What Is Tempeh (and How to Cook It)

If you want to know about tempeh, what it is, and how can you cook it? This will be your one-stop guide for everything you need to know about tempeh, including one of the best-marinated tempeh recipes.

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If you’ve never had tempeh, you’ve come to the right place because, in this guide, I’ll tell you all about tempeh along with my favorite irresistible marinated tempeh recipe.

marinated tempeh

What In the World Is Tempeh?

The food almost sounds like a person with a heavy Boston accent saying “temper,” but it’s actually made using fermented cooked soybeans, much like edamame. Thanks to the fermentation process, the soybeans are bound into a patty or cake-like form that you’ll find in a grocery store. There are different varieties of tempeh, such as ones that only have soybeans, while others may also include other ingredients, such as flax, rice, barley, or millet.

Tempeh: What Does It Taste Like?

Tempeh has a nutty, mild flavor that many would describe as “earthy.” Like many plant-based proteins, it adopts the flavor of the dish it’s a part of. When the tempeh is prepared with sauces and marinades, it will absorb those flavors while adding just a slight hint of earthiness.

Tempeh and Tofu: What’s the Difference?

tempeh and tofu

While tempeh is undoubtedly closely related to tofu, they are not the same. Both are made using soy, but aside from that common ingredient, they are worlds apart.

First, tempeh is not as processed. It’s also fermented, giving it a more robust flavor and more texture than tofu, which is more processed with a milder flavor and virtually no texture, of which to speak. You can also blend tofu into a sauce form or soup. You can also fry tofu to give it more texture, but generally speaking, it’s much smoother than tempeh.

Many also find tempeh a little easier to cook since you don’t have as much prep work. However, when cooking with tofu, you must consider the additional time needed to press it. But, with tempeh, you open up the package, and it’s ready for slicing and cooking.

What is the Best Brand of Tempeh?

In my humble opinion, after trying several brands of tempeh, I have to say that I enjoyed the Lightlife brand best. It’s non-GMO, organic, and widely sold in many major grocery stores. I enjoy their three-grain offering since it has the mildest taste, but the original is also delicious if you prefer a stronger “earthy” flavor.

Where to Buy Tempeh

Tempeh can be found at most big-chain grocery stores and nearly every health food market in the refrigerated section. It’s usually placed near produce or other proteins that are plant-based, like tofu and hummus.

The Health Benefits Tempeh Has to Offer


Tempeh is a super-healthy food! Not only does it offer total protein, but it is also a great source of prebiotics, iron, manganese, and B vitamins. A single cup serving of tempeh packs an incredible 31 grams of pure protein!

Now, as I mentioned before, tempeh is fermented. Because of this, phytic acid is broken down by the fermentation process, which may stop mineral absorption. In other words, the minerals contained in tempeh are much easier to digest and not as likely to be the cause of indigestion or gas compared to other bean-based foods. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I greatly appreciate less tooting after eating beans.

Is tempeh good for you?

Tempeh is incredibly healthy. A fantastic source of plant-based protein with various minerals and vitamins, such as iron, and beneficial prebiotics.

Is Tempeh Healthier Than Eating Tofu?

Both Tempeh and Tofu are exceptionally healthy foods. However, when it comes down to protein, tempeh is the clear winner, offering not just more protein but also more iron, potassium, and fiber per serving versus tofu. Tempeh is also not as processed as tofu. However, per serving, tofu does have fewer calories and offers more calcium.

Is it Safe to Consume Raw Tempeh?

Most tempeh you buy at the store is pasteurized, making it safe to consume uncooked. However, it definitely tastes much better cooked.

Where Can You Purchase Tempeh?

You can visit almost any major grocery chain and find tempeh in or near the produce sold in a refrigerated section next to tofu and hummus.

Cutting Your Tempeh

cut tempeh

Okay, now that you know about eating tempeh, I’ll go over how you can prepare a block of tempeh for cooking. Trust me. It’s way easier than you think.

There are lots of different ways you can cut your tempeh, but here are a few popular methods:

Crumbled: You can crumble tempeh and use it as a fantastic substitute for recipes that usually use ground meat, such as tasty tempeh tacos or a delicious Bolognese sauce. The only thing you have to do to crumble tempeh is breaking it up with your hands until it reaches the consistency you need, much like ground meat.

Triangles or Cubes: If you’re making the tempeh the star of the show, like for a butternut squash tempeh bake or friend tempeh, then one way to prepare them is to cut them into triangles or cubes. To make cubes, just cut the block into stripes and then create the size cubes you need. For triangles, cut the tempeh lengthwise in half. Then cut each half into a star shape to create 16 triangles on each side, 32 triangles total.

Thin Slices: For making recipes such as tempeh bacon or a vegan sub, I like cutting my tempeh into quarter-inch thick stripes.

How to Cook Tempeh

Tempeh is packaged pre-cooked, allowing you to take it right out of the package and eat it if you want. But I strongly recommend cooking it first to get the very best flavor.

However, many people recommend steaming before marinating or cooking tempeh. This helps remove any bitterness. Personally, I don’t practice this, but if you would like to try steaming your tempeh, here’s the process.

First, cut your tempeh as you desire, then place the pieces in your steamer basket. Now, cover and steam the pieces for around 10 to 15 minutes. You can also use fill up any saucepan with around 1 to 2 inches of water. Bring the pan to a boil, and then add the tempeh into your saucepan. Cover it up and reduce the heat to just a simmer and allow the tempeh to cook for between 15 and 20 minutes.

My personal favorite way to cook tempeh is by marinating it. You can marinate your tempeh in a fridge for as little as an hour overnight. Of course, the longer you allow it to marinate, the more flavorful your tempeh will become.

Below is a simple tempeh marinade recipe using balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, tamari, oil, and garlic. It’s a go-to dish in our house!

After you’ve prepped your tempeh and marinated it, then all that’s left is to cook it! For this, you have a couple of options. Here are a few I recommend.

Air fry– Using an air fryer is a great way to get hot, crispy, and tasty tempeh! Just add your tempeh to the fryer basket and cook at 375 degrees F for around 15 minutes. Toss the pieces about every 5 minutes to ensure they cook evenly.

Bake- A great hands-off option is baking tempeh. Line your baking sheet with parchment paper or use a silicon mat. Then spread the tempeh on the pan evenly and bake at 400 degrees F for roughly 25 minutes or until they are golden brown.

Sauté– My favorite technique is sauteing my tempeh in a pan. Heat up about a tablespoon of oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Toss in your tempeh and cook both sides until they are golden brown, or about 4-5 minutes per side.

Serving Marinaded Tempeh

Marinated tempeh is great over millet, quinoa, or brown rice. It’s also fantastic on top of cauliflower rice, providing a super-tasty low-carb option. You can also team it with veggie sides, such as kale salad and roasted broccoli.

More Delicious Tempeh Recipes

  • Tempeh Bolognese
  • Tempeh Stir Fry
  • Tempeh Curry
  • Tempeh Bacon and Sweet Potato
  • Crumbled Tempeh Taco
  • Easy Baked Tempeh
  • Spicy Tempeh over Brown Rice
  • Spicy Tempeh Stew
  • Tempeh strips over coconut rice
  • Tempeh Meatballs
  • BBQ Tempeh
  • Teriyaki Tempeh
  • Baked Tempeh Stuffed Bell Pepper

tempeh recipes

tempeh recipes

Easy & Delicious Marinated Tempeh

This tempeh recipe for deliciously marinated tempeh is a fantastic and easy way to serve tempeh. The maple balsamic sauce delivers some serious flavor making your tempeh irresistible!
5 from 6 votes
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 12 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 12 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 6
Calories 218 kcal


  • 2 8- oz packs of tempeh
  • ¼ cup of balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup of maple syrup
  • 2 Tsp of olive and avocado oil
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce low sodium tamari, or coconut aminos
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 Tbsp Olive or avocado oil for cooking


  • Open and remove the tempeh from both packages. Cut both blocks in half width-wise, then cut all four halves into a star pattern to create 32 small triangles, or 16 per package.
  • Using a small bowl, combine balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, minced garlic, and 2 Tsp of oil. Next, you'll need a shallow dish that has a large surface area. Place your tempeh triangles in the dish, then pour the marinade over each piece before tossing them to ensure each has a nice coat of marinade. Allow your tempeh to marinate inside your refrigerator for 1-24 hours. If possible, while marinating, you want to stir your mixture a few times.
  • To pan-glaze, the tempeh, begin by heating up 1 Tbsp of oil in a large-size pan over medium heat. After the oil is hot enough, add tempeh pieces (but don't pour in the marinade). Cook until both sides are golden brown, which should take about 4-5 minutes for each side. After searing all the tempeh, pour the remaining marinade into the pan and allow the tempeh to simmer for another 5-7 minutes. You want to simmer just long enough for the marinade to reduce, creating a delicious glaze on your tempeh. Toss your tempeh pieces a few times while cooking.
  • After your sauce is thick enough and all the tempeh is glazed, your dish is ready to serve. I recommend serving marinated tempeh over rice, such as brown or cauliflower, along with your favorite veggie.


Calories: 218kcalCarbohydrates: 22gFat: 6g
Keyword easy tempeh, marinated tempeh, tempeh recipe
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

FAQs About Tempeh Recipes

What first step is recommended when preparing a dish with tempeh?

The first step many tempeh lovers recommend is steaming it. Steaming tempeh is an optional step that you can skip in a rush. However, it does offer a few benefits, like allowing the marinade to soak in faster and removing any bitterness.

Can you eat packaged tempeh raw?

Since packaged tempeh is typically pasteurized, it’s safe to eat. However, raw tempeh that’s not been pasteurized or cooked can be harmful and does not offer the nutritional benefits found in cooked or pasteurized tempeh. Indonesia, which is known as the birthplace of tempeh, the people learned after hundreds of years of culinary experience with tempeh that it should only be eaten after it’s cooked or pasteurized first.

Why is vinegar used in so many tempeh recipes?

Adding vinegar to tempeh lowers the pH while preventing the growth of harmful bacteria. This is typically done when preparing raw tempeh and is unnecessary when using pasteurized or cooked tempeh.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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