Last Updated on February 27, 2023 by Maria Kennedy
Tempeh protein has been around for centuries but has quite recently become more popular owing to the growing interest in plant-based diets, and has become the go to plant-based protein. Tempeh is extremely versatile and can even be used as a substitute for chicken.
Growing interest in plant protein
Until fairly recently it was practically unheard of in India whereas in Indonesia it was fairly standard to serve it as a side dish to the main meal. However, things have changed considerably and with the growing numbers of people turning to a healthier way of eating, and not just vegans and vegetarians, tempeh is becoming a superfood.
It’s just the kind of superfood you want to be nibbling on while enjoying your super Intertops poker bonus.
What is tempeh made of?
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Tempeh is made from whole soya beans and is said to have originated in Java, Indonesia. Tempeh consists of three things – soyabeans, water and fungus. After undergoing a process of fermentation, it becomes a solid cake-like form.
Tempeh has a lot going for it. It is dairy free, gluten free, cholesterol free and high in fiber. It has an interesting nutty taste and is very porous making it great for marinating and has the ability to absorb flavors easily.
The origins of tempeh
Tempeh is not something new. It has been around for centuries, has been a traditional ingredient in Indonesian cuisine for around 1000 years, but is only now becoming known around the world with the growing interest in plant- based protein.
The global plant-based protein market
The value of the global plant-based protein market at the end of, 2022, was estimated to reach $14.58 billion at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.6 percent. And according to the report concerning the Tempeh global market that The Business Research Company published, tempeh is thought to be around “$5 billion and expected to grow at a CAGR of 7.8%.”
Tempeh´s growing popularity
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The popularity of tempeh is on the rise for a number of reasons. In India for instance, more than 30 percent of the total population are vegetarians and many more, although not completely vegetarian are eager to find alternatives to eating meat.
In many parts of the Middle East and in the UAE meat consumption is very high but even here health and a growing interest in being more eco-friendly is having an impact on the market and tempeh is therefore growing in popularity.
Divyesh Bhatia, the co-founder and development manager of Vegarian Middle East, says “What started off as a fad has now become a change in lifestyle for residents.” For example, according to a study published by Google Trends (2020) there has been a “250 percent increase in vegan products in UAE supermarkets since 2012.”
According to Siddharth Ramasubramanian, Founder and chief executive of Vegolution, the growing interest in plant-based proteins is due to the “significant increase in awareness about animal cruelty and the effects of the meat industry on the environment, which are driving people to adopt sustainable food practices.”
And tempeh brings with it all kinds of health benefits. According to Dubai nutritionist and fitness coach, Malavika Siddarth V, “It is also dairy-free, gluten-free, low in saturated fat, naturally cholesterol-free, rich in fiber and gut-friendly.” She goes on to say, “It is perfect for people leading an active lifestyle, those with diabetes, and those looking to lose weight or improve heart health. The high protein content keeps you full for a longer period of time, reducing cravings for unnecessary snacks.”
A chef’s delight
Those involved in producing and preparing food are excited about producing meals using tempeh because of its versatility and because it is considered so healthy. Group executive chef, Nigel Lobo, of Stars N Bars, has been using tempeh for a couple of years and says, “As a professional chef, one is always searching for ingredients to add into menus.” He says, “In the Middle East, a lot of people have moved away from French fries and cheesy dishes. Diners have become health conscious even when they dine out. The rise of plant-based protein is where tempeh comes in. It has a lot going for it; it is nutritious, gut-friendly and also an easy substitute for chicken.” But for Lobo, what really sells the product is its versatility. Because it can be used in so many different ways – diced, minced, mashed or crumbled he says, “it is a chef’s dream.”
In India tempeh has grown in popularity exponentially, and production of the ingredient is continually increasing. According to Siddharth Ramasubramanian “It is one of those ingredients that comes with a clean label, with no additions and no preservatives, and is a fantastic source of high-quality protein.”
Ramasubramanian’s Vegolution also aims its marketing at vegetarians, rather than meat eaters. Its aim is to inform and persuade vegetarians that tempeh is a far superior protein than anything that vegetarians are consuming.
A very well known influencer located in Dubai, Nihala Jaleel says she was introduced to tempeh a few years ago and reported that “It was delicious. I was impressed with tempeh’s meaty texture and flavor.” Even though many people have become vegans or vegetarians, she says “Many of them miss the foods they had before becoming vegans. Tempeh is a great substitute for bacon, and a majority of my vegan friends use tempeh strips to mimic bacon strips.”
Tempeh is becoming more popular but it still has a way to go before it becomes a staple on menus. Lobo says, “It’s a slow process. We started putting it on the specials menu and then moved it into the a la carte menu, but the conversations it sparks with customers are important to have.” For Jaleel, “The popularity for tempeh is still in its infancy, but I expect it to grow…”
FAQ about tempeh
Is tempeh gluten free?
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In general, tempeh is considered to be gluten-free. Tempeh is a traditional soy-based food from Indonesia that is made by fermenting cooked soybeans with a type of fungus. The fermentation process doesn’t typically involve the use of gluten-containing ingredients.
However, it is important to note that some tempeh products may contain added ingredients that contain gluten, such as barley or wheat. Therefore, if you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, it is essential to read the ingredient label carefully before consuming tempeh or any other packaged food product. Additionally, cross-contamination during production or cooking can also introduce gluten into the tempeh, so it is always best to exercise caution and verify with the manufacturer or restaurant to ensure that the tempeh is gluten-free.
Where to buy tempeh?
You can typically find tempeh in the refrigerated section of health food stores, natural food markets, and some mainstream grocery stores. You can also find tempeh in Asian markets or online retailers that specialize in natural or vegan foods.
When buying tempeh, make sure to check the label for any added ingredients or allergens. Some brands may also offer flavored or seasoned varieties of tempeh, so you can choose the one that best fits your taste preferences. Additionally, you can try making your own tempeh at home using a starter culture and soybeans, which can be a fun and rewarding DIY project.
How to prepare tempeh?
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Tempeh is a versatile ingredient that can be cooked in a variety of ways, depending on your taste preferences. Here are some common ways to prepare tempeh:
- Pan-fry: Slice the tempeh into thin or thick pieces and pan-fry them in a little oil until golden brown on both sides. This method works well for sandwiches, salads, and wraps.
- Grill or BBQ: Brush the tempeh slices with a marinade or sauce and grill them on the barbecue or in a grill pan until crispy and slightly charred. This method is great for burgers, skewers, or as a side dish.
- Bake: Cut the tempeh into small cubes or strips and toss them with your favorite seasoning. Bake them in the oven at 350°F (180°C) for 20-25 minutes or until crispy and golden brown. This method works well for salads, stir-fries, or as a snack.
- Steam: Cut the tempeh into thin slices and steam them for 10-15 minutes. This method can soften the texture of the tempeh and make it more tender. Serve steamed tempeh with a dipping sauce or add it to soups and stews.
- Crumble: Crumble the tempeh into small pieces and use it as a vegan substitute for ground meat in recipes such as tacos, chili, or spaghetti sauce.
When cooking with tempeh, it is important to note that it has a nutty, earthy flavor that can be enhanced by marinades, sauces, or seasoning. Additionally, tempeh can absorb flavors well, so marinating it before cooking can help to infuse the flavors more deeply.
Here is a basic recipe for making tempeh at home:
- 2 cups soybeans
- 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon Rhizopus oligosporus starter culture
- Plastic ziplock bags
- Soak the soybeans in water for 8-12 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse the beans.
- Cook the soybeans in boiling water for about 30-40 minutes or until they are soft enough to mash with your fingers. Drain the beans and let them cool down to room temperature.
- Once the beans have cooled down, rub them between your hands to remove the skins. Discard the skins.
- Add the vinegar or lemon juice to the soybeans and mix well.
- In a clean and sterile container, mix the soybeans and the Rhizopus oligosporus starter culture.
- Spread the mixture evenly in a single layer in plastic ziplock bags. Make small holes in the bags to allow for air circulation.
- Incubate the bags in a warm place, around 86°F (30°C), for 24-48 hours. After a day or two, you will see white mold growing on the soybeans.
- After 24-48 hours, the tempeh should be ready. Store the tempeh in the refrigerator and use it within a week.
Note: The fermentation process can take longer depending on the temperature and humidity in your environment. Additionally, you can experiment with different types of beans or grains and adjust the fermentation time to create different flavors and textures of tempeh.
Can you freeze tempeh?
Yes, you can freeze tempeh to extend its shelf life. Freezing can help to preserve the texture and flavor of tempeh for up to six months. Here are some steps to follow when freezing tempeh:
- If the tempeh is in its original packaging, leave it unopened. If it is open, wrap it tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil to prevent freezer burn.
- Place the tempeh in an airtight container or a freezer-safe bag. Label the container or bag with the date and contents.
- Place the container or bag in the freezer. Make sure to lay it flat so that it freezes evenly.
- When you are ready to use the tempeh, remove it from the freezer and let it thaw in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
- Once thawed, use the tempeh as you normally would. It may have a slightly different texture than fresh tempeh, but it should still be safe to eat.
Note: It is not recommended to refreeze tempeh after it has been thawed, as this can affect its texture and quality. Additionally, freezing tempeh that has already been cooked can also affect its texture, so it is best to freeze raw tempeh before cooking.
Does tempeh go bad?
Yes, like all foods, tempeh can go bad over time. However, the shelf life of tempeh can be longer than many other types of plant-based protein due to its natural fermentation process. Typically, tempeh can last for up to two weeks in the refrigerator if stored properly.
Here are some signs that your tempeh has gone bad:
- Mold: If you see any mold growing on the surface of the tempeh, discard it immediately.
- Bad odor: If the tempeh smells sour, ammonia-like, or otherwise unpleasant, it may have gone bad.
- Slimy or discolored texture: If the tempeh feels slimy or has an unusual texture, or if it has turned a gray or brown color, it may be spoiled.
If you are unsure whether your tempeh is still good to eat, it is best to err on the side of caution and discard it. To extend the shelf life of tempeh, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator and use it within the recommended time frame. Additionally, freezing tempeh can also help to preserve its freshness for longer.
Can I eat tempeh raw?
Tempeh is not typically consumed raw as it is a fermented product that is made by fermenting cooked soybeans. Raw soybeans contain naturally occurring toxins that can be harmful if consumed in large amounts. The fermentation process that tempeh undergoes helps to break down these toxins and makes it safe to eat.
While tempeh can technically be eaten raw, it is not recommended to do so due to the potential risk of foodborne illness. Raw tempeh may also have a bitter taste and a tough texture that can make it less enjoyable to eat.
To ensure that tempeh is safe to eat, it is best to cook it before consuming it. Cooking tempeh can help to enhance its flavor and texture, and can also help to ensure that any harmful bacteria are killed off.
Can dogs eat tempeh?
Dogs can eat tempeh in moderation, but it is not recommended as a regular part of their diet. While tempeh is a plant-based protein source that is safe for dogs to eat, it is important to note that dogs are primarily carnivorous animals and their nutritional needs are best met through a diet that is rich in animal-based proteins.
Additionally, some dogs may have difficulty digesting soy-based products like tempeh, which can lead to digestive issues such as bloating, gas, or diarrhea. If you choose to feed your dog tempeh, it is best to do so in small amounts and to monitor their reaction closely.
It is also important to note that tempeh should not be used as a substitute for meat in a dog’s diet, as dogs require a diet that is high in animal protein to meet their nutritional needs. If you are considering adding tempeh or other plant-based proteins to your dog’s diet, it is best to consult with a veterinarian first to ensure that their nutritional needs are being met.
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