Tempeh: The Perfect Vegetarian Protein and Meat Substitute

If you don't like the taste and texture of tofu, there's something much better — tempeh. Like tofu, it's made from soybeans, but there are some big differences in taste, texture, and nutrition.

It's made by fermenting cooked soybeans with a mold; usually Rhizopus oligosporus, and mixing it with other whole grains. The process creates fine white filaments that cover and bind the mixture into a firm cake.

Tempeh's health benefits

This vegetarian superfood has all the same health benefits as tofu. It...

  • Reduces cholesterol
  • Increases bone density
  • Reduces menopausal symptoms
  • Provides faster muscle recovery
  • Satisfies hunger, and
  • Has the same protein quality as meat

Plus, the fermentation process adds more health benefits.

More vitamins

Studies show that the fermentation process increases the amount of riboflavin, vitamin B6, nicotinic acid (niacin), and pantothenic acid.

Did you know that tempeh can help keep your skin firm and strong? Fermented soy products have been proven to increase the hyaluronic acid (HA) in your skin. HA keeps skin tight and moisturized.

Pantothenic acid.

  • Plays a major role in the release of energy from fats, protein, and carbohydrates

  • Is well know for keeping skin healthy and preventing it from premature aging, and

  • Helps keep hair from turning gray prematurely

Vitamin B6

  • Helps the body make neurotransmitters (chemicals that carry signals from one nerve cell to another)

  • Is essential for normal brain development and function

  • Helps the body make melatonin (a hormone that regulates sleep patterns), and both serotonin and norepinephrine (mood influencers)

Nicotinic acid. Raises HDL cholesterol levels (the good cholesterol), reduces triglyceride levels, and lowers LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol). That's all good news for heart health.

Riboflavin. Four ounces provides 23.5% of the Daily Value for riboflavin, while tofu provides none. Riboflavin plays an important role in producing energy and regenerating a critical liver detoxification enzyme, glutathione.

Better nutrient absorption

A big negative with soybeans, grains, and legumes, is they're high in phytic acid. Phytic acid interferes with the absorption of zinc and other essential minerals, including calcium, magnesium, and copper.

Soybeans have the highest levels, but when they're fermented to make tempeh, the amount of phytic acid decreases significantly. One study shows the fermentation process reduces the phytic acid content by one-half. When it was also fried in peanut oil, less than 10% of the phytic acid was left.

Less fat

Four ounces of soy has only 3.7 grams of saturated fat and less than 225 calories. The fermentation process has been shown to lower the fat content even more.

Easy to cook with and more versatile


Tempeh is great to cook with. It absorbs other flavors quickly, has a mild, nutty flavor, and is easy to digest.

What's more, it crumbles easily, so it's perfect to use in place of chopped meat in any recipe. Or, you can slice or cube it for frying, stir-frying, and sautéing.

This is not a new meat substitute for vegetarians. In fact, it's been a staple in Indonesian diets for the past 2,000 years. It's now growing in popularity in the U.S. and is becoming a favorite for vegetarians. Once you try it, you'll find a lot of ways to incorporate it into your recipes.



Kiku Murata, Hideo Ikehata, Teijiro Miyamata, "Studies on the Nutritional Value of tempeh," Journal of Food Science, Vol. 35, Issue 5, 25 Aug 2006

Slamet Sudarmadji, Pericles Markakis, "The phytate and phytase of soybean tempeh," Journal of Food Science, Vol. 28, issue 4, 10 May 2006

Sutari K.A. Buckle, "Reduction in phytic acid levels in soybeans during tempeh production, storage, and frying, "Journal of Food Science, Vol 50, issue 1, 25 Aug 2006

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