Here’s Why You Should Add Tempeh to Your Diet (Plus 15 Recipes to Try)

Originating from the Indonesian island of Java, tempeh is a nutty, savory fermented soybean cake. It’s made by a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a very firm cake. Tempeh has a bold, nutty distinct flavor and it’s one of those foods that people seem to love or hate with equal ferociousness, with little room for indecision. What makes it so bold? Fermentation via Rhizopus oligosporusóa mold.

Fermentation of tempeh begins with whole soybeans. The beans are rinsed, drained and then inoculated with a starter culture that contains Rhizopus mold spores. The tempeh is then fermented at temperatures of†85-90 degrees Fahrenheit/29-32 Celsius for several days. As the mycelium (bacteria colony) grows, it binds the soybeans into a dense, white cake. Sometimes there will be grey or black spots also present on the tempeh; this is completely normal. Avoid tempeh with pink, yellow or blue spots as this indicates that it has been overly fermented.

Tempeh is an incredibly versatile, highly nutritious and delightfully delicious addition to any diet. Let’s take a closer look at why you should add tempeh to your diet, plus some recipes to get you inspired.

The Health Benefits of Tempeh

Tempeh, like other soy foods, is a wellspring†of protein and fiber, however since tempeh is a fermented food, it has lots of other health benefits too. Tempeh has a wide range of unique proteins, peptides and phytonutrients. It is a good source†of calcium, manganese, copper, phosphorus, magnesium and vitamin B2. Tempeh is also an excellent source of probiotics†which promote health by stimulating the immune system and discouraging the growth of harmful gut-bacteria. Not only that, tempeh†provides many nutrients in a more digestible and absorbable form due to the fermentation. And it’s minimally processed, which means you’ll enjoy more whole food nutrition with every bite.

A Note About Genetically Modified (GMO) Soy

Most tempeh is made from soybeans. Soybeans are one of the top genetically modified crops in the U.S. and there are criticisms about the production of genetically modified organisms. In more than 60 countries around the world, there are restrictions or outright bans on the production and sale of GMOs. Here in the U.S., the government has approved the use of GMOs, and as a result, they are ubiquitous in our food supply. If you want to take action on the issue of GMOs in our food supply or want to see GMOs clearly listed on labels, you can start a petition.

Related:†The Difference Between ‘Non-GMO’ & ‘Organic’ Labels

When looking at soybean tempeh, unless the product is specifically labeled as GMO-free, then there’s a good chance that the product was made using GMO soybeans. Look for organic products or products specifically labeled as non-GMO.

Buying and Cooking Tempeh

It used to be that you could only find tempeh in select all-natural stores, co-ops or Asian markets, however that is no longer the case. Today, tempeh can be found close by the tofu in the refrigerated or frozen section of your neighborhood store. There are an assortment of flavors, styles and brands to browse. But don’t think that you’re limited to purchasing tempeh at the store; it’s possible to†make tempeh at home. All you need are some beans, a spoonful of tempeh starter and a warm area to let it ferment.

Making your own tempeh does take more effort than simply purchasing it at the grocery store, and it might not be cheaper either. However, homemade tempeh has a fuller, more complex nutty flavor than the prepared†versions do. If you like store-bought tempeh, you might just love the fresh, nutty taste of homemade.

Related: 4 Ways to Try†Tempeh

Tempeh’s incredible versatility is a result of its dense, firm texture. It can be sliced, diced, shredded or crumbled and can handle almost any cooking method you can think of like frying, steaming, baking or even grilling. The real trick with tempeh is actually what you do before you start using it in your favorite recipe. Before slicing or dicing tempeh, boil or steam it. Boiling or steaming for 10 minutes will help to reduce the bitterness that can be associated with tempeh. It also helps the tempeh to become softer which will help it to absorb marinades and flavors better. Once opened, tempeh can be wrapped tightly and stored in the fridge for up to 10 days or in the freezer for up to a few months.

15 Tempting Tempeh Recipes

Are you ready to add this fermented food to your diet? Here are fifteen tempeh recipes to help get you inspired.

Here's Why You Should Add Tempeh to Your Diet (Plus 15 Recipes to Try)Photo: KD Angle-Traegner

128 comments

heather g
heather g3 days ago

Agree with Rosario's observations. Thanks.

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Joemar K
Joemar Karvelis4 days ago

Thanks

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W. C
W. C5 days ago

Thank you.

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Danuta W
Danuta W7 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Steven W
Steven W8 days ago

Thank you.

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Carl R
Carl R8 days ago

Thanks!!!

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Janis K
Janis K8 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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Tania N
Tania N8 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Anne M
Anne M8 days ago

Okay..

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Danuta W
Danuta W8 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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