Have you ever heard of tempeh? To be honest, I hadn’t until a few years ago. I remember seeing it on a menu at a restaurant and even though I didn't know what it was, for some reason I thought that I should try it. I’m glad I did, because that was when I learned I liked tempeh and the recipe experimentation began.
What is tempeh?
- Tempeh is a plant based protein made out of fermented soybeans and is considered a staple food in Indonesia (1). While tempeh is usually made of soybeans, I have also seen it made from other beans and grains. Tempeh has a dry, firm, and chewy texture with a slightly nutty taste and is a common protein source used by people on a vegan or vegetarian diet.
What is the difference between tofu and tempeh?
- Although tempeh is similar to tofu in that they are both made from soybeans, the texture of tempeh is much more dense and chewy. This makes it a more “realistic” meat substitute in recipes. Tempeh is also ~2x higher in protein than tofu (½ cup tofu = ~8g; ½ cup tempeh = ~16g protein) (2,3).
Tempeh Nutrition Information (2)
3oz of tempeh (~½ cup)
- 140 calories
- 16g protein
- 4.5g fat
Compared to beef, tempeh contains a similar protein content with less total and saturated fat, more carbohydrates, and more fiber (1). Seems like a win/win - you get the same protein but with less of the not so great stuff (saturated fat) and more of the good stuff (fiber)!
Where do you buy tempeh?
You can typically find tempeh in the refrigerated section of the grocery store near where the tofu is sold. I normally find this by the dairy section. I have been able to buy it at all the major grocery stores in my area (Trader Joes, Ralphs, and Whole Foods).
Tempeh Health Benefits
- Tempeh contains isoflavones, which have been shown to significantly decrease total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the not so good kind of cholesterol) (4).
- Isoflavones are compounds that act as antioxidants and help to fight free radicals, which have been linked to chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer (5). The isoflavone content is increased when tempeh goes through the fermentation process (1,6).
- Another reason to consider giving this plant based protein a try is for it’s gut health benefits. Tempeh consumption has been shown to increase beneficial bacteria in our gut (1). The probiotics in tempeh help to keep our guts happy with plenty of beneficial bacteria has been linked to just about every health condition but specifically our immune system and mental health (7).
- Tempeh is also an excellent source of prebiotics, which feeds and keeps the healthy bacteria in our gut happy (8).
See below for my current favorite baked tempeh recipe.
Tempeh Buddha Bowls with Spicy Ginger Peanut Sauce
Spicy Ginger Peanut Sauce
Peanut Ginger Sauce
- 1 ½ tablespoon peanut butter
- 1 ½ tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon water (or more if you need to thin the mixture)
- 1 ½ teaspoon soy sauce or tamari
- 1 ½ teaspoon rice vinegar
- 1 ½ teaspoon garlic chili paste
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
- 1 dash garlic powder
Tempeh Bowl Ingredients
- Cooked quinoa
- Sautéed red bell pepper
- Oven roasted sweet potatoes (bake at 425°F until golden brown)
- Radish, thinly sliced
- Cilantro (for topping)
- Sesame seeds (for topping)
- Peanut ginger sauce
Peanut Ginger Sauce
- Combine all ingredients into a small bowl or mason jar. Mix well and adjust seasoning as needed (you can make it more spicy by increasing the garlic chili paste)
To assemble the tempeh bowl:
- Start by putting quinoa in a bowl (½ cup to 1 cup)
- Next add on all the veggies (greens, bell pepper, radish, and sweet potato)
- Top with the peanut sauce, sesame seeds, and cilantro & enjoy!