Is Vegetable Tempura healthy?

Vegetable tempura is a popular Japanese dish consisting of vegetables coated in a light batter and then deep fried. Some common ingredients used in vegetable tempura are sweet potatoes, green beans, carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, zucchini, and onions. On the surface, deep frying vegetables may not seem like the healthiest cooking method. However, if made properly using healthy ingredients, vegetable tempura can be a nutritious part of your diet.

Is Deep Frying Vegetables Unhealthy?

Deep frying gets a bad reputation for being an unhealthy cooking method that loads food up with fat and calories. However, vegetable tempura uses a very light, crisp batter as opposed to heavy batters that can make fried foods greasy. The batter is made from simple ingredients like ice water, flour, and sometimes baking powder or egg.

When done right, the vegetables are briefly submerged in oil that is around 350-375°F. This allows the batter to quickly crisp and cook without soaking up a lot of oil. The vegetables only absorb a thin layer of oil from frying with a light batter as opposed to being completely saturated in oil.

So while deep frying does add more fat and calories than other cooking methods, vegetables fried in a light tempura batter absorb a modest amount of oil.

Nutritional Benefits of Vegetable Tempura

While the batter and frying method do add some fat and calories, the vegetables still retain a lot of their nutritional value in tempura form. Here are some of the key nutrients retained in vegetable tempura:

– Fiber – Vegetables are excellent sources of fiber, which aids digestion. Frying does not destroy the natural fiber found in veggies.

– Vitamins & Minerals – Vegetables contain a variety of important vitamins and minerals like Vitamin A, Vitamin C, potassium, and folate. Lightly frying vegetables helps retain these heat-sensitive nutrients.

– Antioxidants – Colorful vegetables are rich in antioxidants like carotenoids and flavonoids. These compounds help fight inflammation and oxidative damage in the body. The quick frying method preserves these beneficial plant compounds.

– Low in Calories – On their own, most vegetables are very low in calories. Even after adding some calories from frying oil, tempura vegetables like broccoli still provide a low calorie way to add nutrients to your diet.

So while the tempura batter adds some excess calories, the vegetables still pack in an array of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Choosing a variety of colorful vegetables maximizes the nutrient content of vegetable tempura.

Healthier Oil Options

To make vegetable tempura as healthy as possible, it’s important to select a high quality cooking oil with a high smoke point. Refined avocado, grapeseed, peanut, or rice bran oils work well for frying at high heat. These oils contain mostly monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats – healthier types of fats compared to saturated or trans fats.

Here is a comparison of healthy vegetable tempura frying oils:

Oil Fat Profile Smoke Point
Refined Avocado Oil Mostly monounsaturated fat 520°F
Refined Grapeseed Oil High in polyunsaturated fats 420°F
Refined Peanut Oil Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat 450°F
Rice Bran Oil Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat 490°F

Avoid frying with oils high in saturated fat like coconut oil or fats prone to oxidation like plain olive oil. Stick to refined, high heat oils to get the health benefits of vegetable tempura.

Portion Control is Key

Like most fried foods, it’s easy to overindulge when eating vegetable tempura. To keep your tempura intake healthy, be mindful of portion sizes. Here are some tips:

– Stick to 2-3 pieces of different vegetable tempura per serving. Avoid filling up a whole plate.

– Balance tempura with lower calorie items like steamed rice, miso soup, and fresh salad.

– Enjoy tempura as a small appetizer rather than a main meal. Pair with lean protein and roasted veggies for a balanced plate.

– Share an order of tempura as a table appetizer when dining out.

It’s completely possible to incorporate some vegetable tempura into a healthy diet as long as you carefully watch portions and enjoy it alongside other nutritious fare. A few pieces can complement a meal without going overboard on fried foods.

Batter Tips to Lighten Things Up

When it comes to the batter used in vegetable tempura, there are a few simple substitutions you can make to lighten it up:

– Use cold sparkling water instead of ice water – the carbonation helps batter stay light and crispy.

– Swap out a few tablespoons of flour for cornstarch to reduce calories.

– Skip the egg for a vegan batter – the batter will still adhere just fine without it.

– Flavor with spices and herbs – try garlic powder, paprika, cayenne, parsley, cilantro, etc.

– Use whole wheat or gluten-free flour instead of refined white flour.

Experiment with different batter variations to create a lighter, healthier coating for your vegetable tempura. Focus on keeping the batter cold and crisp without heavy additions like lots of egg and oil.

Healthy Cooking Methods at Home

If you make vegetable tempura at home, there are some healthy cooking methods you can follow:

– Use a small pot on the stovetop instead of a deep fryer – you’ll use less oil.

– Fill the pot with 2-3 inches of oil at the most. Any more results in more oil absorption.

– Use a cooking thermometer to maintain the oil between 350-375°F.

– Drain the tempura on a cooling rack or paper towels instead of letting it sit in oil.

– Allow the oil to cool completely before straining and saving it for later reuse. Discard oil that smells or looks burnt.

– Limit the amount of reuses for oil – no more than 2-3 to prevent buildup of free fatty acids.

Taking steps to minimize oil use at home ensures your homemade vegetable tempura retains maximum nutrition and less excess grease.

Healthy Vegetable Tempura Recipe

This recipe for vegetable tempura uses lighter ingredients and cooking methods for a healthier take on the classic.


Tempura Batter
– 1 cup ice cold sparkling water
– 1 egg white or 1 tablespoon cornstarch (to replace whole egg)
– 3/4 cup all-purpose flour or whole wheat flour
– 1/4 cup cornstarch
– 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
– Salt and pepper to taste

– 4 cups mixed veggies like sweet potato, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, onions, mushrooms, etc. cut into bite-sized pieces

For Frying
– 2-3 cups refined avocado oil, grapeseed oil, rice bran oil or other high heat oil


1. In a mixing bowl, whisk together cold sparkling water, egg white or cornstarch, flour, cornstarch, baking soda and a pinch of salt and pepper until a smooth, thin batter forms. Place batter in the fridge until ready to use.

2. Prepare vegetables by cutting into small, bite-sized pieces. Pat dry thoroughly with paper towels.

3. In a heavy bottomed medium pot, heat 2 to 3 inches oil to 350-375°F. Use a thermometer to verify temperature.

4. Working in batches, dip veggies into tempura batter letting any excess drip off.

5. Carefully add battered veggies to the hot oil without overcrowding. Fry for 2-3 minutes until lightly golden brown and crispy.

6. Remove tempura with a slotted spoon to a cooling rack or paper bag to drain.

7. Repeat steps 4-6 until all the vegetable tempura is cooked.

8. Lightly sprinkle with salt if desired while still warm. Enjoy immediately with dipping sauce.

This lighter tempura is a tasty way to get extra vegetables into your diet. With a well-balanced meal, a few pieces of vegetable tempura can fit into a healthy lifestyle.

Healthier Dipping Sauce Options

Traditional dipping sauces for tempura tend to be high in sodium like soy sauce or savory dashi broth. For a healthier but still flavorful dipping sauce, consider these options:

– Low sodium soy sauce – Reduces sodium while still adding classic soy flavor

– Ponzu sauce – Features a lighter citrus flavor from yuzu juice and rice vinegar

– Sesame dipping sauce – Combines tahini, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, and tamari for nutty sesame flavor

– Peanut dipping sauce – Mix peanut butter, lime juice, soy sauce, garlic, chili, and honey for a protein kick

– Greek yogurt dip – Whisk Greek yogurt with lemon juice, spices, and herbs for a creamy base

– Sweet chili sauce – Adds tangy chili flavor that pairs well with the crunchy batter

Mix up different dipping sauce options to keep your vegetable tempura interesting and full of flavor. The sauces can make a big difference in the overall nutrition profile.

Potential Downsides of Vegetable Tempura

While vegetable tempura made with healthy ingredients and cooking methods can be a nutritious choice, there are a few potential downsides to keep in mind:

– Added fat and calories from frying and batter – Eating multiple pieces or very large portions substantially increases calorie intake. Stick to a few pieces.

– High sodium content, especially if paired with dipping sauces – Be mindful of sodium intake the rest of the day.

– Can affect cholesterol levels with prolonged, frequent consumption – Enjoy tempura as an occasional treat, not a daily indulgence.

– Risk of oil degradation and absorption of trans fats if oil is overused – Always fry with fresh high heat oil and limit reuses.

– Potential exposure to acrylamide compound formed from starchy foods at high heat – Vary your sources of vegetables and stick to a balanced diet.

While the biggest risks come from excessive consumption, it’s smart to be aware of the potential drawbacks. Carefully watching portion sizes and enjoying vegetable tempura alongside other healthy foods keeps it safely in moderation.


When made properly using nutritious ingredients and healthier cooking methods, vegetable tempura can absolutely be part of a balanced diet. The vegetables retain fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are beneficial to health. Just be sure to use lighter batters, high heat oils, and control portion sizes. Limiting vegetable tempura to a few pieces at a time prevents excess calories, fat, sodium, and other drawbacks of fried foods. Enjoyed in moderation alongside other nutritious fare, tempura vegetables can add taste and nutrition to your meal.

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