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What you need to know about tempeh

What you need to know about tempeh

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Looking for a versatile meat free product with plenty of nutritional punch? Why not give tempeh a try.

What is tempeh?

A traditional soy product hailing from Indonesia, tempeh is made by a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form. 

Specialty tempehs may be made from other types of beans, wheat, or may include a mixture of beans and whole grains, or be made with soy pulp, cassava fibre, black soybeans, peanut press dregs, coconut dregs, barley or oats.

As well as protein, tempeh is a good source of B vitamins - vitamins B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B6 (pyrodoxine), vitamin B9 (folate), vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin) - and minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. 

Is tempeh healthy?

Tempeh is a healthy source of protein, meaning it promotes muscle growth and boost the repair process in the body. Being trans-fat-free, tempeh is a wonderful option for replacing meat in recipes. A dairy-free source of calcium, it is rich in health-promoting vitamins and minerals. 

The fermentation process means tempeh offers probiotic benefits, which can improve gut health, and optimise digestion. Find out more about the benefits of fermented foods. Studies also suggest consuming tempeh may lower cholesterol levels and aid the regulation of blood sugar levels.  

Consuming soy products, which have a high mineral content, may also help support bone health, especially when consumed as part of a diet rich in whole foods.  

Tempeh vs tofu – what’s the difference?

Both tempeh and tofu are vegan-friendly foods made from soybeans. However, it is in their preparation and nutrient content where tempeh and tofu differ.

Tempeh is made from whole soybeans in a process that involves fermentation. It has a nutty, mushroom flavour, is firm in texture and is a great addition to salads, pasta and rice dishes and stir-fries. 

Tofu is made from soybean curd through a process of, crushing, soaking and curdling and pressing soybeans. It can also be made from soymilk. 

Tofu has a very subtle taste and takes on the flavour of whatever you're making - curries, stir-fries or desserts, and is available in soft and firm varieties.

On the nutrition front tempeh comes out just in front – it has a higher protein and fibre content than tofu and is a less processed product. 
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How to use tempeh

Tempeh has a firm texture, and is usually prepared by cutting it into pieces, soaking in brine or salty sauce, and then frying, but it can also be steamed, marinated, thinly sliced, or blackened. 

It’s often used as a meat substitute in casseroles, stir fries, soups, salads, and sandwiches, and provides a nutty, meaty, and mushroom-like taste. 

It also grates well, so it can then be used as a mince like substance. It’s sponge-like qualities means it takes on marinade flavours well. 

Tempeh is readily available through health food stores and supermarkets. 

Tempeh recipes

To help you get tempeh onto your weekly roster of healthy meals here’s 4 of our favourite tempeh recipes for you to get started.  

1. Easy vegan “fish fingers”
This tasty twist on fish fingers is a great introduction for those new to tempeh and one for the whole family. 

2. Matcha miso bowl
A bowl of green goodness with an abundance of nutrients, grilled tempeh and a miso dressing with a revitalising superfood boost.

3. Easy vegan yellow curry with tempeh
Made with turmeric, fresh vegetables and a creamy coconut sauce, this curry from Nourish Everyday is gluten free, nut free and dairy free. 

4. Ginger sesame maple marinated tempeh
There's just one word for this tangy, salty and sweet baked tempeh dish brought to you by Ascension Kitchen – delicious.