How to Cook Tempeh

If you’re new to plant-based eating, you probably have a lot of questions about tempeh!

Fried tempeh with rice and broccoli, traditional Indonesian cuisine.
Image Credit: AdobeStock

Veganuary participants and those new to veganism are often bewildered by the amount of weird and wonderful ingredients out there. So if you have no idea what tempeh is or what to do with it, don’t worry – you’re not alone!

Foods like tempeh, tofu, seitan and nutritional yeast may seem alien at first, but you’ll soon learn just how versatile (and delicious) these vegan staples are.

In this comprehensive guide, we answer all your questions about tempeh and suggest some delicious recipes too.

What is Tempeh Made From?

Tempeh is an Indonesian food made from fermented soybeans. It’s a source of plant-based protein and used as a meat alternative to veganise popular meals such as Bolognese, bacon and chilli.

The fermentation process binds the soybeans together until they form a cake-like block. It may not look or sound appetising in its natural form, but tempeh is a versatile ingredient and easily absorbs flavour from sauces and marinades.

Block of tempeh
Image Credit: AdobeStock

Is Tempeh Healthy?

Tempeh has an impressive nutritional profile. It contains all nine essential amino acids, which means it’s a complete source of vegan protein.

Many athletes and fitness enthusiasts use tempeh in their diets due to its high-protein and low-fat content. In addition, it’s a source of vitamin B12, calcium, iron and fibre.

Unlike its meat counterparts, tempeh has no cholesterol. Various studies have found that whole-foods, plant-based diets are lower in cholesterol than diets high in animal foods, making tempeh a great swap for meat.

How to Cook Tempeh

Tempeh can be cooked by pan frying, air frying or baking. How you cook it depends on the kind of dish you’re making, but all methods are quick and easy.

When cooked, tempeh should have a chewy, meat-like texture. If it’s rubbery, that means it’s probably overcooked.

It’s a delicious and healthy way to replace meat in stir fries, salads, wraps, sandwiches and Bolognese dishes, but it may take time and practice to get it right.

Here are our top tips for cooking tempeh:

  • Make the marinade – Tempeh is renowned for its ability to absorb flavour. If you want to marinade before cooking it, here are some tasty recipes. However, if you’re cooking with sauces, it’s not always necessary to marinade it beforehand.
  • Steam it before cooking – Some people find that tempeh has a bitter taste, but this varies from brand to brand. If you want to remove the bitterness, simply cut the tempeh into pieces, cover it and steam for 10 minutes.
  • Cut the tempeh – Chop it to your desired shape and thickness. If you’re making a stir fry, cut it into cubes. If you plan to make tempeh bacon, fajitas, or a sandwich, cut it into long, thin slices. Enjoying it in a taco or chilli dish? Grate or crumble the tempeh (you can use a knife or your hands to crumble it).
  • To pan fry – Cook tempeh in oil on a medium heat until it has a golden brown colour (this takes around 10-15 minutes).
  • To bake – Baking tempeh is a great way to achieve a crispy texture. Place it on greaseproof paper and cook for around 20 minutes. Turn it over at the halfway mark to ensure all sides are cooked.
  • To air fry – Yes, you can air fry tempeh! Preheat the air fryer to 390-400F. Cook it for around 15 minutes and rotate it every few minutes.
Tempeh skewers
Tempeh is a versatile meat replacement. Image Credit: Unsplash.

Tempeh Recipes

Now you know how to cook tempeh, here are some delicious vegan recipes to put your new-found knowledge into practice.

  1. Tempeh Bolognese
  2. Tempeh Meatballs
  3. Thai Tempeh Noodle Lettuce Wraps
  4. Tempeh Bacon & Avocado Toast
  5. Sesame Crusted Baked Tempeh

Tempeh Stack Sandwich

Thinking of trying vegan?

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