The Magic and Mystery of Tempeh
Of all the products Life Foods has created, it is our Aloha Tempeh that is the least understood. Our tempeh is a great example of how Life Foods uses old world techniques to create modern cuisine. In this post we’ll share the basics of tempeh, share the secret of our tempeh production and share some of our favorite tempeh recipes.
Let’s start with the basics: what the heck is tempeh?
Tempeh is a fermented bean cake… which sounds really terrible! But read on! Tempeh is a traditional food from Indonesia, where it is made from soybeans and provides an inexpensive, nourishing food for millions of people. It is widely available here in the US, sold side by side with tofu in natural food stores. You can think of tempeh as tofu’s cousin– it’s made from the same bean, but tempeh and tofu are wildly different. While tofu is made from cooked, mashed and pressed beans and a firming agent (usually seaweed-based), tempeh is made from whole beans. The beans are parboiled or boiled, dried, then mixed with a very specific culture, Rhizophus Oryzae. This culture inoculates the beans, and when kept warm, the beans will be cultured, which changes everything!
Culturing creates complex biochemical changes in the beans and grows a healthful mold around the beans, which binds them together. The result, after just 24 hours, is a cake or patty of beans, held together tightly with a web of white, fluffy culture. This culture is totally edible and not at all harmful. Tempeh can be made from any type of bean, and Life Foods uses the lovely little mung bean for our Aloha Tempeh. If it seems weird to think about eating a mold or culture, keep in mind that yogurt, beer, sourdough, wine, cheese and many other common foods are cultured or fermented too!
Are there Health Benefits to Tempeh?
Yes, indeed! Beans are incredibly healthy for our bodies, and when they are cultured into tempeh they become even more healthful. Our tempeh is totally soy-free and made a special soy-free culture, so it’s a great alternative for those allergic to soy. Here are some reasons why tempeh is so much better for you than beans:
- Fermentation increases the digestibility of beans by breaking down the proteins into more easily digested components
- Increases the bioavailability of nutrients (our body is better able to use the nutrition in the beans)
- Increases the amount of nutrients: our Aloha Tempeh has an incredible nutrition profile! One serving contains only 1 gram of fat, 12 grams of fiber, and 17 grams of high-quality vegan protein plus a huge array of minerals and vitamins like folate, iron, manganese and so much more (check out the nutrition information here!)
Why eat Tempeh?
Most importantly, tempeh tastes amazing (especially our tempeh, of course!). There are many reasons to enjoy both tempeh and beans, although they make very different meals. Beans are great for soups, chili, wraps and bowls, but tempeh is arguably more versatile. Tempeh can be steamed, baked, marinated or fried for a variety of flavor and texture variations. When sliced thinly and baked, tempeh is a great addition to sandwiches and wraps, and when cubed can be great in stir-fry or in salads.
Here are some of our favorite tempeh recipes from our kitchens. What’s your favorite way to cook up this magical food?