What is tempeh? This is a question people keep asking themselves when looking for vegetarian alternatives to meat. The soy product contains a lot of protein. However, there are a few things you should keep in mind for a healthy diet.
Meat substitute products have long conquered even conventional supermarkets. Alternatives with tempeh for vegetarian or vegan diets are also increasingly found in the refrigerated shelves. The food with the exotic name is considered a valuable source of protein. While many consumers can now do something with tofu, tempeh still raises a few questions. What’s in it? And how healthy is it?
What is tempeh?
Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans. It has its origins in Indonesia, where it is valued as a protein-rich food source. Molds of the genus Rhizopus are added to the peeled and soaked soybeans. During fermentation, the noble mold spreads out in a network of fine white threads. This forms a solid mass. Fresh tempeh is often sold in block or roll form.
The soy product is often compared to Camembert because of its consistency and the addition of mold. When exactly tempeh was first made is unclear.
According to one theory, it happened by accident after Chinese immigrants brought tofu to the Indonesian island of Java in the 17th century. So “good” mold could have grown on discarded soybeans, creating tempeh.
However, tempeh cannot only be produced from soy. The production method can also be used with black beans or chickpeas, for example. This may be of particular interest to people who are intolerant to soy.
Tempeh contains a lot of protein
Anyone who eats a vegetarian or vegan diet or wants to eat less meat must ensure that they have an adequate supply of protein. Tempeh is considered a good alternative to tofu here. According to the US Department of Agriculture, 100 grams contain around 20 grams of protein. That’s twice as much as many types of tofu. According to the nutritional table, beef has only 16 grams of protein. In addition, the protein is considered particularly digestible as a result of fermentation.
100 grams of tempeh also contain around 111 milligrams of calcium, 81 milligrams of magnesium and 2.7 milligrams of iron and around 190 calories (about 800 kilojoules). That’s double the amount of energy provided by many types of tofu. Tempeh is said to have a particularly filling effect thanks to its high protein and fiber content.
Taste and preparation of tempeh
Tempeh is often a real matter of taste. Fans praise the nutty aroma and firm consistency. Some people, on the other hand, have difficulties with the fermented food. Since tempeh is also reminiscent of Camembert in terms of taste, it is often used as an alternative to cheese – fried or baked, for example.
The food is often seasoned with the help of marinades. As a meat substitute, it is often fried on the plate. It can also be boiled, steamed or eaten raw. The ingredient is suitable for fillings, as a simple salad accompaniment or as a filling ingredient for soups.
Buying tempeh: Where can you find the meat substitute?
Compared to tofu, tempeh is not yet as widely represented in conventional supermarkets. Lovers will still find the largest selection in organic markets or online shops.
It is particularly common to find tempeh sealed in “natural” or smoked. Some manufacturers offer the ingredient already marinated. The food is also available in glass.
What to consider with meat substitute products
Meat substitute products are not automatically healthy. This can especially apply if the basic ingredient has been prepared to resemble sausage or minced meat. Manufacturers then often rely on a lot of fat and salt to spice up the sober main ingredient. Additionally, tempeh generally falls into the “highly processed” food category—just like tofu. “Meat substitute products are not very suitable for whole-food nutrition,” says the Federal Center for Nutrition.
It is not only important to look closely at the nutritional value. Tempeh products or the raw materials for their production usually come from far away and are often grown under less environmentally friendly conditions. “One consequence of this is high greenhouse gas emissions, among other things due to transport and the energy expenditure for maintaining the cold chain,” points out the Federal Center for Nutrition.