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What Is Vegan Tempeh?

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  • Written By: N. Swensson
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2017
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All tempeh is actually vegan tempeh, as it is made from fermented soybeans and contains no animal products. Tempeh originally came from Indonesia and has been a staple there for about 2,000 years. It has a mild taste that is most similar to tofu and can be used in a variety of vegetarian or vegan dishes as an alternative to meat, fish, or dairy products. Although some sources say tempeh can be easily made at home, others warn that this is a difficult and time-consuming process. For those who prefer to purchase pre-packaged vegan tempeh, it should be thoroughly cooked before eating if it is not pasteurized.

Vegan tempeh can be used in a great variety of vegetarian and vegan dishes. It is commonly fried or sautéed in oil to form a crispy coating and can be stir-fried with vegetables and noodles. A variety of different curry dishes can also be made using tempeh instead of beef or chicken. It is also a popular addition to soups and stews, as it tends to absorb the flavors of other ingredients in the broth. Vegan tempeh can also be finely chopped or grated to make meatless versions of tacos, chili, and many other dishes that would traditionally contain ground beef.

Tempeh can be purchased at grocery stores, and some that do not carry it may be willing to order it if requested. It is generally sold fresh rather than frozen, and vacuum-sealed packages can be found in the refrigerated foods section. The soybean cake is made from whole beans and is not as smooth in consistency as tofu, although the taste is somewhat similar. Most vegan recipes that call for tofu can use vegan tempeh instead.

Making homemade vegan tempeh may be desirable for people who wish to minimize or eliminate any type of processed food from their diets. Some sources report that commercially produced tempeh and other soybean products are genetically engineered, which some may also want to avoid. To make the tempeh, soybeans first need to be shelled, split, and cooked. Then they are mixed with a fermenting agent and must be kept at the correct temperature for one or two days depending on the individual recipe. The tempeh can then be refrigerated or frozen for later use and can keep in the freezer for as long as three months.

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