What is Tempeh?

Posted by:Lindsay S. Nixon Category: FAQ

What is tempeh? What can I do with it? Can I marinate or freeze it? I see these questions a lot. Tempeh is fermented soybeans, often mixed with grains and/or rice, in the shape of a patty or cake. It usually has a nutty taste, but often readily absorbs the flavors it is cooked with.

Most tempeh available at health food stores (and even some local grocery stores)  is vacuum-packed, pasteurized, and ready to eat. You can just slice it up and toss it in with a stir-fry, like the Pineapple Tempeh Teriyaki Stir Fry (p. 137, EHH), or what ever recipe you are making. 

You can even run it through a cheese grater and use as ground meat, like for Tempeh Joes (p. 111, HHC) or burritos.

I've heard that if you cook or steam your tempeh before marinating it, it will absorb more of the marinade. Although I've not tested the comparison myself.

Tempeh can also be frozen and then de-thawed before using. This is especially helpful if there is a sale and you want to buy several packages. That way you always have some on hand to use whenever you want to.

There is also the idea of making your own homemade tempeh, and there are several websites that offer instructions on how to do that. Most of the websites also say to pre-cook the fresh tempeh before using it in a recipe.

There are many types of tempeh around the world as well, like tempe bongkrèk (made with coconuts) or tempe gembus (made from the pulp of the soybean that is leftover after filtering for soy milk) or tempe gódhóng (wrapped in banana leaves). I've even heard that there may be soy-free tempeh (made with barley & oats) out there.

What is your favorite way to prepare tempeh?

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