What is Tempeh and How to Cook it?

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 Tempeh 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 Tempeh 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 if you want a guarantee that it’s a non-GMO product.

What is tempeh and how to cook it

How do I Cook Tempeh?

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.

Recipe Ideas for Using Tempeh

Below are a few favorite ways to work it into your repertoire.

If you are already well-versed in tempeh cookery, please weigh in. Share your favorite recipe ideas in the comments section below.


06.18.2018 at3:40 AM #

Rebecca Bunting

I learned to love tempeh cooked this way from my healer friend Donnie Lance. It’s delicious and satisfying in a salad or sandwich.
Slice tempeh into 1” slices and sauté with some sliced onion, a drizzle of olive oil, freshly crushed coriander seed and salt to taste. Turn tempeh pieces to cook evenly, while stirring onions until they are softened and tempeh is lightly browned. Serve immediately.

06.18.2018 at3:40 AM #

Katie Morford

That sounds delicious…like a good staple to have in the repertoire. Thank you for sharing.

06.18.2018 at2:32 PM #


I make tempeh ruebens. Cut tempeh in half and then slice so pieces are half as thick. Saute in oil, drizzle with tamari. Add a slice of Swiss. Assemble sandwich. Toasted rye, tempeh, sprouts, Russian dressing(mayo and ketchup), onion and saurkraut. There used to be an item called Fakin Bacon which was smoky slices of tempeh. Great for sandwiches, especially vege blt’s. Maybe it’s still around?

06.18.2018 at2:32 PM #

Katie Morford

Yum! I love that ideas. I am going to give it a whirl and see what my girls think.

06.19.2018 at11:36 PM #

Rosemary Mark

I applaud you for embracing tempeh! It’s wonderful how our daughters lead us places. I’m looking forward to your eggplant tempeh meatballs — I’ve not been a fan of tempeh. Yet!

06.19.2018 at11:36 PM #

Katie Morford

Meatball recipe is up! I’d be curious to see what you think.

01.28.2019 at2:02 PM #

Bret Moore

As a baby vegan (I will be approaching the one year mark in a couple of months), I began my journey as more of a tofu girl. In fact, due to some restaurant’s inability to properly prepare tempeh, I even thought I did not like it, which seems to be a common enough response to tempeh. Flash forward to two weeks ago when a close friend shared a recipe with me for tempeh baked in peanut sauce and I was hooked!

I have since done a couple of variations on the recipe and find it basically needs the following ingredients:

peanut butter, acid of some kind (I use lime juice), soy sauce or tamari, sesame oil, and some chili paste or flakes.

After combining these ingredients I put my tempeh (cut into small triangles) into a plastic baggie or tupperware container, and let it marinate for 24 hours. Then I bake at 400 for 15-25 minutes, flipping once halfway through. It is transcendent! I have it atop salads or (if you sliced it bigger) on sandwiches.

01.28.2019 at2:02 PM #

Katie Morford

Wowsa! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your recipe. I will give it whirl.

04.21.2020 at4:09 PM #

rodrigues georgina

can someone give me a recipe for tempeh spare ribs, i had it at a vegan restaurant but they would not tell me how to make it. they were delicious and tasted just like the meat version. thanks

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