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In this guide, we’ll teach you how to make perfect tempura batter that is light and crunchy. Tempura is a popular snack in Japan, usually prepared for deep-frying shrimp and vegetables. We’ve got a recipe for shrimp tempura at the bottom!
The batter forms a translucent coating that prevents the food from absorbing too much oil, making it taste fresh, light, and crisp. The result is a lot less oily than Western deep-fried foods (if prepared correctly).
How This Easy Tempura Batter Recipe Works
To make a successful tempura batter, you need to choose flour with a low protein content (no more than 8%). The reason is that too much protein causes gluten formation in the batter which will mess up the consistency, making the dough thick and gummy instead of light and crisp when fried.
In this recipe, I used a mixture of cake flour and cornstarch to keep the protein content around 8% or lower. Most flours have a higher protein content, but if you can get your hands on Japanese ‘violet’ wheat flour which has a gluten content of 8%, you can substitute it for cake flour and cornstarch.
Aside from making sure the gluten content is no more than 8%-9%, I also chilled the flour and eggs in the fridge, and used ice-cold water. Keeping the ingredients cold also helps stop gluten formation and achieve the right consistency.
A good tempura batter shouldn’t be over-mixed. It’s important to gently combine the ingredients and resist the temptation to stir until all the clumps are gone. The batter should be a little clumpy (just like making pancakes).
By following the techniques and ratios in this recipe, you’ll get delicious fried vegetables and shrimp that stay crunchy for over an hour (I’ve tested it myself).
What You Need To Make The Perfect Tempura Batter From Scratch
For the perfect tempura batter recipe, you’ll need some equipment:
- a digital scale (for precision)
- a sieve (for the flour)
- a large bowl of ice (if you don’t plan to use the batter right away)
To make the best tempura batter that lightly coats the ingredients and keeps them tender and juicy, you’ll need precisely:
- 75g cake flour
- 25g cornstarch
- 180ml ice water
- 30g egg (crack an egg, beat it, and then weigh the exact amount)
How To Make Tempura Batter From Scratch
The perfect tempura batter comes together in 5 minutes. Measure all of your ingredients, chill them in the fridge, get a mixing bowl ready, and let’s begin!
Step 1: Sieve the chilled flour
Sieve the cake flour and cornstarch into a mixing bowl. This will help reduce clumps and give the batter a silkier texture.
Step 2: Add the cold egg and ice water
Add the measured egg and ice water into the bowl and gently combine. Don’t over-mix the batter since this will result in too much gluten formation. Unless you plan to use the batter right away, place it inside a bowl of ice to keep it cool. Again, this will prevent gluten from forming.
How To Cook Tempura
To form the crispy coating of tempura, you should follow these steps:
Step 1: Diluting the Batter for Shrimp or Asparagus
If you’re making shrimp or asparagus, pour a small amount of batter into a separate bowl and add a bit of water to dilute it.
Step 2: Coating Ingredients with Cornstarch for Perfect Tempura
Before drenching the ingredients in the batter, coat them in some cornstarch, dusting off any excess. The cornstarch acts as glue for the batter to stick to the ingredients instead of sliding off.
Step 3: Dipping Ingredients into the Tempura Batter
Dip the ingredients into the tempura batter and set on a wire rack or tray.
Step 4: Heating Oil to the Perfect Temperature for Deep-Frying
Heat oil to 340°F-360°F. To check the temperature, drizzle some batter into the hot oil. It should form multiple tiny crumbs that sink to the bottom, but quickly bounce back up and float to the surface within three seconds.
Step 5: Gently Placing Ingredients into the Hot Oil
Gently place the coated ingredients into the hot oil, without overcrowding the oil. Move the ingredients around carefully so that they don’t stick together.
Step 6: Adding More Batter for a Crunchy Coating
To get a more crunchy and thicker coating, dip your finger into the reserved diluted batter and drizzle some onto the ingredient. Once crispy crumbs form, use chopsticks to push them around and make them stick to the ingredient.
Step 7: Deep-Frying to Perfection in 2-3 Minutes
It’ll take 2-3 minutes to deep-fry one batch. You should wait until the ingredients turn light golden and crisp. When they’re ready, the bubbles around the ingredients will be less intense, and the ingredient will float a bit more to the top.
Step 8: Removing Ingredients and Draining Excess Oil on Wire Rack
Remove the ingredients from the oil with chopsticks and transfer them to a wire rack to drain any excess oil.
Step 9: Enjoy your Perfect Tempura Batter
How To Prepare Vegetables For Tempura
The thickness of the vegetables is crucial to making good tempura. If they’re too thick the batter will start to burn before the vegetables are cooked. If you cut them too thin, you’ll have a bite of crispy batter with almost no vegetable.
The perfect thickness for starchy vegetables is about 0.2 inches. For shiitake mushrooms, remove the stems since they’re quite hard to chew.
The best vegetables for tempura are starchy veggies and those without too high of a water content. Eggplants, sweet potatoes, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, pumpkin, bell peppers, and lotus roots are all good.
How To Prepare Shrimp For Tempura Frying
To get that gorgeous long shrimp tempura and prevent the shrimp from curling while cooking, you should follow these steps:
- Remove the shrimp heads, devein them, and peel off the shell from the tail to the head.
- Cut the tip of the tail off, and use the same knife to scrape away any dirt or water inside the tail. This is essential for your safety since the tail can explode while frying if there’s water inside.
- Next, cut a few small incisions along the shrimp, and then place it on the cutting board and snap the shrimp muscle with your finger.
How To Cook Tempura In Air Fryer
Making tempura in the air-fryer is easy and you can achieve a similar (maybe not quite as crisp) result.
Simply preheat your air fryer to 350°F and place some coated ingredients. Spray them with canola oil or another cooking oil. Don’t overcrowd the basket, it’s better to do several batches.
Tempura Batter FAQs
The tempura batter should be light and watery once combined. If you follow the exact measurements in this recipe, using a digital scale, you should get the right consistency.
To make vegan tempura batter, replace the egg and the regular ice-cold water with chilled soda water or seltzer water. Follow the instructions above and don’t forget to resist over-mixing the batter.
The short answer is no. Tempura batter should be used straight away for the best result. If you let it sit for too long, gluten will start to form and the consistency will be messed up. To keep the batter cool while you prepare the ingredients for coating, place it in a bowl of ice.
If gluten forms, the tempura won’t be crispy. Cornstarch or potato starch doesn’t have gluten so incorporating some in the recipe will ensure crispy and lovely tempura. Following the techniques and instructions in this recipe will help you achieve the best result.
Tempura batter should be cold to prevent gluten formation. It’s best to chill all the ingredients (flour, eggs, cornstarch) in the fridge for at least 3 hours before preparing the batter. Also, make sure you use ice-cold water. I like to let a generous amount of ice cubes sit in a cup of water and then remove them before making the batter.
First of all, it’s better to use refined instead of unrefined oil. Unrefined oils have a stronger flavor which can take away from the shrimp and batter. To retain the specific flavor of the shrimp and the batter, opt for refined oil. The best refined oils to use are ones with a high smoke point like canola oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, or avocado oil. The exception is sesame oil which is semi-refined but perfect for creating the authentic tempura experience.
Do You Season Tempura Batter?
Tempura batter usually isn’t seasoned. The deep-fried shrimp and vegetables are served with a flavorful dipping sauce, so the batter doesn’t need any salt or pepper.
You can use any of your favorite dipping sauces for tempura. Or try this Homemade Sha Cha Sauce Recipe, it’s amazing with tempura.
Alternatively, simply sprinkle some salt on the tempura to enjoy its unique flavors. I like doing this with fresh garden vegetables.
What’s Tempura Sauce Made Of?
Simply mix 3 tablespoons of soy sauce with 2 tablespoons of mirin, 2 teaspoons sugar, and ¾ cups dashi (3/4 cups water plus 1 teaspoon of dashi powder). Bring it to a simmer in a saucepan and dissolve the sugar. Cool to store and warm before serving.
- 0.8 lb fresh shrimp jumbo or medium
- ⅓ tsp. salt for coating the shrimp before the batter
- ½ tsp. cornstarch
- 75 g cake flour
- 25 g cornstarch
- 180 ml ice water
- 30 g egg crack an egg, beat it, and then weigh the exact amount
- All ingredients ready? Let's begin!
- Remove the shrimp heads, devein them, and peel off the shell from the tail to the head. Use a knife to scrape away any dirt or water inside the tail.
- Cut a few small incisions along the shrimp, and then place it on the cutting board and snap the shrimp muscle with your finger.
- Mix ½ cup cornstarch with a pinch of salt and coat the shrimp with it.
- Make the batter. Sieve the cake flour and cornstarch into a mixing bowl. Add the measured egg and ice water into the bowl and gently combine. Don’t over-mix the batter since this will result in too much gluten formation.
- Dip the shrimp into the tempura batter and set it on a wire rack or tray. Make sure it is coated entirely.
- Heat oil to 340°F-360°F. Gently place the coated shrimp into the hot oil, without overcrowding the oil. Move the shrimp around carefully to prevent sticking.
- It’ll take 2-3 minutes to deep-fry one batch. You should wait until the shrimp turn light golden brown and crisp. When they’re ready, the bubbles around them will be less intense, and the shrimp will float a bit more to the top.
- Remove the shrimp from the oil with chopsticks or a spider skimmer and transfer to a wire rack.
- Serve with your favorite dipping sauce or tempura sauce.