Tempeh is not going to win a beauty contest but with a little love and a marinade, it tastes delicious. Tempeh is a healthy alternative to meat which has a great texture and will provide you with a good dose of protein, healthy fat, vitamins, minerals.

Tempeh [TEM-pay] doesn’t carry a strong flavour but it can really absorb it. Thanks to its high protein and monosaturated fat (the good kind of fat) content it is commonly used as a meat replacement.

Vegan courgette 'carbonara' served with sage and tempeh
Vegan ‘carbonara’ served with sage and marinated tempeh.

What does it taste like?

Savoury: slightly bitter, nutty and earthy. Some brands can taste yeasty or like mushrooms.

How to consume it

  • Marinate and consume raw for optimal nutrition
  • Use as a meat replacement, marinade then steam, fry, grill,  bake or crumble into stews and soups for texture
  • Tempehs earthiness is perfect when combined with smoky flavours such as smoked paprika and chipotle chilli
  • For lighter dishes, it can be refreshing when combined with citrus, ginger and coriander

Nutritional info

47% fats | 33% protein | 20% carbs (1)

Monosaturated fats (MUFAs) are the good fats which usually derive from vegetable oils and plants.  
Saturated fats (Saturated fatty acids SFA) derive from animal products and coconut oils and are often solid at room temperature. High intake of SFA’s has shown to contribute to heart disease. Eating less saturated fats and more monosaturated fats has shown to be good for your health. “There is strong evidence that by replacing SFA and carbohydrates with MUFA, various cardiovascular risk factors will be significantly improved.” (2)

Although good fats are essential in our diet they are also calorific so eat in moderation.

Protein is important for the growth and repair of our body cells and tissues. If there is not enough carbohydrate in the diet and fat stores have been depleted it is also used for energy. (3)

Protein is made of amino acids, of which there are 9 essential amino acids needed to make a complete protein. Tempeh is made of soybeans which are a legume, which, on its own is not a complete protein. Simply consuming tempeh with seeds and/or whole grains will make a complete protein. This food combining is an essential need in a vegan diet but is actually incredibly simple:

Whole grains + Legumes (e.g. soybeans) = complete protein
Legumes + seeds = complete protein
Seeds + wholegrains = complete protein

Manganese is a critical metal for the functioning of our central nervous system. It also “functions in many enzyme systems, including the enzymes involved in blood sugar control, energy metabolism, and thyroid hormone function.”  (4)

Phosphorous “is one of the most essential minerals, as it ranks only second to calcium in total body content”. It is essential for healthy bones and teeth where it is found as calcium phosphate crystals. It also “participates in many other body functions, including energy metabolism, DNA synthesis and calcium absorption and utilization” (5)

Vitamin B2 “is involved in carbohydrate and protein metabolism” (6)
Vitamin B3 “is central to energy release from carbohydrate release in cells”… “in fat metabolism, it inhibits the production of cholesterol and assists in fat breakdown” (6)
Vitamin B6 is abundant in legumes. It regulates hormonal activity and can reduce tiredness and fatigue

What is it?

Tempeh was introduced to Europe after the Dutch colonisation of Indonesia, where it originates. Whole soybeans are dehulled, cooked and lightly fermented using a culturing agent such as Rhizopus Oligosporus until it forms a solid block or cake. It is nutritionally superior to tofu which is made from soybean milk.

Where to find it

I use the Impulse Foods brand organic tempeh which 100% Organic GM-free. It is available at my local health food shop in the refrigerated section. I have tried the tempeh that comes in a Jar but I don’t think it tastes good at all. If you can’t find it a good organic firm tofu is a great alternative.




1.The Vegetarian Flavour Bible by Karen Page (2014) p. 506
2. Monounsaturated Fatty Acids and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: Synopsis of the Evidence Available from Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses by Lukas Schwingshackl and Georg Hoffmann
3.Anatomy & Physiology by Ross & Wilsom (12th Edition) p. 277
4.The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Dr Michael Murray & Dr Joseph Pizzorno with Lara Pizzorno (2005) p.132
5.The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Dr Michael Murray & Dr Joseph Pizzorno with Lara Pizzorno (2005) p.120
6.Anatomy & Physiology by Ross & Wilsom (12th Edition) p. 279


Leave a comment