Tempeh: History, Health Benefits and Nutrition
Browse articles:
Auto Beauty Business Culture Dieting DIY Events Fashion Finance Food Freelancing Gardening Health Hobbies Home Internet Jobs Law Local Media Men's Health Mobile Nutrition Parenting Pets Pregnancy Products Psychology Real Estate Relationships Science Seniors Sports Technology Travel Wellness Women's Health
Browse companies:
Automotive Crafts & Gifts Department Stores Electronics Fashion Food & Drink Health & Beauty Home & Garden Online Services Sports & Outdoors Subscription Boxes Toys, Kids & Baby Travel & Events

Tempeh: History, Health Benefits and Nutrition

Tempeh is a fermented food made by the controlled fermentation of cooked soybeans with a Rhizopus mold (tempeh starter). The tempeh fermentation by the Rhizopus mold binds the soybeans into a compact white cake. Tempeh has been a favorite food and staple source of protein in Indonesia for several hundred years.


Tempeh is cake of soybeans, which have been de-hulled, cooked and fermented. As tempeh is made of soy, it has the same benefits of soy. In addition, the fermentation process changes the properties of soy beans and increases its health benefits.

Image Credit

Tempeh is a fermented food made by the controlled fermentation of cooked soybeans with a Rhizopus mold (tempeh starter). The tempeh fermentation by the Rhizopus mold binds the soybeans into a compact white cake. Tempeh has been a favorite food and staple source of protein in Indonesia for several hundred years.

But tempeh is now rapidly becoming more popular all over the world as people look for ways to increase their intake of soybeans and isoflavones.

They discover tempeh's versatility and delicious taste. Especially vegetarians and vegans find the structure and protein content interesting. Tempeh has a firm texture and a nutty mushroom flavor. Tempeh can be used in different ways. Normally tempeh is sliced and fried until the surface is crisp and golden brown or tempeh can be used as ingredient in soups, spreads, salads and sandwiches.

History of tempeh

Tempeh processing could be the oldest food technology in the history of Javanese people. Serat Centhini, a book published in the 16th century, indicates that tempeh had been produced and consumed by the time of its publication. Tempeh might have been introduced by the Chinese who are making a similar product, soybean koji, which are dehulled soybeans fermented with Aspergillus’s molds. The use of Rhizopus as tempeh starter in Indonesia may have been due to its better adaptation to the Indonesian climate. The earliest reference to tempeh by a European appeared in 1875 in a Javanese-Dutch dictionary. The rise of tempeh's popularity in Java and its spread to other parts of Indonesia and other countries of the world began in the 20th century. In the 1970s the banana leaf as container for the production of tempeh was replaced by the use of plastic bags. Indonesia

Image Credit


In Europe, tempeh is known through the Dutch who once colonized Indonesia. In 1895 the Dutch microbiologist and chemist Prinsen Geerlings made the first attempt to identify the tempeh mold. The first tempeh companies in Europe were started in the Netherlands by immigrants from Indonesia. The first English written article appeared in 1931 the book “Vegetables of the Dutch East Indies ", written by J.J. Ochse. The earliest popular article about tempeh was a 7 page story published in France 1982 in Le Compas.

USA - In the USA, tempeh has been known only since 1946 with the publication of "Possible Sources of Proteins for Child Feeding in Underdeveloped Countries", in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In the 1960s there was new interest in tempeh with research in tempeh at the Cornell University (New York) and at the USDA Northern Regional Research Center (Illinois). In 1961 Mary Otten was the first to begin making tempeh.

Great deal of the credit for introducing tempeh to the American public goes to The Farm, a large spiritual and farming community in Summertown (Tennessee).

The first commercial tempeh shop was started in 1975 by Mr. Gale Randall in Undadilla, Nebraska. An article by R. Rodale in "Prevention" in June 1977 brought him and his shop national prominence.

In the 1980s when the tempeh industry expanded, the media showed new interest and a lot of articles appeared in scientific journals. During 1983, about one million commercial tempeh was produced.

In the 1940s Van Veen tried to introduce tempeh in Zimbabwe. But efforts to introduce tempeh as cheap source of protein in Zimbabwe and other developing countries (Africa and South-America) have mainly failed since the local populations have no experience with mold-fermented foods. - Developing countries

Actual trends - In Europe, the USA and other industrialized countries, the interest for tempeh is increasing, by growing interest in health, nutrition and vegetarianism.

Image Credit


Nutritional values

Tempeh is the one of the nutritious products made from soybeans, which forms the staple food of Indonesia. It is enjoying a growing popularity across the globe, for its nutty taste and nougat-like texture. Tempeh also owes its popularity to the fact that it can be consumed in a variety of ways. Formed by fermenting the soybeans, tempeh is highly rich in proteins. Besides, it contains fiber, iron, copper, manganese, isoflavones and several other minerals, which contribute significantly to the health of a person. Today, it has become one of the principal choices in the vegetarian cuisine and makes an excellent alternative to meat.

Image Credit



Health benefits

The health benefits of tempeh are numerous. As opposed to many other soy foods, tempeh is made from whole soybeans, and possesses all the health benefits of soybeans. Also the tempeh fermentation changes the properties of the soybeans.

Tempeh contains many healthy ingredients such as isoflavones, saponins, fibre, protein and vitamins. And it is easy to digest! Tempeh is very nutritive and contains much health promoting phytochemicals such as isoflavones and soy saponins. Tempeh fermentation produces natural antibiotic agents but leaves the desirable soy isoflavones and most of the saponins intact. Tempeh is a complete protein food that contains all the essential amino acids. The soy protein and isoflavones have many health benefits. Isoflavones strengthen bones, help to ease menopause symptoms, reduce risk of coronary hearth disease and some cancers. Tempeh maintains all the fiber of the beans and gains some digestive benefits from the enzymes created during the fermentation process.

Make your own tempeh!

It's easy to make tempeh at home at a very low cost. Dehulled soybeans are soaked overnight, cooked for about 30 min and mixed with tempeh starter. After 36 to 48 hours incubation you have delicious fresh tempeh. Tempeh starter contains spores of Rhizopus oligosporus or Rgizopus oryzae.

Reference: http://www.tempeh.info/


Images from Google Image


Need an answer?
Get insightful answers from community-recommended
in Nutrition on Knoji.
Would you recommend this author as an expert in Nutrition?
You have 0 recommendations remaining to grant today.
Comments (5)
Ranked #58 in Nutrition

very famous foods in Indonesia and Malaysia..but I'm surprised that Philippine was also using the words "Tempeh"..excellent food indeed, especially like me, Javanese :)

I'm American and clueless! But this looks fantastic. Thanks for sharing. Voted and appreciated.

Nice presentation. LOVE this stuff.

Don't care for tempeh so much but what a presentation you gave Ron - like always!

Ranked #1 in Nutrition

Thanks all for the votes and comments.