What is tempeh? I’ll explain more about the nutrient-rich, plant-based protein, and its health benefits. It’s a better choice than tofu – you’ll find out why! Plus, I have delicious and easy recipes and cooking tips for the best ways to enjoy it!
Alright my friends, we’re back with another 101 series! And this time, it’s all about that plant based protein. Have you heard of it? Hint. It’s made from fermented soybeans. Don’t go run off now, I promise you’ll want to know all about this food! TEMPEH!
Almost everyone in the world is familiar with tofu, but tempeh is still a bit of a mystery to some people.
One reason may be because tofu is a product of Asia, so it is popular worldwide. Meanwhile, tempeh is native only to Indonesia.
But there are some big reasons why I CHOOSE tempeh over tofu.
What is tempeh and why is it better than tofu?
For starters, tofu is processed soy and tempeh isn’t processed. It’s CULTURED SOY! Allow me to explain…
The ingredients that make up traditional, basic tempeh are fairly simple:
- A starter culture
- An acid to adjust the pH.
Also, other ingredients can be added, like rice, seaweed, or seasonings. It can also be made from just about any other legume, nut, seed, or grain.
I prefer it made with brown rice, for a meatier texture.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Sometimes soy sauce or wheat berries, as well as other gluten-containing ingredients are used. As a result, it is important to always double check the label if you are looking for a gluten-free version
How it’s made
The process behind the making of it is similar to some cheesemaking recipes, like bleu cheese.
- First, whole soybeans are cooked briefly in order to sterilize them. Then they are left to cool down.
- After cooling, fungal starter cultures are mixed into the soybeans, and fermentation begins. This means the fungi begin to eat the beans, breaking them down.
- Thanks to the fermentation, everything starts to bind together. What you’re left with is a fuzzy, dense brick (or cake) of highly nutritious cultured soy!
This is what makes it a great protein option for vegans and vegetarians!
Another benefit of fermentation is that it is more nutritious and easier to digest.
Plus, fermentation gives it a deep, nutty flavor, but with some savory, meaty (umami) notes.
Tempeh doesn’t count as a probiotic since it must be cooked prior to consuming.
But, it is definitely a prebiotic. This means, it has all the fiber the healthy colonies in the gut thrive on.
Tempeh Nutrition: What are the Benefits?
Tempeh has been highly-touted for its nutrition for centuries. Now, modern science is showing us just how good this ancient food is for our health.
The nutritional content of an individual block varies depending on the ingredients. However, there are a few things all versions have to offer. Here’s a look at traditional soy tempeh nutrition:
- PROTEIN: A whopping 20g of protein per 100g. That’s two and a half times as much as tofu’s 8g.
Plus, it has 7g more protein than an equal portion of eggs. But with no cholesterol!
- FIBER: It contains 9g of fiber per 100g; That is nearly a third of the recommended daily intake.
- CARBS: Tempeh sits relatively low on the carb spectrum, with only 8g per 100g serving.
That coupled with the high fiber means it’s only about 1 gram of net carbs and a great choice for those living a low carb or keto lifestyle.
- FAT: More great news for those who strive for keto: It has a good amount of healthy, plant-based fats.
Around 11g of fat (including omega-3s) are in each 100g serving.
Vitamins and minerals? Oh YES, indeed!
- Folic Acid
- Vitamin B12 (It is actually one of very few plant-based foods which may offer B12)
Best ways to use it!
Now that we have an answer to what is tempeh, let’s discuss the very best ways to prepare it!
It is perfect as a ground meat substitute. Some of my favorite ways to enjoy it are
- As a taco filling
- Grilled slices (like steak slices)
- Crumbled in salads or as ground meat substitute
- With quinoa (watch for my Vegan BBQ Quinoa Salad version, coming soon!)
It is ALSO delicious in stir fry.
How to prepare and Cook Tempeh (Video)
Tempeh must be cooked. Use it as an alternative to animal protein in just about any dish. You can pan fry or even bake it to bring out more of its nuttiness.
Give it a try as the protein in my Sweet and Sour Asian Noodles or check out my tempeh taco bowl in my Nourishing Superfoods Bowl Cookbook! This is one powerhouse plant based food as well as a great protein choice to rotate into your diet. That’s if you are not allergic to soy. 🙂
Easy BBQ stir fry tempeh
- First, add all ingredients for the marinade into a bowl and whisk them together.
- If you’re quick on time, yo may use 2/3 c prepared BBQ sauce of choice.
- Place oil in a medium size skillet and heat to medium. Place sliced or crumbled tempeh in the pan then cook on medium high, searing the tempeh 3-5 minutes on each side until crispy.
- Cook again for 2-3 minutes, coating each side to caramelize the sauce on the tempeh.
From this point, you can serve it over your favorite salad or gluten free grain.
Or place it on flatbread, in a sandwich or wrap, etc.
Another option is to crumble it to use as a substitute for ground beef, turkey, or pork.
Alright my friends, so what do you think? Will you give tempeh a try? Have you seen this type of soy protein before? DO TELL!