Decoding Tempeh: The Internet’s Latest Healthy Food

Flavour, nutrition, and texture: tempeh has got it all. Discover this versatile plant-based protein and how it’s the perfect alternative to meat.

By URLife Team
26 Jun 2023

In recent years, the popularity of plant-based diets has soared, leading to a surge in interest in versatile and protein-rich alternatives compared to meat and dairy products. Tofu and plant-based meat have been popular vegan alternatives, but have you heard of tempeh? With its unique texture and taste, it stands out as a nutritional powerhouse. 

Originating from Indonesia, tempeh has gained global recognition for its health benefits, culinary versatility, and sustainable production methods. Keep reading to understand what tempeh is, how it is made, and why it's worth adding to your diet.


What is Tempeh? 

Tempeh is a traditional Indonesian food made from fermented soybeans. It is produced by a natural culturing process that binds the soybeans into a compact cake-like form. The fermentation process not only enhances its flavour but also improves the nutritional profile of the soybeans.


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How Is It Made?

Step 1: Selecting and Soaking the Soybeans

The journey of tempeh begins with the selection of high-quality soybeans. Cleaned thoroughly, the soybeans are then soaked in water to soften them, which aids in their subsequent processing and fermentation.


Step 2: Dehulling and Cooking the Soybeans 

Once the soybeans have been soaked, they are dehulled to remove the outer skins. This step is important as it allows for better penetration of the fermentation culture. After dehulling, the soybeans are cooked until they reach a tender consistency. Cooking not only enhances the flavour but also makes the nutrients more accessible for the fermentation process.


Step 3: Inoculation with Culture 

After the cooked soybeans have cooled to a specific temperature, they are ready for inoculation with a tempeh starter culture. The most commonly used cultures contain spores of the fungi Rhizopus oligosporus or Rhizopus oryzae. These cultures kickstart the fermentation process by breaking down the soybeans' complex carbohydrates and proteins, transforming them into more digestible forms.


Step 4: Fermentation 

The magic begins once the starter culture is added, the soybeans are mixed thoroughly to ensure even distribution. The mixture is then spread into a thin layer and placed in a warm and humid environment, typically at a temperature range of 30-34°C (86-93°F). This environment is ideal for the growth of the fermentation culture. During fermentation, the culture begins to colonise the soybeans, producing a dense white mycelium that binds the beans together, forming the characteristic cake-like structure of tempeh.


Step 5: Binding and Packaging

After approximately 24 to 48 hours of fermentation, the tempeh reaches its desired texture and aroma. At this stage, the tempeh cakes are carefully sliced and packaged for storage or transportation.

When it comes to plant-based protein sources, tempeh takes centre stage as a nutritional powerhouse. Packed with essential nutrients and boasting numerous health benefits, tempeh is not only a delicious addition to your meals but also a smart choice for overall well-being. 


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Tempeh: The Nutritional Backstory

High-Quality Plant-Based Protein

Tempeh is renowned for its remarkable protein content. With approximately 20 grams of protein per 100 grams, it’s a substantial source of high-quality plant-based protein. It contains all the essential amino acids required by the human body, making it a valuable protein option, particularly for those following a vegetarian or vegan diet.


Rich in Fibre

Dietary fibre plays a crucial role in maintaining digestive health, regulating blood sugar levels, and supporting heart health. Tempeh offers a significant amount of fibre, with approximately 5 grams per 100 grams. This soluble fibre aids in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels and promotes feelings of fullness, making it beneficial for weight management.


Essential Vitamins and Minerals

Tempeh is a nutrient-dense food, providing a range of essential vitamins and minerals necessary for optimal health. Some key vitamins found in tempeh include:

  • B Vitamins: Tempeh contains B vitamins such as niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, and vitamin B6. These vitamins are essential for energy production, brain function, and overall cell health.
  • Vitamin K: Tempeh is a notable source of vitamin K, which plays a vital role in blood clotting and bone health.


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In addition to vitamins, tempeh offers an array of minerals, including:

  • Calcium: Tempeh contains calcium, crucial for bone health, muscle function, and nerve transmission.
  • Iron: Tempeh is a valuable plant-based source of iron, supporting the production of red blood cells and preventing iron deficiency.
  • Probiotics and Digestive Health: The fermentation process involved in producing tempeh introduces beneficial bacteria known as probiotics. These probiotics contribute to a healthy gut microbiome, promoting better digestion, nutrient absorption, and overall digestive health. Consuming tempeh regularly may improve gut health, alleviate digestive issues, and boost the immune system.


Plant Compounds with Antioxidant Properties

Tempeh contains plant compounds, including isoflavones and phytosterols, which possess antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help protect the body against oxidative stress and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, certain cancers, and inflammation-related conditions.


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Incorporating Tempeh Into The Diet

Here are some easy ways you can add tempeh into your diet and meals:

  • Masala Stir-Fry: Cut tempeh into bite-sized pieces and stir-fry it with a blend of Indian spices such as turmeric, cumin, coriander, and garam masala. Add onions, bell peppers, and other vegetables of your choice for a flavorful and protein-rich dish.
  • Tempeh Curry: Create a delicious tempeh curry by sautéing diced tempeh with onions, ginger, garlic, and a mix of Indian spices like curry powder, fenugreek, and paprika. Add tomato puree or coconut milk for a creamy texture and simmer until the flavours meld together. Serve with rice or roti for a satisfying meal.
  • Tandoori Tempeh Skewers: Marinate tempeh cubes in a mixture of yoghurt, tandoori masala, ginger-garlic paste, and lemon juice. Skewer the marinated tempeh with bell peppers, onions, and cherry tomatoes. Grill or bake the skewers until the tempeh is nicely charred and serve with mint chutney.
  • Tempeh Biryani: Layer cooked basmati rice with sautéed tempeh, caramelised onions, aromatic spices like cardamom and cinnamon, and a handful of fresh mint and coriander leaves. Cover and cook until the flavours meld together, resulting in a fragrant and flavorful tempeh biryani.
  • Tempeh Paratha Rolls: Stuff crumbled and sautéed tempeh into whole wheat parathas along with sliced onions, green chutney, and a sprinkle of chaat masala. Roll it up and enjoy a tasty and protein-packed tempeh paratha roll, perfect for a quick and satisfying meal.
  • Tempeh Sambar: Add diced tempeh to your favourite sambar recipe along with lentils, vegetables like drumsticks, carrots, and eggplant, and a blend of South Indian spices. Let it simmer until the flavours meld together, and serve with rice or idli for a comforting and nutritious meal.
  • Tempeh Pakoras: Dip tempeh slices into a chickpea flour batter seasoned with spices like turmeric, cumin, and chilli powder. Deep fry until golden brown and crispy. Serve these tempeh pakoras as a tasty appetiser or snack with mint chutney or tamarind chutney.
  • Tempeh Chole: Prepare a spicy and tangy chole masala by simmering cooked tempeh cubes with chickpeas, onions, tomatoes, and a blend of spices like garam masala, coriander, and cumin. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve with rice or naan for a hearty meal.


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By incorporating tempeh into your meals, you can savour its delicious flavour while reaping the numerous nutritional benefits it has to offer. At UR.Life, we believe in taking a holistic approach to health and nutrition. Our team of experienced nutritionists is here to guide and support you on your wellness journey. By offering personalised diet plans tailored to your unique needs and preferences, we help you achieve your health goals. Additionally, we provide comprehensive blood tests to identify any nutritional deficiencies and design targeted interventions. With the UR.Life Health Risk Assessment, you can access a range of healthy recipes and expert advice, empowering you to make informed choices and optimise your well-being. 

Regular health checks are essential for everyone, but they are particularly important for individuals who are at risk of or already have any underlying condition. Taking regular health checks can help detect the underlying at an early stage when it is easier to manage and treat. With the UR.Life HRA, we help you to invest in your well-being through seamless interventions and targeted medical treatments. Our holistic wellness approach caters to all aspects of your well-being. We ensure that you can bring your whole self to work.

With our medical professionals by your side, routine health check-ups will never be an issue. Advanced laboratory technologies back UR.Life’s Occupational Health Centers (OHC), and with highly qualified experts/technicians, we’re committed to delivering trusted and quality recommendations, modifications and advice to you.



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