As one of the most popular meat substitutes on the market, you must have heard about tempeh. However, you probably aren’t aware that tempeh is not new at all; it originated thousands of years ago in Indonesia.
Like tofu, tempeh is made from fermented soybean. It arose from the islands of Indonesia and is now a staple in the Indonesian diet. Tempeh is an ingredient found in many Asian cuisines and today, it is found in the Western culture as part of vegan and vegetarian diets. It serves as a great substitute for meat.
Tempeh’s rise to fame comes from its impressive nutritional composition, earthy flavor, and desirable firm, meaty texture. You’ll find tempeh pieces in many popular plant-based meals due to its textural and nourishing properties. It is very versatile and works great in a range of delicious recipes, such as vegan pasta sauces, burgers, and bowls.
There are many ways you can cook tempeh. It can be grilled, steamed, baked, etc. However, many wonder if they can eat their tempeh raw.
Let’s take a look at whether you can or can’t eat tempeh raw and discuss other related aspects. Then, maybe we’ll be able to save a couple of people from putting their health at risk.
Can You Eat Tempeh Raw?
Tempeh is a loved ingredient that gives you the freedom to be creative. It can be cooked in several different ways; most commonly, it is either fried, boiled, or steamed. However, a lot of confusion remains regarding whether it needs to be cooked or not. Does raw tempeh pose a foodborne illness concern?
Well, let’s discuss it a bit. The thing with the term “raw tempeh” is that it could have different meanings. Technically, the soybeans in tempeh are not raw.
Whether raw tempeh is a cause of health concern depends on if it has been pasteurized or not. Pasteurization is the partial sterilization of a food product to ensure its safety for consumption. Store-bought tempeh is often pasteurized; however, that is not always true.
Various companies produce unpasteurized tempeh. It is crucial to clearly identify whether your tempeh has been pasteurized or not, especially if you want to try it raw.
Tempeh can be eaten if it has been cooked or pasteurized. If you get store-bought pasteurized tempeh, you can sometimes eat it “raw” without the needing to cook it. On the other hand, unpasteurized tempeh needs to be cooked for safety reasons. However, people generally tend to cook their tempeh either way because it fixes and enhances the taste of the initially bitter and plain uncooked tempeh.
That said, it is always best to choose the option that you are sure is harmless to your health, which means cooking your food. Unless proven to be harmful, pasteurized tempeh can sometimes be eaten raw. Unpasteurized tempeh should never be eaten raw as it may contain harmful microorganisms.
What Happens if You Eat Tempeh Raw?
Many people might be curious about what exactly would happen if they ate raw tempeh.
As mentioned earlier, store-bought pasteurized tempeh can often be eaten because the microorganisms have been killed. So, the tempeh is likely safe to eat, and you wouldn’t have to worry too much about the risks. You’d just have to endure the bitter taste of the raw tempeh.
If you consume unpasteurized and uncooked tempeh, you might be putting your health at risk. You could fall ill due to the harmful microorganisms that remained in it.
To make an informed decision, it is always best to do your own research before consuming raw tempeh and putting yourself through unnecessary risks.
Cons of Eating Tempeh Raw
Many people agree that tempeh should be consumed cooked rather than raw. The safety concerns that raw tempeh poses on health should be kept in mind. That is why we will talk about the cons of eating it raw before the pros.
Let’s start talking about the fact that it is a fermented food item. This means that the food sat at room temperature, which is known to be a temperature where bacteria grow and multiply.
The process of manufacturing fermented products should be done correctly to avoid putting the health of individuals at risk. Failure to do so could introduce toxins or harmful bacteria that have the ability to multiply and cause foodborne illnesses.
In addition, there are unregulated processes that occur at home, which introduce even higher risks of contamination. This is obviously especially important when dealing with homemade tempeh.
Aside from the risk of foodborne illnesses, fermented soybeans seem to cause symptoms like bloating, flatulence, itchy throats, and chronic inflammation in certain people.
Pros of Eating Tempeh Raw
The pros of eating raw tempeh seem more opinion-based than scientific-based. While the majority insist on cooking, others claim that there are advantages to eating tempeh raw. However, very dangerous diseases are linked to raw fermented foods, so remain cautious.
Some claim that the cooking process reduces the nutritional content of tempeh due to loss of moisture. In addition, others say that the mold, Rhizopus, that is used to ferment tempeh is not harmful.
How Long Do You Need to Cook Tempeh For?
We can now agree that it’s probably best to cook your tempeh. It is safer and more delicious. But how long do you have to cook your tempeh?
Most recipes you’ll find recommend you “soften” your tempeh before cooking it or adding it to another food product. You can do so by simmering or steaming it for about 15 to 20 minutes. Then, grill, bake or pan-fry it for another 5 or 10 minutes. So, many recipes require a tempeh cooking time of about 20 to 25 minutes.
It is best to cook tempeh for at least 20 minutes, especially if you bought it fresh from a market. Flip it halfway as you’re cooking it at least once.
How to Tell if Tempeh is Properly Cooked
If we’re going to cook something, it should be done properly to achieve the best results. For example, cooking tempeh well will result in a superb texture and flavor.
Aside from monitoring the time, the texture of tempeh could help us indicate if it is properly cooked.
Properly cooked tempeh is crunchy on the outside while maintaining a chewy and soft texture on the inside.
Best Ways to Cook Tempeh
The ‘best’ way for anything is always subjective. However, there are methods that many people agree are ideal for cooking tempeh.
It’s a very adaptable ingredient that can be served as the star of the show or be part of recipes. The best way to cook it depends on whether you want its plain and mild, nutty taste, or you want the prominent taste of spices from the marinate.
The best ways to cook tempeh enhance both its texture and flavor.
Many find the taste of tempeh rather bland on its own. So, you’ll often find that marinated tempeh is a good choice to counteract this.
Before cooking, many people add to the flavor of tempeh by adding marinade. Tempeh is known for its ability to absorb flavors from the sauces added to it. Marinade could also be added after steaming before frying or grilling. The marinade ingredients are numerous and include soy sauce, citrus juice, vinegar, peanut butter, coconut milk, ginger, spices, or sweeteners.
Steaming tempeh is often recommended, even if you want to cook it in another way afterward. The reason why is that steaming helps to alleviate the bitterness of tempeh.
To steam, start by placing your tempeh strips in a steamer sat in a saucepan with water or vegetable broth. Once the liquid begins to boil, reduce the heat, and allow it to simmer for 10 minutes or more.
Baking is often a favored method when it comes to cooking tempeh.
Baked tempeh results in crispy and caramelized nutty cubes. This is a healthier baking option as the oven’s heat does all the work without the need for oil and other ingredients.
Other Ways to Use Tempeh
Other good ways of cooking tempeh are grilling, pan-frying, or stir-frying. Tempeh can also be crumbled or grated and used as a substitute in burritos, tacos, etc.