How to Make Tempura: Step-by-Step Guide

by Ella

Tempura, a beloved Japanese dish consisting of lightly battered and deep-fried seafood, vegetables, and other ingredients, is renowned for its delicate crispiness and exquisite flavor. Originating in Japan during the 16th century, tempura has evolved into a culinary art form embraced by chefs and home cooks alike around the world. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the history of tempura, its key ingredients and techniques, and provide step-by-step instructions for mastering the art of tempura at home.

A Brief History of Tempura

The history of tempura traces back to the late 16th century when Portuguese missionaries and traders introduced the technique of batter-frying to Japan. The Portuguese term “tempora,” meaning “times” or “seasons,” referred to the religious practice of abstaining from meat during certain times of the year, leading to the adoption of batter-fried vegetables and seafood as a substitute.


Over time, tempura became a popular dish in Japan, evolving from its humble beginnings as a street food to a delicacy enjoyed in restaurants and homes across the country. Tempura gained further prominence during the Edo period (1603–1868), when it was served at tempura specialty restaurants known as “tempura-ya,” where skilled chefs perfected the art of frying to achieve the delicate crispiness and lightness that characterize authentic tempura.


Essential Ingredients and Equipment: Building Blocks of Tempura

Before diving into the culinary process of making tempura, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the key ingredients and equipment needed to create this delectable dish.



Seafood and Vegetables: Tempura can be made with a variety of ingredients, including shrimp, fish fillets, squid, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, and green beans. Opt for fresh, high-quality ingredients to ensure the best results.


Tempura Batter: The batter is the heart of tempura, providing the light and crispy coating that envelops the ingredients. Traditional tempura batter is made with a combination of all-purpose flour, cornstarch, baking powder, egg, and ice-cold water. Some recipes may also include soda water or beer to enhance the crispiness of the batter.

Dipping Sauce (Tentsuyu): Tempura is typically served with tentsuyu, a dipping sauce made from dashi (Japanese stock), soy sauce, mirin (sweet rice wine), and sometimes a touch of sugar. Tentsuyu adds depth of flavor and umami richness to the dish, complementing the crispiness of the tempura.


Deep Fryer or Heavy-Bottomed Pot: To achieve optimal results, use a deep fryer or a heavy-bottomed pot with high sides for deep-frying the tempura. Maintain a consistent temperature of around 340-360°F (170-180°C) to ensure even cooking and crispy texture.

Oil Thermometer: An oil thermometer is essential for monitoring the temperature of the frying oil accurately. Maintaining the correct frying temperature is crucial for achieving perfectly crispy tempura without absorbing excess oil.

Wire Rack or Paper Towels: Place a wire rack or a layer of paper towels on a baking sheet to drain excess oil from the fried tempura. Allowing the tempura to drain properly ensures that it remains light and crispy.

The Art of Tempura: Step-by-Step Guide

Now that we’ve covered the history, ingredients, and equipment, let’s dive into the culinary process of making tempura. Follow these step-by-step instructions to achieve crispy, golden-brown tempura that will delight your taste buds.

Step 1: Prepare the Ingredients

Start by preparing the seafood, vegetables, or other ingredients you plan to use for your tempura. Ensure that seafood is cleaned, deveined, and patted dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture, as this helps the batter adhere better during frying. Cut vegetables into uniform-sized pieces to ensure even cooking.

Step 2: Prepare the Tempura Batter

In a large mixing bowl, combine all-purpose flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and a pinch of salt. In a separate bowl, lightly beat an egg and gradually add ice-cold water, stirring until the mixture is just combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and gently whisk until a smooth batter forms. Be careful not to overmix, as this can result in a dense and heavy batter.

Step 3: Heat the Oil

Fill a deep fryer or heavy-bottomed pot with vegetable oil, leaving ample space at the top to prevent overflow when frying. Attach an oil thermometer to the side of the pot and heat the oil to a temperature of around 340-360°F (170-180°C). Maintaining a consistent frying temperature is essential for achieving crispy tempura.

Step 4: Coat and Fry the Ingredients

Dip the prepared seafood, vegetables, or other ingredients into the tempura batter, ensuring that they are evenly coated on all sides. Carefully lower the coated ingredients into the hot oil using tongs or chopsticks, taking care not to overcrowd the pot. Fry the tempura in batches, allowing ample space between each piece to ensure even cooking.

Step 5: Fry Until Golden Brown

Fry the tempura until it is golden brown and crispy, which usually takes about 2-3 minutes for seafood and 3-4 minutes for vegetables. Use a slotted spoon or wire skimmer to gently agitate the tempura occasionally, ensuring that it cooks evenly and develops a uniform golden color. Avoid overcrowding the pot, as this can lower the oil temperature and result in soggy tempura.

Step 6: Drain and Serve

Once the tempura is golden brown and crispy, carefully remove it from the oil using a slotted spoon or wire skimmer and transfer it to a wire rack or paper towels to drain excess oil. Serve the tempura immediately with tentsuyu dipping sauce, grated daikon radish, and grated ginger on the side for dipping.

Creative Variations and Serving Suggestions

While traditional tempura is made with seafood and vegetables, there are endless possibilities for creative variations and serving suggestions. Here are a few ideas to inspire your culinary creativity:

Tempura Donburi: Serve crispy tempura over a bowl of steamed rice (donburi) with a drizzle of tentsuyu sauce and a sprinkle of chopped green onions or sesame seeds for a satisfying and flavorful meal.

Tempura Soba or Udon: Add tempura to a bowl of hot soba or udon noodles in a savory broth for a comforting and hearty dish that’s perfect for chilly weather. Garnish with sliced green onions, nori (seaweed), and a sprinkle of shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven-spice blend) for added flavor.

Tempura Roll: Create your own sushi-inspired tempura rolls by wrapping crispy tempura in nori seaweed with sushi rice, avocado, cucumber, and other fillings of your choice. Serve with soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger for a delicious twist on traditional sushi.

Tempura Bento Box: Pack crispy tempura into a bento box with steamed rice, pickled vegetables, and tamagoyaki (Japanese rolled omelet) for a balanced and satisfying lunch. Add a side of tentsuyu dipping sauce for dipping and enjoy a taste of Japan wherever you go.

See Also: 7 Most Expensive Japanese Seafood


In conclusion, mastering the art of tempura requires attention to detail, patience, and a willingness to experiment with different ingredients and techniques. By following the step-by-step instructions outlined in this guide and incorporating your own creative flair, you can achieve crispy, golden-brown tempura that rivals that of your favorite Japanese restaurants. Whether enjoyed as a standalone appetizer, incorporated into a meal, or used as a topping for noodles or rice, tempura is sure to delight your taste buds and impress your friends and family. So don your apron, heat up the oil, and embark on a culinary journey to discover the exquisite flavors of authentic Japanese tempura.



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