Gado gado may sound funny, but it’s soooo delicious ????????. This salad is very popular among tourists in Indonesia. And it was the answer I always got whenever I told the waiters I’m vegetarian.

Since my last trip to Indonesia my food preferences changed and now I’m making vegan gado gado at home, in Romania.

In Indonesian, gado means mix. Therefore, gado gado means mix mix. In fact, it’s a mix of veggies, protein (tempeh and / or tofu, boiled egg), peanut sauce (usually very spicy) and rice crackers. You see now why it’s so easy to veganize it ????.

I wanted to prepare this salad since a long time ago, but there was one main ingredient I was missing: tempeh. Luckily, I’ve recently discovered a Facebook page, Happy Tempeh, which advertised homemade tempeh. Obviously I quickly placed my first order. And guess what?! This tempeh is made by an Indonesian!!! Indah married a Romanian guy a few years ago, they moved to Romania. And we’re almost neighbors! Needless to say the tempeh Indah makes tastes sooo good!

Gadao gado salad served with spicy peanut sauce and crackers

What is tempeh?

It is said tempeh was discovered accidentally somewhere in Java / Indonesia in a soy oil factory. The okara resulted from the oil production got contaminated with fungi used for soy sauce production which resulted into this healthy vegan alternative for meat that we call today tempeh.

To make tempeh, the soy beans are bound together into a solid block during a fermentation process in which a mold is used. Don’t freak out, it’s just rhizopus oligosporus, which is a healthy mold ????. So, if you see some black spots on your tempeh block, don’t worry, it’s normal.

Sliced tempeh

Tempeh is very rich in protein, fiber, magnesium, B vitamins, and phosphorus. It tastes a bit nutty and absorbs the flavor of the ingredients it is cooked with.

Traditionally, it’s made of soy beans, there are soy free tempeh versions made of chickpeas, yellow peas, black beans or lentils.

Although it’s healthier as it’s made of whole soy beans, unfortunately tempeh still remains overshadowed by tofu.

What is gado gado salad made of?

There are two star ingredients in these recipe: tempeh and the peanut sauce. Because, seriously, if you gave me a plate full of boiled veggies, I’d tell you that I’m not on diet. And probably any Indonesian would say the same. That’s why they came out with this clever idea to encourage eating healthy veggies ????.

Spicy peanut sauce ingredients

  • roasted peanuts – if you don’t have whole peanuts, feel free to use peanut butter; (made of roasted peanuts);
  • chilies – use either fresh or dried; if dried, soak them for 10 minutes in hot water;
  • shallots – no yellow or red onion;
  • fresh ginger, turmeric and garlic – this sauce has to made with galangal, not with ginger; unfortunately I can’t find it; galangal comes from the same family with ginger, but it’s spicier and slightly more peppery;
  • coconut milk – I used both cream and water;
  • coconut sugar – can sub with maple or agave syrup;
  • kaffir lime leaves – not easy to find fresh outside SE Asia; but you can find either frozen or a preserved paste;
  • lemongrass (or citronella grass) – a perennial grass which grows in tropical climates; use only the white core for cooking; I’ve also tried store bought preserved lemongrass, but it’s less flavorful than the fresh one;
  • tamarind paste – tamarind (or Indian date) is is a tropical fruit used as an additive flavor in cooking; it is high in tartaric acid which adds a tart, sweet, or sour taste to dishes and drinks; you can find tamarind either as a thin paste or packed fruits that need to be soaked in hot water;
Spicy peanut sauce ingredients

Salad ingredients

This is actually quite versatile. What I used:

  • tempeh & tofu – not mandatory to use both;
  • green beans – snake beans are included in the recipe usually, but they’re not available here;
  • potatoes – a starchy veggie is always included and potato is the most common;
  • spinach – if using fresh, blanch it;
  • cabbage – you can use red cabbage, Chinese cabbage or lettuce;
  • cucumber – it accompanies any Indonesian dish ????;
  • bean sprouts – I used preserved sprouts, but I strongly advise you to use fresh if possible.
Gado gado salad ingredients - tempeh, tofu, spincah, potatoes, cabbage, green beans, cucumber and bean sprouts

Feel free to use other veggies you like or have in your fridge.

Besides, almost every Indonesian dish is accompanied by rice crackers. Unfortunately I could only find shrimp crackers here. So, I replaced them with corn crackers. They worked fine.

How to make vegan gado gado salad

Since Indonesia is such a big country and recipes are quite different. There are more ways to prepare gado gado and I’m trying to show you quite a simple version.

Prepare the peanut sauce

This is the part where you really need to do something to prepare this recipe, since it’s quite easy to prepare the veggies ????.

First, crush the roasted peanuts into a food processor until crumbly. You choose the texture that you want for your sauce. Just remember that, the more fine you ground the peanuts, the more water you’ll need to add to thicken the sauce.

Next, you need to make a paste used as a base for this sauce. Blend the chilies, ginger (or galangal), shallot, garlic, chilies, turmeric with a bit of water, until you get a paste. Then add cooking oil to a skillet, turn on the heat and cook the paste until it the water evaporates and it gets very thick. This will add a nice flavor to your sauce. Then add water and bring it to a boil, add coconut milk, tamarind paste, and kaffir lime leaves.

Then add peanuts, coconut sugar, soy sauce and let it simmer for 5-7 minutes over low heat. Add water if necessary. When the sauce is cooked, drizzle ove some lime juice and the hard part is done ????.

Add peanuts, tamarind, kaffir lime leaves and

Salad preparation

I chose to fry tempeh and tofu. Bear in mind that tempeh absorbs more oil than tofu, so you might want to bake it instead.

Then prepare the vegetables depending on what you chose for your salad. Boil potatoes, blanch green beans and spinach, slice cucumbers and cabbage.

Arrange them all on a plate as you wish and enjoy with the delicious spicy Indonesian peanut sauce.

Gado gado salad - fried tempeh slice with peanut sauce

Other Asian recipes you might want to try

If you like this Indonesian salad / gado gado salad recipe, please rate it or leave a comment below; I’d love to know your feedback ????. And, if you prepare it, you can post a photo and tag Choose Tasty either on Instagram, or on Facebook. ????

Gado gado salad serced with spicy peanut sauce

Gado Gado Salad | Indonesian Salad with Spicy Peanut Sauce

This vegan gado gado salad is so satisfying and nourishing! It makes a delicious lunch or dinner. The star ingredients here are tempeh and the incredibly tasty spicy peanut sauce.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course dinner, lunch
Cuisine Indonesian
Servings 4 servings


Peanut sauce

  • 120 g roasted peanuts
  • 6-7 red chilies I used dry chilies
  • 1 medium shallot cut in 4 pieces
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • 1 ginger knob (3 cm) or galangal
  • 1 fresh turmeric knob (1-2 cm)
  • 1 lemongrass (cut in smaller pieces) use only the white part
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 5 g tamarind paste
  • 1 tsp kaffir lime leaves paste or use fresh leaves if possible
  • 200 g coconut cream use both cream and coconut water
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1 tbsp coconut sugar agave or maple syrup work as well
  • 1 tbsp dark soy souce
  • lime juice
  • 200 ml water

Gado gado salad

  • 200 g tempeh sliced
  • 200 g firm tofu sliced
  • 300 g cabbage sliced
  • 150 g fresh spinach
  • 4 medium potatoes
  • 200 g cucumbers sliced
  • 150 g green beans fresh or frozen
  • 100 g soybean sprouts
  • salt to taste
  • rice crackers optional


Peanut sauce

  • If using dry chilies, soak them for a few minutes in hot water;
  • Place the peanuts in a blender or a food processor and blend or process until they're finely ground; just make sure they don't turn into peanut butter; set aside;
  • Place in the blender / food processor garlic, shallot, lemongrass, ginger, turmeric, chilies and process until you get a smooth paste;
  • Heat the oil in a non-stick pan or a wok and add the paste when it's hot; fry over medium heat for 5-6 minutes, until the water evaporates and the paste turns quite thick; stir continuously to prevent burning;
  • Pour in the water and, when it starts simmering, add the coconut milk, salt, tamarind paste and kaffir lime leaves paste; stir well to combine;
  • When it starts simmering and the coconut cream dissolved completely, add the rest of the sauce ingredients; let it simmer over low heat for 5-6 minutes; add more water if needed;

Gado gado salad

  • Boil the unpeeled potatoes in a small pot filled with water; when they're soft enough, remove them from the water and set aside to cool; remove the peel and slice them;
  • Fry or bake tempeh and tofu until they turn a bit crispy;
  • Blanch the cabbage, spinach and green beans;
  • Arrange all veggies on a platter and serve with peanut sauce and crackers.
Keyword gado gado recipe, indonesian salad, spicy peanut sauce, vegan gado gado

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