Tempeh is typically made from fermented soybeans and/or wheat. It can be prepared in a variety of different ways and is high in nutrients, making it a popular vegetarian source of protein. Much like other meatless sources of protein, such as tofu and seitan, tempeh is packed with nutrients. Because it is more compact than other soy products, tempeh provides more protein than some other vegetarian alternatives. Not only is tempeh a good source of protein, but it also has iron, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium and calcium. It is low in carbs and sodium. 3 ounces of tempeh contains:
- 15 grams of protein
- 12% of the recommended daily intake of iron
- 9% of the RDI of calcium
- 12% of the RDI of niacin
- 18% of the RDI of magnesium
- 21% of the RDI of phosphorus
- 54% of the RDI of manganese
Tempeh has a much stronger flavor than tofu. It’s savory and nutty, and many people describe it as having an earthy, mushroom-y taste.
Tempeh is traditionally made with soybeans, but it can actually be made with any type of bean, like black beans, black-eyed peas, and chickpeas. Some kinds of tempeh also include grains, like brown rice, barley or millet, or seeds.
Fermentation is a process that involves the breaking down of sugars by bacteria and yeast. Through fermentation, the phytic acid found in soybeans is broken down, helping to improve digestion and absorption. Compared to other tempeh varieties, soy-based tempeh is especially rich in probiotics, which promote good digestive health.
Research shows that soy protein can be just as effective as meat-based protein when it comes to appetite control. In a 2014 study, 20 obese men were placed on a high-protein diet that included either soy-based or meat-based protein. After two weeks, they found that both diets led to weight loss, a decrease in hunger and an increase in fullness with no significant difference between the two protein sources.
Tempeh is traditionally made from soybeans, which contain natural plant compounds called isoflavones. Soy isoflavones have been associated with reduced cholesterol levels.
Studies show that soy isoflavones also possess antioxidant properties and may reduce oxidative stress. Antioxidants work by neutralizing free radicals, atoms that are highly unstable and can contribute to the development of chronic disease. Numerous studies have shown that isoflavones could reduce markers of oxidative stress by increasing antioxidant activity in the body.
Tempeh may especially be beneficial compared to other soy products. One study compared the isoflavones in soybeans to the isoflavones in tempeh and found that tempeh had greater antioxidant activity.
Though dairy products are the most common sources of calcium, studies show that the calcium in tempeh is as well absorbed as the calcium in milk, making it an excellent option for increasing calcium intake.
People with thyroid conditions should ask their doctors about eating soy-based products. Soy contains goitrogens – substances that depress thyroid function.
How to Buy
You can buy tempeh in any health food store, as well as most grocery stores. Look for it in the refrigerated section, near where tofu and meat alternative products are sold.
How to Store
Store tempeh in the refrigerator.
How to Cook
Tempeh is a versatile food. Use it the same way you would any type of meat or tofu — as a burger, in salads, stir fries, soups and stews. Tempeh is firm, it is best to slice it into thin slices or cubes before preparing it. To add more flavor, consider marinating the tempeh before cooking. Tempeh is commonly sliced thin then pan-fried or grilled, until the edges are crispy. It can also be baked, steamed, crumbled into soups and stews, or added into stir-fries.