Making tempeh

Now that the summer holiday is over and school has started again, I should have time to sew again! Unfortunately I guess the summer bug has got me, it is so hot in my sewing room upstair that I prefer to stay downstair most of the time. I’m trying to make a dress right now with tie-dye fabric from my mother but the progress is sooooo slow for such a simple dress.

Tempe making
Homemade tempeh

Anyway I made something else. The hot temperature is actually perfect for fermentation! So I thought about trying to make my own tempeh. Tempeh is a fermented soy product, originally from Indonesia. It is high in protein, fiber, and vitamins. I usually deep-fried slices of tempeh after marinating them in garlic, coriander, salt, and water, but you can cook tempeh in various ways. It is even often used as a substitute for meat.

Sidra really likes fried tempeh and we often bought them from an Indonesian store in Shinokubo. But I always wanted to try making them myself so we can always have tempeh supplies at home. After researching my options (Google, of course), I ordered my tempeh starter from TopCultures, a company based in Belgium, which is pretty ironic since I was making a traditional Indonesian product in Japan.

Tempe making
300 gr dried soybeans, 2.5 tbsp of vinegar, 1/2 tsp tempeh starter

I used the instructions on this page to make my first batch. Instead of 600 g of dried soybeans, I only used 300 gr and half of everything else.

The dried soybeans need to be soaked overnight before they are splitted and dehulled. I found this to be the most difficult part. Some people crack the soybeans before soaking, using a mill. Since I don’t have a mill, I had to do the splitting (not cracking anymore as the soybeans had become softer) by hand.

I kinda like it thought, it felt like popping bubble wrap! You don’t want to stop, and keep looking for more. Maybe it’s just me though.


Tempe making Tempe making

After all the soybeans have been splitted and dehulled, the vinegar is added and they are cooked for 30 minutes. Then they are drained and left to cool off before the tempeh starter is added and mixed together. The soybeans have to be completely cooled off because heat will kill the fungus. I used ziplock bags as container. They were perforated at regular intervals with thick needles to allow breathing. Then the tempeh are stored in a warm place (about 30°C) for 36-48 hours.

After they were stored for fermentation, I took a peek every hour to check the progress. The first 12 hour, nothing seemed to happen to the beans, only the bags felt a little warm. Not knowing what to be expected, I began to feel a bit worried. But 36 hours later, they were already covered in white mould! I couldn’t believe that I was able to make my own tempeh!

Tempe making
After 36 hours of fermentation

I took them out of the bag, sliced them, and fried them immediately. They tasted so good! Sidra was ecstatic when he tasted them. He said they were the best tempeh in the world! He is such a picky eater and often refused to eat meat because he felt sorry for the animals, so I’m very happy that now we have an alternative protein source other than meat.

The two bags of tempeh disappeared faster than I thought, we fried them, marinade them in honey and pepper and microwaved them, and added them to spaghetti aglio. There are new batches already sitting in my cupboard now. My husband helped with the new batches because he was curious. I guess making tempeh will become our new routine!

Tempe making
Oooh fried tempeh…

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  • Earthly Chow

    I make my own – pretty similar process ->

    • verypurpleperson

      Oh my, they definitely look similar! This is the first time I know about Turron, look delicious!
      I’m sure they taste very different though. Tempeh is similar to tofu actually 😛

  • Thanks for sharing this! I went to Indonesia twice this year and I loaded my tummy with tempeh 🙂 Quite a surprise to see how easy is it to make one yourself. I’ve just put soybeans to soak. Can’t wait to eat my own tempeh!

  • vita

    Hi!I’ve been reading you for some months. Lovely blog!
    I hadn’t ever heard about tempeh, but just after reading your blog I found it in a vegan restaurant. It tastes good! Maybe I try making the recipe =)

  • looks great! hasilnya cantik Mbak, putih, bersih…kebayang juga rasanya pasti enak, jauh lebih enak dari frozen tempeh. ahhh tempe memang top! pengen coba bikin juga ah pakai tempeh starter dari top culture. selama ini berkali-kali bikin pakai ragi warisan teman yang pulang ke indonesia, cuma 2 kali berhasil 🙁 padahal susah cari tempe yang fresh di sini. biasanya pesan dari okubo, harus nunggu dan mahal karena musti belanja yang lain juga untuk memenuhi kuota supaya ongkos kirimnya gratis 😀

  • tempeh and tahu goreng/bakar were my veggie staples in bandung! and tempeh is quite expensive here. am seriously considering trying this. lots of thanks for the post x

  • Oh dear! I soooo want to do this!!!! And I’m from Belgium, so I could get that tempeh starter here I guess 🙂
    I’m a vegetarian most of the time, but I haven’t found tempeh I like here. I usually eat tofu, vegetable or nut burgers or seitan. I think it’s cute your son is so considerate of animals at such a young age.
    Do you think it is possible to use non-plastic containers though? I don’t like the idea of heating up food in plastic…

    • verypurpleperson

      In Indonesia, people usually use banana leaf as the container. They also make the tempeh smells and tastes better in my opinion. Maybe you can use other wide leaf if banana leaf is not available 🙂
      Anyway, I have never eaten seitan and am very curious about them!

  • Sheila

    I’d really like to try this. I have to look for a tempeh starter though. Thanks for sharing how you make your homemade tempeh. Looks really simple to follow.

  • Martina

    Hallo Novita,
    as I don’t like eating and drinking products from animals (so your son is in best company), I am very interessted in your “tempeh fabrication instruction” and, of course, I didn’t know how to prepare/serve it, up to now.
    Is it something like tofu or does is taste different? Here in Germany you can buy tofu in every super market, but I never have seen tempeh or tasted it?
    Greetings from Germany, Martina

    • verypurpleperson

      Hi Martina,
      although tempeh and tofu are both made from soy beans, they taste differently. Tempeh is firm, chewy, and has a slight nutty taste. It also has more fiber than tofu because the beans stay intact. There are many ways to cook tempeh, but you can use it as a substitute for meat. A quick search on google will reveal many recipes that use tempeh 🙂

  • OOOOHHH…Thanks so much for this post. I’ve been wondering how to make my own tempeh for a while now. Can’t wait to try!

  • Your tempeh looks beautiful! My mom used to make tempeh. As kids, it was our job to do the splitting and dehulling by hand when we got home from school. When we moved to Ottawa, my parents found a farmer outside the city who used to sell split and dehulled soybeans in 25kg bags. Then we made lots of tempeh and my mom even started selling it.

    • verypurpleperson

      Sounds like fun! I wish I can find split and dehulled beans here. It was fun splitting and dehulling 300 gr of soybeans, but I’m not sure about 25 kg of beans 😀

  • Very interesting! I’ve never heard of tempeh before, but it does look nice! I’ve made my own yogurt before from milk and a bit of yogurt, (it is something that once you have started you have to keep going so you don’t run out of yogurt to make the new batch…) and was pretty thrilled with myself when it worked.

    • verypurpleperson

      I know how it feels! I can make food from something that looks like biology experiment! So unbelievable 🙂

  • Oh my goodness! Tempeh is my ultimate favourite. I have to confess that everytime I visit my Indonesian friend’s home here in Germany, I eat A LOT of tempeh. Just because they have a deep fryer and they do it so well!

    I’ve been obsessed about pickling things with this hot weather too!

  • This was so interesting! I’d kinda like to give it a go, it seems like fun… I was so pleased with myself when I managed to make yogurt out of milk and a tablespoon of older yoghurt.
    Friends of ours serve lupini beans at when we go to dinner at their house and you pop them out of cases to eat them, and it’s addictive, and tasty… you should see if you can get hold of a jar of lupini!

    • verypurpleperson

      I’ve never heard of lupini beans before! Sounds so interesting, I even like the name. I should try looking for them here 🙂

  • Look so yummy.. thanks for the info.
    I love tempe.
    I think i should try to make it before summer end and keep it in my refrigerator for half year 😛
    Last time i bought it was on winter and it taste so bad so decided to not buy it anymore.

    • verypurpleperson

      I think you can make it in winter too and store them in box with heating device so they are always fresh 🙂

  • thanks to the large indonesian community in Philly i could eat tempeh every day if i want to, but perhaps i should try making some. sounds like fun! congrats~

  • That is brilliant! I would love to make my own tempeh and was a little worried I would grow the wrong kind of mould on it. Thanks for including the link to the starter supplier!

  • Edamommy

    Awesome! I’m going to have to make some now – I love tempeh, and that doesn’t look as hard as I thought. ^_^ Thanks for the post!

    • Aline

      mmm. tempeh in banana leaves is the ultima snack i miss it, but make it now myself, get my starter at nice people, tempeh is white and i used bananaleaves.

      • leo

        Weren’t they selling salmonella tainted tempeh starter last year?