When you first transition to a vegan or plant-based diet, there are SO many new foods to try. One of these new food options is tempeh. What is tempeh? Where does it come from? What is it made of? And what do you do with it??? Find out in this post!
What is tempeh? Tempeh is a plant-based, vegan and vegeatarian protein source made from fermented soybeans that have been pressed together.
Tempeh FAQ (and answers!)
How is tempeh made?
Tempeh is made from soybeans that have been washed, hulled, and boiled. They are then mixed with a fungus called Rhizopus. Rhizopus starts the fermentation of the soybeans, and they begin to grow white fibers called mycelium. This mycelium is what then binds the soybeans together into a solid and firm patty. (If you’ve heard about the health benefits of mushrooms, these health benefits also come from mycelium.)
This fermenting process not only gives tempeh a distinct flavor but also adds nutrients and makes it highly digestible.
What is the texture of tempeh?
Tempeh has a firm, chewy, and nutty texture. Even though it is made of soybeans – like tofu! – the texture of tempeh is very different from the texture of tofu. (So if you just don’t like the texture of tofu, you might like the texture of tempeh!)
What does tempeh taste like?
Because tempeh is fermented, it tends to have an earthy, almost mushroom-like flavor. But it also is able to absorb and take on the flavors of whatever it is marinated or cooked in. Like many foods, if you buy tempeh, and eat it straight from the package (without seasoning it or cooking it) you will very likely not like it. But used in a recipe (I’m sharing 10 amazing vegan tempeh recipes below), you will very likely love it (or learn to love it).
Where can tempeh be purchased?
Many large grocery stores carry tempeh, and it is sold in the refrigerator section. It can also usually be found in health food stores and in Asian grocery stores. And as vegan foods and plant-based options become even more popular, it will be available in even more places.
One of the most popular (and easiest to find) brands of tempeh in the U.S. and Canada, is Lightlife tempeh. It comes plain and ready to be seasoned – or already ready seasoned (as tempeh bacon or buffalo sauce style). It is also available in some areas on Amazon.
Is tempeh healthy?
Tempeh is very healthy. A 3 oz serving has 18g of protein, 28% of your daily fiber requirement, no cholesterol, and is a great source of iron, calcium, and B vitamins. Tempeh contains phytoestrogens that have cancer-fighting and antioxidant properties.
There is evidence that soy products like tempeh may:
- Protect your heart
- Improve your cholesterol
- Help lower blood pressure
- Improve insulin resistance
- Lower inflammation
- Help relieve menopausal hot flashes
- Promote bone health
And because of the mycelium in tempeh, it is rich in probiotics which are good for the digestive system and gut health and helps boost your immune system.
What is the white stuff on tempeh??
The “the white stuff” is actually the edible (and healthy!!) mold – or mycelium – that grows between the soybeans during the fermentation process (as described above).
Why does my tempeh have black spots and look moldy??
During fermentation, as the white mold (mycelium) grows, it can create spores that are black or gray in color. These spots are completely normal and edible. They are a sign that your tempeh is fully mature. These dark spots do not affect the flavor or the tempeh at all.
How do I know if my tempeh has gone bad??
Like ANY food, tempeh can go bad and shouldn’t be eaten. If your tempeh smells like ammonia or alcohol it should not be eaten. If it develops a mushy or crumbly texture, or if it has fuzzy growth on it (like bread does when moldy), it should not be eaten.
How do you store tempeh?
Always check the packaging on the tempeh brand you purchase, but generally, tempeh can be stored in the refrigerator for about 7 days.
Can you freeze tempeh?
Always check the packaging on the tempeh brand you purchase, but generally, tempeh can be frozen for up to 12 months. (It can be frozen longer than this, but the texture might change.)
What do I do with tempeh?
Tempeh can be used as a protein source (meat replacement!) in all kinds of recipes – including sandwiches, salads, pasta, chilis and soups, tacos, and burritos. Check out the recipes below for a few to start with.
10 AMAZING TEMPEH RECIPES!
A vegan twist on the classic BLT, with delicious baked tempeh bacon, lettuce, tomato, and optional avocado. Prep your tempeh bacon ahead of time for a quick and easy sandwich!(Recipe and Photo from TheCuriousChickpea.com)
This tempeh is delicious for adding to Asian-inspired dishes like spring rolls, salads, and noodle dishes! (Recipe and photo from MinimalistBaker..com)
This delicious Teriyaki Tempeh is the absolutely BEST tempeh recipe. Steamed and fried tempeh is covered in a delicious sauce for an amazing plant-based protein option. (Recipe and photo from VNutritionandWellness.com)
This hearty, 1-pan tempeh bolognese is a plant-based take on a classic that pairs perfectly with vegan pasta and lasagna. Plus, it comes together in just 30 minutes. (Recipe and photo from MinimalistBaker.com)
Homemade vegan chili with both tempeh and beans means this chili recipe packs a powerful protein boost and has a satisfying texture. (Recipe and photo from TheSpruceEats.com)
The spicy buffalo-coated tempeh strips and the shredded greens coated with cool cashew-based ranch is incredible. Throw in some avocado for good measure and wrap it all in a tortilla for one delicious lunch. (Recipe and photo from OneIngredientChef.com)
Easy 2-Ingredient BBQ tempeh is quick and delicious. Try it with rice and veggies, on salads, or as part of a sandwich or wrap. (Recipe and photo from yummymummykitchen.com)
Mouthwatering, delicious vegan sloppy joes are the perfect addition to your vegan sandwich collection! (Recipe and photo from HappyKitchen.Rocks)
Italian Vegan Stuffed Peppers features a colorful mix of veggies, flavorful herbs, and protein-rich tempeh for a hearty and delicious lunch, dinner, or meal prep idea! (Photo and recipe from Simple-Veganista.com)
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