Some dieters have never heard of tempeh, but those who are likely to browse the organic and health food sections of their supermarkets will probably see this relatively new product on the shelf, along with items like tofu and soy-based meat alternatives, and non-dairy cheeses and butters. Tempeh is a soy-based product, although some new forms use barley instead. Both soy and barley tempeh have high levels of protein, making them popular meat substitutes.
What Tempeh Looks Like
Common tempeh products are sold in shrink-wrapped blocks. The soy or barley content is pressed into a densely packed block using some binding ingredients. Soy tempeh is usually fermented as part of the manufacturing process. Buyers of these products often open the package and cut the block into thin strips or chunks for use in a variety of dishes.
Nutrition of Tempeh
As a meat substitute, one of the primary nutritional statistics on tempeh is its high protein. A cup of tempeh includes about 31 grams of protein, making this a power-packed food. There are also a few grams of fat in the same serving. Strangely enough, soy-based tempeh does not include dietary fiber, but it is a low-cholesterol, low-sodium food that can be a good replacement for some fatty, high-cholesterol meats.
Tempeh also includes a hearty helping of both calcium and iron, as well as amounts of some other essential vitamins and minerals, and although it may not be a true diet food in terms of calories, with over 300 calories in the one cup serving, the overall nutrition of tempeh still appeals to many who are making more calculated choices about what goes on their dinner plates. Vegetarians who have turned to a meatless diet because of concerns about factory farming will often find tempeh to be a handy option, as it is relatively unprocessed and composed of natural foods.
Lots of people use tempeh for sandwiches. A popular item is the tempeh Reuben, where tangy sauerkraut and the unique taste of swiss cheese complement the relatively bland tempeh taste, and the tempeh provides the “meat” of the meal. An alternative is to fry the tempeh in spices or sauces to infuse flavor into thin strips or small pieces.
Tempeh can be an ingredient in pasta dishes, curries or just about any other hot dish. It is a versatile diet food that benefits from a solid, stable texture: cooks can cut it up without worrying about it falling apart, which is not true for some other options like silky tofu. It’s also less perishable than some other foods, although lots of experienced buyers recommend refrigerating it after opening the package.
All of the above makes tempeh an appealing addition to the menu for vegetarians and other “alternative eaters.” Think about trying out this innovative item the next time you’re searching for meatless meal options.