What Is Tempeh?

What Is Tempeh?
Heather Nicholds, C.H.N.

I don’t post a lot of recipes using tempeh because I know it can be tough to find sometimes, but I love it and eat it often when I have a chance.

What is tempeh, you ask? Well, it’s a fermented soy patty. I know that doesn’t sound terribly appealing, but it’s wonderful.

The next question is usually whether it’s like tofu. It’s not at all. It originated in Indonesia, and is a totally different process from tofu.

Tempeh is a dense patty, with lots of texture because the soybeans are kept whole. They’re pressed together and then a bacterial culture is added.

To make tofu, the soybeans are pureed and strained of the fiber and then the milk is curdled in some way, often by using an acidic liquid, then pressed into a block.

When foods are fermented (or cultured, which I think is a much more appetizing word), they’re broken down a bit and can be easier for us to digest.

Soybeans are a great example for this, because they can be difficult to digest unfermented.

I get a huge amount of gas when I drink soy milk or eat tofu, but have no problems with tempeh.

In terms of nutrition, tempeh is similar to other beans, since it’s soy beans. It has a good balance of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats along with lots of fiber and water – so it’s not too calorie dense.

You can make your own tempeh pretty easily, you just need to have the bacterial culture to start with.

I have a friend who I keep meaning to make some with, but she lives in Australia now so it may be a while before we get together for that project.

One thing I didn’t realize when I first started buying tempeh is that I was buying a kind that was pre-cooked and marinated, while lots of tempehs are sold plain.

So I was posting salad recipes where I was cutting up my tempeh and putting it on top, which would be pretty gross with raw unflavored tempeh.

If the package says ‘just heat to serve’ then you have one that’s ok to eat without cooking. Otherwise, you’ll want to bake, fry or BBQ your tempeh.

Later this week, I’ll be sharing a video of how to prepare raw tempeh, and my favorite flavor combo to make it really tasty.

My favorite brand is Green Cuisine, which is in Victoria BC. They marinate and cook their tempeh, and the flavors they make are all so delicious.

I often see local brands, which makes sense considering you usually don’t want to transport a fermented food too far.

I get tempeh at my local organic food store, and some major grocery stores carry some. It’s usually in the refrigerated section, although some tempehs are kept frozen.

So keep an eye out for it at your store, or on menus! When I see tempeh on a menu, it usually tempts me into ordering the dish.

Have you tried tempeh before? Let me know what you thought of it below 🙂


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