What is Tempeh + Health Benefits + How to Cook Tempeh
The vegan diet is not short of plant-based protein sources. From beans to nuts, there are many options available to meet your needs. While these foods are often talked about, there’s another type of protein source that doesn’t get as much attention: tempeh.
This simple food has been adopted by the Western world fairly recently but it has actually been consumed for centuries in Southeast Asia. It is made from soybeans and its earthy taste makes it an excellent option for vegans who want to explore new flavor profiles. If you aren’t familiar with tempeh yet, this article will give you everything that you need to know about this versatile superfood and how you can use it in your vegan diet.
What is Tempeh?
Tempeh is traditionally made from cooked soybeans, although the same process that creates soybeans into tempeh can also be done to other legumes and grains. This process is a fermentation that turns the soybeans into a cake-like substance. This process makes soybeans very easy to digest because it helps break down the phytic acid present.
How is Tempeh Made?
To make tempeh you only need 3 ingredients: soybeans (preferably non-GMO), tempeh starter culture (or a piece of tempeh), and white vinegar (or rice vinegar).
Making tempeh requires some patience and sit time, but is a fairly simple process. It all starts by soaking soybeans in water for 8-12 hours. After that, you remove the hull/skin from the soybeans. Then you cook the soybeans, which can be done by steaming, boiling in water, or in a pressure cooker. Once cooked, you’ll want to dry the soybeans completely with an absorbent cloth and let them cool to 90-95ºF. Then mix the soybeans, tempeh starter, and vinegar together. The soybean mixture can be placed in a bag or banana leaves and the incubation period can last between 24-48 hours. During this period, the starter culture will become incorporated with the soybeans and then the tempeh is ready.
Benefits of Tempeh
Contributes to a Healthy Gut
The fermentation process that tempeh undergoes makes it highly beneficial for your gut bacteria. It promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut, which is crucial for overall health.
High in Protein and Fiber
Tempeh is an excellent vegan protein source, with about 18 grams in every 84-gram serving. It’s also high in fiber, with about 7 grams per 84-gram serving.
Contains Vitamins and Minerals
Tempeh is rich in vitamin B (niacin), iron, calcium, and riboflavin. It’s also a good source of manganese, phosphorus, and magnesium, which are essential nutrients for the human body.
Since tempeh is made from soybeans it contains isoflavones. These are chemicals called phytoestrogens and they are antioxidants that have cancer-fighting properties.
Low in Calories and Fat
Compared to other sources of protein, tempeh is relatively low in calories (about 140 calories per 85 grams of serving) and fat (about 5 grams).
Easy to Make and Store
Tempeh is easy to make and can be stored in the fridge for a few weeks. It also lasts for up to 6 months at room temperature when properly wrapped.
Versatile in the Kitchen
Tempeh has a chewy texture, so it works well in stir-fries and salads. You can also crumble it and add it to soups and chili, or use it as a meat substitute in sandwiches and wraps.
Where to Find Tempeh?
Tempeh can be found in the refrigerated section of supermarkets and health food stores. It is typically sold in a block and can be found in close proximity to the tofu or dairy section. It’s typically available as plain or original, but some brands offer a variety of flavors, like buffalo, and smoky bacon. If you cannot find tempeh in a store near you, you can also make your own tempeh at home.
How to Cook with Tempeh?
There are many ways that you can cook tempeh. This vegetarian protein can be used in stir-fries and sandwiches. You can crumble it into salads, soups, and curries or use it as a meat substitute in lasagna and casseroles. Depending on how you will use the tempeh, there are a couple of cooking methods that you can employ. Marinating your tempeh to go with the flavor profile of your entree is ideal. If you steam the tempeh prior this can help the tempeh absorb the marinade. After the tempeh is marinated you can either panfry, saute, sear or bake your tempeh. Learn how to marinate and panfry tempeh to make a smoky savory tempeh recipe that makes a filling vegan protein for vegan sandwiches. This smoky tempeh recipe can also be used on wraps, bowls, or even salads.
Tempeh, Final Words
Tempeh is a great source of protein and nutrient-rich food. It can be eaten plain with a splash of soy sauce, or you can use it in a variety of recipes to add some flavor and interest to your diet. Tempeh is a simple, nutritious, and affordable food that can be incorporated into many meals. It can be crumbled and used as a topping for salads, tacos, and sandwiches, or added to soups and stews. With so many ways to enjoy this healthy food, you’ll have no trouble getting your daily dose of protein and plenty of other essential nutrients.
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Check out these other high sources of vegan protein recipes:
- Crispy Tofu - a simple crispy tofu recipe, ideal for grain bowls, asian-inspired rice bowls or noodle bowls, salads, or wraps.
- Blackened Tofu - a crispy and flavorful blackened tofu recipe perfect for wraps like this creamy kale wrap recipe, adding to salads, or sandwiches.
- Tofu Scramble - a quick and easy breakfast scramble made with crumbled tofu.
- Black Bean Quinoa Taco "Meat" - a whole food plant-based protein made with black beans and quinoa perfect for tacos, mexican-inspired bowls, or burritos.