Everything You Need to Know About Tempeh

10 August 2021

Tempeh shares similarities with tofu, but it’s much more flavorful and nutritious! The plant-based protein source has many uses, too. Learn all about it!

What Is Tempeh?Photo By Canva

Tempeh is a specialty from Southeast Asia, particularly from the island of Java, in Indonesia, and although it has similarities with tofu, it’s an entirely different product —it’s totally worth it, though, so learn all about cooking tempeh and add the nutritious plant-based protein source to your diet!

What Is Tempeh?

Tempeh is an extraordinary food, but it’s still relatively unknown. Unlike similar products, like tofu, not everyone knows about this Southeast Asian specialty. It’s a classic ingredient in Indonesian food, and it’s gaining global recognition fast.

Tempeh is a paste made with pureed whole fermented soybeans. It all starts with washing and steeping the grains in water, then they’re mashed into a pulp and inoculated with a healthy fungus that transforms the paste through fermentation to bring out all of Tempeh’s flavor and amp-up its nutritional benefits.

Tempeh is often firm and earthy, with perceivable acidity and sometimes funky aromas from the fermentation process. It’s a great addition to any diet, since there’s lots of nutrition in tempeh, especially extraordinary levels of proteins. Tempeh is convenient for people following vegan and vegetarian diets, as the tasty soybean paste is a great protein source with extraordinary nutritional values, and it can substitute meat with ease! Still, anyone can enjoy this delicacy, despite their dietary guidelines.

Tempeh vs. Tofu

Both tempeh and tofu are made with soybeans, mainly the white and yellow kind. The big difference between these nutritious products is that tofu is made with whole soybeans while tofu is a byproduct of soy milk, it’s literally pressed curded soy milk.

Tofu is always made only with soybeans, but tempeh can have other grains in the mix, including rice and flax seeds, adding dietary fiber and other nutrients to tempeh. This is particularly important, since not all people can handle every grain, so know your tempeh.

Tempeh and tofu also differ in flavor and texture. Tempeh is firmer and more flavorful, often earthy and nutty, while tofu is known for having a bland taste and a softer texture. Tempeh and tofu are not substitutes for each other, since each has a unique flavor profile, still you can sometimes use one for the other in some recipes.

How To Cook Tempeh?

Tempeh on The Cutting BoardPhoto By Canva

Traditionally, tempeh is marinated with garlic and spices like cumin and turmeric and then deep-fried for satisfying one-biters better enjoyed with chili paste. Still, you can also add tempeh to salads and soups, stir-fries and stews.

Baked tempeh is quite popular and chopped into small pieces; you can make tacos with it. Fried, roasted, or just tossed with some veggies in a wok, the sky’s the limit here, so get creative! The truth is you can treat tempeh as any other protein, animal or plant-based.

Some people might find tempeh’s flavor a bit strong at first. If that’s the case, try steaming it before cooking, that will eliminate some of the natural funky flavors caused by the fermentation process. You’ll eventually get used to Tempeh’s flavor, and will appreciate it greatly, it’s, as they say, an acquired taste.

Did you know you can cook tempeh in an air fryer? Cooking tempeh is that easy. Cut the tempeh into small cubes, bread them and fry them in minutes to golden perfection. This is a fantastic snack to serve when enjoying a game with friends. It’s a great beer snack!

More often than not, the sauce and dip served with tempeh provides the most prominent flavor, so experiment with your favorite sauces. Soy sauce, fish sauce and chili paste are pretty popular, but there are many alternatives. Tempeh is quite noble when it comes to flavor combinations, so it’s hard to get them wrong.

Tempeh Nutrition and Benefits

Tempeh is a super nutritious plant-based protein. First of all, it’s packed with protein with up to 20 grams of high-quality protein for every 100 grams. You also get 10 grams of monounsaturated fat (the good kind of fat) and 7 grams of carbs.

Vitamin-wise, tempeh contains excellent levels of the vitamin B complex, including niacin, that your body uses to turn food into energy, and riboflavin, necessary for cell growth. Besides, you’re adding to your diet iron, magnesium, calcium and phosphorus, all essential minerals you must get through your food.

The best part of tempeh is that it’s a fermented product, so it has probiotics that are good for your digestive health — it will keep your gut bacteria happy!

Is Tempeh Gluten-Free?

Here’s some more good news. Traditional, high-quality tempeh will always be gluten free, as it’s made 100% with fermented soybeans.

There’s bad news too. Since regular-quality tempeh might contain other grains, it might have some gluten. Most of the time, producers use rice in tempeh, which is gluten free, but there’s a big chance these grains are processed in the same place where wheat and other grains with gluten are handled.

Your safest bet is looking for 100% soybean tempeh, and remember to read the label carefully. If unsure, and if you react negatively to gluten, you’re better off having something else for lunch.

The Secret is Out; Tempeh is Gaining Popularity

We all know tofu, but few people know about its Indonesian cousin, the tempeh. Well, that’s changing fast as the plant-based protein source is gaining popularity worldwide.

If you haven’t tried tempeh, now’s the time. Soon it will be readily available and won’t be the new thing. Try tempeh, experiment with cooking tempeh in different ways and add it to your daily meal rotation. You can never eat too many plant-based proteins, and few are as tasty as this Indonesian specialty! What’s not to love? Say hello to tempeh.

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