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Want to Eat More Plant-Based Protein? Try Tempeh

Here's how to shop, prep, and cook tempeh.

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When it comes to plant-based proteins, tempeh is taking the alt-meat world by storm. Tempeh is made from whole soybeans that are soaked, cooked, slightly fermented, and then pressed into a firm patty. Sometimes items like buckwheat and brown rice are included in the mix. With lots of umami and a subtle nutty flavor, figuring out how to eat tempeh is as simple as building a Buddha bowl.

The nutritional profile should leave you tempted to reach for tempeh. For starters, it’s a great source of plant-based protein: A 3-ounce serving delivers nearly 20 grams, which is more than tofu. A study in JAMA Internal Medicine found that adults who ate the most plant-based protein over 20 years were 16% less likely to die from cardiovascular causes, compared with those who ate the least. Because it’s fermented, tempeh can provide your gut with immune-boosting beneficial probiotics. It also delivers a wide range of vital nutrients like B vitamins, phosphorus, and magnesium. And it has one thing you won’t get from animal-based protein: plenty of heart-healthy, hunger-slaying fiber.


Look for tempeh in the refrigerated section of supermarkets and natural food stores, near where tofu and other meat alternatives are found. It comes in plain as well as flavored versions, including smoked and maple. When choosing the latter, look for options with the least amount of added sweeteners.


If you’re unfamiliar, learning how to eat tempeh may be intimidating. But cooking with tempeh is actually pretty simple. It soaks up flavors beautifully, so try marinating it just as you would other proteins, and then grill, bake, pan-fry, or stir-fry. For your marinade, try a mixture of soy sauce, cider vinegar, maple syrup, paprika, and a touch of liquid smoke. Use cooked tempeh in power bowls, salads, sandwiches, and tacos. Or crumble a block with the large holes of a box grater and use the grounds to make a meat-free chili, veggie burgers, or a Bolognese for pasta night.

Make It Last

Unopened tempeh can last several weeks in the fridge. Once opened, though, wrap it tightly and chill for no more than five days.


Tempeh’s texture is meaty enough to make it a good stand-in for beef in vegan recipes, this like Vegan Reuben Sandwich.