How to Cook Tempeh

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Many people have heard of tempeh, but how many actually know what it is or How to Cook Tempeh?

Sliced tempeh on wooden board with cup of marinade in background

Often tempeh is considered a strange food that may leave you scratching your head trying to figure out what exactly to do with it. These are some great tips for cooking tempeh, along with delicious recipes to give it a try.

I’ve written more about tempeh for the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.


What is tempeh?

Although it may be new to the West, tempeh is a vegetarian fermented soy food that has been eaten in Asia for hundreds of years and has only recently gained notice and growing in popularity in the U.S.

It is made by fermenting cooked soybeans and then forming the mixture into a firm patty or cake.

Tempeh can be used as a meat substitute in stir-fries and other recipes and has a nutty mushroomy flavor. It can be steamed, sautéed, or baked and is often marinated to add even more flavor. Cooking tempeh is easy and delicious.

Soy has been found to have many nutritional benefits, so we include it as often as possible.

Nutrition in tempeh

A 3-ounce serving of tempeh has a whopping 16 grams of protein and contains about 8% of the recommended daily amount of both calcium and iron.

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Preparing tempeh

Most prepackaged tempeh is ready to be sliced, crumbled or chopped, and used as a replacement in recipes that call for meat.

Fresh tempeh with slices on white background ready to cook tempeh bacon
A 3 oz serving of tempeh is packed with 16 grams of protein!

Some recipes call for steaming tempeh in hot water for a few minutes to soften it before using another cooking method to finish it.

I have personally done this in the past to make sure that the tempeh didn’t have a bitter taste, but now I find that it is not necessary.

Though I no longer steam my tempeh, if you decide you would like to steam yours before using, these are the steps to follow:

Tofu steaming instructions

Start by removing tempeh from the packaging.

Bring a pot of water to a boil or simmer, depending on how soft you want the tempeh to be. Hotter water will result in softer tempeh.

Place a steaming basket into the pot, then put the entire block of tempeh in the steam basket.

Steam it for approximately 10 minutes.

Remove the tempeh and pat it dry.

Now it is ready to be sliced or crumbled.

Tempeh marinade

Tempeh picks up flavors well, and marinating it is a very common way to punch up its flavor before cooking.  Marinade ingredients for a sauce I use called Asian Sauce include the following:

soy sauce marinate in bowl with tempeh in background

Another option, other than a marinade, is using dry seasoning of any combination of spices. Herbs like paprika, turmeric, coriander, cilantro, oregano or others can add delightful flavor to tempeh.

For more great marinade ideas, check out my Stir Fry Sauces page.

Methods for cooking tempeh

So how long do you cook tempeh? Keep in mind that tempeh doesn’t even have to be cooked. It can be eaten raw and has the texture of an uncooked mushroom. However, if you do decide to cook it, these methods work well.

Baking – Line a baking sheet with parchment paper to keep it from sticking. Place the tempeh pieces in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 20 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned and crispy.

Sauteing- In a skillet on the stove, heat a few tablespoons of vegetable broth or marinade. When it is good and hot, place the tempeh strips in the pan. Cook them on one side for about 3 minutes, until they turn golden brown and crispy, then flip the pieces and cook them on the other side.

tempeh bacon in non stick pan on white background

Healthy vegan tempeh recipes

Crumbled, sliced, or cubed, tempeh can be added to any dish to create delicious flavor and texture. Below are some of our favorites.

Smoked Tempeh Bacon

smoked tempeh bacon in non stick pan

Smoked Tempeh Bacon is delicious for breakfast or on a sandwich. My adult daughter loves this recipe so when she is visiting, I always try to make it for her.


Easy Barbecue Tempeh

white plate with bbq tempeh strips and antique fork
Easy BBQ Tempeh. Click photo to see the full recipe.

This Easy BBQ Tempeh is a very simple, finger-lickin’ dish that is fabulous on the grill, baked in the oven, or even slow-cooked in a crockpot. Leftovers make great sandwiches and burritos.


Sweet & Sour Tempeh

sweet and sour tempeh
Sweet and Sour Tempeh. Click photo to see the full recipe.

How do you cook a tempeh stir fry? It’s really this easy.

This Sweet and Sour Tempeh Stir Fry is a quick and easy recipe that will be ready in less than 30 minutes. It’s a savory dish that is delicious served over rice or your favorite grain.


Smoked Tempeh Sandwich

smoked tempeh sandwich
Smoked Tempeh Sandwich. Click photo to see the full recipe.

Smoked Tempeh Sandwich is such a filling meal that keeps me full for hours. I load my sandwich with lettuce and fresh spinach leaves, and delicious eggless, low-fat Vegan Mayonnaise that can be made with 5 simple ingredients and a blender.


Vegan Mayonnaise Recipe

vegan mayo in glass jar with tomatoes in background on wooden table
Low-fat vegan mayonnaise is great on sandwiches and in other dishes like mashed potatoes and potato salad. Low-Fat Vegan Mayo in only 5-minutes!


Where can you buy tempeh?

Like tofu, tempeh is often carried by mainstream grocery stores in the produce section. In some parts of the world, it may only be available in Asian markets or health food stores.

It is usually in a vacuum-sealed package and is sometimes even pre-marinated with different flavors, such as smoked flavor for making bacon.

Tempeh does have to stay refrigerated, so it will always be found in a refrigerator section of any store.

Be sure to check out our Tempeh Recipes page for more great recipes. Cooking tempeh is so deliciously healthy and easy!


About Terri Edwards

Hi guys! I am the content creator behind EatPlant-Based and a licensed Food for Life instructor with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. I am passionate about sharing healthy recipes and tips to empower others to get healthy.  I’m so glad you’re here! Read More…

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