Meat-Free Fridays: Time to Try Tempeh

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Each Friday during Lent, the dailySpark will feature a different meat-free main dish. Whether you observe Lent or not, we can all benefit from learning about alternate, affordable proteins. Read the rest of the series here.

So I converted some of you to tofu lovers likers a couple of weeks back. Are you ready for your next assignment?

This week, I’m going to introduce you to tempeh.

What is tempeh (pronounced tem-pay)?

Tempeh is a fermented product made from soybeans that's especially popular on the Indonesian island of Java. Before you wrinkle your nose, know it's not pungent like sauerkraut, kimchi, or natto.

But before we talk about how it's made, let's look at how we eat it. Trust me, it's tasty!

When crumbled or grated, tempeh has the texture of ground meat. Try it in tacos, spaghetti sauce or chili. It has a nutty flavor that pairs well with big, strong flavors like curry, tomato sauce, barbecue sauce and teriyaki sauce.

Sliced thinly, tempeh can be grilled or pan-fried and topped with your favorite sauce. In summer, I marinate tempeh in barbecue sauce that's been thinned with a bit of water, then I grill it alongside zucchini, onions and corn.
SparkRecipes has plenty of tempeh recipes--from Chinese tempeh tacos and tempeh vegetable tagine and tempeh scallopini.

Over at, Kath eats it raw, with pumpkin butter on whole-grain bread.

I've seen several recipes for tempeh croutons lately, too.

It's a surprisingly versatile food. You can even make "bacon" from tempeh.

Now that your mouth is watering, let's get back to how tempeh is made.

Tempeh is made from soybeans that have first been soaked, hulled and partially cooked. An acidic liquid like vinegar is added to create an environment that a certain kind of fungus likes, then a fermentation starter is added. The beans ferment in a warm area for about a day and a half. The beans are bound together, and you're left with a block of protein that's ready to be broiled, baked or steamed.

The fermentation helps break down the oligosaccharides, which are the sugars that make beans musical. The protein becomes more digestible after fermentation, too.

Tempeh costs about $1.69 for a block that's about a pound. It also comes in multi-grain, soy, wild rice, three-grain, smoked and flax varieties. At most grocery stores, it is in the refrigerated section next to the tofu.

Basic tempeh nutrition info:
1/2 cup
230 calories
9 g fat
1 g saturated fat
10 mg sodium
380 mg potassium
16 g carbs
12 g fiber
22 g protein

Do you eat tempeh? How do you prepare it? Are you willing to give it a try?

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SOOKIE 8/22/2019
I tried cooking with it once; hated it. I'll have to try it from a restaurant next time. Report
We have tried this a couple of times but never really liked it. Love tofu though. Report
Our co-op has it in the deli case seasoned and sliced as for sandwiches or crumbling to use in anything! Report
Need to cut it up/crumble up, then steam it 10 mns each side before marinating/cooking/sauteeing it. Otherwise, its bitter! Once this is done first, its fantastic...find some recipes! Report
I don't like it but I appreciate it is a healthy and environment friendly protein source.
Tried at a Buddhist monastery, it looked so nice I took a big portion and wasn't able to eat it. I was surprised, because everything else on the table tasted amazing, and I like tofu so I was looking forward to it. Report
Thanks for the interesting article :) Report
I've been eating/preparing tempeh for years at the health food store deli I work at and I LOVE it. I especially love Mock Trial Chicken Salad; it's incredible !
I just heard of Tempeh a couple months back, and I would like to try it. Where can I find this product at? Report
Tempeh is on the menu to try tonight! Going to try tempeh tacos. =) Report
I love it! I just slice it thinly, brown in a little olive or coconut oil, paper towel it, then eat it with a touch of Bragg's sprinkled on it. Wish I had some right now as thinking about it makes my mouth water :D Report
I just tried it a few weeks ago and wrote about it in the following blog entry:

Tempeh-rary Insanity, Bitchin' Kitchen, and an Oreo Hangover

This comment section won't allow me to link back to my blog, though. Report
I've always been an adventuresome eater. I'm willing to try many things some of which I'm happy not to know what they contained. Lent is coming so I'll have to find a recipe and some tempey and give it a try. Report
i tried it and thought it was disgusting. Report
I have seen it in the store and considered buying it as a way to expand my vegetarian daughter's repertoire of foods, but to me it looks absolutely disgusting. I don't think I can get over the "ick" factor of how it looks to actually taste it. I enjoy tofu at times, but for me tempeh is just a bit too far to go...
Good luck and good eating to the rest of you though. Report
Apart from peanut butter I reckon it is my partners' favourite protien source. It is hard to find in the larger supermarkets for some reason, so I buy it once aweek from the growers Market near home.
If it is a favourite of Javanese culture why didn't you include a recipe from there? I ask because I had no idea of it's origins so now I am curious! Report
I've just bought some tempeh to try this week, and am really looking forward to it. I've only recently decided to eat vegetarian, and I've really struggled- until I got on Spark and started using the tools available to me. Now, eating vegetarian is getting exciting! :-) Report
Tempeh sounds delicious, but I think I'm going to have to wait a while to spring this one on the family. I've made so many other changes lately, that I'm getting a little push-back on the new foods as it is.

However, it sounds great, and I'd love to give it a try! Report
I LOVE Tempeh. I discovered it back in the "hippie years" (I'm one of those people!) and have been a fan ever since. Not just for vegitarians! I think it has a nice nutty flavor and can be made into what I call Tempeh Burgers or throw into salads and just about anything. I'm glad it has become more readily available over the years.....try it you'll love it!!! Report
me to Report
Tempeh is not like tofu. If you are using that as an excuse, stop. The only thing they have in common is soybeans.

That's like saying you won't like pancakes because you don't like rolls or something. Report
Never heard of Tempeh before, but I'll get some the next time my daughter and I go to the store. That is - after we consume the too many fresh and frozen vegetables we purchased after deciding to diet. Report
As long as a dish has a lot of other textures and flavors, ie crunchy vegs, and a flavorfull sauce(I love spicy), it worth a try. Try making it into your favorite meatloaf recipe, or adding it to lowfat ground meat. Bet you won't hardly notice. Report
I just made tempeh this weekend. I prefer it to tofu any day. I took an 8 oz package and boiled it for 10 minutes. I blotted it dry and cut it in half. One half I cut up and marinated in BBQ sauce and had with brown rice and a salad. The other half I marinated in salsa and served that with Mexican rice. Report
I'm a big fan of tofu, but I LOVE tempeh. It's got so much more flavor than tofu, and the texture is a lot more satisfying. That being said, I can't throw a chunk into a smoothie, but when I don't have time to marinate a block of tofu before making stir fry, tempeh still tastes great. Report
I went pescatarian (fish only) in 2007...and no matter what I do...I cannot hardly stomach tempeh. I could eat my weight in tofu -- maybe its the different ways I've learned to fix it, but i think the texture of tempeh is what really turns me off :-) Report
I'm a meat and potatoes kind of gal, too. I appreciate the health benefits offered by some of these health foods, and I may have made a point to try Tempeh to see what it's all about. But when they compared it to tofu, that was all I needed to know. Give me a ribeye anyday. Report
I am a bread, meat and potatoes kind of guy and I have a lot of trouble bringing myself to even trying anything like this. Report
I have enjoyed these Fat-Free Friday tips. Thanks for providing the info. Report
Never had it but now I can't wait. I'm always looking for ways to bump up my protein that it less hassle than meat... Report
I like tofu. I tried the TVP, and now I'm throwing it in my morning oatmeal.

Next stop, Tempeh!

And I must try Whole Foods. Report
Thanks sparkpeople for all the information . I will try it. Report
I eat it regularly. It keeps really well wrapped in saran wrap in the fridge. I slice it into half centimetre slices and brush a little oil on each side and pop it in the toaster oven. I love it in sandwiches, in salads, and marinated and drenched in any yummy sauce (but I would suggest tahini sauce. Yummy!) It's a great substitute for deep fried falafels. Report
I'll try it if I can find it in a restaurant with friends that can suggest a good way to have it.- Don't think I'd try it on my own Report
I have never seen it in the stores here, like Safeway etc. But they may have it I just never go down the specality foods isle or the organic section because most items are too high for my pocketbook so I avoid those sections of the store. So next time I am in there I will go and look and see if it is avaliable. TraderJoes is too far away to visit but I bet I would find it there LOL. Report
I forgot all about tempeh! I used to eat it frequently when I was living in CT and it was available at the local supermarket. They don't carry it in the local supermarket where I do most of my shopping, so over time I stopped looking for it or thinking about it. It is great in stir fry recipes. Even though I minimize my soy intake these days, this blog made me hungry for tempeh, so I'm going to see if I can find it in my travels. As long as I only eat it once in awhile, it won't kill me. Report
I love tempeh! I really think that it is palatable to most people's palates as well. Even those who don't like tofu. My favorite alternative meat option is seitan though! Yummy! It is so easy to include a little bit of in into a meal - it tastes great, is filling, is easy to win win. Report
I am still not a person that likes tofu.. I will look for this and see what i think of it Report
I used to eat tempeh. I would use it for stir fry kind of meals with lots of fresh veggies (in season) or frozen (out of season). I also made a vegan pizza with tempeh and artichokes with a white garlic sauce on homemade WW bread dough crust. Then I stopped eating it, as I developed some type of intolerance to soy/tempeh/soy milk/tofu. Report
I have never cooked it myself, but a sub shop here makes a wonderful barbecue tempeh and vegetable sandwich! I love it! Report
That is not even in the stores around here, but I am not a big fan of tofu, either. Report
I need to up my protein intake so I will definitely give this a try. Report
I love tempeh. We eat tempeh stirfried with veggies over rice about once a week. I order it by the case from my local health food store and keep it in the freezer. I get a 20% discount that way. Report
Now that I know how to use it, I will buy and try it! Report
I tried this sliced, marinated in teriyaki and grilled. Nice texture, no weird taste. I would eat it occasinally for a change. It was much more expensive here in France than you list though. If it were cheaper, I'd eat it more often. I plan on making it a once a month kind of thing. Report
this wil bill the next meal I fist fr my ffice!!! Thanks sounds great. Report
Interesting. Report
In my household a tblt is a standard. Thats a tempeh bacon lettuce and tomato sandwich. I took this to work one day and everyone thought I was eating beef tips. I simply saute the tempeh in hot butter with some soy sauce, margarine would work as well. I wait until one side is crisp then flip it and cook the other side. Both my kids like this and it works well with a high protein count. Report
It is definitely worth a try! I love having more high-protein food choices! Report
Well, I have never heard of it, but my fiance read the article too and wants to try it. So tomorrow I will get some, if I find it and try it. So many interesting things to learn on SP, thank you!! Report
I have been eating tempeh for years and have been a vegetarian for much longer.
I love tempeh!! the texture and the slightly nutty taste is what I enjoy. I don't like most "meat substitute" items b/c they are trying to imitate the texture and taste of meat, something I don't like.
My favorite way to cook it is in 1/4 inch strips with soy sauce, stir fried with squash, zucchini, and onions etc. I finally convinced my mother to try some (a meat eater through and through) and she really liked it. Ever since that first good taste she has been willing to try more of my vegetarian creations. =)