Have you ever mentioned tempeh to some non-vegan friends and you get that puzzled reaction from them, or even asked for it in a supermarket and received the same reaction. While most seem to have heard about tofu but tempeh seems to be its long lost distant cousin. Tempeh now has more competition due to the hugely versatile new kid on the block, Seiten, which has taken the vegan world by storm. So let’s have a look at this weird and wonderful vegan food and the many reasons to give tempeh a whirl.
I shall be featuring plenty of tempeh recipes in the future.
What is tempeh?
Tempeh comes from Indonesia, unlike most soy products which originate from China. Made from fermented soybeans and originating back to 1815. There are different types of tempeh depending on its primary ingredient such as
- non-legume seeds
Depending on which is used determines whether it is gluten-free or not so it always pays to double-check. Ready-made tempeh products such as those produced by vegan food company Tofurky are not gluten-free. Foods such as the Tofurky tempeh bacon.
Usually bought in either a cake-like block or preserved in jars it is made from part-cooked whole soybeans. Although odd in appearance, like tofu in acts as a sponge to soak up the flavours you use. It makes a great meat replacement in many vegan meals.
Is it easy to find?
Unlike tofu, tempeh is still not largely readily available in supermarkets, although since March 2019 some tempeh products have been available in Sainsbury,s. You will find it normally in vegan supermarkets, Asian food stores or online. Vegan food company Tofurky use tempeh in some of its products and is hugely popular.
How should I use it?
To me, tempeh has a nutty earthy flavour, not unlike mushrooms. The firm texture holds together well while being cooked. Although it has its own flavour it is a bit bland so marinade it in sauces such as curry, satay or teriyaki or olive oil with garlic, spices and herbs. I love to use the flavour steeped tempeh for kebabs. Because it has a firmer texture that tofu it is easier to cut into steaks or cubes.
Does it need cooking?
When tempeh comes in a brick-like block it does help to cook it beforehand to soften it before using another method of cooking it such as sauteing, grilling, baking or frying. This also helps temper the slightly bitter flavour and makes the tempeh more porous so it absorbs flavours better. The best method to soften the tempeh is by steaming it or boiling it for around 10 minutes, then remove the tempeh and pat dry. Next is the best time to marinade it in your chosen flavours for a few hours or ideally overnight.
How healthy is tempeh?
Tempeh contains an impressive array of nutrients and some B vitamins. High in protein, typically around 19g per 100g. Provides a great source of fibre at around 9g per 100g and low in calories at 170 per 100g. Tempeh is also rich in prebiotics which is beneficial to and supports our digestive health.
If you don’t like the soft texture of tofu then it may me time to give tempeh a try, the more robust and firmer texture may be for suitable for you. Maybe if you are not following a gluten-free diet then maybe try tempeh bacon strips to get used to the texture first.
Being high in protein it helps to make you feel fuller longer, so it is a satisfying vegan food. It is also a good source of calcium which makes it good for our bone health. It could also help with reducing our cholesterol levels as it contains isoflavones.
All in all, there are many reasons to include tempeh in our diet.
Hints & tips
- Buy the freshest possible
- After tempeh is opened it keeps for 5-7 days in the fridge
- Tempeh can be frozen up to 10 months
- Defrost thoroughly before using