Love and can’t get enough of tempeh? Good news! There is an easy way to make tempeh at home!
I must confess, I had never really eaten tempeh before I decided to become vegan and started playing with different vegetarian foods. I mean I knew its existence but it was just a mysterious food from Indonesia.
When I started cooking with tempeh, I absolutely fell in love with its nutty flavor and of course the nutritious aspect, but there was one issue. Store-bought tempeh is so expensive!!! Here in Japan, a small packet of tempeh costs 390 yen (about USD4?) at a supermarket. That’s same as buying a piece of good-grade beef!
So I started doing some research on homemade tempeh, and it didn’t seem super easy, but I thought I would give it a try – the standard way. After successfully making it the standard way, I wanted to see if there is a way to cut all the cumbersome steps. The new method, using okara or soy pulp was super easy and very successful!
What you need:
- Soy beans (dry)…500g
- Tempeh mold…3g
- Vinegar…100ml for soaking and 100ml for cooking
First, you need to soak the soy beans in water (2L) and vinegar over night. After the beans are soaked, remove the thin skin on the beans as much as you can. If you gently rub the beans against each other, most of the skins will come off.
Then you cook the beans with water and vinegar for 30-60 min until tender. The tenderness at this stage is how tender the tempeh will be, so if you like really soft tempeh, you can cook the beans until they are very tender.
After cooking the beans, let them sit for 5-10 min so that the beans cool down (tempeh ferment at temperatures between 28-35 degrees Celsius so you don’t want the beans to be too hot for the next stage) and any extra moisture evaporates. Once the beans are warm and dry, coat them with a tempeh mold & starch mixture. By mixing the mold with starch, the power volume increases and it becomes much easier to coat the beans evenly.
There are different methods for fermentation, but I put the beans in zip lock bags and made small holes with a tooth pick for mold to breathe.
To ferment, let the bean bags sit in a warm place or use an incubator (at 32 degrees Celsius). I found controlling the temperature quite difficult, and it took me about 48 hours to ferment, but if you can keep the temperature high the entire time, it should take only about 24 hours.
Tempeh is ready once white mold covers the beans. I made several loaves and froze them.
I was able to make really delicious tempeh with the standard method, but I found the process to be too cumbersome and not very practical for homemaking.
Super Easy Method
What I found most cumbersome about the standard method was all the bean preparation process. Soaking, peeling, cooking, cooling… So, I started to think, how can I skip all these steps???
My answer was to use okara, which is the leftover soy pulp from making soy milk or tofu. It’s cooked, not covered with skin and ready to go!
In Japan, there are some dishes using okara, but with all the soy milk and tofu manufactured everyday, most of the leftover soy pulp is actually not eaten by us and used to feed livestock like cows. It’s kind of ironic when you think about it because as a vegan, by consuming lots of soy milk and tofu, you are actually contributing to feeding cows…
Anyways, so just the idea of using okara made me excited, but I found out that okara is also very nutritious (rich with protein, fiber, calcium etc.) and super cheap!!! A packet of fresh okara only cost me 60 yen (about 60 cents) at a local tofu shop. Wow…
To make tempeh with okara, here is what you need:
- Tempeh mold…3g
First, microwave okara in a microwave-safe bowl for about 40 sec (500W) until it gets warm (don’t overdo it, the pulp should retain its moist). Then in a large bowl, mix in vinegar.
Add the tempeh mold & starch mixture and mix well.
Another step that I didn’t like about the standard method was the zip lock bags. Using plastic bags is not environmentally-friendly, but I didn’t want to go so far as to purchase banana leaves (used in traditional recipes) online…
So I just packed glass containers with the okara mixture (it’s pretty fluffy so pack it down with a spatula) topped with plastic wrap (OK, yes, plastic here, but it’s much less than the standard method…).
For fermentation also, I wanted to improve my method a bit. So what I did was to place my yogurt maker (with the lid open and on at 40 degrees Celsius) and the glass containers in a Styrofoam box (I would imagine drink cooler box would work in the same way) with the lid slightly ajar. It worked wonderfully!
I thought maybe the tempeh would be crumbly but it came out nice and cakey like the regular tempeh (although the edges were little crumbly).
The parts that are over-fermented become black. It’s safe to eat them but the taste is bitter, so you can remove the black parts when you eat it. I’ve made different dishes with this new tempeh and they came out really delicious! I will share the recipes here later on;)