3:55 am (#

    I love tempeh and vinegary foods, so I think this looks like an amazing combination. My favorite go-to snack is a cucumber smothered in Annie’s Goddess dressing. It is the perfect summer snack.

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks — March 21, 2012 at 7:54 am (#

      If you love love tempeh and vinegary foods, THIS is for you…hope you try it!

  7. Sally @ sallys baking addiction — March 21, 2012 at 4:17 am (#

    LOVING the new dishware Averie! these looks fantastic. i love tempeh! i haven’t had it in quite some time, though. I’m also loving those fresh vegan spring rolls you linked back to. how’d i miss those before?? mmmm!

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks — March 21, 2012 at 7:53 am (#

      They’re older than dirt, that’s why :) I have so many old recipes that even I forget about sometimes…lol

  8. Paula — March 21, 2012 at 4:21 am (#

    Great combo–a few ingredients, easy prep (love it)! I haven’t done a reduction in a while but balsamic has to be my favorite vinegar so this sounds good! I also like white balsamic (Alessi brand). No little brown spots on my shirt when I use the white balsamic.

  9. Leanne @ Healthful Pursuit — March 21, 2012 at 5:01 am (#

    Wow, that IS really easy. I love this! I’m a big fan of tempeh but I haven’t had it in awhile as it’s really hard to find in our small town

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks — March 21, 2012 at 7:52 am (#

      That’s too bad that it’s hard to find…I love the stuff. Thank God I am 1/2 mile away from cheap tempeh at all times :)

  10. Heather (Where's the Beach) — March 21, 2012 at 5:22 am (#

    What a fun appetizer. I bet that’d be awesome with some cherry tomatoes and basil as well (note to self).

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks — March 21, 2012 at 7:52 am (#

      Yes totally. Come summertime, you better believe that is going to happen, too!

  11. Katie — March 21, 2012 at 5:22 am (#

    Love it. Anything on a stick is a game on for me. And I could drink balsamic vinegar. So good! I’ve still got soem fancy cinnamon pear that I should really use more of. Thanks for the inadvertent reminder!

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks — March 21, 2012 at 7:51 am (#

      Cinnamon pear? WOW that sounds heavenly. I had no idea you loved balsamic vinegar that much. Another thing we are twins on…it just keeps coming. After 3 years, you’d think there’d be nothing left but not surprised you could drink it. Me too :)

  12. katie @ KatieDid — March 21, 2012 at 5:25 am (#

    The plates photograph well! I love making reduction sauces but one time I was making a balsamic and went to smell it and simultaneously singed my nose hairs with the aroma and the scalding liquid got stuck to my upper lip. Needless to say I took a few years off form making that stuff. But it’s goooood.

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks — March 21, 2012 at 7:50 am (#

      I used to work in restaurants waitressing in college and used to serve chicken/buffalo wings with steaming hot wing sauce and did what you are describing almost every day…well not quite to that extent, but the vapors up nose thing, yep. I know it well. Lol

  13. Cortney — March 21, 2012 at 5:26 am (#

    Those dishes are fantastic!! I have some tofu in the fridge that I was thinking about cooking. I like to eat tofu cold after it has been cooked (weird, I know!) and this would be perfect. I think I know what I am having for dinner tonight. : -)

  14. Alex@Spoonful of Sugar Free — March 21, 2012 at 6:24 am (#

    These look so simple, and gorgeous!!! Love the idea.

    I do love tempeh. It is very earthy, and I love the texture

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks — March 21, 2012 at 7:49 am (#

      Thanks for the compliments, Alex. I love it and the texture is part of the reason…so hearty!

  15. Gina @ Running to the Kitchen — March 21, 2012 at 6:26 am (#

    Love those dishes! This gives me a great idea on how to use raw tempeh that I pretty much just eat one way and one way only. how boring…

  16. Anna @ On Anna's Plate — March 21, 2012 at 6:42 am (#

    That dish goes PERFECT with your new dishes!! Great idea!

  17. Cassie — March 21, 2012 at 6:43 am (#

    Love how you used these dishes for this meal. The dip sounds fantastic!

  18. Felicia (Natural + Balanced) — March 21, 2012 at 7:19 am (#

    i’ve grown to love vinegary foods. especially kombucha! i’ve saved soo much money with the amount i drink (plus my family). crave the stuff daily :) love this appetizer and the serving dishes you have!

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks — March 21, 2012 at 7:48 am (#

      Yes making your own is sooo much smarter$$ over time! Not to mention the taste is better :) The serving dishes were my $5 find from yesterday’s post!

  19. lauren @ spiced plate — March 21, 2012 at 8:02 am (#

    I LOVE that you’re on a tempeh kick! The plates look so pretty and really compliment the cucumber’s color. For parties, my go-to is to grill up some carrot slices and whip up a hummus dip with whatever beans I have on hand. It’s easy and tastes delightful.
    I am such a fan of balsmic-anything. There’s a kitchen store in town that has a whole array of balsamic vinegars and flavors that you can sample — my favorite is the fig and the chocolate flavored vinegars!

  20. Jenny@vegetarianhatesvegetables — March 21, 2012 at 8:42 am (#

    Wow! You must have a much better thrift store than the ones near us. You know, I’ve tried tofu in just about every way possible, but I have yet to try tempeh. This looks really refreshing. And I love balsamic vinegar! I made my first balsamic reduction a few weeks ago and was so excited to have it turn out well- I always thought it would be so difficult.

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks — March 21, 2012 at 10:57 am (#

      I have about 10 within walking distance, a few city blocks. It’s thrify, retro, antique central. LOTS of junk and useless stuff but some gems if you take the time and check back frequently.

      Glad your balsamic reduction was a success!

  21. Koko — March 21, 2012 at 9:02 am (#

    Mmm, what a simple, elegant appy! I love all things vinegary too…when it comes to making salad dressing it’s more like a 3:1 ratio of vinegar to oil for me- ha ha!

  22. Deirdre — March 21, 2012 at 9:21 am (#

    I love the serving dish for the tempeh!
    Fave go to snack: apples and peanut butter…can’t resist.

  23. Angela / Canned Time — March 21, 2012 at 10:19 am (#

    Averie – The dishes look so beautiful as usual. Especially for the price! Are you like me now when you shop, you search for photography rich dishes………then come up with something to put on them? I set a $10 limit for myself otherwise I’d need another kitchen just to store them all. Love the recipe and the pics

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks — March 21, 2012 at 10:58 am (#

      I look for things I know will look great in pics AND be versatile; i.e. this little set isn’t too versatile, well maybe it is….I need to make sushi or maybe raw cookie dough balls :) But it was only 5 bucks and lots of pieces and great colors!

  24. claire @ the realistic nutritionist — March 21, 2012 at 10:26 am (#

    These bite size little nuggets are ADORABLE!!!

  25. Amber K — March 21, 2012 at 11:11 am (#

    I have actually never tried tempeh before. I bought it once, but it went bad before I ever got around to trying it. At least according to the package it was bad, someone later told me that it was probably just fine. I wish it was Spring here! It’s actually been freeeezing. Snow in a lot of places. Not the usual weather!

  26. jojo — March 21, 2012 at 11:15 am (#

    I like tempeh, but I don’t eat it enough.
    I like your recipe since it’s so quick and easy!

  27. Melissa | Dash of East — March 21, 2012 at 11:25 am (#

    Just had to say that I adore those first few photos of the tempeh and cucumbers on a stick. Love the colors.

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks — March 21, 2012 at 12:12 pm (#

      that means a ton coming from you, Melissa :)

      I like your new avatar pic, your site…all your changes are gorgeous!

  28. Aylin @ Glow Kitchen — March 21, 2012 at 11:29 am (#

    I’ve never worked with tempeh before, but this looks delicious!

  29. Marla — March 21, 2012 at 11:55 am (#

    Love me up quick + yummy recipes like this. Leaves lots more time for all of the other stuff we need to do everyday!

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks — March 21, 2012 at 12:12 pm (#

      It’s your kinda food..not sweet, protein, easy. Lunchboxes were coming to mind on this one :)

  30. Ketrin @ knowing ketrin — March 21, 2012 at 12:11 pm (#

    I love tempeh & vinegar.. I literally could drink vinegar by itself. I go through phases where I will do the apple cider vinegar thing before meals & in the mornings. I don’t mind the taste one bit. Now I am craving tempeh.. must head to wholefoods soon! mmmm. Thanks for this great recipe/idea!! can’t wait to try it out! you rock!

  31. Angela@veggievinyasa — March 21, 2012 at 4:15 pm (#

    Those look awesome and so easy! I love roasted red pepper hummus with veggies, although your idea looks much more exciting!

  32. Patricia — March 21, 2012 at 5:36 pm (#

    I love, LOVE those serving platters/plates. They are simple and elegant.

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks — March 21, 2012 at 7:49 pm (#

      And I got them for $5 bucks (the post before the tempeh one that I linked to) at the thrift store!

  33. Jolene ( — March 21, 2012 at 7:52 pm (#

    I really like vinegary foods. One of my favourite things to eat is focaccia bread dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I could live on it.

    The easiest appetizer I throw together is the hot pepper jelly dumped on a block of cream cheese, served with crackers.

  34. Sara @MasPublicHealth — March 21, 2012 at 9:43 pm (#

    Thanks for the idea; I have a package of that same TJ’s tempeh I’ve been meaning to use. Maybe I’ll try it with a low-sodium soy sauce dip, perhaps with your idea of a little brown sugar, too.

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks — March 21, 2012 at 9:48 pm (#

      yeah me and soy don’t get along b/c my body despises sodium so I never use it but you could use any sort of dark-ish marinade, spike it with sugar/agave/maple and go to town!

  35. Christine (The Raw Project) — March 21, 2012 at 9:45 pm (#

    What a creative and simple recipe, awesome! Love the plating and colors in the pics too. And of course I can’t get enough simple tempeh recipes. :-)

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks — March 21, 2012 at 9:48 pm (#

      I was thinking of you the ENTIRE time I was making, photographing, and blogging about this b/c I know you’re the tempeh queen!

  36. Gena — March 25, 2012 at 2:07 pm (#

    You know how much I love me some tempeh! Fantastic, easy, recipe — and I, too, do not always sautee mine.

  37. Vicky — April 11, 2012 at 8:43 am (#

    The tempeh with cucumbers and balsamic dipping sauce sounds great! I just bought tempeh for the first time and have been looking for recipes to use it in!

  38. ~amy~ — December 29, 2012 at 6:40 am (#

    I’ve never tried tempeh before….will definitely pick some up!

  39. Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious — July 12, 2013 at 1:00 pm (#

    How have I never used your easy method before for balsamic reduction?! Definitely have to do that next time – you have no idea how many times I have burned balsamic vinegar. Ugh.

    • Averie Sunshine — July 12, 2013 at 2:22 pm (#

      People tend to REALLY overcomplicate making balsamic reduction and ounce for ounce, homemade costs pennies to make – compared to like $4 bucks for a 2 ounce jar. I can make 2 ounce for about 20 cents! In 5 minutes :)

    • Josi — January 7, 2014 at 7:24 pm (#

      I have tried making this reduction twice now and both time it hardens what am I doing wrong? It’s tasty as a hard “candy” but can really dip anything in it!

    • Averie Sunshine — January 7, 2014 at 9:32 pm (#

      If it’s hardening, you’re boiling too long and/or at too rapid of a rate. Either turn your temp down or reduce the time by about half. You literally are making candy :)

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