Facts and Benefits of Tempeh

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Tempeh Quick Facts
Name: Tempeh
Origin It is originated from Indonesia.
Tempeh is a conventional soy product which is made by natural culturing and controlled fermentation process which binds soybeans into cake form. It is originated from Indonesia. It is well-known as a vital source of protein on island of Java. Similar to tofu, tempeh is prepared from soybeans. Being a whole soybean product, it varies in textural qualities and nutritional characteristics. The fermentation process and retention of whole bean provide high content of protein, vitamins and dietary fiber. It has earthy flavor and firm texture.

The whole soybeans are softened by soaking and dehulled and partly cooked for making tempeh. Tempeh could also be made from other types of beans, mixture of beans & whole grains and wheat. Vinegar may be added to reduce pH and create a selective environment which supports growth of tempeh. The fermentation starter which contains spores of fungus Rhizopus oryzae or Rhizopus oligosporus is also mixed in. By spreading the beans into thin layer, it is allowed to ferment for about 24 to 36 hours at a temperature of 30°C (86°F). Tempeh is wrapped in banana leaves and sold fresh in Indonesian markets. Whereas it is sold as manufactured packaged food item in other parts of world.

Tempeh has wide range of proteins, phytonutrients and peptides. It contains isoflavonoids, flavonoids, phytoalexins, phenolic acids and saponins. It is an excellent source of copper, manganese, fiber, magnesium, vitamin B2, phosphorus and protein. It is a great food for those who wants to cut back on consumption of animal meat. Tempeh is great for those who are unable to digest cooked beans. It is the new and improved version of tofu which is less refined and easier to assimilate. R. oryzae and R. oligosporus prevents anti-nutrients such as oligosaccharides and phytates which are components that makes legumes hard to assimilate. Its growth produces enzymes that assist to breakdown food specific nutrients by providing better absorption of minerals, vitamins and amino acids.


Probably tempeh is originated on the Island of Java. In an old Javanese manuscript “Serat Sri Tanjung” it was mentioned as kadêlê that dates around 12th to 13th century. In 1815, it was known as tempeh reference in the Serat Centhini. The development is associated with production of tofu in Japan. In 17th century, Chinese immigrants introduced tofu making industry. Ong Hok Ham, a Chinese Indonesian historian suggested that the production of tempeh was formed accidently as the byproduct of tofu industry in Java. The discarded soybeans caught the spores of and grew whitish fungus which is found to be consumable.

The term “tempeh” is derived from old Javanese tumpi which is a whitish food made from sago. Historian Denys Lombard suggested that it is associated to tapai or tape which is a local term meaning fermentation.

Health Benefits of Tempeh

Here are some health benefits which could be obtained with the consumption of Tempeh:

  1. Probiotics

The fermented, probiotic foods have microflora that creates protective lining in intestines and shields against pathogenic factors such as E.coli and salmonella. Fermented foods such as tempeh results to an increase of antibodies and strong immune system and also assist to regulate appetite and lower sugar and refined carb cravings. It assists in treating candida in gut. Probiotics break down sugars which makes them digested easily  break down carbohydrates, fight diarrhea control harmful bacteria, chronic inflammation, assist indigestion and enhance immune function.

  1. Lowers cholesterol

Tempeh has soy isoflavones which lowers serum total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels. The enriched or depleted isoflavones promote lipid profiles. Tempeh has niacin which helps to lower harmful high cholesterol levels. Vitamin B3 or niacin helps to reduce the chances of cardiovascular diseases in patients with mixed dyslipidemia. Dyslipidemia is the rise of triglycerides, plasma cholesterol or both. The study shows that supplement with niacin effectively lowers cholesterol in those who are prone to stroke, heart attack and other heart diseases due to high LDL cholesterol levels, elevated triglyceride levels and low levels of HDL cholesterol.

  1. Bone health

Tempeh contains calcium which is involved in growth as well as maintenance of bones. Besides calcium, minerals such as Vitamin D and Vitamin K is essential for maintaining bone mineral density and preventing fractures, weak and brittle bones. It assists in forming hydroxyapatite which is the mineral complex that hardens the teeth and bone. This complex assists in maintaining bone density and heals bones. The deficiency calcium results to weak and pliable bones that increase the chances of fractures. Tempeh also contains copper which has a vital role in bone growth and aid connective tissue as well as muscle growth. The deficiency of copper results in brittle bones that makes it prone to breaking and results in weak joints, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, low strength and others. High intake of consumption enhance the healing of bones and plays vital role in repairmen as well as maintenance of tissue.

  1. Lowers menopausal symptoms

Tempeh contains isoflavones which acts as natural remedy to provide relief from menopause. The study was conducted to find out the role of isoflavones in menopausal health. The evaluation made from human and animal studies attributed the convincing health effects to the actions of isoflavones on lipids. Lipids have main biological functions such as signaling, storing energy and acting as structural components of cell membranes.

Studies related isoflavones with lower in low-density lipoproteins and triglycerides and increase in high density lipoproteins. The data also showed the reduction of incidence as well as severity of hot flashes as the efficacy of isoflavones. Researchers suggested that more evidence is still required for determining specific doses.

  1. Muscle health

100 grams of tempeh provides 37 percent of protein which is the daily recommended intake of protein. The fermentation process of tempeh converts some protein into amino acids which makes the digestive system easier to function. The diet rich in protein is essential because it keeps the metabolism running, stabilizes blood sugar levels and provides energy. It is required by every single cell of the body and is essential to build muscle mass, aid digestion, supports neurological function, upbeat mood and balance hormones. Tempeh is rich in protein which makes us full and it requires more work for the body to digest and break down which contributes weight loss and is effective than fast acting refined carbohydrates.

  1. Treat diabetes

Tempeh has this important mineral, manganese which has a crucial role in various chemical processes including synthesis of nutrients such as carbohydrates, cholesterol and proteins. It also involves in formation of bone mass and balance hormones. Manganese has the ability to counteract diabetes as well. It assist in proper production of digestive enzymes which are responsible for gluconeogenesis process that involves conversion of protein’s amino acids into sugar and balance of sugar within bloodstream. Manganese assists in preventing high blood sugar levels which contributes diabetes. The studies conducted on mice shows that increase in insulin secretion promote glucose tolerance in dietary stress. These promising results show the efficacy of manganese as a natural aid for diabetes.

  1. Treatment for inflammatory disease and cancer

Angiogenesis is the physiological process in which new blood vessels form from pre-existing vessels. It is a normal and essential process for growth as well as development but it is also a major step in the transition of tumors from benign state to malignant one. Due to these angiogenesis inhibitors is popularly used to treat cancer. The consumption of soy isoflavone provides cancer preventive effects by lowering estrogen synthesis changing metabolism away from gene damaging metabolites towards inactive metabolites.

  1. Gastrointestinal health

Tempeh is a great source of dietary fiber which binds to toxins that helps to detoxify colon and prevent colon cancer. The regular consumption of fermented soy foods such as tempeh lowers the chances of colon countries.

Tempeh Reuben Recipe


  • 2 packages tempeh, crumbled
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced thin
  • 3 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 6 large romaine lettuce leaves, whole
  • 24 ounces raw sauerkraut


  1. Crush tempeh and steam it for 20 minutes. Remove and place it in a medium bowl.
  2. Whip together the mustard and tamari. Stir after pouring over steamed tempeh. Cover a bowl with plate and let it remain while preparing the remaining ingredients.
  3. Over medium high heat, heat oil in a large skillet. When the oil begin to shimmer, add onions and sauté it till it becomes brown for about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat but let pan stay on burner.
  4. Add sauerkraut and steamed tempeh mixture to the pan. Stir to mix. Let it remain on burner, covered, till heated through. Then season it with sea salt for taste.
  5. Serve it in lettuce leaves.

Traditional uses

  • It lowers oxidative stress, cholesterol levels and improves bone health.
  • It also improves digestive health and promotes weight loss.
  • Tempeh is helpful to treat menopausal symptoms.
  • It helps to stabilize blood sugar and lowers cholesterol level.


  • Limit the intake of tempeh.
  • Avoid tempeh by the people who are allergic to soy because it triggers allergic response and cause symptoms such as swelling, hives and difficulty in breathing.
  • Soybeans are regarded goitrogen which could interfere with thyroid function.
  • The people with a history of estrogen receptor positive breast cancer should avoid Tempeh because it could increase estrogen levels and triggers breast cell production.

How to eat         

  • Tempeh could be cut into pieces and soak it in salty sauce or brine and then fried.
  • Cooked tempeh are consumed alone or used in stir fries, chili, salads, soups, stews and sandwiches.
  • It could be deep fried.
  • It is used as a replacement for meat in vegetarian and vegan cooking.
  • Finely chop it and add it to soups and meatless chili.
  • Toss the diced and sautéed Tempeh into grain, vegetable or noodle dishes.
  • Mash Tempeh to fine texture then add mustard, vegan mayonnaise, chopped celery and scallions to make spread for crackers and sandwiches.
  • Slice and sautéed Tempeh like cutlets and serve it with barbecue sauce.
  • It could be baked, skewered as kabobs and barbecued as burgers.












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