Tempeh, a soy food with a high protein content
If you’re looking for healthy meat alternatives or decided to vegan recently, you would have come across tempeh. It is a protein-rich plant-based food known for its versatility in cooking. You can sear it like a steak, add it to your stir-fry, or crumble it to resemble ground meat.
If you don’t know much about this nutritious food, you’ve come to the right place. Here, you’ll learn everything you need to know about tempeh. By the end of this guide, you’ll know how to add this delicious ingredient to your diet.
Tempeh – What is it?
It is a traditional Javanese food made from fermented soybeans, consumed by the locals for protein. There is also tempeh made from soybeans and grain.
You can find this food in any supermarket. Check out the aisle where you get vegan or plant-based products. Sometimes, they have discolorations or black spots on them. Don’t think too much about it, as this is due to fermentation.
How to store tempeh?
When you’re buying tempeh, always look at its packaging date. This will give you an idea of how long you can store it. Once you open the package, you can keep it in the fridge for 5 – 7 days.
If you want it to last longer, store it in the freezer. With this technique, the tempeh will last 10 – 12 months. Another way to increase the shelf life of this ingredient is to dry it. Slick tempeh and place it on dehydrator sheets. You can add some seasoning to enhance its flavour. Keep drying it until it feels crisp or firm. Store it in a tight container in a cool and dark place.
Tempeh vs. Tofu vs. Seitan
How is tempeh made?
To make tempeh, you need to cook and hull the soybeans. Place it on a tray and inoculate it with Rhizopus oligosporous, a fungus-based tempeh starter. This beneficial microorganism starts to ferment the cooked soybeans. Over time, it binds everything together to form cakes.
Soybeans are harder to digest due to the presence of indigestible sugars. However, the fermentation process makes it easier for your body to break it down.
After this stage, you have to pack and vacuum seal it for storage. If you are allergic to soy, look for soy-free options. These products use hemp protein, whole grains, or legumes to create tempeh.
What is the nutritional profile of tempeh?
One of the many reasons why vegetarians and vegans love eating tempeh is the nutrition it provides. It gives your body essential minerals, vitamins, and protein. At the same time, it is also low in carbs and sodium.
From a 3-ounce serving, you can get the following nutrients:
One cup of tempeh gives you 2/3 of the calcium you can get from drinking whole milk. Thanks to the fermentation process, it contains vitamin B12. As this vitamin is hard to find in plant-based foods, this is another reason to eat it when you go vegetarian or vegan.
What is the taste of tempeh?
A common question among people who want to try tempeh is about its taste. It has a distinct nutty and tangy flavour due to fermentation. However, there isn’t anything that has a similar taste profile to it.
You will either fall in love with this ingredient or hate it. Some people say it is an acquired taste. However, with the right cooking techniques and recipes, you won’t mind the flavour. Keep in mind that each brand of tempeh tastes different. You have to try different products to find the best one.
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How to use tempeh?
Before you follow any recipe, you should steam tempeh. Although this step isn’t necessary, it makes a significant difference in its flavour. Steaming tempeh mellows the fermented taste. At the same time, it becomes softer, making it easier to absorb seasonings. This helps enhance the flavour of tempeh.
Cut it into the desired shape depending on the recipe. Add ½ inch of water to a saucepan, add the tempeh and steam it. If you want to cook it, cover the entire ingredient with water. Simmer it for at least 10 minutes before draining the water.
When it comes to marinating, make sure you give the tempeh adequate time to soak the flavour. After you cut it into a specific shape, add generous amounts of marinade. If possible, allow it to marinate for several hours before cooking. You can also refrigerate it and marinate this ingredient overnight for maximum flavour.
Try cooking tempeh straight out of the packet and steam it to find out which one tastes good to you. Given below are simple and delicious recipes you can try at home.
Stir-fried vegetables with tempeh and sweet and sour sauce
You can have a lot of fun with this recipe to add vegetables based on your preferences. Even if you don’t have many vegetables in your fridge, you can still improvise and make a tasty dish.
For the sweet and sour sauce
- Grated Ginger – 1 to 2 teaspoons
- Agave Nectar – 1 tablespoon
- Tamari/Soy Sauce – 2 tablespoons
- Pineapple Juice – 1/3 cup
- Corn-starch/Arrowroot – 2 tablespoons
- Rice Vinegar – 3 tablespoons
- Water – ¼ cup
Mix the corn-starch/arrowroot with water and stir till it dissolves. Make sure there are no lumps. Add all the ingredients and stir to create the sweet and sour sauce. You can also use a bottled version.
For the stir-fry
- Tomatoes – 2 diced
- Broccoli – 2, cut into small pieces
- Onion – 1, cut into quarters before thinly slicing
- Bell Peppers – 2, cut into small pieces
- Pineapple Chunks – 20-ounce can drain unsweetened juice
- Homemade/Bottled Sweet and Sour Sauce – 1 cup
- Tempeh – 8-ounce packet
- Safflower Oil – 1 tablespoon
- Zucchini – 1, cut into small pieces
How to make stir-fry vegetables with tempeh and sweet and sour sauce
1. Heat ½ tablespoon of safflower oil in a wok or stir-fry pan. Add tempeh, increase the flame to medium-high heat and stir-fry for five minutes until it turns into light brown colour. Remove it and keep it on a plate.
2. Heat the remainder of the oil and add onions. Sauté it under medium heat till it gets a golden hue. Increase the heat and add bell peppers and broccoli for five minutes.
3. Mix the zucchini and fry until all the ingredients are tender-crisp. Add pineapple chunks, tomatoes and tempeh into the utensil. Keep the heat low.
4. Use the unsweetened juice with the homemade sauce. If you’re using bottled sauce, avoid this step.
5. Stir the sauce and increase the heat to medium-high. Add vinegar and agave depending on how you want to balance the sweetness and sourness of the sauce. Keep cooking it until the sauce thickens.
6. Serve the stir-fry vegetables with tempeh and sweet and sour sauce with noodles or rice. You can season this dish with any hot sauce or soy sauce to enhance the flavour.
Buddha Bowl with Tempeh
- Sesame Seeds – 2 tablespoons
- Brown Rice – 2 cups
- Kale Leaves – 8, chopped
- Lemon – 1, squeeze
- Red Cabbage – 1 cup, shredded
- Sweet Potato – 1, cubed
- Carrots – 2
- Red Radish – 2 or Watermelon Radish – 1
- Sauerkraut – ¾ cup
- Chickpeas – 1 cup, cooked
- Tempeh – 8-ounce packet
For marinating tempeh
- Rice Vinegar
- Olive Oil
- Maple Syrup
- Soy or Tamari Sauce
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Black pepper
- Sea salt
- If you don’t have brown rice, you can replace it with quinoa.
- Any fermented vegetables will work instead of sauerkraut.
- Cooked lentils can replace cooked chickpeas
How to make Buddha Bowl with tempeh
1. Heat the oven to 400 °F. Place a parchment paper over a baking sheet.
2. Add pepper, salt, and olive oil to the sweet potatoes. Mix them and add them to the baking sheet. Roast it until it turns golden brown, which will take 20 minutes.
3. Next, slice the radish into think rounds. Make ribbons out of carrots with a vegetable peeler. Combine the carrots and radish with the cabbage and lemon. Keep it aside.
4. In a large bowl, add kale leaves and toss them with salt and lemon. Make sure the leaves become soft and smaller in size.
5. Cut the tempeh into small cubes. After steaming it for 10 minutes, marinate with a mixture of sriracha, olive oil, rice vinegar, soy/tamari sauce, and maple syrup. Allow the marinade to soak with the tempeh for 30 minutes. Heat the oven to 425 °F and bake it for 10 minutes. Remove the tempeh and add extra marinade. Bake it again for 10 minutes till you notice charring on the edges.
6. Add the sesame seeds, sauerkraut, sweet potatoes, cabbage, carrots, brown rice, kale, radishes, chickpeas, and tempeh. Season the dish with salt and pepper.
Try experimenting with tempeh by using it as a replacement for meat. Once you learn how to prepare tempeh and cook it properly, you can make tasty dishes with this ingredient easily. As it barely goes through any processing, it is a healthy way to get your dose of protein!