Is Tempeh Gluten Free? (and other common questions about tempeh answered)


Written by

Simon Deane

Published on

tempeh skewers

Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans, and soybeans do not contain gluten, so many brands of tempeh are indeed gluten free. Sometimes tempeh is made with soybeans and wheat, so if you wish to avoid gluten, it may be best to check the product label.

Tempeh is a traditional Indonesian food that has become more popular in recent years. It is made from fermented soybeans, and is a nutritious food, with a unique nutty flavor that can be used in a variety of dishes.

Is Tempeh a Good Source of Protein?

Tempeh is an excellent source of plant based protein, with around 40% of its calories coming from protein. A 100g (3.5 ounce) portion of tempeh contains around 18 grams of protein. Due to being so high in protein, tempeh is a very useful food for those following an exclusively or predominantly plant based diet. Tempeh is also a complete protein containing all of the essential amino acids.

How is Tempeh Made?

As discussed already, tempeh is made from soybeans. The soybeans are soaked, boiled, and then mixed with a starter culture of Rhizopus mold. The mixture is then left to ferment for around 24-48 hours, after which the fermentation process results in the soybeans being bound into a a solid cake-like product. The end product is quite firm and can be easily cut into slices or cubes.

The fermentation process of tempeh not only gives it a unique nutty flavour but it also increases its nutritional value. Fermentation also helps to break down the phytic acid that is contained naturally in soybeans, making it easier for the body to absorb nutrients like iron, calcium, and zinc.

Nutritional Breakdown of Tempeh

A 100g (3.5 oz) serving of tempeh contains approximately the following:

  • 212 calories
  • 19 grams of protein
  • 11 grams of fat
  • 3 grams saturated fat
  • 9 grams of carbohydrates
  • 5 grams of fibre

(nutritional values are estimated and differ between brands)

Tempeh is also rich in vitamins and minerals, including iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. It is also a good source of antioxidants and phytonutrients, which have been linked to numerous health benefits.

How to Use Tempeh:

Tempeh can be used in a variety of dishes and can be cooked in various different ways. It can be sliced and sautéed, grilled, baked, or even crumbled and used as a meat substitute in recipes like chili or spaghetti sauce. Tempeh is also a great addition to stir-fries, sandwiches, and salads.

Tempeh is a versatile ingredient that can be cooked in many different ways. Here are a few simple methods for cooking tempeh:

  1. Sautéed Tempeh: This is a quick and easy way to cook tempeh. Simply slice the tempeh into thin strips and sauté in a little oil until browned and crispy. You can add seasoning and spices to the tempeh for added flavour. Sautéed tempeh is a great addition to stir-fries, salads, and sandwiches.
  2. Grilled Tempeh: Grilling tempeh gives it a delicious smoky flavor. Slice the tempeh into thin strips or cubes and marinate it in your favourite marinade for 30 minutes. Then grill the tempeh on a hot grill for a few minutes on each side until it is crispy and starting to brown.
  3. Baked Tempeh: Baking tempeh is another easy and delicious way to prepare it. Slice the tempeh into thin strips or cubes and marinate it in your favourite marinade. Then place the tempeh on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake in the oven at 180 degrees Celsius (360°F) for 20 minutes until the tempeh is crispy and golden brown.
  4. Crumbled Tempeh: Crumbled tempeh is a great meat substitute and can be used in a variety of dishes, such as tacos, chili, or spaghetti sauce. You can use your hands to crumble the tempeh into small pieces. Then you sauté the crumbled tempeh in a little oil until it is crispy and browned.
  5. Steamed Tempeh: Steaming tempeh can help to soften its texture and make it more tender. To steam tempeh, slice it into thin strips and place it in a steamer basket. Steam the tempeh for 10-15 minutes until it is cooked through.

Some Tempeh Recipes to Try:

baked tempeh

I have a few really tasty tempehs on my site and am aiming to add some more in the coming months. If you are looking to bring some more tempeh into your life I recommend trying out the following recipes:

  • Awesome Indian Tempeh Curry – Tempeh works really nicely in curries, and is a great alternative to a meat based curry. This curry is made with cubed tempeh and is packed full of flavour.
  • Tempeh and Vegetable Stir Fry – Tempeh is also great in stir fries and this stir fry has a lovely flavour, made with tempeh, mixed vegetables and flavoured with peanut butter and lime
  • High Protein BLT Tempeh Sandwiches – Tempeh also works really nicely as a plant based sandwich filler in place of meats. The tempeh is marinated before it is fried for these great tasting tempeh BLT sandwiches
tempeh curry in a bowl
tempeh curry

Where to Find Tempeh

A few years ago, you usually needed to make a trip to the health food or artisan food shop to find tempeh. In the last few years (at least from an Ireland and UK point of view) tempeh is now more readily available on the supermarket shelves. It is usually in the refrigerated section. Many supermarkets now have an area dedicated to plant based products such as plant based meat substitutes and tofu based products, and that is usually where you can also find the tempeh.

Is Tempeh Healthier than Tofu?

Tempeh is less processed than tofu and is generally thought to be a healthier food source.

Tofu is made by first extracting soy milk from soybeans. There is a coagulant then added to the soy milk to form tofu. Most of the fibre and a lot of nutrients are left behind in the production process. Tempeh on the other hand is made from whole soybeans.

Final Points:

Tempeh is a nutritious and tasty food that can be used in a variety of dishes. It is an excellent plant-based protein source and may help to lower cholesterol due to its isoflavone content. Isoflavones have been shown to reduce overall cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in a number of studies.