Tempeh Nutrition Facts

Calories, Carbs, and Health Benefits

Tempeh is a fermented soy product that is a game-changer for those following a vegan diet. It’s also an appealing protein source for anyone trying to make moves towards a more plant-based diet. While it’s often confused for tofu, tempeh is very different.

Tempeh is made from soybeans (and often ingredients like grains and legumes) that have been pressed together and fermented.

Since all recipes for tempeh vary, check ingredient lists to see how the tempeh you find at your local grocery store was made. Tempeh can usually be found packaged in 8 or 16-ounce blocks. It can be sliced, crumbled, or chopped and used for a variety of different recipes. One cup chopped (which is about 6 ounces) contains about 320 calories and a ton of nutrients. 

Nutrition Facts

Tempeh Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 cup, cooked (166 g)
Per Serving% Daily Value*
Calories 324 
Calories from Fat 170 
Total Fat 19g29%
Saturated Fat 5.6g28%
Polyunsaturated Fat 6.4g 
Monounsaturated Fat 5.0g 
Cholesterol 0mg0%
Sodium 23mg1%
Potassium 666 mg19%
Carbohydrates  13g4%
Dietary Fiber 0g0%
Sugars 0g 
Protein 33g 
Vitamin A 0% · Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 16% · Iron 20%
*Based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Carbs in Tempeh

One cup of chopped tempeh contains approximately 13 grams of carbohydrates, but this may vary if the product is made with or without rice, bulgur wheat, barley or other grains.

The presence or absence of grains in tempeh can also affect the fiber content. 

It's also high in fat and protein, which take longer to digest and help you feel fuller longer. 

Fats in Tempeh

Tempeh contains a hefty amount of healthy, plant-based fats. One cup of chopped tempeh pieces has 19 grams of total fat, most of which comes from heart-healthy mono and polyunsaturated sources.

There are about 365 milligrams of omega-3 fats and almost 6,000 milligrams of omega-6 fats.

Since it is encouraged to eat plenty of unsaturated fats each day, there is generally no reason to shy away from tempeh. Eating these types of healthy fats at each meal help keep hunger at bay and over time can help lower "bad" LDL cholesterol.  

Protein Tempeh

One of the most appealing things about tempeh is the impressive protein content. The same 1 cup portion of chopped tempeh contains a whopping 33 grams of hunger-fighting protein. Plant-based proteins typically lack one or more of the 9 essential amino acids (also called protein building-blocks). Soy products like tempeh are an exception to that rule because they contain a wide array of all essential amino acids.

This list of amino acids includes the coveted, muscle-building Branched Chain Amino Acids, including leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Eating tempeh regularly as a replacement for meat can help those that follow a vegetarian or vegan diet meet their protein needs more easily. High protein tempeh is an excellent choice for after a workout to help tired muscles recover after exercise. 

Micronutrients in Tempeh

Tempeh is full of several important vitamins and minerals.

It is an excellent source of B vitamins like riboflavin and niacin that aid in energy production and healthy red blood cells. It is also a good source of vitamin B6 and folate, both of which play an important role in neurological health. There is also an impressive list of minerals in tempeh including plenty of calcium and magnesium for strong teeth and bones, as well as potassium for healthy muscles.

It also contains zinc, copper, and over 100 percent of the daily requirement for manganese. One of the most impressive things about tempeh is the iron content. One cup serving of tempeh contains 20 percent of your daily iron, which is comparable to the iron in a 3-ounce piece of cooked beef tenderloin—reach for tempeh regularly if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet and need more iron!

Health Benefits

Consuming tempeh as part of a balanced diet can help increase your intake of important nutrients like protein and iron, and it can also have additional health benefits—it may even decrease your risk of developing some chronic diseases. Contrary to popular nutrition rumors, there is no reliable scientific evidence to support that consuming soy products is harmful to your health. In fact, there is a significant amount of studies that support that the plant-based compounds found in soy are beneficial.

One study found that soy isoflavones reduced cardiovascular disease risk in women in the stages of early menopause. There are also several studies that investigate how soy may help improve insulin action in the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes.

A newer study reports on the potential benefits of fermented soy products specifically. There are a lot of findings to support that fermented soy might be even more beneficial than regular soy products, but more research is needed.

Soy consumption and breast cancer is one of the most controversial soy subjects. The largest amount of research to date supports that soy consumption is inversely related to developing breast cancer. Many studies find that soy may actually be beneficial in the prevention and treatment of various types of cancers. Therefore, despite a lot of the negative hype surrounding soy, it appears that moderate intake is considered safe. This goes for tempeh as well as other soy-based foods. 

Common Questions

How is tempeh made?

While the process can be time-consuming, it is fairly simple with some patience. Dried soy beans are cooked and their tough outer skin is removed. The beans are then combined with other cooked grains (which often include brown rice, lentils, oats, bulgur wheat, barley, and millet).

The mixture is then combined with fermentation starter, vinegar, and sometimes salt, and then pressed into sheets to ferment in an incubator or low-temperature oven. Once fermented, the block of tempeh can be easily cut up and cooked as desired.

How do I store tempeh?

Buy tempeh in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, usually in the same spot you would find packaged tofu. Bring it home and store in the refrigerator unopened for up to one month or in the freezer for up to one year. Once the package has been opened, store leftovers in a tightly sealed bag or container for up to five days. Some brands of tempeh come precooked and pasteurized and can be enjoyed right out of the package, but most brands require cooking before consumption.

Recipes and Preparation Tips

There are several ways to use tempeh for part of your everyday cooking. You can find several favorite varieties of tempeh at health food stores, but basic, plain tempeh does not have a ton of flavor. Aside from a mild nuttiness, it takes on the flavor of whatever you prepare it with.

Marinate 

There are plenty of ways to turn up the flavor such as with marinades. Tempeh loves marinades! Chop or slice the tempeh and then dunk in a marinade for at least two hours. If you do have more time to marinate, overnight allows for much deeper flavor. You can also cut it into smaller pieces or gently score larger pieces with a sharp knife to help the marinade better infuse into the tempeh.

Marinades can be made from anything you would use for meat, fish or veggies such as soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, citrus juices, garlic, ginger, honey, barbecue sauce, mustard, teriyaki sauce, fresh herbs, spices, and olive oil. 

Precook

Enjoy tempeh steamed using a stovetop steamer or microwave. This is a great way to precook and then toss into a salad or a quick stir-fry. Marinated tempeh can be drained, patted dry, and then baked on a parchment-lined baking sheet until crisp. For an extra layer of flavor, slather with sauce (such as barbecue or teriyaki) halfway through baking to create a flavorful coating. Tempeh can also be finely chopped or grated in a food processor.

Sauté

Thinly sliced and sautéed tempeh is perfect for sandwiches and wraps. Cook in a nonstick skillet with a few teaspoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. For an occasional treat, shallow fry seasoned tempeh in canola oil until golden and crispy. 

Move Over, Meat

Use these grated tempeh crumbles as you would ground meat for meatballs, taco fillings, meatless "meat" sauce for pasta, or other recipes that call for ground meat. Tempeh also tastes amazing seared on a hot grill. Marinate with sturdy vegetables and serve on a platter along with salad or rolls for sandwiches. 

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Article Sources

  • JayachandrXu B. An Insight Into the Health Benefits of Fermented Soy Products. Food Chem. 2019;271:362-371.

  • Li Y, Li S, Meng X, Gan RY, Zhang JJ, Li HB. Dietary Natural Products for Prevention and Treatment of Breast Cancer. Nutrients. 2017;9(7)

  • Sathyapalan T, Aye M, Rigby AS, et al. Soy Isoflavones Improve Cardiovascular Disease Risk Markers in Women During the Early Menopause. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2018;28(7):691-697.