Health Foods Demystified! Part 1 of 4: Tempeh.

Print Friendly and PDF Health Foods Demystified! Part 1 of 4: Tempeh.

Ew! What IS that??

How do you eat that??

What do you do with it??

That looks so weird!!

These are some examples of what I often hear from my life coaching and health coaching clients when I suggest certain ‘health foods’ for them to try.

I get it. New foods are weird and freaky. Once upon a time, broccoli was really scary, too.

But all it usually takes to turn a ‘weird’ food into a favorite food is some information - and a good recipe!

Well, today I am endeavoring to provide both (with a little help from a friend…).

This is Part One of what will be a 4-Part series: Health Foods Demystified (scroll to the bottom to skip right to the awesome recipe).

Today’s food?


Say: TEM-pay.

Okay - so what the heck is it?

Tempeh is made from soybeans. It’s soy.

It is made from slightly cooked and fermented whole soybeans - which means that it is a whole food (and that’s GOOD). You’ll usually find it pre-formed into a rectangular ‘patty’ - and you can slice it, dice it, crumble it - or leave it alone - to use it in recipes.

Tempeh is an excellent source of protein, calcium, and iron - and it’s low in fat. Also,  because it is a plant-based food, it contains absolutely zero cholesterol!

Fermented foods - like tempeh - are really beneficial for digestion. No joke - my tummy always feels really lovely after I eat tempeh. Ahhhh.

What does it taste like?

Unlike tofu (which is also a soy product - but not a whole food) tempeh actually does have its own taste! It’s kind of like a nutty, hearty, mushroom-y flavor - but it adapts really well in any number of recipes.

Where do you get it?

Well, it comes from Indonesia - but you don’t have to go that far. ANY health food store will carry tempeh in the refrigerated section - without a doubt. They also carry it at Trader Joe’s, if you are lucky enough to have one nearby.

What do you do with it??

Here’s where I bow out.

Recipe creation is not my strong suit at all - although I do enjoy following other people’s recipes!

I thought this would be a great opportunity to introduce you to my pal, Jesse aka The Happy Go Lucky Vegan! I asked Jesse if she would be kind enough to create recipes for my 4-part series and I am so glad that she said YES!

So, without further ado, here’s the Happy Go Lucky Vegan - and a phenomenal tempeh recipe!

P.S. Be sure to subscribe to my blog - or remember to stop back next week - for Part 2 of this series, where I’ll be demystifying Nutritional Yeast!


Ready to get started? The TLT is my version of the BLT - but with tempeh, lettuce, tomato and a Creamy Cheddar Sauce. You’ll want to leave anywhere from a few hours to overnight to marinate your tempeh (the longer the better). Once your tempeh is full of flavor, freeze the remaining slices for another dish, and make this sandwich in 10 minutes.

The TLT With A Creamy Cheddar Sauce  

Makes 4 sandwiches

4 slices whole grain bread, toasted 1-2 tomatoes, sliced 4 pieces of romaine lettuce 1 recipe Smokey Maple Syrup Bacon (see below) 1 recipe Creamy Cheddar Sauce (see below)

Method: Heat a medium-sized skillet to medium-high, and sauté the “bacon” slices until golden brown (about 4-5 minutes on each side). Meanwhile, toast the bread and begin making the Creamy Cheddar Sauce. Assemble sandwich by stacking the toasted bread, cheddar sauce, lettuce, tempeh bacon and tomatoes on top of one another. Add more cheddar sauce, or salt and pepper if desired. Serve immediately.

Smokey Maple Syrup “Bacon” Makes 12-15 strips

8 ounces of tempeh, cut into 1/3 inch slices 3 tablespoons olive oil ¼ cup soy sauce 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 2 tablespoons maple or agave syrup ¼ teaspoon Liquid Smoke (found in health food stores)

Method: Whisk together all ingredients and pour over tempeh slices. Allow to marinade anywhere from 2 hours to overnight. Drain sauce and sauté in a skillet for 4-5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.

Creamy Cheddar Sauce Makes 2 cups (I like to reserve the remaining sauce for nachos, fondue or to top veggies)

1 tablespoon olive oil 1 tablespoon gluten-free flour (I used brown rice flour) 1 cup non-dairy milk 1 cup Daiya cheddar cheese pinch cayenne pepper ¼ teaspoon Liquid Smoke (optional)

Method: In a medium sized saucepan, whisk together the olive oil and flour. Slowly add the non-dairy milk, and whisk continuously for about five minutes or until all lumps have disappeared. Remove from heat, and slowly add the Daiya cheese, cayenne pepper and Liquid smoke (if using). Whisk until the sauce is creamy and all lumps have melted away.

About the author: Jesse Nattamai lives, writes, gardens and feeds her ravenous appetite in Tucson, Arizona with her spicy-food loving husband and adorable dog. She taught middle school history for five years, and currently runs her own food blog at Happy Go Lucky Vegan while freelancing for other related websites. On the side, Jesse enjoys leading tours and workshops at Tucson Botanical Gardens, and writing short stories.