Have you been struggling with how to cook with tempeh? Well, you landed on the right article! This Ultimate Guide to Tempeh will give you a better understanding on how to cook with tempeh, whether or not to steam tempeh and lots and lots of delicious recipe ideas to try!
What Does Tempeh Taste Like?
Tempeh has a nutty, earthy flavor and the texture is a little dense but it brings so much to the table and I think it's a really wonderful healthy addition to anyones diet whether you are plant based, vegan or not.
I don't see tempeh used very often and when I asked my friends on twitter I was told by many people that the texture and/or bitter flavor is a bit off putting to them BUT we'll touch on some helpful tips in this ultimate guide that might get rid of those problems for you!
In this Ultimate Guide to Tempeh you will learn what tempeh is and how it's made, how to cook with tempeh and lots of recipes and ideas to put the knowledge in to practice!
What is Tempeh + How is it Made?
Tempeh originated in Indonesia and is made from fermented soybeans. The soybeans are cooked and fermented then packed into a block. The white stuff that is formed between the soybeans is actually mold but not the gross kind of mold you want to avoid. It's totally normal and natural and a healthy edible type of mold.
What are the black spots on tempeh? Is it still edible?
Yes, it's edible! The mold grown on the tempeh has matured and simply turned black. They don't affect the flavor at all. While the black spots are normal and safe on tempeh, a greenish fuzzy mold is not safe and should be discarded.
You'll be able to tell when the tempeh has gone rotten because it usually has a strong smell of ammonia or alcohol. The texture of rotten tempeh sometimes will become mushy or crumbly, as well.
Tempeh vs Tofu
Both are soy products but the taste and texture are completely different. Tofu is made from soy curds while tempeh is made from whole soybeans. Tempeh is less processed than tofu but they are both delicious and wonderful additions to your diet.
Learn more about cooking with tofu in my Ultimate Guide to Cooking Tofu.
Seitan vs Tempeh
We've covered tempeh, now what is Seitan? Seitan is made from gluten which is the main protein found in wheat and is a soy free meat alternative. The texture is more meaty than tempeh and tofu. Check out my Vegan Beef recipe and Chicken Seitan recipe.
Where to buy Tempeh?
Tempeh can be found in most grocery stores depending on where you live. The brand Lightlife is available in a lot of places and that's usually the one I grab but brands such as SoyBoy, Tofurkey, Whole Foods, and even Trader Joe's have their own brands of tempeh as well.
I recommend the original version of tempeh for most recipes but you can also find some with added flavors or marinades or even ones with added whole grains.
How to Cut Tempeh:
You can cut tempeh into cubes, squares, thin strips, triangles, or can be crumbled. The shape of tempeh depends on what you're cooking or your personal preference.
Should Tempeh be Steamed?
Steaming tempeh helps reduce bitterness and softens it which helps absorb marinades. It isn't always necessary but if you've tried tempeh and you weren't a huge fan of the taste and texture of tempeh, try steaming it first!
How to Steam Tempeh:
You can use a steamer basket to steam for 10 minutes or simply place in a microwave safe bowl and cover with water. Microwave for 5 minutes.
I don't always find steaming necessary but I say that you should try both ways and see what you prefer.
Season tempeh just like how you would season meat or tofu! Add your favorite seasonings, favorite sauces and use your favorite marinades! The options for tempeh are truly endless as it's a blank canvas and soaks up flavor.
- Cook tempeh as instructed below and toss in my Easy Thai Peanut Sauce and serve over rice or noodles with mixed veggies. I usually use red bell peppers, red onion and cilantro.
- Cook tempeh as instructed below and add in a grain bowl with farro or rice, roasted vegetables like cauliflower and bell peppers, and sauce of choice. I love doing this and drizzle over my Easy Basil Pesto.
- Add your favorite store-bought sauce like sweet chili sauce, teriyaki sauce or make a homemade sauce like my orange sauce that I used with pan-fried tofu. Serve over rice! So good.
- Marinate in flavors like maple syrup, soy sauce and liquid smoke for a delicious vegan bacon alternative. You can pan-fry or follow the instructions that are on my post for this Easy Baked Tempeh.
- Add crispy baked tempeh or tempeh bacon to salads or sandwiches. I think it pairs well with my Kale Caesar Salad and Vegan Caramelized Onion & Bacon Grilled Cheese.
- Serve in tacos, burritos, grain bowls, fried rice, stir fries, pastas, and so much more! The options are endless.
How to Cook with Tempeh
Below are the most popular methods on how to cook with tempeh. You can steam the tempeh and then bake, pan fry or air fry. Pick an idea from above and a method from below and you've got yourself a delicious tempeh dish!
Steamer Basket: Use a steamer basket and fill the pot halfway with water and bring to a simmer. Add tempeh cut or whole to the basket and cover. Steam for 10 minutes.
Microwave: Simply place tempeh in a microwave safe bowl and cover with water. Microwave for 5 minutes.
Boiling: Place tempeh in water and reduce the boil to a simmer for 10 minutes.
Marinade or coat the tempeh in seasonings as written below.
Heat a large frying pan on medium-high heat and add a splash of oil. Cut the tempeh in cubes, triangles or slices and pan fry on each side until golden brown and crispy.
Marinade or coat the tempeh in seasonings as written below.
Spread the tempeh out on to a parchment lined baking tray and bake for 20-25 minutes or until crispy and golden brown.
Frequently Asked Questions
Tempeh has an earthy nutty taste but overall lacks flavor which is why it's a great protein to add to a wide range of different dishes.
As long as the tempeh is pasteurized, it's more than likely safe to eat as long as it's been stored properly. But I would recommend at least steaming or simmer in water before eating. Raw tempeh doesn't offer more benefits than cooked tempeh and honestly, it's not that appealing to eat without adding flavor so I recommend always cooking it before eating to be on the safe side.
I haven't tried personally but yes!
Tempeh is naturally gluten free but watch out for the ones that have added grains.
Yes! Tempeh is high in protein and low in fat. It contains no cholesterol and is a good source of fiber, iron and calcium. Tempeh is fermented which is great for gut health and overall is a really great addition to any diet.
Tempeh is traditionally soy based but I've seen varieties of tempeh made from other beans such as black beans or navy beans as well as chickpeas, lentils and hemp seeds.
The Best Tempeh Recipes
I hope this ultimate guide to cooking with tempeh was helpful for you and now you feel confident on how to cook tempeh! If you did find this helpful, please leave a review and star rating below.
I don't have a ton of tempeh recipes on the blog just yet but I have so many more planned. Keep this post bookmarked and check back regularly.
- Spicy Tempeh Crunch Roll
- Easy Baked Tempeh Bacon
- Vegan Caramelized Onion & Bacon Grilled Cheese
- General Tso's Tempeh
- Vegan BBQ Tempeh
The recipe listed below for Crispy Baked Tempeh can be substituted for the tofu in all these recipes.
- Sweet Chili Tofu
- Crispy Tofu Rice Bowl with Peanut Sauce
- Vegan Orange Tofu
- Vegan Chicken Tikka Masala
- Chipotle Tofu Fajita Burrito Bowl
- Spicy Korean Gochujang Braised Tofu
If You Make Any Of These Recipes:
I would greatly appreciate if you share your review in the comments of the recipe and leave a star rating if you found this ultimate guide on how to cook with tempeh helpful. Thank you!
How to Make Crispy Baked Tempeh
- 1 8 oz Block of Tempeh
- 1 tablespoon Low Sodium Soy Sauce
- 1 teaspoon Nutritional Yeast
- ½ teaspoon Garlic Powder
- ½ teaspoon Onion Powder
- Pinch of Salt & Black Pepper
- 1 teaspoon Olive Oil or Neutral Oil
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- Optional: Steam the block of tempeh for 10 minutes to remove some of the bitterness and to soften. Pat dry.
- Cube the block of tempeh. I cubed mine in to 24 pieces.
- Add the tempeh to a large bowl and toss in the soy sauce. Then, add in the nutritional yeast, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and black pepper. Toss to combine. Then, drizzle over the olive oil and toss one last time.
- Spread the tempeh out on to a parchment lined baking tray and bake for 20-25 minutes or until crispy and golden brown.
- Serve however you'd like and enjoy!