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Gado Gado

Apr 28, 2023 ● By Brenda Davis, RD, Vesanto Melina, MS, RD, and Cory Davis, MPA, PAg
Gado Gado

Photo credit Hannah Kaminsky

Gado Gado is one of Indonesia’s five national dishes. It consists of vegetables that are raw or steamed until crisp-tender, plus tofu or tempeh. Then it’s topped with a spicy peanut sauce. Give the dish a healthy lift by baking, rather than frying the tofu or tempeh and omitting the oil in the sauce. Get creative with the vegetables and include local and seasonal choices.

Unhealthy Western dietary patterns, characterized by highly processed foods, red and processed meat, high-fat dairy products, high-sugar foods, sweet drinks and alcohol, are consistently associated with adverse health outcomes, including negative impacts on hormones and stress. Whole-plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, legumes (beans, lentils, split peas), whole grains, nuts and seeds, are rich in fiber and phytonutrients. These foods can help correct hormonal imbalances, reduce inflammation and improve the health of the gut microbiome.

Soy foods such as unsweetened soy milk, edamame, tofu and tempeh can also be beneficial. They help reduce insulin levels, reduce symptoms of menopause and decrease the risk of some cancers. Soy foods have also been reported to reduce biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress in women with PCOS. These recipes are rich in colorful, phytonutrient-dense whole foods and include a healthy dose of soy.


YIELD: 4 servings

12 oz firm tofu or tempeh, cut into ¾-inch cubes

1 Tbsp low-sodium or regular tamari

1 tsp salt-free seasoning blend of choice

½ tsp  ground turmeric

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

2 cups cut green beans

2 cups broccoli florets and pieces

4 cups chopped leafy greens (such as bok choy, kale or collards)

2 cups mung bean sprouts

2 cups finely shredded red cabbage

2 carrots, shredded

1 cucumber, thinly sliced

1 red bell pepper, sliced into strips


Optional Toppings

½ cup sliced green onions

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro,  lightly packed

¼ cup crushed unsalted dry-roasted peanuts

Lime wedges

Hot sauce


To make the tofu or tempeh, preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a medium baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Put the tofu or tempeh in a medium bowl. Coat with the tamari, seasoning blend and turmeric. Transfer the tofu or tempeh to the prepared baking sheet. Bake the tofu or tempeh for 20 minutes, or until crispy. Transfer it to a medium bowl.

Steam the vegetables in two batches. Start by steaming the sweet potatoes for 2 minutes. Add the green beans and steam for 2 minutes. Add the broccoli and steam for 4 minutes. Arrange the sweet potatoes, green beans and broccoli on a large platter or on individual plates.

Steam the leafy greens for 2 minutes. Add the bean sprouts and steam for 1 minute. Arrange the leafy greens, bean sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cucumber, bell pepper and tofu or tempeh on the platter. Serve with the optional toppings of your choice. Top with Gado Gado Sauce or pass the sauce at the table.


Gado Gado sauce

This spicy peanut sauce is the topping for Gado Gado. However, it also pairs perfectly with salads, power bowls and wraps. Tahini replaces the more traditional sesame oil used in peanut sauce, and dates replace the sugar.


YIELDS: one-and-a-half cups

¾ cup very hot water

½ cup peanut butter

2 pitted medjool dates,  or 6 pitted deglet noor dates

2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice

2 Tbsp tahini

1 Tbsp low-sodium or regular tamari

1 tsp tamarind paste (optional)

1 tsp chopped fresh ginger

2 cloves garlic

2 small hot chiles, or ½ tsp hot sauce


Put the water, peanut butter, dates, lime juice, tahini, tamari, optional tamarind paste, ginger, garlic and hot chiles in a blender and process on high speed until smooth. Use immediately or chill before serving. Stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator, the sauce will keep for 5 days.

Tip: Although the tamarind paste is optional, it gives this sauce a more authentic flavor. Because the sauce thickens with refrigeration, thin it with water as needed to achieve the desired consistency.

Recipe adapted with permission from Plant-Powered Protein: Nutrition Essentials and Dietary Guidelines for All Ages, by Davis, B., and V. Melina, and C. Davis, Healthy Living Publications© 2023.