Tempeh is one vegan food that doesn’t tend to get a lot of coverage, certainly falling far behind tofu when it comes to public awareness of the food. Tempeh has long stood in the shadow of most other meat alternatives and is mostly a food enjoyed by vegans and people of Asian background. We aim to shine some light on tempeh by sharing what it is, why it’s good for you and just how useful it can be in recipes. Many people who have seen tempeh in stores simply do not know enough about it or how to cook with it, so we’ve gathered the very best recipes that marinate and cook this delicious food in a variety of dishes.
What is tempeh?
Tempeh is a dense cake, traditionally made from fermented soybeans, although it can be made from a variety of other beans, grains or nuts by using the specific spores. Tempeh is thought to have been around since at least the 16th century, although its history in America is very recent. As tempeh.info shares:
“Great deal of the credit for introducing tempeh to the American public goes to The Farm, a large spiritual and farming community in Summertown (Tennessee). The first commercial tempeh shop was started in 1975 by Mr. Gale Randall in Undadilla, Nebraska. An article by R. Rodale in "Prevention" in June 1977 brought him and his shop national prominence. In the 1980s when the tempeh industry expanded, the media showed new interest and a lot of articles appeared in scientific journals.”
It’s easy to see why it hasn’t quite taken off as a food, as it has such a brief history in modern times.
What are the nutritional benefits of tempeh?
Tempeh has a wide variety of health benefits. As tempeh is traditionally made from soybeans, it is a high protein food. Tempeh is a cultured food which means it is high in probiotics and can be far easier to digest, especially for individuals that may not do well with beans. It’s also a minimally processed food so it’s a great alternative to processed vegan meats. It’s also high in fiber and a variety of vitamins and minerals, making it a great option for regular use as a part of a healthy diet.
Traditional/Soy Based Brands
Flavors Available: Original, Smoky (Other flavors may be available)
Why We Love It: This is a widely available brand and our go-to for traditional tempeh. It has a simple ingredient list for the original and both flavors are certified organic, so need worries about GMO soy! We love the smoky flavor as a stand-in for bacon and it’s our go-to choice when we’re planning a weekend breakfast. The original is the perfect texture and ideal for using in any recipe that calls for tempeh.
Flavors Available: Original, Five Grain, Sesame Garlic, Smoky Maple Bacon
Why We Love It: Tofurkey has recently gotten in tempeh making and we couldn’t be any more thrilled! They use organic soybeans in all their flavors making it a great option to purchase without having to worry about GMO’s. We love their flavored varieties as they use simple ingredients and are packed with flavor, making them awesome grab and cook options without having to marinade or do much to it before making it.
Brand: Smiling Hara Hempeh
Flavors Available: Raspberry Habanero BBQ, Smoked Salt + Pepper Steak
Why We Love It: These tempehs are absolutely delicious and amazingly soy-free! We love these allergen-free options and while they are pricier, they are worth it for anyone who wants to eat tempeh and needs a soy-free option. This tempeh is cultured and made from peanuts and hemp seeds, making it a nutty, high protein option. The Smoked Salt + Pepper Steak can work well in most tempeh marinating recipes just omit the salt.
Flavors Available: Original
Why We Love it: This tempeh is very similar to the traditional style as it uses chickpeas in place of soy, giving it a similar texture and flavor. We love that it’s soy and gluten-free and a substantial sized block, making it a great replacement. This omega 3 rich option has a subtle flavor that works well in any recipe that calls for tempeh, especially if it’s for marinating.
Basic Tempeh Recipes: How to Make Tempeh, Cook It, and Marinate It
Recipe: How to Make Tempeh - Easy Method
Where to Find It: Vegan Lovlie
Why We Love It: This recipe really makes tempeh making quite easy. It’s thorough and in-depth but not overly complicated, giving lots of tips and tricks along the way to make delicious tempeh. It’s only three simple ingredients as well, making it a relatively cheap way to make your own tempeh at home.
Recipe: Sunflower Seed Tempeh
Where to Find It: Fermenting for Foodies
Why We Love It: This is a really creative recipe that offers a bean-free alternative for anyone who wants to try something new and interesting or simply doesn’t digest beans well. It uses nutrient-rich sunflower seeds to create slightly crunchier and denser tempeh. We highly recommend trying this out for all the die-hard tempeh lovers and fermentation fanatics.
Recipe: Black Bean Tempeh
Where to Find It: Full of Plants
Why We Love It: This is an absolutely beautiful alternative to soy-based tempeh. It requires only four ingredients and is great for those who love to experiment with fermentation or just get adventurous in the kitchen. It’s relatively easy to do and still provides a great protein-packed, probiotic-rich food without the soy!
Recipe: How to Cook Smoky Tempeh
Where to Find It: In My Bowl
Why We Love It: This is a great basic recipe to have on hand with some great tips about cooking tempeh to help you get the best texture and maximum flavor. It requires liquid smoke but you’ll discover that it truly is a worthwhile ingredient for the depth of flavor it adds. This tempeh is great used in wraps and sandwiches or even in simple bowls with vegetables for easy weeknight dinners.
Recipe: Balsamic Mustard Baked Tempeh
Where to Find It: The Full Helping
Why We Love It: This recipe is unique and well worth trying as it’s sure to become a favorite. The ingredients are simple, combining salty, sweet, tangy and spicy in a marvelous marinade that packs a powerful punch. We love the idea of serving this tempeh in a bowl with roasted veggies and quinoa for a filling yet easy meal.
Recipe: Marinated Peanut Tempeh
Where to Find It: Minimalist Baker
Why We Love It: They had us at peanut butter. This peanut marinade goes amazingly well with tempeh and creates depth without having to use liquid smoke. We love the simple recipe and ingredients, even if marinating may take a little longer and some forethought. We love this tempeh atop Asian inspired salads or over some cooked ramen with broccoli and scallions for a quick and easy meal.
Recipe: Lemon Garlic Tempeh
Where to Find It: Eating Bird Food
Why We Love It: This light and flavorful marinade makes delicious and unexpected tempeh to add to a variety of dishes. We love its simple flavors that lend themselves well to Italian cooking, like using this tempeh along with a pasta dish. We also love that this tempeh isn’t overpowering so it’s great to serve atop a salad for a light and tasty protein option that won’t overwhelm your leafy greens.
Recipe: Teriyaki Tempeh
Where to Find It: V Nutrition
Why We Love It: Tempeh with a teriyaki marinade is incredibly delicious and a great alternative to more processed meat substitutes when cooking Asian inspired meals. We love this flavorful option and it’s amazing served with brown rice and vegetables cooked up with a bit of garlic, ginger, sesame oil and soy sauce.
Meat Alternatives: Tempeh in Place of Meat
Recipe: Tempeh Bacon
Where to Find It: The Hidden Veggies
Why We Love It: This is a classic vegan bacon option that is a must for any tempeh or bacon lovers. It makes an absolutely delicious savory and smoky bacon that is great to serve alongside hash browns and scrambled tofu or on a tempeh lettuce and avocado sandwich.
Recipe: Tempeh Taco Meat
Where to Find It: Wholly Plants
Why We Love It: This is such an easy recipe to make and is a fantastic healthy option in lieu of more processed store-bought options. It’s great to use for tacos, on nachos or overloaded nacho fries for a healthy take on junk food.
Recipe: Baked Buffalo Tempeh Tenders
Where to Find It: Fork and Beans
Why We Love It: This recipe is really easy to make and quite filling. It comes together quickly using just a few premade ingredients and is impressively flavorful and delicious. It’s imperative you try this with the recommended blue cheese dressing or a vegan ranch for the ultimate comfort food experience.
Recipe: Barbecue Tempeh Ribs
Where to Find It: The Nut Free Vegan
Why We Love It: These ribs are so so simple to make and come together quite quickly with just a handful of ingredients. We love how flavorful these are and they make the perfect healthy rib alternative. Serving these on a sandwich or alongside some grilled corn on the cob is the ultimate delicious summer meal.
Recipe: Vegan Meatballs with Tempeh
Where to Find It: My Darling Vegan
Why We Love It: These meatballs require a few specialty ingredients and a little extra time and forethought but are totally worth the effort. They are so delicious and savory and quite filling, making them the ideal meatball replacement. Serve these over pasta with some marinara and vegan parmesan or on a meatball sandwich with marinara and your favorite meltable vegan cheese for a delicious and filling meal.
Recipe: Tempeh Veggie Burgers
Where to Find It: Eating Bird Food
Why We Love It: These burgers are oh so flavorful and so very healthy they’re sure to impress. We love that these burgers are easy to make and actually quite high in protein while still being mostly whole foods based. They’re hearty and moist and incredible when served with some avocado, fresh lettuce and tomato on a bun. We highly recommend adding a hint of chipotle to the recipe for a smoky hint and a bit of heat.
Meal Recipes: Tempeh in Meals
Recipe: Vegan Tempeh Chili
Where to Find It: Live Eat Learn
Why We Love It: Tempeh in chili is a genius move and we’re shocked we haven’t seen it done elsewhere! This recipe is whole-foods-based and uses beans and tempeh to create a hearty, protein-rich chili that is filling, nourishing and quite delicious. We highly recommend serving this topped with some fresh avocado or thick coconut yogurt.
Recipe: Sesame Garlic Noodles With Broccoli, Basil & Crispy Tempeh
Where to Find It: The First Mess
Why We Love It: This meal is so tasty and a great use of tempeh to add extra protein and texture to a flavorful dish. The marinade is delicious and the use of herbs and spices really give this dish quite a punch of flavor. This is truly an amazing and simple dish to serve to anyone and everyone who is open to good food, vegan or not.
Recipe: Vegan Tempeh Sloppy Joes
Where to Find It: Fooduzzi
Why We Love It: While this dish looks and tastes impressive, it literally only takes about twenty minutes to make. We love the idea of using tempeh in place of lentils or beans as it makes for a unique yet hearty protein option that comes together quite easily. This is a great option for a quick dinner or something a bit more impressive to take to a summer barbecue.
Recipe: Smoky Tempeh + Avocado Wrap
Where to Find It: Healthy Happy Life
Why We Love It: This recipe is the perfect combination of flavors and textures. It’s hearty and filling, yet light. It’s full of protein and fat and will keep you nourished without feeling overly heavy. We love the contrast of the smoky tempeh with the creamy avocado and promise you that you will not be disappointed if you give this recipe a try.
Recipe: 15-Minute Brussels sprouts & Tempeh Stir-Fry
Where to Find It: In Pursuit of More.
Why We Love It: This dish is a great healthy meal option that comes together quickly. We love the use of Brussels sprouts in a stir fry and they make a great contrast to the sweet bell peppers and carrots. The savory sauce along with the tempeh add the perfect amount of flavor and heartiness to this dish.
Recipe: Chorizo Tempeh & Potato Tacos
Where to Find It: Rachael Hartley Nutrition
Why We Love It: This creative recipe deserves an award, it’s so good! It relies on tempeh and spices to give a rich and filling sausage like alternative to meat and is a way better option than most processed meat alternatives available. This combined with potatoes makes for a filling and delicious yet simple taco. We highly recommend adding in some fresh cabbage for a bit of crunch and guacamole on top because everything is always better with avocado.
Recipe: Vegan Tempeh and Pineapple Kebabs with Peanut Satay Sauce
Where to Find It: Letty’s Kitchen
Why We Love It: This unique use of tempeh is amazing and a must-try. We love the flavors in the marinade and this savory concoction goes so well with the sweetness of the pineapple. This is a great summer dish and a perfect way to introduce veg-curious people to tempeh at barbecues and get-togethers.
Recipe: Vegan Tempeh Reubens
Where to Find It: Vegetarian Times
Why We Love It: This drool-worthy recipe is so good, you need to try it, like now. Vegan restaurants across the country have tempeh Reubens on the menu, and for good reason. Tempeh is the perfect meat alternative for a reuben and gives such a filling texture alongside the creamy dressing, cheese and sauerkraut. It’s really one of the most perfect sandwich combinations ever, so do yourself a favor and make it.
Recipe: Vegetable Tempeh Spring Rolls
Where to Find It: Two Spoons
Why We Love It: These spring rolls are so light and refreshing yet flavorful. We love the almond butter, ginger and miso glaze for the tempeh as it gives a nice bit of flavor to these simple green spring rolls. The tempeh adds just a little something extra to make these more filling without making them overly heavy. We guarantee this will be a hit with anyone who loves spring rolls or simply enjoys really good food.
Recipe: Tempeh Cauliflower Potato Tamarind Curry
Where to Find It: Vegan Richa
Why We Love It: This Indian inspired recipe is so incredibly flavorful and delicious we could eat it every day. It requires a bit of forethought and seeing out a few extra ingredients but it is so worth it. The sweetness of the tamarind goes so well with the variety of spices and the savory garlic. The tempeh adds a nice bit of density and pairs quite well with the flavors as well as with the potatoes to make a nourishing meal you won’t be able to forget.