From Too Many Chefs - www.toomanychefs.com

May 11, 2006
Homemade Tempeh

tempeh4_jf.jpgThis picture is of a batch of my own hand-crafted tempeh and here's how to make your own tempeh. But first...

What is Tempeh?
If you are unfamiliar with tempeh, I'll just say that it is a fermented soybean product. For more, read up here. It's related, but quite different from tofu. While the tofu process is similar to cheese (the curds and whey thing), tempeh is fermented and is, I guess, more analogous to yogurt.

Why Tempeh?

Well, lots of reasons. If you are a vegan, B-12 is hard to get, since it's mostly found in meat, dairy, and eggs. B-12 is needed for red blood cell production and so vegans can be susceptible to anemia. While some caution is advised against relying on tempeh for B12, since levels vary between batches, tempeh is the richest vegetarian source of B12. People also like it because it has a more "meaty" texture than tofu and can be used more as a meat substitute in recipes for variety. There are many health benefits to tempeh as with all soy products (although if you deep fry it in palm oil it's kind of a wash as far as your heart is concerned). For example, tempeh is cholesterol-free. Finally, for those of us who don't keep a vegetarian diet, it's simply economical to eat tempeh every once in a while, as it's cheaper than a lean steak. And if you needed another reason to try it, tempeh is delicious. Don't assume that if you don't like tofu, you won't like tempeh; they are very different.

Homemade Tempeh

Ingredients:
2 1/2 c. soybeans
2 Tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon Tempeh starter

Process: My instructions presume starting with split, hulled beans, which can be hard to find. Starting with whole beans requires rubbing them between your hands after they have boiled (and cooled) in order to break them in half and get the hulls off (which, fortunately, float in water). Also, there are many variations on this process. I am just writing up what worked for me (though I summarize other suggestions along the way).

Cook soybeans for 1 hour at a boil, skimming off any skins that float to the top (if some are left, that's OK). Drain and pat beans dry in an absorbent towel until they are surface dry. Put beans in dry bowl. Having beans too wet is one of the most common causes of a bad batch.

When the beans are cooler than skin temperature, add vinegar. Mix well. Sprinkle beans with tempeh starter. Mix well for 1 minute to distribute evenly.

tempeh1_jf.jpg

Put into 2 zip lock bags or other containers[1] and incubate[2] for 24-48 hours at 28-33C degrees (82.4-91.4F) (optimally 30-32C (86-89.6F)) degrees. Basically, keep it as close at you can to 88F/31C as possible. Be aware that at about the 12 hour mark, the tempeh will start to generate its own heat and you'd need to turn down your source of heat.

tempeh2_jf.jpg

tempeh5_jf.jpg

[1] What to use for containers?
Plastic Ziploc bags (7"by 8"), perforated with holes at distance of 1 cm by a .6 mm diameter needle/nail.
Tetra Brik (disadvantage: not transparent)
Plastic sandwich Tupperware
Go with the original: banana leaves

tempeh3_jf.jpg

[2]How to incubate?
If you live in a warm climate, experiment with leaving it outside. Otherwise, the old fridge or Styrofoam box method. Or try your oven using only the light bulb. Or rig a space heater to a thermostat. Or, if you really want lots of control and accuracy, go and spend the big bucks on a proper chicken incubator with circulating fan and thermostat.

[3]Temperature / Time?
30-32C for 36-48 Hours (tempeh.info)
88F (31.1C) for 24 Hours (veggiemenu)
?C for 24-36 Hours (ellenskitchen)
88F (never less than 85 (29.4C) or more than 95 (35C) for 24-30 Hours (motherearthnews)
30-32 (86-89 F) for 24 hours minimum (henrynugroho)
88F (31C) for 24-36 hours (Manfred).
88F for 24-36 hours (pvachuska)

Order the starter from
Gem Cultures
or
Some European dudes
or
The Farm (the folks that really made tempeh popular in the US).

I first got the free sample from the Europeans and then for this batch I went with The Farm.

Finally, if your first batch doesn't work out, do not get discouraged. My first batch was a total failure (I think due to my incubation method, the oven with an incandescent bulb wasn't keeping a constant 88F). These pictures are the result of my second attempt, which went well.

Books:
The Book of Tempeh, 160 pages, by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi
This is the Tempeh Bible. If you are going to make some tempeh at home, you absolutely must buy this book (or find it in your local library). It is wonderful for nutritional, cultural, and historical information. It also has info on variants of soy tempeh and how to make your own starter plus lots of recipes, including traditional Indonesian dishes and creative uses for working tempeh into Western classics. It also has a directory of tempeh vendors around the world, though the book (my copy at least) is very old and possibly out of date in this regard.

I also have The Tempeh Cookbook by Dorothy Bates which is mostly recipes, but has some good info about making it. There are probably better books out there.

tempeh6_jf.jpg

Web Resources that I found particularly helpful:
Tempeh.info : how to make tempeh
Tempeh.info : incubator ideas
VeggieMenu
EllensKitchen
MotherEarthNews
HenryNugroho
Manfred
Pvachuska

Posted by Justin in Bogotá at May 11, 2006 7:44 AM
Comments

Tempeh is the one "approxi-meat" I haven't really got a feel for. I can't ever quite make it turn out right, though I've had tempeh products and meals other people have prepared that were great.

Any advice?

Posted by barrett on May 11, 2006 at 9:32 AM

What has happened when you've tried to make it? From all that I've read, wet beans and a temperature too high or low are the most common pitfalls. To combat the moisture, I just cracked the lid every once in a while (I wanted to check on the mycelia anyhow) to circulate the air. Others go with a fan (though you need to be making it in a closet or something). As I said above, the temperature thing was my downfall the first time. This time, you can see I have a dimmer connected to the incandescent bulb so I could tweak as needed.

The next step for me is to get a thermostat so I can set it...and forget it.

If I didn't quite answer your question, let me know.

Posted by Justin on May 11, 2006 at 10:03 AM

It's hard to explain what goes wrong when I cook it. The result is often like that weird "just not right" taste you sometimes get from old ice cubes if you know what I mean?

It's just .... off.

Posted by barrett on May 11, 2006 at 11:39 AM

I think I'm confused by the word "cook". Do you mean when you buy it at the store and cook it or when you attempt to make it from scratch?

Posted by Justin on May 11, 2006 at 12:22 PM

I've never tried to make it from scratch. Mostly, it's putting it into stir fries, that sort of thing.

Posted by barrett on May 11, 2006 at 2:47 PM

Hmm...try going the deep fry route (see the last picture above). This gives it a nice crispy texture and brings out the peanutty flavor, I think. Then add it to your stir-fry near the very end. Or try one of the recipes I'll be posting in the coming weeks.

Or try a different brand. Or make it yourself. In my opinion, nothing bought is as flavorful as the homemade varieties of tofu and tempeh.

Posted by Justin on May 11, 2006 at 3:31 PM

Really tempting but very difficult to imagine the taste. Stiil good to know that it enriches in B-12 and is good for health. And most of all, i felt happy that it can be easily made at home.

Posted by leonardo on May 12, 2006 at 1:21 AM

Thanks for this recipe. I live in the UK and it is almost impossible to find tempeh here. When I've asked at HFSs they go "huh?" and when I have found it, it's too crumbly to use in cooking and tastes "off" as Barrett pointed out.

Barrett, you should try some of the tempeh made from other grains--I think rice is one alternate grain. I prefer the flavor (and I think it also contains soybeans) to the purely soybean tempeh. I know the HFSs in the States carry a wide variety of alternative grain tempeh. The flavor is not so "off" as in the soy-alone product, I think you'll find.

(By the way, it feels really weird typing your name--it's my husband's name, and I've never known anyone else who shares it.)

Posted by KathyF on May 15, 2006 at 2:20 AM

Indeed there are variations on this tempeh theme. The book by Shurtleff and Aoyagi have all the info you need to make tempeh with rice, garbanzos, and other grains/beans.

Posted by Justin on May 15, 2006 at 7:42 AM

I just ordered my starter, I have a question.

Can i soak the soy bean, hull them and boil? seems more easier this way?

Posted by Denise on May 24, 2006 at 1:49 PM

Read around, but if I remember correctly, they say to boil and then hull. Don't know why. Maybe it doesn't matter. I would consult Shurtleff and Aoyagi and go with what they say. Good luck; let us know how it turns out.

Posted by Justin on May 24, 2006 at 3:49 PM

I think if you hull after cooking, you'll get a sticky mess...

Posted by Heather on July 17, 2006 at 2:11 PM

Really? That seems to be how the majority of the recipes look. I guess I'll find out once I run out of split and hulled beans.

Posted by Justin on July 17, 2006 at 3:57 PM

Is your source for split and hulled soy beans no longer an option for you? Where did you get them?

Posted by Erin on August 5, 2006 at 8:55 PM

I was getting them in Bangkok and since moving from there, I've yet to see soy beans sold already split and hulled. And I've looked in many places. They don't seem common, it seems.

Posted by Justin on August 6, 2006 at 8:54 AM

Hello -

I've been making tempeh for a few years and the dehulling method I've settled on is to boil soybeans about 20 minutes and then just let them soak overnight. The next day, I mash them up w/ my hands and skim the hulls of before I boil them fully (about an hour).

Experiment with adding grains - I usually add in brown rice and quinoa. (Only partially cook the grains before adding - if they are too mushy or sticky they can interfere with the tempeh process.)

Posted by Michael Braun Hamilton on September 6, 2006 at 1:14 PM

Hi! I am from the Philippines and I am really interested in introducing tempeh here. Unfortunately tempeh or even the tempeh starter is not available here. Can anyone help me where I can buy tempeh or the starter or is it possible to make tempeh without the starter?

Posted by Jasper Enriquez on September 18, 2006 at 5:47 AM

Try the links above the last picture. I ordered from tempeh.info when I was abroad. You definately need the starter to make tempeh (as far as I know).

Posted by Justin on September 18, 2006 at 1:23 PM

I'm going to have a report about Tempeh.
I don't know: how many kinds of Tempeh? and what are the different ot them?

Posted by idle_vt on December 23, 2006 at 2:30 AM

Hi,

I am still looking to find out how to retrieve the starter from Tempeh that is already made, does it work to just expose it to heating, then dry it by adding riceflour?

Does anyone already multiplied his starter and not ordered new one?

Thanks

Posted by Katja on January 31, 2007 at 4:12 PM

The trick to getting Tempeh to taste good when you cook it is too thouroughly steam it first.

Posted by Ken Heronheart on March 4, 2007 at 8:03 AM

Sounded like it's easier to just buy it in the store. I know that you can't be too clean make it or the yeast (starter?) will not grow. Temperature and humidity are the two most important factors in making tempeh. In the tempeh "backyard factory" that I have seen, the air is really warm and musky, it is hard for human to breath. If you see how it is made, you probably would not eat it.

Posted by BinLadin on September 2, 2007 at 8:37 AM

I live in the philippines and have made real nice tempeh on a regular basis for years,I have never used vinegar and it is really not needed.I have never incubated it either being that the temperature here is just perfect with the bags of soybeans right out on my counter.Also try Natto if your interested in a heath giving meal.

Posted by Will on September 9, 2007 at 8:19 PM

I have heard that even if you are allergic to tofu - you may not be to tempeh because it is fermented. I used to be allergic to it as well as to beans of all kinds, but since I have done some cleansing and cleaned up my diet I am no longer allergic to beans I am happy to say. I have been hesitant to try soy though as that was the worst.

Thanks for your input.

Posted by KATHLEEN on November 13, 2007 at 10:05 AM

Hi. Im from northern Australia with Indo/Malay background. Just wanted to say fried tempeh with rice and really hot chillie sauce rocks! Thats the simplest and greatest dish for me! Dont forget that tempeh is really high in fibre and carbs. Everyone in Indonesia and Malaysia, generally speaking, loves it and is a great and cheaper substitute to meat. However, once again, im disappointed that tempeh starter is hard to get, but optimistic that one day tempeh will take off! beans and bacteria!

Posted by Momo on December 4, 2007 at 2:50 AM

I am really suprised at your tempeh picture. I throw mine out when it has gone black like that. Did it smell fresh? I use starter A from the European site and if it's got black dots it in it smells terrible.
I am going to start growing my own starter.

Posted by Cosmic on January 27, 2008 at 11:28 PM

Dear Sir,
We are a producer of small scale tempeh starters from Indonesian pure yeast culture, and wanted to request a link on your page as sales point for tempeh starters in order to provide customer and hobby tempeh makers with a quality tempeh starter from original cultures.

Many thanks
Irma
Info@tempehonline.com

Posted by irma on August 23, 2008 at 12:37 PM

strange i looked around and found a 1 pound bag of starter that made me think people mark the stuff up like illegal drugs!

So cheap. Anyhow im glad to see this page. I break the mold a bit with my tempeh. I steam fall rye for and hour, and incubate it on some screening material in a almost sealed container. i prefer the top layer as it is fluffier than on the inside. kind of like how muffin tops are desireable :)

Anyhow, I choose other grains because soy doesnt do me well and i watched a documentary that scared me away from soy.. well theres ones for animal products too :)

Ill keep experimenting to see what tastes and grows best. Fall rye tempeh is like eating fall rye. its great. Im trying a batch where the starter is added to water and the grain will soak it it. either it will sprout or mold. or both.

Theres a stevens guy who sells fungi/mold to treat seeds to help them grow. i just think i want to be raw, there must be a way to grow it and have the vitality we cooked out.

Posted by Christopher james on July 18, 2009 at 2:33 AM

Dear Sir,
I would kindly request adding our website , because we are selling tempeh starter worldwide for many years, with many options of starters,

Thank you so much
irma
tempehonline.com

Posted by irma on November 2, 2009 at 6:13 AM

Hello, Have you order tempeh starter at this web-site: http://www.tempeh.info/starter/tempeh-starter.php

Please let me know whether the process is OK, reliable?

Do you know any stores in US where we can by tempeh starter?

Thanks for helping me.

I just get to know tempeh. I have not tasted or seen it (real) by myself. Therefore, after I order and get tempeh starter, I will have more questions and need your helps. Thanks.

Posted by Nancy on July 5, 2010 at 9:10 PM

before you fry tempe, the best taste is cut the tempe in small pieces, then pour some lemon juice (just enough to make tempe wet), little bit salt and garlic, then mix them good. Wait for about 2 hour and fry them.

Posted by relize sibarani on August 6, 2010 at 12:35 PM

One of the comments above was about the "off" taste that a guy was experiencing from store bought tempeh....if you blanch your tempeh before cooking it it gets rid of that taste! And cheers on this homemade recipe...worked for me on take one!

Posted by erica on August 17, 2010 at 7:43 AM

I live in Palawan in the Philippines and have been ordering tempeh starter from tempeh.info for 2 years now. I started with the free sample, which arrived and worked. Ever since then, perfect transactions every time, fantastic product and reliable service. stefan@veganic.com

Posted by Stefan on December 28, 2010 at 11:58 PM

Hi, does anyone have any experience with tempeh incubators? What do you think of a glass aquarium incubator?

Posted by Kay on January 5, 2011 at 4:26 PM

check this site out www.mrtempeh.com.au , have many different things for making tempeh and tofu, also complete kits including heating elements, great service and online support cheers

Posted by amita on January 30, 2011 at 8:15 PM

Hello Justin,
You have a lovely guide to making tempeh. I am linking to your site from my blog article on the link between genetically modified soy, and only eating fermented soy foods when trying to conceive a baby. Thanks for your beautiful article.
Elnora @ Natural Conception

Posted by Elnora Scott on March 12, 2011 at 7:57 AM

Hi pinoy , want tempeh , no problem in my backyard ther is plenty(i make tempeh) Concepcion Tarlac
Kds rgds
W vandevijver

Posted by W vandevijver on April 6, 2011 at 12:50 AM

good recipes, if u need tempeh starter please visit "www.caramembuattempe.com"
we sale tempeh starter RAPRIMA for cheap price in best quality.
thx

Posted by raprima on May 30, 2011 at 9:16 PM

Hi,
saw the comments about ordering tempeh starters, I always order via TempehOnline.com they are located in the US ( Maryland ) and ship all over the world, very proffesional guys, who adressed my questions and problems in no itme. Thumbs up, shipping also cheap

cu
John

Posted by john watkins on July 2, 2011 at 3:59 PM

Hello
You indicate that spot hulled soybeans are hard to find. Do you have a source to recommend?

Posted by Jennifer on March 12, 2012 at 9:47 AM

I built a very reliable and cheap incubator using a Styrofoam box with a lid, a smaller plastic box, and a fish tank heater (cheap). You put a bit of water in the styrofoam box, along with the heater set at the correct temp, and float the smaller box on the water. With the lid on, the box will stay at the right temp almost spot on, as water retains its heat, and conducts it well. I used it to grow mushroom mycelia.

Posted by Jack on April 27, 2012 at 9:22 AM