Tempeh originated in the Indonesian islands in the early 1800s and has been popular in Southeast Asia ever since. With the recent growth of veganism in America, though, tempeh is becoming a lot more popular in the states.
Recently, I’ve been incorporating tempeh in my diet more often, as a substitute for tofu. Tempeh is a little bit more organic, natural, and has a delicious nutty and savory flavor profile that’s different from almost every other soy-based food I’ve tried.
The only problem is that tempeh isn’t quite as popular as tofu. While tofu is widely available at most grocery stores, tempeh can be a little bit more challenging to find. So, to make your shopping a little bit easier, I decided to create a guide on where to buy tempeh!
Are you ready to try tempeh for the first time?
Where Can I Find Tempeh?
If you live in a larger US city like New York, Miami, LA, San Francisco, etc., then you should be able to find some delicious, high-quality tempeh in your local supermarket.
However, if you live in a smaller city or town, then you may end up having to buy your tempeh online or visit a specialty grocery store that caters to vegans and plant-based diets.
Currently, the following places are the most reliable sources for great-tasting tempeh.
1) Online From Amazon
When I first got into tempeh, I was living in a smaller town. Don’t get me wrong, the local farmers market was great, and I got plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables… But when it came to vegan specialty foods, you could forget about it.
That’s when I found out that Amazon can deliver tempeh straight to your front door!
Unlike tofu, which usually needs to be refrigerated to keep fresh, tempeh is a dried and fermented food. This means that it doesn’t have to be specially packaged or shipped. It’s the same as ordering any other dry food online.
For those of you who’ve been keeping up with my blog, you’ve probably realized that I’ve been ordering a lot more food online. From vegan cookies to vegan bread, Amazon has really amazed me with the sheer variety of healthy vegan products they offer.
It’s also hard to beat their prices. If you have a Prime membership, then their two-day shipping is a deal-breaker.
2) Whole Foods Market
Whole Foods Market is a great place for all things vegan. My friend jokingly refers to it as “vegan heaven,” whenever we go buy groceries together. When it comes to finding specialty ingredients (like Nutritional Yeast, for example), Whole Foods Market has never failed me.
Whenever I go to Whole Foods Market, they typically carry a few different brands of tempeh, including:
- Lightlife Organic Tempeh
- Smiling Hara Tempeh
The only problem is that Whole Foods Markets are few and far between. If you live in a mid to large-sized city, then you should be able to find one in your local area. If not, though, then you may have to drive a couple of hours to reach the closest Whole Foods.
At that point, it’s just better to order online or try to find a similar health foods store.
3) Asian Supermarkets
Asian Supermarkets are a gold mine when it comes to finding delicious vegan food. Whether you’re looking for tofu, tempeh, or even the infamous natto, there’s no better place to search than an Asian supermarket.
Well, soy is one of the primary dietary staples throughout Asia. Natto (fermented soybeans) come from Japan, tofu (coagulated soy milk) comes from China, and tempeh (fermented, dried soybeans) come from Indonesia.
Although the Asian supermarket in your area may be specifically Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc., most of them carry a wide variety of food. For example, most Chinese supermarkets will carry a variety of popular Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, and even Thai food.
So far, every Asian supermarket that I’ve been to has had at least two brands of tempeh to choose from. Like Whole Foods, though, Asian supermarkets can be a bit difficult to find. Usually, they can be found closer to big cities or in Asian-centric communities.
4) Trader Joe’s
Trader Joe’s is a small grocery chain that has locations across the United States. They’re known for carrying a wide variety of local food options but also have their own Trader Joe’s-labeled food as well.
They’ve developed a good reputation in the vegan community for their delicious, high-quality, affordable vegan options.
I’ve tried Trader Joe’s vegan tempeh on several occasions and I can verify that it’s some of the best I’ve had. It’s also very affordable. The last time I got a small block of tempeh from Trader Joe’s, it was even cheaper than buying it online from Amazon!
What’s The Difference Between Tofu & Tempeh?
One of the most common questions regarding tempeh is, “What’s the difference between tofu and tempeh?” This is a fair question because both tofu and tempeh are made from soy and come in similar-sized blocks.
They’re also both vegan, so it’s easy to see where many consumers get confused.
The main difference between tofu and tempeh is that tofu is made from coagulated soy milk while tempeh is made from dried, fermented soybeans that have been pressed into a hard block.
For a more concise breakdown of all of the differences between tofu and tempeh, check out the handy table below:
|Made from fermented soybeans that are then dried and pressed into a block.||Made from coagulated soy milk.|
|Tempeh is usually hard and dry and has a consistency that’s similar to a hard block of cheese.||Tofu is typically soft and has a consistency that’s similar to cream cheese.|
|Tempeh is made through a more natural, organic process.||To coagulate the soy milk and turn it into tofu, chemicals and sulfites must be added to the milk, making it a less natural product.|
|Tempeh is meant to be kept dry at room temperature.||Tofu must be refrigerated after opening.|
|Tempeh tastes very nutty, with umami undertones. It generally requires very little seasoning or sauce to make it enjoyable.||Tofu tastes like hardened soy milk. The flavor can be a bit “sour” for some. Tofu almost always needs to be seasoned or cooked in sauce to make it more palatable.|
What Does Tempeh Taste Like?
Tempeh has a wonderful umami flavor profile. The first flavor you’ll taste is usually that of salted soybeans. If you’ve ever eaten edamame (steamed soybeans) as an appetizer, then you’ll recognize the general taste.
Unlike edamame, though, tempeh is fermented. This is what turns the otherwise mild-tasting soybeans into a savory dish.
To learn more about soy fermentation and the umami flavor profile, I recommend checking out a post I made a few weeks ago about natto, a Japanese delicacy made from undried, fermented soybeans.
The texture is very firm and it usually needs to be cut with a knife. If you’ve ever tried to slice through a hard block of parmesan cheese or a thick homemade protein bar, that’s the closest you’ll get.
That being said, you can soften the tempeh by cooking it with something moist, like water, your favorite soy sauce, or my favorite – fruit juice!
Are There Different Types Of Tempeh?
Whether you’re shopping at your local supermarket or online, you’ll likely come across several different types of tempeh.
All tempeh uses the same basic recipe that consists of dried, fermented soybeans. However, different recipes may also include added grains, beans, nuts, and other plant-based ingredients to create a unique flavor and texture.
Some of the most common types of tempeh I’ve seen include:
- Hemp seed tempeh
- Flaxseed tempeh
- Cashew tempeh
- Lentil tempeh
- Multigrain tempeh
- Navy bean tempeh
- Black bean tempeh
Not only do these added ingredients make for better-tasting tempeh, but they also increase the nutritional value of the tempeh.
By adding seeds, beans, and grains, the resulting tempeh will provide higher protein content, more complex carbohydrates, as well as healthy unsaturated fats and Omega-3 fatty acids.
Plus, who doesn’t like a little bit of variety in their life?
Does Tempeh Expire?
If you’ve ever purchased tofu, then you’ll remember that most manufacturers recommend consuming the tofu within three to five days after opening the package. Unopened, the package itself will typically have a two to three-month shelf life.
In this respect, tempeh is similar. However, you’ll have a little bit more leeway when it comes to tempeh. Since tempeh is a dried food, it can last a few days longer outside of the packaging.
Most manufacturers recommend consuming tempeh within seven days of opening the package.
As far as the shelf life goes, it’s similar to tofu. You’ll usually have about a month to consume the tempeh if the package is unopened. If kept in the refrigerator, an unopened package of tempeh can last up to six months!
How Do You Tell If Tempeh Has Gone Bad?
One thing to keep in mind is that tempeh is continuously fermenting. The only things that slow this down are the vacuum seal of the package and cold temperatures. This is why tempeh can last longer in the refrigerator.
Two things will undoubtedly happen to tempeh after it’s opened:
- The good fermenting bacteria will continue to ferment the tempeh until it’s borderline inedible and smells horrible.
- The tempeh will be exposed to “bad bacteria ” that will overtake the good bacteria and can cause food poisoning when eaten.
Like most organic, natural foods, tempeh is best consumed as quickly as possible out of the packaging.
Some of the tell-tale signs that your tempeh has gone bad include:
- A strong, off-putting smell of ammonia
- Soft, mushy spots in the tempeh
- Green spots on tempeh (gray and black spots are normal)
- Fuzzy mold-like growth on tempeh
Of course, if you take a bite of rotten tempeh, you’ll know it. But that way is a lot more disgusting (and can give you a nasty stomach ache). To be safe, start checking your tempeh for these signs after the second day of opening the package.
Is Tempeh Healthy?
Once you get used to tempeh, it can be quite addictive. Soon, you’ll be experimenting with different recipes and eating every meal.
Tempeh is incredibly healthy and is a wonderful source of protein, complex carbohydrates, as well as natural fats, vitamins, and minerals.
A single 1-cup serving of tempeh has around 320 calories, which means it’s a relatively low-calorie alternative to meat as well!
To learn more about tempeh’s health benefits, check out this video:
Conclusion – Where’s The Best Place To Buy Tempeh?
If you’re lucky enough to live near a supermarket that sells Asian or vegan specialty foods, then that’s probably your bet for procuring fresh, high-quality tempeh. The second-best option is to buy tempeh online.
Amazon has several great tempeh retailers, including major brands and small family-owned brands. You’ll be able to read reviews as well as compare and contrast brands. Plus, with two-day shipping, you can’t go wrong.
If you enjoy the flavorful umami taste of tempeh, then you might enjoy the Japanese fermented soy dish natto! If you’re interested in trying it, be sure to check out my post on where to find natto here.