Plant-based proteins are a great way to enjoy meat recipes without having to sacrifice flavor. Before plant-based options like tofu arrived on the scene, many meat-based dishes couldn’t be enjoyed by vegans. But tofu isn’t the only plant-based protein there is. We’re going to talk about all things tempeh today!
What Is Tempeh?
Tempeh is fermented soybeans that have gone through a careful cultivation process that transforms the soybeans into a cake brick that can be used in various meat-substitution recipes.
Because tempeh is made of soybeans, it is loaded with protein, making it a perfect meat substitute. Most proteins are found in animals, so having a soybean option packed with protein makes it the perfect plant-based meat substitute that you can use in almost any recipe.
It is always good to have a selection of plant-based recipes for those days of the week you would prefer to go meatless.
How Is Tempeh Made?
The process of making tempeh is similar to the process used to make cheese. Knowing how to make tempeh means you can do it right in your home instead of having to find it in your local grocery store.
Tempeh is made when soybeans are boiled in water and then strained, dried, and cooled. Once cooled, any excess water will be squeezed from the beans before the fermentation process begins.
Tempeh starter, a type of fungal culture, is added to and mixed with the soybeans. The tempeh starter breaks down the beans and ferments them between one and two days.
During this time, white mold begins to cover the soybeans and acts as a binder among the beans. This is ultimately how the beans turn into a packed brick or cake called tempeh.
The solid sheet of tempeh will be cut into smaller pieces. These pieces are typically frozen to ensure they have a longer shelf-life that allows them to be used as needed, rather than immediately after fermenting.
Is Tempeh Gluten-Free?
If you make tempeh at home, you can control the type of starter you use. If you’re choosing a store-bought starter, it will likely contain rhizopus oligosporus, the type of fungus used to ferment the soybeans. What’s not mentioned is that rhizopus oligosporus may be produced in facilities that process wheat, oats, and other grains. These manufacturers will often use these grains to help act as glue when fermenting tempeh, making gluten a hidden ingredient in the starter.
Make sure the tempeh starter you use at home when making tempeh doesn’t contain any gluten. If the starter doesn’t contain gluten, then the package should say that it is gluten-free.
If you are purchasing tempeh from a grocery store, you will want to check the ingredients listed on the package. Grains are often used to help bind the tempeh once it has been fermented, especially in processing facilities. Ensure the tempeh package says that it is gluten-free and that there are no grain ingredients listed in the description.
So, what’s the verdict?
Tempeh can easily be gluten-free as long as the starter used to ferment the tempeh is gluten-free, so you’ll have to check the ingredients on the tempeh starter you’ll be using to make tempeh at home.
Tempeh that is most likely to contain gluten is pre-made. You will have to check the ingredients on the package to know for sure.
Tempeh is a great plant-based alternative to use in virtually any meat recipe. Not only is it is full of protein, but tempeh has many health benefits. It contains prebiotics (like phytic acid), has been shown to reduce cholesterol, decreases oxidative stress, and is great for bone health.
Nutrition Facts According to the USDA
ONE SERVING: 1 cup (166 grams)
Fat: 18 grams
- Saturated: 3.7 grams
- Polyunsaturated: 6 grams
- Monounsaturated: 5 grams
Protein: 31 grams
Carbs: 16 grams
Sodium: 15 milligrams
Potassium: 684 milligrams
Vitamin B-6: 20%
The next time you want to enjoy tacos or pasta, use tempeh. It’s packed full of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, but possibly what’s even better is that it’s so full of flavor that you don’t feel like you are sacrificing flavor when choosing a meatless substitute in your favorite dish.