Introduction: Tempeh

Picture of Tempeh

Tempeh is a mycelium food like "Quorn" it is the underground part of a mushroom so this is not so much cooking as growing.

It can be eaten raw, but normally is used as an ingredient

Tempeh has been made for a long time in the Far east, it is not easily available and it is expensive to buy and cheap to make. It is an unusual food, it is not much like anything else.

If you want to have a go, you need to get some mycelium spores, I get mine over the internet from Erik at there are some excellent recipes on that website as well, I recommend tempeh with tahini.

If you want to scare your friends after they have eaten it and made lots of nice compliments you can tell them that it's "mouldy beans" which is almost true.

Step 1: Soak the Beans

Picture of Soak the Beans

Put the soy beans in a bowl and add water to cover and add a bit of vinegar, soak overnight.

I use organic soy beans, these are smaller than the beans that are grown in the Americas.

Nearly all the soy beans grown in the Americas are now Genetically Modified to allow them to be weed killer resistant, personally, I like my food as natural as possible with as few residual pesticides and herbicides as possible, eating part of a plant that has been deliberately sprayed with poison seems counter intuitive to me.

You can make as big or small a batch as you like, this is just a 1lb/500g bag.

Step 2: De Husking

Picture of De Husking

Now we need to remove some (most) of the husks from the beans.

There are lots of ways of doing this.

I spread a few beans on a clean tea towel

Spread them out, and wrap them up

Then using a rolling pin, pop the beans, once you have done it a few times it is not so hard. You don't want to crush them to little bits or leave them whole. Of course a few remain whole and a few get crushed, but most want to be split in two.

Step 3: Remove the Skins

Picture of Remove the Skins

I float my skins off, like winnowing wheat only, its beans and water, not grain and air.

It takes several fills of water to get it mainly beans. Use a clean sink, you can scoop them up and have another go if you make a mess of it.

I stir the beans up and pour the water out whilst it swirls the skins up.

Step 4: Part Cook the Beans

Picture of Part Cook the Beans

Now we add some water and a dash of vinegar (a couple of table spoons in a couple of litres) and part cook the beans. Soy beans normally take a couple of hours, but these beans will get only 40 minutes.

The acid from the vinegar helps prevent any unwanted contamination and optimises conditions for the growth of tempeh.

They need a little skimming as the water get a bit scummy.

Once they are cooked, we drain them and put them.

Step 5: Prepare to Inoculate

Picture of Prepare to Inoculate

We need to get the beans just right to inoculate them.

Drained is not dry enough, so we put them back on the heat and heat them for a few minutes to drive off more water.

Once they are dry enough, leave them to cool. I put a lid half on them, without a lid, they dry out completely, with the lid on they go soggy.

Step 6: Prepare Some Bags While the Beans Cool

Picture of Prepare Some Bags While the Beans Cool

Some lucky people can get hold of perforated cling film, I can't so I perforate plastic bags.

Fold the bag up, and then pierce it, you need something thicker than a needle, to do it. I am using a corn cob holder and getting 2 holes for the price of one!

I like to have the bags filled to about one third of their capacity, and fold it so as to make a nice slab about 1.5 inches (40mm) thick.

If you don't use all the bags this time you can use them next time.

Step 7: Inoculate and Bag

Picture of Inoculate and Bag

The beans need to cool to around body temperature, 86F/30C is the goal.

We don't want to stick our fingers in or anything that is not really clean as it may have other fungi spore on it and it might ruin our tempeh. I just feel the outside of the pan.

Working with 1lb (500g) of beans, I take a teaspoon of starter and sprinkle it over and stir it in. I normally do 2 half spoons and stir twice. You can use less starter, but you run the risk of not getting a good mix and getting areas that are not well covered. The starter is not expensive, so I don't skimp on it.

It is really important to mix it in well, otherwise you might get bald spots in your tempeh where the mycelium has not grown.

Once really well mix, put it in the bag(s) when you start out, you might want to use a couple of bags and try incubating them in different places. I fold the bag back over the contents to make a slab about 1.5 inches (40mm) thick.

Step 8: Incubate It

Picture of Incubate It

Now we have our beans, inoculated and bagged, all we need to do is to put it somewhere warm (Ideal is 86F/30C) for 24-48 hours for the mycelium to grow.

I have made myself a rather fancy incubator, using and old fridge, a thermostat and a light bulb. but you don't need to do this, you can do it in the airing cupboard.

Having an incubator and controlling the temperature get me tempeh in 24 hours

The main reasons for it going wrong are keeping it too warm and not mixing enough.

Step 9: Harvesting

Picture of Harvesting

When the inside of the bag is white and solid, your tempeh are ready. If you leave it too long, black spots appear, these are not a problem, they just don't look as nice. If you leave it a long time, you make "over ripe" tempeh which has a different taste and you either love it or hate it.

You now need to cool it down, it will keep on growing unless you do. Put it in the fridge and let it cool. Once in the fridge it will keep for a week with no problems, you can also freeze it.

There are two main problems you might encounter.

1/ Beans that go slimy and smelly, this tends to happen if the tempeh gets too hot during incubation. It is the result of bacteria, apparently whilst smelly it is non toxic, I still throw it when this happens.

2/ Sporation, the life cycle of the mycelium is to grow and then when it has filled the area available to reproduce, to reproduce it makes spores, these are black. There is NOTHING wrong with this, the tempeh is still fine. Indeed some people prefer their tempeh "very ripe" and it has a different flavour.

I have NEVER experienced any fungal contamination, however should you find any unusual growth, then it would make sense to be better safe than sorry and ditch it.

So you can see what sporated tempeh looks like, I have allowed some to get "ripe" so you can know what to expect. Some people prefer their tempeh very ripe, sporation is not a fault, it is not bad.

Sporation naturally happens towards the end of incubation, everything should be white in the early stages, the green/blue/black dusty spores only develop at the end.

Mixing well helps avoid development of mycelium at different rates and gets you even growth and helps avoid one end sporating whist the other not getting fully colonised.

Step 10: Advanced Tempeh

Picture of Advanced Tempeh

There are lots of other types of Tempeh that can be made.

Soy Bean tempeh is one of the safest foods going, manufacturers in the USA claim there have been no recorded cases of food poisoning.

Using a starter formulated for grains, the most unusual thing I have made is tempeh from wholewheat pasta spirals.

The normal protocol is to mix Soy beans with additives, rice, grains, sunflower seeds and so on.

There are a couple of notable really exotic versions; tempeh bongkrek, is made from coconut presscake or the residue from homemade coconut milk. This tempeh is noted because it is one of the few types of tempeh that can get infected and become poisonous. Is now illegal to make or sell it in Java, yet it's popularity endures as despite it's illegality it is still made.

Corn based tempeh can also get contaminated and be poisonous.

I suggest you get ordinary soy bean tempeh mastered and exercise some caution when experimenting with other substrates.


SophiesFoodieFiles (author)2016-10-19

Waw, that is a whole lot of work too! But so worth it, I see! Yummm!

valriendeau (author)2015-09-03

Where can you find an incubator? I can't find one anywhere online :'(

YYC Cultures (author)valriendeau2015-11-15

You do not need an incubator to do this. Think about it this way; Tempeh originate from warm climate Indonesia where people do not have left over refrigerators for fancy side projects like we tend to do in NA. Just make sure it's not too warm and not too cold and life will do its thing.

B Takes a Bite (author)2015-01-08

Great instructable! Thanks... Can't wait to start!

pmuhammad dwi (author)2014-03-22

you might want add some air hole in your plastic bag to let it breathe,

plus try incubating your tempeh till it gets black, chop your tempeh without its plastic bag and mix with flour in clean condition... voila! your own tempeh starter

and you can try with different plastic bag too...

brucedenney (author)2012-01-04

Just to let you know has started offering FREE samples again!

Don't know how long it will last, so get some quick,

Veganlady (author)2011-11-10

Awesome. I've really been wanting to make my own tempeh for a while. Its so expensive to buy!

oldfieldcycles (author)2010-02-26

ziplock brand makes bags that have holes already in then, i think that they are for produce and thats what i get.

Do you know if/where they available in the UK?

mrtempeh (author)2010-03-28

HI there,
I have a Tempeh making business in Australia and I sell D.I.Y Tempeh kits worldwide, everything included, 3 pages of detailed instructions, video link for visual support and a chatgroup for Q+A.
pls checkout for competitive pricing and great service, our main business is MAKING tempeh , we promote and encourage people to make their own, thanks Amita

btw great website you have!

sahat (author)2008-12-16

Hi, I think the correct spelling should be "Tempe", it was a common food for javanese and I think it was quite tasty and like MerleCorey said need to be careful since it can become poisonous if you done it wrong

AidanG (author)sahat2008-12-17

In the US, it is always spelled "tempeh" - Tempe is a city in Arizona. :) (author)AidanG2009-04-15

No offence, but the Americans have a tendency to spell things wrong... sulfur...sulPHur, lol

brucedenney (author)sahat2008-12-18

According to Wikipedia, both spellings are recognised, so everyone is correct.

din_gen (author)2009-03-22

Hi, here in Malaysia we can find it easily everywhere in the market with a very cheap price. It's good for you to show it here if it's too hard to find at your place. A good protein for us.

erna (author)2008-12-31

I am trying to make an incubator by using old refrigerator. Do you have an instruction on how to build it? Where do you put the thermometer, so that it is easy to know the inside temperature without opening the refrigerator door? Thank you kindly in advance.

brucedenney (author)erna2009-01-02

It could be an instructable in it's own right. I used a room thermostat to turn the light bulb on and off, (it was my old one from the central heating in my house). You want to put the thermostat at the top, as hot air rises. You want to put the heater (light bulb) at the bottom. I think putting it to one side might have helped, create better convection currents to stir the air up, I experimented with hotter, higher wattage bulbs and they seem to stir the air better. The thermostat keeps the incubator at the right temperature so you don't need to see a thermometer from outside. I have a couple of thermometers screwed to the inside of the door and one with a hygrometer as well. I check it when I set it up and then leave it alone the thermostat is not very accurate. The Hygrometer is handy for drying stuff. When using it to dry stuff, I tend to put an electric fan in (and open the door a crack). It is a good bit of kit well worth making, Right now it is being used brewing some mead.

Grandma Jeanne (author)2008-12-29

I love tempeh, get it at the Co-op but would love to grow my own. Very nice Instructable, thank you for your efforts. Please provide clarification on step 7 please? You're photo shows what appear to be two different types of starters. Your instructions say, "Working with 1lb (500g) of beans, I take a teaspoon of starter and sprinkle it over and stir it in. " Which starter do you mean? Also are both types of starter needed and can they both be ordered from the website you mention?

The starter you use, depends on the substrate you are growing the Tempeh on, mixed or plain soy. I am pretty sure both types of starter are still available to order even if the mixed one is not show, just ask, they are very helpful.

aeray (author)2008-12-17

This would be a great 'ible, if you added a little bit more info, like quantities, cooking times, and suitable type of beans. I've recently been making a lot of kimchee and saurkraut, and I just made a starter culture of aspergillus oryziiae to make a batch of sake. Tempeh will be next.

brucedenney (author)aeray2008-12-18

Good, point, I have gone back and updated it to have quantities, times and some info on the types of beans I use.

aeray (author)brucedenney2008-12-18

Excellent. Also, check out the book "Wild Fermentation" by Sandor Katz.

MerleCorey (author)2008-12-16

this is great i want to see more people growing edible fungus in their homes i have done this with button mushrooms, but it can be dangerous, depending on how hearty the strain you are growing is, make sure to tell people that if there is any discoloration to throw it out, it could be a colony of bad stuff eating your mushroom bean food.

brucedenney (author)MerleCorey2008-12-17

If you allow the tempeh to over ripen it does get black spots and it is still fine to eat, indeed it is a different flavour, which is loved by some.

MerleCorey (author)brucedenney2008-12-17

the problem is not with the tempeh Mycelium becoming over ripe, it is with potential contamination. Think about it this way, you buy tempeh spores and clean a substrate for them to eat (beans) the spores like to eat clean substrate because it is more or less sterile, with no competing organisms, BUT, competing fungus will favor this sterile enviroment as well and any ANY discoloration could be a different type of organism thriving in your substrate, something very bad could grow in there too along with the tempeh.

brucedenney (author)MerleCorey2008-12-17

I have eaten the very black, heavily sporated tempeh and I can see why some people like it like that although it is not my personal taste. Sporation is not anything to worry about. Black spots are fine and if you like it that way going fully overripe and totally black is fine too. I would hate people to be throwing away perfectly good sporated tempeh imagining it to be contaminated. Obviously, if you had a clump of something different looking, then that could be a contaminant, I have never seen contamination, but I guess it could happen, Everyone should use common sense.

jongscx (author)brucedenney2008-12-17

I would have to agree with merle here, especially since this is a beginner's instructable. Throwing out a good batch of tempe would be pretty bad, but not as bad as a hospital trip from eating a huge clump of black mold. I think it should be more of a side note, as opposed to a primary instruction, stating that "Once they have gained enough experience... " then they should broaden out. We did shitake and oyster, and tried straw a while back. You really needed to be either really observant or have done a lot before you knew the difference between good mushroom and contamination...

brucedenney (author)jongscx2008-12-18

I have never had contamination with any of my Soy Bean Tempeh. I have added a picture of some sporated tempeh so people can see what to expect. Perfect solid white tempeh is not that easy to make, and not what most first timers will get. Sporation is normal and to be expected.

nagutron (author)2008-12-16

Hi. Great Instructable. I was wondering where you get your starter.

brucedenney (author)nagutron2008-12-17
riccolesmana (author)2008-12-16

it's Indonesian food ..
i'd like it so much

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