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Tempeh: Everything You Need to Know About this Superfood

In recent years, plant-based diets have gained immense popularity due to their nutritional profile and environmental sustainability. As a result, various alternatives to animal-based products have become widely popular, one of which is tempeh.

This fermented food has a rich history and is honoured for its nutritional content and versatility in the kitchen. In this blog post, we'll look into the world of tempeh, exploring its origins, production process, nutritional profile, and culinary applications.

What is Tempeh?

Tempeh is a traditional Indonesian food made from fermented soybeans. The fermentation process gives tempeh a unique flavour and texture, making it a popular choice for vegans, vegetarians, and individuals seeking alternative protein sources. Besides soybeans, tempeh can also be made from other legumes, grains, or a combination of both.

Historical Background:

Tempeh is believed to have originated in Indonesia, specifically on the island of Java. While the exact date of its invention is not known, tempeh has a long history and has been a part of Indonesian cuisine for centuries. It is believed to have been introduced and consumed in Indonesia as early as the 12th century. The fermentation process used to make tempeh is thought to have been discovered accidentally when cooked soybeans were wrapped in banana leaves and left to ferment in the warm tropical climate. Over time, the fermentation process was refined, and tempeh became a staple food in Indonesian cuisine. Today, tempeh is enjoyed not only in Indonesia but also in various other parts of the world as a nutritious and versatile plant-based protein source.

tempeh wrapped in banana leaves

Production Process:

The production of tempeh involves a natural fermentation process. Whole soybeans are soaked, dehulled, and cooked. Afterwards, a starter culture called Rhizopus is added to the beans, which initiates the fermentation. The mixture is then incubated for a period of time, typically 24 to 48 hours, allowing the culture to grow and bind the soybeans together, forming a solid cake-like structure. This fermentation process imparts a distinct nutty flavour and earthy aroma to the tempeh.

tempeh making process with mycelium

Nutritional Profile:

Tempeh is highly regarded for its nutritional profile. It is a significant source of plant-based protein, providing all nine essential amino acids required by the human body. A 100-gram serving of tempeh contains approximately 19 grams of protein. The fermentation process increases the bioavailability of nutrients and reduces the levels of anti-nutrients.

Culinary Applications:

Tempeh's versatility in the kitchen makes it an exciting ingredient to experiment with. Its firm texture and nutty flavour lend themselves well to various cooking methods. Here are some popular ways to use tempeh:

  • Stir-frying: Slice or cube tempeh and sauté it with vegetables and your choice of seasonings for a quick and nutritious stir-fry.

  • Grilling: Marinate tempeh slices in a flavorful sauce, then grill or pan-fry them to create a delicious plant-based protein option for sandwiches or salads.

  • Crumbling: Crumbled tempeh makes an excellent substitute for ground meat in recipes like tacos, chilli, or pasta sauces.

  • Baking: Slice tempeh into thin strips and bake until crispy to create tempeh "bacon" that can be used in sandwiches or as a topping for salads.

  • Steaming: Steaming tempeh before incorporating it into dishes helps to soften its texture and enhance its ability to absorb flavours.

carbonara pasta with tempeh bites, baked tempeh with sauce, curry with tempeh

Tempeh stands as a testament to the culinary wonders of plant-based foods. With its rich history, impressive nutritional content, and versatility in the kitchen, tempeh has earned its place as a beloved ingredient for those exploring meatless alternatives or new flavour profiles.

Are you curious to try tempeh?

At Ragi, you can find different types of tempeh depending on the season. We make fresh tempeh every week and deliver it to your door on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays.

Discover this season's tempeh HERE

4 sort of tempeh with swiss organic beans: green pea tempeh, soy tempeh, chickpea tempeh, beluga lentil tempeh


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