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


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This is the fastest party appetizer known to man.

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

Tempeh and Cucumber Skewers and balsamic reduction

It’s a slice it ‘n spear it special.

Tempeh and Cucumber Skewers

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

Balsamic Reduction with tempeh and cucumber

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

Organic 3 Grain Tempeh and balsamic vinegar

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.

Balsamic Reduction with tempeh and cucumber

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.

Balsamic Reduction with tempeh and cucumber

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.

Balsamic Reduction with tempeh and cucumber

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5 from 1 vote

How To Make Balsamic Reduction In 10 Minutes with Tempeh and Cucumbers

By Averie Sunshine
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.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 12
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  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
  • ½ cup diced tempeh
  • ½ cup diced cucumber*, See Notes


  • Combine the vinegar and brown sugar in a medium sauce pan, stir to combine, and bring to a boil over high heat.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Spear the tempeh cubes with the cucumber on toothpicks, dip into reduction, and serve.


*(English cucumbers have fewer seeds and less water than traditional cucumbers; or use zucchini, bell peppers, radishes, carrots, or mushrooms)


Serving: 1, Calories: 4kcal, Carbohydrates: 1g, Sugar: 1g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Related Recipes

I love all things vinegary:

Homemade Salad Dressing (vegan) with apple cider vinegar

Homemade Salad Dressing in jar

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

Homemade Komboucha from barrel tap

Glass of homemade kombucha

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

Homemade Hot Pepper Jelly in jar

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

Stovetop Hot Pepper Jelly in jar

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.

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.

Balsamic Reduction with tempeh and cucumber

Springtime at the farmers market is coming up.

Farmer's Market with carrots

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

Balsamic Reduction with tempeh and cucumber

Farmer's market zucchini and carrots and veggies

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

Fresh Vegan Spring Rolls

Fresh Vegan Spring Rolls with 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

About the Author

Welcome to AverieCooks! Here you’ll find fast and easy recipes that taste amazing and are geared for real life. Nothing fussy or complicated, just awesome tasting dishes everyone loves!

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Please note: I have only made the recipe as written, and cannot give advice or predict what will happen if you change something. If you have a question regarding changing, altering, or making substitutions to the recipe, please check out the FAQ page for more info.

Recipe Rating


  1. Thanks for the recipe. I am just a HORRIBLE cook and always tired from work, so I am always looking for good, simple recipes. This turned out great.

  2. 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.

    1. 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 :)

      1. 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!

      2. 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 :)

  3. 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!

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

  5. 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. :-)

    1. 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!

  6. 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.

    1. 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!

  7. 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.

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

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

  9. 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!

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

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

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

    1. that means a ton coming from you, Melissa :)

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

  12. 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!

  13. 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

    1. 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!

  14. 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!

  15. 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.

    1. 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!

  16. 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!

  17. 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!

    1. 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!

  18. 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…

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

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

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

  20. 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. : -)

  21. 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.

    1. 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

  22. 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!

    1. 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 :)

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

  24. 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

    1. 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 :)

  25. 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.

  26. 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!

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

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

    1. 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!

  29. 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!

    1. 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.

    1. 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!