Tag Archives: Tempeh

Homemade Tempeh Recipe | Daily Cooking Quest

If you are like me, who loves cooking and coming from Indonesia, then I am willing to bet that you must miss tempeh. Sure some groceries (at least the fancier ones) start to carry them, but they are expensive, and somehow none tastes like Indonesian tempeh. So, if you have been meaning to try making homemade tempeh, I have the just the perfect guide for you.

Homemade tempeh guide: (1) Measure dry soybeans. (2) Soak soybeans in cold water for 12 hours. (3) & (4) Dehull the soybeans.

What you need to make your own homemade tempeh

Tempeh is made using 3 ingredients: dry soybeans, vinegar, and tempeh starter.

Soybeans

The better the quality of your soybeans, the more delicious and higher quality your tempeh will be. So if possible, choose non-GMO and certified organic soybeans. They should have a yellow color, uniform in size, and about as big as frozen peas.

Vinegar

You can use white distilled vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or for the most traditional result, cane sugar vinegar.

Tempeh starter

There are several options when it comes to tempeh starter, but ultimately I chose Wira Brand tempeh starter, which comes from an Indonesian company since I really want to recreate Indonesian tempeh.

Also, the quantity of starter in this recipe is developed based on this starter, so if you want to use a starter from another brand, proceed at your own risk.

Homemade tempeh guide: (1) Boil the dehulled soybeans. (2) Dry soybeans with a kitchen towel. (3) Mix soybeans with white distilled vinegar and tempeh starter. (4) Transfer soybeans to a ziplock bag and use a toothpick to poke the bag with holes.

Homemade tempeh guide: (1) Boil the dehulled soybeans. (2) Dry soybeans with a kitchen towel. (3) Mix soybeans with white distilled vinegar and tempeh starter. (4) Transfer soybeans to a ziplock bag and use a toothpick to poke the bag with holes.

Aside from ingredients, here is the list of tools that I use when making homemade tempeh:

  • a mixing bowl, a 3-quart is the right size for this recipe
  • a stockpot, mine is a 5-quart pot and I think it’s the perfect size
  • a fine-mesh skimmer, to scoop out potential scums while boiling
  • a colander/strainer
  • a baking pan, I use my half-sheet pan, this is to spread out and dry the boiled beans, this one is not a must, but it’s just nice to have a proper vessel
  • a kitchen towel/flour sack, this is needed to dry the boiled beans
  • a quart-size ziplock bag, to hold the tempeh, though traditionally we use banana leaves for this
  • a toothpick/skewer, to poke holes to the ziplock bag so the spores can breath
  • a proofer, I have a Brod & Taylor folding proofer to culture my tempeh. It’s super easy to use, simply set the temperature to 31 Celsius (88 Fahrenheit), place the bag of soybeans, and let it culture away for 24 hours. I have never needed more than 24 hours to get a perfectly set tempeh with this proofer.

Make sure that every piece of your equipment is clean, especially so for the ones after the beans finished cooking. Dirty equipments and tools may not only increase the failure of the entire process but more importantly, may spoil the tempeh and make them highly unsuitable for consumption.

After 24 hours in the proofer, the tempeh should be properly set and fully cultured.

After 24 hours in the proofer, the tempeh should be properly set and fully cultured.

How to culture tempeh in an oven

Obviously, most of you who read this article won’t have a Brod & Taylor folding proofer. If you still want to give this a go, you can try making your homemade tempeh inside your oven.

  • Place an oven thermometer in your oven.
  • Don’t turn on your oven heat, the door closed, and turn on the oven lamp.
  • After a while (20-30 minutes), make sure the thermometer register 31 Celsius (88 Fahrenheit).
  • If your oven lamp can make your oven reach the desired temperature, then you can just culture your tempeh in your oven, lights on, oven off, door closed.

Most likely the temperature in the oven will be way below 31 Celsius (88 Fahrenheit), and more likely to be around 26 Celsius (78 Fahrenheit). Fret not, it should work.

Traditionally in Indonesia, we culture tempeh in whatever the ambient temperature is with no special proofer/temperature controlling equipment. A 26 Celsius (78 Fahrenheit) is on the cooler side of the day, and 31 Celsius (88 Fahrenheit) is more in the warmer range.

So the lower temperature should work, but be extra patient, since your tempeh may need 36-48 hours to set! Just be ready to not using your oven for that long.

Remove the tempeh from its ziplock bag, then cut it open. Look at how the white spores hold the tempeh beautifully in a solid block.

Remove the tempeh from its ziplock bag, then cut it open. Look at how the white spores hold the tempeh beautifully in a solid block.

Having trouble dehulling your soybeans to make tempeh?

The biggest time sink that people always grumbling about when making homemade tempeh is not the long culture time, but the ungodly time it takes to dehull the soybeans.

I admit it was relaxing and therapeutic for the first, oh, maybe two times. But repeatedly, it can be soul-sucking and will send you to the internet to search for help!

Here are my two solutions and feel free to choose whichever one you prefer:

1. Set a timer to 30 minutes.

Knead, massage, and dehull the soybeans as best as you can for 30 minutes. You should get the majority of the beans dehulled, and so far, this has yet to fail me.

Confession time, my first two times, I stood and kneaded and massaged and dehulled until I was 100% certain I got every fr!@#ing bean dehulled and that took me like 2 hours!

No more. It’s super unnecessary. But you do need to dehull, or the starter won’t be able to penetrate the beans and your tempeh will never set.

2. Grab your food processor/blender.

If you want an even faster way, once your soybeans have finish soaking. Place the beans and just enough water to cover them in your food processor/blender, give a quick pulse (I count to 3), and then start dehulling.

Now even 5 minutes of dehulling should get rid of the majority of the skins! But you need to accept that the beans will not look nice and intact, they are still tasty though, so it’s still a win in the end.

Is dehulling soybeans necessary?

Now we know that by dehulling, the starter will be able to penetrate the beans and start to culture them into tempeh.

But as long as the skins are not attached, or the skins are bruised and thus the beans are exposed, the starter will still be able to do its job. So even if you cannot 100% remove the skins from your final product, those will just become additional fiber for you to consume, totally not a deal-breaker.

You will hear testimonies or anecdotes that skins in tempeh will make it tastes bad, but so far, each and everyone that I have made tasted the same. And I will be the first to admit that there is just no way to remove 100% of of the skins from your tempeh, so it’s just not true in my opinion. As long as the tempeh set, enjoy them, skins and all.

To prepare tempeh for cooking, I usually cut them into thin slices like this.

To prepare tempeh for cooking, I usually cut them into thin slices like this.

How long can I store my homemade tempeh?

If you are reading this part, then congratulations on your successful attempt at homemade tempeh! Once they are set, you can immediately cook the tempeh and enjoy their nutty flavor. But if you make multiple batches, you may want to store them for later.

  1. Store in the fridge for up to 10 days.
  2. Store in the freezer for up to 10 months.

Remember that the ziplock bag has holes right? So before storing, either store them in a bigger ziplock bag (like a gallon-size bag), or wrap each individually with a saran wrap. You really don’t want all your hard work goes to waste from contamination and lead to spoilage during storage.

To use frozen tempeh, I simply take them out from the freezer and thaw in the fridge overnight. Once thawed, you can proceed to use them in your favorite recipe. Or you can try some of my tempeh recipes:

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Kering Tempeh – Fried Tempeh with Sweet and Spicy Glace Recipe

Kering Tempeh – Fried Tempeh with Sweet and Spicy Glace

If you visit a Javanese restaurant, you will probably see kering tempeh among the many side dishes that you can order. Some places sell these in jars or packaged plastic bags, a great thing to stock at home since a couple of spoonful of this can perk up your humble steamed rice.

With this recipe, you can recreate said kering tempeh in your home. (Read: no need to smuggle some packages of kering tempeh anymore whenever you visit Indonesia! :D)

If you like having nasi uduk for breakfast, I highly recommend a side dish of kering tempeh and telur dadar gulung. ♥

Ingredients to prepare kering tempeh: tempeh, tamarind, garlic, shallot, galangal, fresno chlies, kaffir lime leaves, palm sugar, salt, and coriander.

Ingredients to prepare kering tempeh: tempeh, tamarind, garlic, shallot, galangal, fresno chlies, kaffir lime leaves, palm sugar, salt, and coriander.

Learn how to make homemade tempeh

Back when I was still in college, which was … err … a while ago, tempeh is not something you can buy in the US. Nowadays, it is more common to see tempeh in grocery stores, though not as widespread as I would like.

I still love making my own tempeh at home, and if you are feeling adventurous, you can try making your own homemade tempeh with my homemade tempeh recipe.

If you do buy your tempeh from grocery stores, please choose the ones made from soybeans as those are what we use in Indonesia.

What you need to prepare kering tempeh

Aside from tempeh, you will need the following ingredients to prepare kering tempeh: palm sugar, tamarind, red chilies, shallots, garlic, kaffir lime leaves, Indonesian bay leaves (daun salam), galangal, coriander powder, and salt.

For palm sugar, you can buy either the block version or the granulated version.

For tamarind, I usually buy wet seedless tamarind and add water to make tamarind paste as needed.

For red chilies, choose the spiciness level you can tolerate. My favorite is red Fresno chilies. For a spicier option, choose cayenne or birds-eye chilies instead.

For shallots, you can use either smaller Asian/Chinese shallots or the regular French shallot.

Deep-fried tempeh sticks, spice paste (from shallot, garlic, galangal, and chilies), tamarind, palm sugar, salt, coriander, thinly sliced fresno chilies, and slivers of kaffir lime leaves.

Deep-fried tempeh sticks, spice paste (from shallot, garlic, galangal, and chilies), tamarind, palm sugar, salt, coriander, thinly sliced fresno chilies, and slivers of kaffir lime leaves.

First part: make deep-fried tempeh sticks

First, cut your fresh tempeh into 2-inch matchstick pieces.

Then, heat a pot of oil for deep-frying. I typically make sure there is at least 2 inches of oil. Wait until the oil is hot. If you have a bamboo chopstick (just save a pair when you have some Chinese takeout), you can lower one chopstick and if the oil bubbles around the chopstick, it is ready.

Next, deep fry tempeh until golden brown and crispy. If you have a small-ish pot, don’t crowd the pot, but deep fry the tempeh in batches.

Finally, once the tempeh sticks are all golden brown and crispy looking, scoop it up with a strainer (a fine mesh skimmer or a spider strainer is really the best tool for this) and set aside over a wire rack to remove excess oil.

Kering Tempeh - Fried Tempeh with Sweet and Spicy Glace.

Kering Tempeh – Fried Tempeh with Sweet and Spicy Glace.

Second part: make the sweet and spicy glace

Once you have deep-fried your tempeh, it is time to make the sauce. Make sure your prep work is all done since this part will be super quick.

First, heat 2 tablespoon oil in a wok/frying pan over medium-high heat and fry the spice paste, coriander powder, thinly sliced red chilies, kaffir lime leaves slivers, and daun salam (if using) until fragrant. (~ 3 minutes)

Then, add palm sugar, salt, and tamarind paste. Stir and cook until everything boils and bubbles vigorously. (~ 2 minutes)

Finally, once the sauce looks thick, return the deep-fried tempeh sticks to the wok/frying pan, and toss gently until all the tempeh pieces are fully coated with the sauce.

Quickly turn off the heat, transfer tempeh to a serving plate and serve immediately.

Kering Tempeh - Fried Tempeh with Sweet and Spicy Glace.

Kering Tempeh – Fried Tempeh with Sweet and Spicy Glace.

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Tempeh Mendoan – Deep Fried Tempeh with Spiced Batter Recipe

Tempeh mendoan originates from the city of Purwokerto in Central Java, Indonesia. Most people consider tempeh mendoan as a snack, and is one of the more popular Indonesian street food, for good reason.

Imagine tempeh, coated with a layer of spiced batter, and deep-fried in hot oil until it develops a crispy, crunchy, and super savory skin.

When you take a bite into it, you are treated with a delightful texture contrast between the crispy skin and the soft and tender tempeh inside. And to make the experience over the top, you really don’t want to make this without the chili sauce!

Ingredients to prepare tempeh mendoan (deep fried tempeh with spiced batter).

Choose 100% soybeans tempeh to make tempeh mendoan

It is not a surprise that tempeh is the main ingredient to prepare tempeh mendoan.

I know that there are so many different varieties of tempeh being offered nowadays, but if you want authentic tempeh mendoan, please stick to Indonesian style tempeh, which is made from 100% soybeans.

And if you are adventurous, you can try your hands at making your very own homemade tempeh!

Tempeh Mendoan - Deep Fried Tempeh with Spiced Batter.

Tempeh Mendoan – Deep Fried Tempeh with Spiced Batter.

Ingredients to prepare tempeh mendoan

Aside from the 100% soybeans tempeh, you will need the following to make the spiced batter:

  • all-purpose flour
  • rice flour, this is the secret ingredient for crispy skin
  • grated garlic
  • thinly sliced scallions
  • coriander
  • salt
  • sugar

The accompanying chili sauce for your tempeh mendoan is very easy to make. You simply need:

  • kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)
  • minced garlic
  • thinly sliced red chilies, you can use Thai bird-eye chilies or Fresno chilies
Tempeh Mendoan - Deep Fried Tempeh with Spiced Batter.

Tempeh Mendoan – Deep Fried Tempeh with Spiced Batter.

Frying tempeh mendoan

Once you have everything, it is ready to finally fry some tempeh mendoan. So, let’s go over the steps:

1. Cut tempeh into thin slices

Unless I am in Indonesia, I usually use my own homemade tempeh. And I like to cut them into 12-16 thin slices. You want each slice to be more like a card than a stick!

2. Mix the spiced batter

Simply add all the spiced batter ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir it into a thick batter. It should resemble a slightly thicker pancake batter. Add some water (a tablespoon at a time), if you find the batter is too thick to stir.

3. Heat a pot of oil for deep frying

You will want at least 2 inches of oil. If you want to be precise, use a thermometer and start deep-frying once it reaches 170 Celsius/340 Fahrenheit.

For a no thermometer method, stick one bamboo chopstick into the hot oil, and if there are bubbles around the chopstick, the oil is ready.

4. Fry the tempeh

Coat each tempeh slice with the batter, and gently drop into the hot oil. Once the coat is golden brown, remove with a slotted spoon and drain over a wire rack.

Not too difficult right? Now you too can make some tempeh mendoan and enjoy these super tasty Indonesian snacks!

Tempeh Mendoan - Deep Fried Tempeh with Spiced Batter

Tempeh Mendoan – Deep Fried Tempeh with Spiced Batter

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Fried Tempeh with Chili Sauce Recipe

Indonesian fried tempeh with chili sauce.

For many Indonesians, tempeh is almost always fried one way or another. The simplest way to prepare and cook tempeh is to cut it into thin slices, lightly salt both sides, and pan-fry with a little oil until both sides are golden brown.

This recipe for fried tempeh with chili sauce is slightly more advance than a simple pan-frying, but it is using simple ingredients, and the extra effort is worth it. You will end up with crispy and crunchy tempeh, with a savory, sweet, sour, and spicy glace in every bite.

Ingredients for Indonesian fried tempeh with chili sauce: soybean tempeh, red chilies, ginger, lime juice, coconut palm sugar, and salt (not shown).

Ingredients for Indonesian fried tempeh with chili sauce: soybean tempeh, red chilies, ginger, lime juice, coconut palm sugar, and salt (not shown).

Ingredients for fried tempeh with chili sauce

This recipe needs soybean tempeh, ginger, red chilies, lime juice, coconut palm sugar, and salt.

Soybean tempeh

Indonesian tempeh is made from soybeans. You can buy tempeh from different beans or even a mixture of beans and grains in the US, but if you want an authentic Indonesian dish, please use soybean tempeh.

If your market doesn’t sell tempeh, making tempeh from scratch is a fun project. I have a homemade tempeh recipe that will guide you to make tempeh at home.

Coconut palm sugar

Palm sugar is called gula Jawa, gula aren, or gula kelapa. They are typically sold in blocks or cylinders. To use, you will need to cut the sugar with a sharp knife and chop it into smaller pieces. Nowadays, you can buy the granulated version too which is convenient.

Some good substitutes for Indonesian palm sugar are Malaysian gula Melaka, Thai palm sugar, coconut palm sugar, or even dark brown sugar.

Red chilies

I love using birds-eye chilies (Indonesian: cabe rawit) to make this dish, but they can be too spicy for people who are not used to eating a lot of chilies. For a milder dish, try using cayenne or Fresno instead.

If you are out of fresh red chilies, feel free to use dried red chilies too. Simply soak in hot water first until the chilies are soft before using them.

Cut tempeh into thin bite-size slices and deep fry in hot oil until golden brown and crispy.

Cut tempeh into thin bite-size slices and deep fry in hot oil until golden brown and crispy.

Frying thinly sliced tempeh

The key to crispy and crunchy tempeh is to slice them thinly and fry in hot oil.

First, fill a pot with about 2 inches of oil and heat on medium until the oil is hot. You can tell that the oil is ready when a piece of tempeh drop into the hot oil sizzles immediately.

Next, deep fry tempeh for about 5-7 minutes, or until they turn golden brown and crispy. Remove tempeh from hot oil and drain on a wire rack, a stainless steel strainer, or a paper towel.

Cook the chili sauce in a wok until thick and syrupy then toss in fried tempeh to coat.

Cook the chili sauce in a wok until thick and syrupy then toss in fried tempeh to coat.

Prepare the spicy chili sauce

The final part of this dish is to prepare the sauce to coat the fried tempeh.

Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok on medium-high heat, stir fry the ginger until fragrant, then add the chili, lime juice, salt, and coconut palm sugar. Cook until sugar turns to liquid and starts to bubble and caramelize.

Quickly return the fried tempeh into the wok, and gently toss until the sauce coats the tempeh evenly. Transfer tempeh to a serving plate and serve with steamed white rice.

Indonesian fried tempeh with chili sauce.

Indonesian fried tempeh with chili sauce.

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