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.
What you need to make your own homemade tempeh
Tempeh is made using 3 ingredients: dry soybeans, vinegar, and tempeh starter.
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.
You can use white distilled vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or for the most traditional result, cane sugar vinegar.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Store in the fridge for up to 10 days.
- 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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