Tempeh is made of fermented soybeans and it looks like a compressed cake. It originates from Indonesia and that is not the only thing that differs tempeh from tofu. Tempeh is perfect meat alternative for vegetarians and vegans, and when you mix it with different marinades and sauces, it can have totally different flavors. You can eat tempeh as a bacon alternative, in a sandwich or a salad, put it stews or fry it with different marinades. Not only does it have a wide usage but tempeh is also rich in protein and other healthy nutrients.
How does tempeh taste ?
Tempeh has a nutty, earthy taste, savory flavor and chewy texture. If you buy store bought tempeh it may taste differently because some tempeh brands add brown rice, other add barley and so on. Tempeh without these added ingredients can be of pretty bland flavor. That is okay because it will change the flavor once you marinate it. If your tempeh tastes sour, that means it hasn’t been cooked correctly.
Here I will share with you different ways to cook tempeh and how to make it from scratch. At the end of my article you can find an oil free tempeh recipe as well as other easy tempeh recipes for beginners.
How do you prepare tempeh?
If you would like to know what’s the best way to cook tempeh, there isn’t one all-purpose answer. First of all it depends on your personal taste and the type of tempeh you have bought or made.
For instance, steaming tempeh can help reduce that bitter taste and absorb the flavors of the seasonings you add. So, if you have bought tempeh, steam it for 10 minutes so it gets softened and moistened. Cook tempeh covered in boiling water for 10 minutes, at low heat. When tempeh is steamed, you can put it on a grill or bake it in the oven with or without marinade. If you don’t have time to steam tempeh first and then marinate it and bake it, you can put the marinade for the tempeh in a pan and stir fry it together.
Marinating tempeh is another way to prepare it, because a nice mixture of ingredients can give tempeh totally different taste. If this is your first time to prepare tempeh, you can marinate it in soy sauce, honey and vinegar. There are other ingredients you can put such as ginger, peanut butter, coconut milk, lemon juice, maple syrup, pomegranate molasses, black pepper, smoked paprika, mustard etc. When you marinate tempeh, you can eat like that or bake it additionally.
Cooking tempeh in soups and stews is another way of preparing tempeh. Similar to tofu, you can add crumbled or cubed tempeh to any stew, pasta sauce, curry dish.
Sautéing tempeh is one of my favorite methods of preparing tempeh because it is crispy like a bacon and it goes well with salads. If you want to grill tempeh you should cut it into very thin slices, especially if you want to prepare tempeh bacon. However, if you like grilled, sautéed tempeh but not too crispy, you can cut it thicker.
Baking tempeh is also possible and very easy. First, you can marinate it and then place it on a baking sheet and bake it for 20 minutes.
If your tempeh tastes well and you want to eat it raw, you can add seasonings and skip the cooking. Seasoned tempeh is the quickest method to prepare tempeh and depending on the spices you use, it can be of different colors. As an example, you can season tempeh with garlic powder, dried thyme or oregano, or different types of paprika.
Tempeh recipe from scratch (gluten free)
Homemade tempeh is like any other homemade food, much better than the one you buy at the store. If you eat tempeh on a weekly basis and you have some free time, you should try to make tempeh at home. You will be surprised how the flavor will be stronger and more complex.
Tempeh is made by the process of fermentation of soybeans at a warm temperature (30 degrees Celsius). Soybeans are mixed with a tempeh starter culture which has Rhizopus Oryzae spores that are necessary for fermentation. Thanks to the fermentation process and that starter culture, the soybeans become a white cake called tempeh. You need to keep tempeh at 30 degrees (or maximum 32 degrees) for at least a day or 2.
Alternatively, you can use other types of beans or grains and not just soybeans. As an example, you can use chickpeas, black beans, barley, brown rice to make tempeh. You can also add some sesame seeds to your tempeh, or flax.
The choice of food container is very important when fermenting food including tempeh. You need to use a vented container such as a zip-top bag or any airtight food container so the air can circulate. Also, leave some free space in the container but not too much, because beans can dry out.
Ingredients for making gluten free tempeh from scratch:
- 2 cups dried whole soybeans
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon tempeh starter
Tempeh recipe: Preparation steps
- Soak dried soybeans in a bowl full of water for 30 minutes. In a food processor, set up the dough blade and put soybeans with some water. Turn on the food processor for a few minutes and then check if the hulls have been removed. If there aren’t many hulls that float on the surface, turn on the food processor again for additional few minutes. This is the quickest way to remove the hulls.
- Cook the soybeans at medium heat for 45 minutes after the boiling starts. If additional hulls appear on the top, remove them.
- Dry the beans thoroughly. They need to be totally dry. Leave them to cool down at a normal temperature.
- Prepare the containers. Make sure they are very clean, otherwise they may ruin the fermentation. Make a few holes in the container so the air can circulate.
- Once the soybeans are dried and cooled, mix them with vinegar. Thanks to vinegar, the pH will be lower, there won’t be any bacteria and mould will grow.
- Add tempeh starter culture and stir everything well.
Depending on the size of the container you use, you can put tempeh in one or more containers, bags. Seal the containers and flatten the soybeans. If you use plastic bags you need to make some holes with the needle. The space between the holes should be around half inch.
As I mentioned before, you need to keep tempeh to ferment at 30 degrees Celsius for a day or two. I strongly recommend that you check the temperature every then and now, because tempeh can go bad is it is too hot or cold for the beans to ferment. If you have a thermometer, that will make job easier for you. Usually, after one day, you will need to reduce the heat or turn it off completely, because the fermentation heats the beans.
In the next two days, the fermentation process should be completed. Your tempeh is ready when it looks like a white cake, beans covered in white, dense compound and bound together. If you are not sure, cut a slice of tempeh and if it is firm, it is ready.
Finally, remove the tempeh from the container and cool it at room temperature and then refrigerate it for maximum a week. This is a small batch of tempeh and thanks to many tempeh recipes and ideas, I am sure you will run out of it after a few days.
Alternatively, you can freeze tempeh and use it for the next 3 months, but before you freeze it, steam it for 20 minutes and soak overnight in ½ leter of water and 2 teaspoons of salt. The next day, dry tempeh well and then freeze it.
Note: If you see some dark gray spots on your tempeh, don’t worry. That is not the reason to toss the tempeh. But, if tempeh doesn’t smell good or it is too mushy, you should definitely toss it.
Oil free tempeh bacon
Now when you have prepared homemade tempeh, you can make this very simple tempeh recipe. It is oil free and bacon alternative. When you prepare tempeh like this, you can eat for any meal, to put it in a sandwich for breakfast, to sprinkle it in a salad for dinner or to make vegan carbonara for lunch.
Preparing oil free tempeh bacon requires just a few simple steps:
- Slicing tempeh into very thin strips.
- Making marinade for tempeh.
- Marinating tempeh for a few minutes or more, depending how much time you have.
- Grilling or cooking tempeh on a pan, together with that marinade until it gets crispy.
The choice of marinade is yours, as I mentioned above, there is a wide range or spices and flavors you can add when marinating tempeh. I would recommend three different types of ingredients for this tempeh recipe:
- Honey, maple syrup or pomegranate molasses (1 tablespoon)
- Tamari, soy sauce or coconut aminos (⅓ of cup)
- Chilli powder, smoked paprika, chipotle powder (1 full teaspoon)
Tempeh recipe calories: around 160 to 200, depending on the ingredient you choose
- Cut tempeh into strips.
- Wisk all the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl.
- Marinate tempeh strips at least 15 minutes or more.
- Fry tempeh at medium heat, without oil. Use a pan that won’t stick and that is perfect for grilling meat. The alternative option is to bake tempeh in the oven at 180 degrees Celsius. Use baking sheet.
- Check each side every 3 minutes, tempeh bacon is ready when it is golden and crispy.