Tofu, along with soymilk are the best known and most widely used of all soyfoods, having become an important part of the health conscious consumer’s dietary regimen. Less known, but very versatile, tempeh is a nourishing and very satisfying soy alternative that can be used in a variety of ways.
Tempeh (tem-pay) is a traditional soyfood with a chewy texture and hearty consistency made using a controlled fermenting process that binds whole soybeans into a rich cake with a nutty, smoky flavor.
Many people who may have digestibility issues with tofu or soymilk find that they can tolerate tempeh quite well. It is thought that the fermentation process increases digestibility and nutrient absorption, not only of protein and minerals like calcium, but also health supporting phytonutrients like genistein and daidzein for which soy is so well known.
Tempeh has a ‘meaty’ texture that even meat eaters enjoy. Choose tasty tempeh to replace unhealthy animal products and you will eliminate cholesterol and trim calories, sodium and overall fat, dramatically.
Tempeh contains antioxidants, isoflavones, saponins, fiber, protein and the full range of amino acids that the body requires. The calcium in tempeh is thought to be better absorbed than that in tofu or soymilk and this high protein nutritional powerhouse is also rich in fiber, B-vitamins and iron.
Like tofu and soymilk, tempeh has been providing tasty nutrition to Asians for thousands of years and while tofu originated in China, tempeh originated in Indonesia on the island of Java.
I keep several packages of tempeh in the freezer that can be defrosted in the refrigerator overnight or thawed in a bowl of water in the sink in about 20 minutes. Simply run water over the unopened package every so often until thawed enough to slice with a knife.
It is best to cube and steam tempeh for 15 minutes before proceeding with any recipe, as this will tenderize it and enhance the absorption of flavor. Once steamed, tempeh can be kept covered and refrigerated for up to 5 days.
There are so many ways to use tempeh. Try using tempeh in place of traditional ingredients in a stir-fry, fajitas or hearty stew. You can also drizzle barbecue sauce over chunks of tempeh and grill them under the broiler or in your toaster oven.
If you have a pizza shell and a jar of tomato sauce on hand, it’s a snap to make a savory Tempeh Pizza. Simply cover the crust with sauce, crumble the tempeh on top and add your favorite toppings, such as, bell peppers, mushrooms and red onions.
As I like to say, Tempeh is a satisfying and delicious alternative that delivers impressive “stick to your ribs” flavor and superior nutrition, without that undesirable “stick to your thighs” outcome!
Tempeh Tips VIDEO
Tempeh recipes from Marie’s Kitchen:
Ginger Tempeh Wrap Perfect for lunch, picnic or potluck
Tempeh Kebabs/Roasted Chile Marinade BBQ or under the broiler
Tempeh Chili ~Great party fare
Tempeh Teriyaki ~Pomegranate Teriyaki Sauce
Marie Oser is a best-selling author, writer/producer and host of VegTV, Follow Marie on Twitter