What is special about tempeh?

Gaining popularity - Tempeh is an economical, very nutritious, healthy and easy-to-prepare food. Tempeh has been a favorite food and staple source of protein in Indonesia for several hundred year.
But tempeh is now rapidly becoming more popular all over the world as people look for ways to increase their intake of soybeans, and they discover tempeh's versatility and delicious taste. For many years it was only possible to find tempeh in natural foods and Asian stores, yet tempeh is now becoming more and more available in supermarkets. Also it's very easy and rewarding to make your own tempeh at home. The soy proteins and isoflavones have health promoting effects such as bone building, reducing risk of coronary hearth disease and some cancers.

Versatile product - Tempeh has a firm texture and a nutty mushroom flavour. Tempeh can be used in different ways. Normally tempeh is sliced and fried until the surface is crisp and golden brown or tempeh can be used as ingredient in soups, spreads, salads and sandwiches. Basically, any recipe which works with mushrooms will work with tempeh as the flavour type is the same.

Fermented food - Tempeh is a fermented food made by the controlled fermentation of cooked soybeans with a Rhizopus mold (tempeh starter). The Rhizopus mold binds the soybeans into a compact white cake and produces natural antibiotic agents which are thought to increase the body's resistance to intestinal infections.

History of tempeh

Tempeh processing could be the oldest food technology in the history of Javanese people. Serat Centhini, a book published in the 16th century, indicates that tempeh had been produced and consumed by the time of its publication. Tempeh might have been introduced by the Chinese who are making a similar product, soybean koji, which are dehulled soybeans fermented with Aspergillus molds. The use of Rhizopus as tempeh starter in Indonesia may have been due to its better adaptation to the Indonesian climate. The rise of tempeh's popularity in Java and its spread to other parts of Indonesia and other countries of the world began in the 20th century.

In Europe, tempeh is known through the Dutch who once colonized Indonesia. In 1895 the Dutch microbiologist and chemist Prinsen Geerlings made the first attempt to identify the tempeh mold. The first tempeh companies in Europe were started in the Netherlands by immigrants from Indonesia.

Efforts to introduce tempeh as cheap source of protein in developing countries have mainly failed since the local population had no experience with mold-fermented foods.

In Europe, the USA and other industrialized countries the interest for tempeh is increasing, by growing interest in health, nutrition and vegetarisme .

How to make soy tempeh?

Soy tempeh is made 100% from soy. This is the traditional tempeh as it is consumed in the country of origin: Indonesia. To make soy tempeh, follow the steps below.

Cracking the soybeans

Soybeans can be cracked with a loosely set grain mill. If you don't have such a mill continue with using whole beans.

Soaking the soybeans

Soak the soybeans in 2 liter water overnight or for 6 - 18 hours. If you use whole beans you should first split them by squeezing them with a kneading motion. Stir gently causing the hulls to rise to the surface and they can be poured off. Add fresh water and repeat until most of the huls are removed.


Put the soybeans in a pot and water to cover the beans. Add the vinegar and cook for 25-30 min. Drain the water and dry the beans on a clean towel.

Inoculating the soybeans with tempeh staretr

Sprinkle the soybeans with 1 teaspoon of tempeh starter. Mix with a clean spoon for about 1 minute.

Incubating the beans

Take 2 plastic bags 20 x 28 cm and perforate them with holes at a distance of about 1 cm with a 0.6 mm sharp needle. This is necessary for the mould to breathe.

Divide the soybeans in the two bags and seal them with a sealing device, press flat, making sure that total thickness of the beans is less than 3 cm. Place the beans in an incubator at 30C for about 36- 48 hours. By that time, the tempeh should be filled completely with white mycelium and the tempeh can be lifted out as a whole piece.