Freshly made tempeh

How to make Tempeh

It is easy to make tempeh at home. You just need dried soybeans, tempeh starter culture, vinegar, and a Folding Proofer to use as the incubation chamber. Tempeh starter can be ordered from Cultures for Health.

What is Tempeh?

The most widely consumed soy food in the world is lesser known in the United States. Originating in Indonesia, tempeh is a fermented food made from whole soybeans. The soybeans are soaked, dehulled, cooked, and then inoculated with rhizopus spores. The beans are then allowed to ferment for 24 - 36 hours. By the end of the fermentation time, the rhizopus fungus will have worked its way through the beans, knitting the beans together into a cake of white mycelium.

Endless Culinary Possibilities with Homemade Tempeh

Produced from fermentation, tempeh contains easy-to-digest nutrients and is a good source of protein and calcium. Tempeh has a firmer texture and a nutty, mushroomy flavor that works well in a wide range of dishes. The culinary possibilities of tempeh are vast. Marinated, it quickly soaks up the flavors of a sauce. Tempeh can be baked, grilled, or fried. Once cooked, it can be eaten on its own, in a sandwich, a salad, or crumbled up as a ground meat replacement.

Tempeh Recipe


Two cakes, approximately 14 oz / 400 g each


  • Active: 2 hours
  • Inactive: 36 - 60 hours
  • Total: 38 - 62 hours


U.S. Volume
Soy beans, whole dried2 C340
White distilled vinegar2 T30
Tempeh starter*1 tsp3.4

*Tempeh starter, also called powdered tempeh starter or tempeh culture, is a dried mixture of live Rhizopus spores with substrate, which can be soybeans or rice. Two strains of Rhizopus are commonly available- Rhizopus oryzae and R. oligosporus. Either will work well for tempeh making. 


  • Spatula or spoon
  • Two, 1 quart size plastic bags
  • Skewer
  • Thermometer
  • Clean kitchen towel


Soak the soybeans: Place the soybeans into a large bowl, and cover with enough water to submerge the beans by a few inches. Soak the beans overnight for 12-16 hours. 

Dehull and split the beans: The soybean hulls (skin) need to be removed in order for the tempeh starter spores to inoculate the beans. Use your hands to work the beans using a firm squeezing motion to remove the skins. Swirl the water and drain into a colander in the sink. Refill the bowl. The hulls will start to float to the top. Repeat the process until the majority of the beans are split and hulls removed. It is fine if some hulls remain.

Tempeh ingredients
Dehulled cooked soybeans

Cook the beans: Simmer the beans partially covered for about 50 - 60 minutes until tender, but still firm and intact. Alternatively, steam the beans in a pressure cooker for 15 - 20 minutes. Drain the cooking water.

Lay a clean kitchen towel on the sheet pan. Spread the drained soybeans on the pan and allow to cool. Spreading them out on the towel will allow any excess moisture to dissipate.

NOTE: Keeping the tempeh too moist as it cultures is the most common reason for spoilage, so make sure that the beans are dry to the touch before continuing.

Add vinegar and starter:
Once the beans are cool, Place the beans in a dry, clean bowl. Add the vinegar and mix well. (The acid from the vinegar helps to prevent the growth of unwanted bacteria.) Sprinkle the tempeh starter culture over the beans and mix well to evenly distribute the starter throughout the beans.

Divide the beans evenly between the two plastic bags. Press into an even layer about 1” thick. Using the skewer, pierce holes in the bags to create air vents at 1-inch intervals. This will allow the mold to breathe.

Cooked and cultured soybean in a plastic bag, skewered
Cultured soybean bags in the proofer

Culture the beans for 24 - 48 hours: Set the Folding Proofer to 88 °F / 31 °C. (Do not use the water tray because the Proofer needs to be completely dry inside.) Place the bags in the Proofer.

Check after the first 12 hours: The fermentation will cause the beans to generate their own heat and you may want to lower the Proofer temperature after the first 12 hours. Use a thermometer to check the actual tempeh temperature to be sure.The tempeh should stay in the 85 °F - 90 °F range.

After 24 hours, white spores will begin to cover the surface of the beans and will continue to grow.
Stop the fermentation: After 24 - 48 hours, when the beans have become a firm mass held together by the white mycelium, the tempeh is finished. It should smell nutty and mushroomy, You may see some black or gray spots near the air holes, but they are nothing to be alarmed about. Place the tempeh in the refrigerator to cool. The tempeh is now ready to be cooked and eaten.

We recommend using the tempeh within one week. Fresh tempeh will continue to ferment even if refrigerated (albeit very slowly) and the fungus will begin to sporulate causing the tempeh cake to turn dark gray and develop an ammonia odor. While overripe tempeh is not dangerous, it has a bitter flavor and is best consumed before it reaches this point. 

After 36 hours, covered with the white mycelium.

After 36 hours, covered with the white mycelium.

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