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What is Tempeh, How Do You Eat It, and Is It Healthy? (+ 3 Easy Tempeh Recipes)

Quick Take

If you’re new to plant-based eating or simply trying to eat more plant-based foods, chances are you’ve come across tempeh on a recipe blog or two — and perhaps you've been left scratching your head, wondering What is tempeh? And let’s be honest, even if you do know what it is, you may be a little intimidated by this meat alternative if it's new to you.

But there’s nothing to fear! Tempeh is a delicious and nutritious plant-based protein source and we’re here to dish on why vegans and meat eaters alike love it, its health benefits, plus our three favorite ways to prepare tempeh at home.

Before We Begin: The Ultimate Tempeh Marinade = MamaSezz Original BBQ Sauce

 

Smoky, tangy, and the perfect amount of sweet, this refined sugar-free BBQ sauce is exactly what your plant-based kitchen has been missing. Use as a marinade when grilling veggies, tempeh, and tofu, or add a healthy dollop to your Mama's Burger. Either way, it's finger lickin' good. Order your MamaSezz Original BBQ Sauce here. 

On This Page

What Is Tempeh?

What Are the Health Benefits of Tempeh?

Where To Find Tempeh At The Grocery Store

How to Prepare Tempeh (3 Ways!)

Key Takeaways

What Is Tempeh?

tempeh block

Tempeh vs. tofu

Both are soy products and considered meat alternatives, but they're differentin several ways from how they're made to taste and texture.

Tofu is made from soybeans, specifically by curdling soy milk and pressing the curds into soft, white blocks (really similar to how cheese is made from dairy milk). Tofu is made a plant-based staple and excellent source of vegan protein. Similar to the more well-known tofu, tempeh is made from soybeans. But unlike tofu, tempeh has a nutty flavor and meat-like firm texture, which means when it comes to tempeh vs tofu, the former may win meat eaters over more. Tempeh is traditionally from Indonesia and is made from soybeans that are fermented, cooked, then packed into a firm cake-like shape. 

And while a firm soybean cake may not sound delicious, trust us on this one tempeh really is delicious. 

Like tofu, tempeh takes on the flavor of the ingredients it’s cooked in.  And its chewy firm texture makes it super versatile. You can enjoy tempeh as vegan bacon, crumbled in pasta sauce, paired with vegetable skewers, in your favorite stir-fries. 

Oh, and heads up: unlike many fermented foods, tempeh should not be eaten raw! So definitely cook it first. How you ask? We’ll get to that in a minute here…

What Are the Health Benefits of Tempeh?

tempeh health

But first, let’s talk about nutrition! Is tempeh healthy? Yes indeed!

5 Reasons to Add Tempeh to Your Diet

  1. Tempeh is good for your gut, thanks to the fermentation process which provides it with some of that “good bacteria” you need for a diverse microbiome
  2. Tempeh is a great source of plant-based protein, with 31 grams of protein per cup.
  3. Tempeh is a high fiber food, which makes it a heart healthy choice (and again, good for your gut health).
  4. Tempeh is loaded with antioxidants, which helps boost your immune system and reduce inflammation.
  5. Tempeh is high in calcium and promotes healthy, strong bones!

Is Tempeh Gluten-Free?

In it's traditional form, yes! But there lots of commercially sold tempeh is made with gluten containing grains so definitely check the labels if gluten is a concern. 

Where To Find Tempeh At The Grocery Store

There’s nothing worse than adding something new to your grocery list then getting to the store and not being able to find it! But don’t worry this won’t happen to you because we’re going to steer you in the right direction. 

Tempeh has gained popularity over the past decade or so and can be found at most major grocery stores. Head to the refrigerated section by the produce (it’ll be alongside other vegetarian products like tofu and other meat alternatives).

While there are many common myths about soy and your health (spoiler: soy CAN absolutely be a healthy part of your diet), when it comes to purchasing tempeh, look for organic non-GMO products if you can. 

How to Prepare Tempeh (Our 3 Favorite Ways)

OK, now you know what tempeh is, why it’s good for you, and where to find it…

Let’s get cooking!

While tempeh can be intimidating at first, the truth is it’s actually really easy to prepare. You just have to know how to do it. There are many ways to cook tempeh but our three favorite ways are to bake it, skewer and grill it, and to make it into vegan tempeh bacon. 

1. Baked and Marinated Tempeh

baked tempeh

Ingredients

1 block of tempeh

Marinade of choice (we love this oil-free marinade!)

Optional: MamaSezz Buddha Bowl Base

Instructions

  1. Chop your tempeh into 1-inch cubes
  2. Steam tempeh. This is a key step so don’t forget to do it. Steaming tempeh will get rid of any of the bitter flavor that raw tempeh has, plus it’ll help it absorb the flavors of whatever marinade or ingredients you’re going to cook with. To steam tempeh: Place cubed tempeh in a saucepan and cover with water or veggie broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover for 10 minutes. 
  3. Marinate your tempeh (we love this easy oil-free marinade for tempeh or tofu).
  4. Bake marinated tempeh on parchment paper lined cookie sheet at 425 for 20 minutes. Take out half way to flip and brush on extra marinade if needed. 
  5. Enjoy with your MamaSezz Buddha Bowl Base or served over your favorite whole grains. 

2. BBQ tempeh skewers

Tempeh Skewers

Ingredients

1 block of tempeh, chopped into 1-inch cubes

1 bell pepper, roughly chopped into 1-inch pieces

1 red onion, roughly chopped into 1-inch pieces

2 cups of pineapple, chopped into 1-inch cubes

1 cup MamaSezz Original BBQ Sauce

Optional: your favorite whole grain (brown rice, quinoa, farro, etc.)

Instructions

  1. Chop your tempeh and veggies
  2. Steam tempeh. This is a key step so don’t forget to do it. Steaming tempeh will get rid of any of the bitter flavor that raw tempeh has, plus it’ll help it absorb the flavors of whatever marinade or ingredients you’re going to cook with. To steam tempeh: Place cubed tempeh in a saucepan and cover with water or veggie broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover for 10 minutes. 
  3. Pour half a cup of MamaSezz Original BBQ Sauce in a bowl then add tempeh cubes and toss to coat. Cover and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours so tempeh can soak up the sauce.
  4. Preheat your grill to medium and while it heats up, add tempeh and your veggies to the skewers. Note: if using wooden skewers be sure to soak for 30 minutes or so beforehand to prevent burning!
  5. Put skewers on the preheated grill and brush on the rest of the MamaSezz Original BBQ Sauce then grill each side for 3-5 minutes, until the tempeh is slightly crispy and a little blackened. 
  6. Enjoy over your favorite whole grains!

3. Vegan Tempeh Bacon

tempeh blt

Ingredients

1 block of tempeh

2 Tablespoons of Tamari

1 Tablespoon of rice wine vinegar

2 teaspoons of smoked paprika

½ teaspoon of garlic powder

¼ teaspoon of onion powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Steam tempeh before slicing: again, don’t skip this step! To steam tempeh: Place tempeh block in a saucepan and cover with water or veggie broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover for 10 minutes. 
  2. Cool for a few minutes then thinly slice tempeh into strips.
  3. Put tempeh strips into a bowl and add Tamari, rice wine vinegar, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt and pepper. 
  4. Marinate tempeh strips for 2 hours or overnight if possible.
  5. Once marinated, preheat skillet on medium-high heat and add tempeh strips, cooking each side for 4-5 minutes, or until crispy on each side. Note: because you’re cooking without oil you may want to check more often than you would otherwise to prevent sticking and burning. 

*For a vegan BLT, add tempeh bacon to whole grain bread and layer with tomato, lettuce, and dairy-free MamaSezz Ranch Dressing

Key Takeaways

  • Tempeh doesn’t have to be intimidating! Once you cook it once, you’ll see how easy it is. 
  • What is tempeh? Tempeh is made from soybeans that are fermented, cooked, then packed into a firm cake-like shape. 
  • Tempeh takes on the flavor of the ingredients it’s cooked in and has a nutty, firm almost meat-like texture, making it a great addition to stir-fries, sandwiches, Buddha Bowls, and vegan “meat” sauces.
  • Tempeh has plenty of health benefits: it’s good for your gut, heart healthy, loaded with antioxidants, and packed with protein and calcium.
  • Tempeh can be found in most grocery stores in the refrigerated section by the produce (it’ll be alongside other vegetarian products like tofu and other meat alternatives).
  • There are many ways to enjoy tempeh. We love to bake it, slather it with MamaSezz Original BBQ Sauce then grill it (on skewers!), or make it into vegan tempeh bacon. 

 

By Ali Brown

Ali is a mom, wife, and nutrition and lifestyle writer and editor. She has her Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.

 

What you should do now

  1. We have been where you are and we’ve helped thousands of people (just like you) transition to eating a plant based diet. If you are looking for a guide that can help you with some of the big questions, and dramatically reduce your stress, this FREE Ultimate Little Guide to Plant-Based Eating is a great place to start.
  2. If you're interested in Weight Loss, Download this fantastic FREE guide Ultimate (little) Guide to weight loss
  3. If you’d like to learn about plant-based living go to our MamaSezz Blog where you can read hundreds of “How To” articles. If you’d like to learn about plant-based cooking go to our Recipes Section for easy step by step favorites.
  4. If you enjoyed this article, then so will your friends, so why not share it on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Email




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