Find out all about this versatile fermented soybean product.
Slices of Tempeh
Photo by Getty Images

What is Tempeh? What is Tempeh Made of?

Tempeh are cooked soybeans that are fermented and pressed into a firm, dry loaf or cake or patty of varying firmness. It is the fermentation that gives the soybeans in tempeh a nutty, earthy flavor and chewy texture.

Tempeh can be grilled, baked, stir-fried, or crumbled like ground meat and used in sandwiches or tacos.

What are the Different Tempeh Products?

All tempeh is made from fermented soy. Tempeh bacon is tempeh shaped into bacon-like strips, and tempeh sausage is formed like a sausage. Both are flavorful vegan meat substitutes.

What is the Difference between Tofu and Tempeh?

Tofu and tempeh are both made from soybeans and as such are inexpensive and good vegetarian sources of protein. However, there are also significant differences between tempeh and tofu.

Tempeh is drier and denser than tofu, which makes it hold up better during cooking. Tofu, unlike tempeh, is made of condensed unfermented soy milk and has a more neutral flavor, so it absorbs the taste of other ingredients in a dish better than tempeh.

Tempeh often has other ingredients added, such as wheat or other grains, seeds, and spices. If you are on a gluten-free diet, make sure the tempeh you buy is labeled accordingly.

You can substitute tempeh for tofu but consider whether the dish you are making has other subtle flavors that you don't want to be overpowered by the heartier taste of tempeh, in which case sticking to flavorless tofu might be the better option.

Some Favorite Tempeh Recipes

"Before I became a vegetarian, I used to love BLTs," says Stacey. "Here is a great alternative to BLTs with all the flavor and none of the meat. While tempeh has a texture different from bacon, I like it better than any of the fake bacon products I've tried."

Tempeh BLT (TLT)
Photo by Buckwheat Queen

"Your favorite Vietnamese sandwich has gone vegan, served in a bowl," says Buckwheat Queen. "Classic ingredients are replaced with vegan alternatives and you get to eat it with a fork. Refrigerate any of the leftover vegan fish sauce for other recipes that call for fish sauce or oyster sauce."

Vegan Banh Mi
Photo by Buckwheat Queen

A vegetarian version of the all-American classic: "This is a combination of many recipes and experimentation," says Aberdeen Smith. "It can also be made with TVP, ground turkey, or even ground beef instead of tempeh."

Vegetarian Sloppy Joes
Photo by CCLoves2bake

"Buffalo tempeh tenders are a vegetarian version of everyone's favorite Buffalo chicken tenders, just perfect for tailgating!" says Jim Casarjian-Perry.

Buffalo Tempeh Tenders
Photo by Buckwheat Queen

"Traditional seasonings, traditional taste," says veggiesdontbite. "Authentic Greek cooking at its finest."

Tempeh Gyros
Photo by veggiesdontbite

Check out our collection of Tempeh Recipes. See also Why Tempeh Triumphs Over Tofu.