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Tempeh Basics: Marinades and Easy Recipes

Last week we shared our top tofu techniques and recipes. This week we continue along that theme with our top tips for tempeh and some easy tempeh recipes to get you started with this high protein vegetarian wonder food. In Indonesia tempeh is known as ‘the meat of the fields’ and is valued as a cheaper healthier alternative to meat. But what is it?

What is Tempeh?

Tempeh is made from soybeans which are soaked then steamed, peeled, split and mixed with starter culture “Rhizophus Oligosporus.” The mixture is packed into perforated plastic bags and left to mature at 30C for two days. The culture weaves a silky white mycelium mesh between the beans giving it a compact texture, which is easily sliceable.

This process puts tempeh in the "fermented foods" category along with sauerkraut and kombucha. Fermented foods like these are gaining in popularity, and for good reason: amongst other health benefits, fermented foods support the beneficial bacteria in our gut and help aid digestion. For tempeh specifically, fermentation increases the digestibility and nutrient absorption of soy.

Why try tempeh?

We've already mentioned tempeh's benefits as a fermented food. Tempeh is also

  • an excellent source of vitamins
  • high in protein and fibre
  • low in calories, saturated fats and carbohydrates
  • free of cholesterol
  • easier to digest than tofu
  • gluten free and vegan

It's also becoming easier to acquire. Tempeh is readily available from Asian and health food stores and is usually kept in the freezer. At home it's best to keep it in the freezer until you need it, as it will carry on fermenting and start turning black if left in the fridge. If you're feeling really ambitious, you can even buy "tempeh starter" and make tempeh at home.

How to Cook Tempeh

The key to enjoying tempeh is marinating. Tempeh will soak up any flavour you want: spicy chilli, rich shoyu ginger and citrus or sauces like spicy peanut satay. It can be served traditionally with a rub of garlic and crushed toasted coriander seeds. We also have a basic marinade that we love for both tofu and tempeh.

Tempeh is so versatile: deep-fry, pan-fry, slice, cube...add to curries, stir-fries, salads, stews...or make into burgers or vegetable kebabs!

Easy Tempeh Recipes

Here are a few easy tempeh recipes to get you started:

Monica's Smoky Tempeh Sandwich

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