Try Some Tempeh Today

I was inspired to do some research on tempeh when I was in Malaysia and Indonesia. While I’d had it in the states before, I’d only ever made some recipes I had found on line. It’s so common in Indonesia, so I was able to experience it in a variety of ways. Some of the best meals I had there included tempeh and the ones with peanut sauce, like gado gado were a double bonus (because I like peanut everything so much).

Tempeh Sate from a place called the Sate Bar on Gili Air in Indonesia.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any personal recipes to share with you as I’ve yet to be able to experiment on my own because I’ve been busy on the road, but I’ll link a few good ones in case you want to get adventurous.

Tempeh is a traditional Indonesian soy based food. It is naturally cultured with a controlled fermentation process where soybeans are pressed into a cake form. While you may be familiar with other soy based products like tofu, tempeh is unique because it is one of the few soy foods that does not have origins from Chinese cuisine.
Tempeh is used as a vegetarian based source of protein and a three ounce serving (about 85 g) provides 140 calories, 16 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat, 10 grams of carbohydrate, and 7 grams of fiber. Values may vary based on the brand, and you can find tempeh in the cold refrigerator section of your local grocer, next to the tofu. Not all grocers carry it, as it is still a largely foreign food.


This vegetarian delight incorporates the whole soy bean compared to tofu and thus it has a different texture and nutrient composition. It has more protein, fiber, and is higher in vitamins like manganese and copper. It is fermented with a mold called Rhizopus oligosporus and according to the World’s Healthiest Foods website, when foods are fermented, some of their carbohydrates, alcohol, and other molecules are broken down. This process can make the food components more easily digested and better absorbed by the body. When conglycinin and glycinin, storage proteins found in soybeans, are broken down, the smaller peptides act as antioxidants, improve immune function, and lessen the inflammatory response. Because tempeh is made from soy beans, a plant based food, there are other health benefits as well. Plant based foods, including soybeans, tempeh, tofu, and other foods made from beans, can help reduce blood pressure. Some of the peptides in it “inhibit angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE), which more easily allows the cardiovascular system to regulate blood pressure.” It also helps protect the blood vessels from inflammatory and oxidative damage. In some studies, soy beans have been shown to be able to lower LDL, the “bad” cholesterol, and there maybe other cardio protective properties.

My breakfast at the airport when I left Bali. Eggs, veggies, and tempeh, some of my favorite foods.

Some of the phytonutrients in soy may be able to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, and there is some research that suggests it may aid in cancer prevention. Some of this is controversial and “real life factors” come into play as opposed to being analyzed in controlled studies. Genistein is a phytonutrient in soy that may aid in not only slowing tumor formation, but in triggering the death of cancer cells. Certain factors related to lifecycle and metabolic factors, however, affect the anticancer benefits of soy. In some pre-menopausal women who have developed certain types of tumors, genistein and soy have not reduced cancer risk. It has been noted that in order to maximize the anti cancer benefits, plenty of other fruits and vegetables should be consumed on a regular basis. When consuming soy products, it is recommended that we choose whole food sources whenever possible. Highly processed versions differ greatly from the whole bean product which is known for its greater health benefits and tempeh, as mentioned, is a whole bean food.
When you buy tempeh at the grocery store, it may have a few gray and dark spots. That is completely normal. It shouldn’t, however, have any yellow, blue, or pink spots. If that’s the case, it has been over fermented. When you unwrap your tempeh, it should smell mushroom like and have a firm texture. It can be cooked in a variety of ways from steamed, to broiled, stir fried, and fried in oil, Indonesian style, which gives it a nice crunch. You can use it in place of meat in any dish and it pairs well with a good, spicy, or BBQ sauce. Next time you’re planning a meatless Monday meal, consider some tempeh. It’s so delicious and will add some food variety to your week!

I like the layout of the ingredients and photos in this gado gado recipe. Looks tasty!

I used to make something like a tempeh sloppy Joe. I have no idea now what the recipe was, but this looks pretty good and something like I’d make.

If you have any go to tempeh recipes, feel free to share!