Japanese Herb Tempura Recipe

Make crispy, delicious fritters using culinary herbs and Japanese tempura batter.

From "The Herbfarm Cookbook"
May/June 2016

  • Herb tempura preserves the flavors of ingredients such as sage, perilla and lemon balm in tasty fritters.
    Photo by iStock

Yield: 6-12 servings

Sample the entire herb garden on a platter with these flavorful little fritters. Serve them as an elegant nibble with champagne or cocktails before dinner.

Japanese Herb Tempura Recipe


• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 2 tablespoons cornstarch
• 2-1⁄2 to 2-3⁄4 cups ice water
• 4 cups peanut or olive oil, for deep-frying
• 36 pieces of a variety of herbs and edible flowers, for example: leaves of mint, sage, perilla, lemon balm or lovage; tender sprigs of French tarragon, flat-leaf parsley, fennel or dill; blossoms of nasturtium, fennel, sweet cicely or daylily buds
• Sea salt or kosher salt


1. Whisk dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Stir in 2-1/2 cups ice water; don’t overmix and don’t worry about lumps. The batter should be the consistency of heavy cream. If it’s too thick, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time.

2. Preheat oven to 175 degrees. Heat oil in a 3-quart saucepan until it reaches 350 degrees on a deep-fry thermometer, or heat an electric deep fryer filled with oil. Hold 1 herb or flower by the stem and dip it into the batter. Lift it out and hold it for a moment over the bowl to let excess drip off, then drop in oil. Fry only as many fritters at a time as comfortably fit in the pan without touching, and adjust heat to maintain oil temperature at 350 degrees. Fry until lightly browned on bottom, 30 to 60 seconds, then flip them with a wire skimmer and brown other side. Drain on paper towels.

3. Keep tempura warm on a pan in the oven as you fry remaining herbs. Sprinkle with salt as you add them to the pan. For a nice presentation, transfer tempura to a serving platter lined with a torn square of handmade paper, rice paper or fresh grape leaves. Serve right away. Serves 6 to 12.

Learn more about cooking with culinary herbs in Traditional Herbal Recipes from Around the World.

Excerpted with permission from The Herbfarm Cookbook by Jerry Traunfeld. Published by Scribner Book Company, 2000.

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