What is Tempeh and How to Cook it?
If it weren’t for the fact that two of my offspring are now vegetarians, I probably wouldn’t be talking tempeh. But the truth is, our kids help us learn and grow and evolve, which is why I’m now buying, cooking, and yes, embracing tempeh. Even if my entire crew returned to their carnivorous ways, I’d still include the occasional tempeh in my repertoire. If you are interested in tinkering with this soy-based superfood in your house, here’s what you need to know:
What is Tempeh?
Tempeh, which originated in Indonesia, is soybeans that have been cooked and fermented. It forms into a solid, firm cake and is sold in shrink-wrapped packages in the refrigerated section of the market, often where other soy products are displayed. Unlike tofu, which is made of soy milk, tempeh is whole soy beans, and therefore is considered less processed than tofu.
What Does it Taste Like?
Tempeh has an earthy, nutty flavor with a slightly bitter undertone. It has a hearty texture, much firmer than tofu, reminiscent of other beans or legumes.
Why is it Good for You?
Tempeh is a fermented food, which means it has the sort of desirable bacteria you’ll find in yogurt, kefir, and kimchi that can help build a healthy gut. It’s also a good source of protein and fiber, with a generous 16 grams and 7 grams, respectively. Buy organic tempeh is you want a guarantee that it’s a non-GMO product.
How do I Cook it?
Tempeh lends itself to numerous applications in the kitchen. It definitely benefits from being marinated and/or added to other ingredients that are full of flavor. It’s firm enough to slice into slabs, cut into cubes, or crumble and use as you might ground meat. Below are a few favorite ways to work it into your repertoire.
- Cut into thin slices, marinate, and pan fry as you would bacon (go easy on the oil, since tempeh is like a sponge). Use in sandwiches and salads, such as this recipe from The Kitchn.
- Crumble and cook like taco meat for old school tacos or as a filling for enchiladas.
- Use as a filling for potstickers like you might ground pork.
- Cube it for a flavorful stir fry
- Add it for a boost of texture and protein in a pot of chili
- Use as the base for flavorful meatballs (Stay tuned for my Eggplant Tempeh Meatballs in Tomato Sauce coming your way in a few days!)
If you are already well-versed in tempeh cookery, please weigh in. Share your favorite recipe ideas in the comments section below.