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How Tempeh Works

How to Purchase, Use and Store Tempeh

It's always a little intimidating to cook with a new food for the first time. Luckily, making meals with tempeh is pretty easy. First, you've got to find it. As mentioned before, Asian and natural foods stores carry tempeh in several forms, and your own supermarket may as well. Typically, tempeh either comes pre-cooked and ready-to-eat, or uncooked. In addition, you might find tempeh made from soy-grain combinations, not just plain soy, and you may see some flavored versions as well. The tempeh should be covered with a thin, whitish bloom. You may see a few black or gray spots on it; this is fine, and does not indicate spoilage. What you don't want to see are any pink, yellow or blue colors, which mean it's too fermented. Finally, make sure the tempeh appears solid and has a dry exterior [source: The World's Healthiest Foods].

Uncooked tempeh must be cooked at least 20 minutes before eating. But even pre-cooked tempeh can benefit from a little steaming (10 to 15 minutes), which softens it a bit and enables it to better soak up the flavors of the accompanying ingredients [source: Knutson]. Most people cut or crumble tempeh into their entrée and then steam, bake or sauté it.

If you're not ready to prepare your tempeh immediately, store it in the fridge for 10 days. Or place it in the freezer, where it will stay fresh for about three months. When you're ready to use it, take it from the freezer and defrost in the fridge overnight. If you want to use it right away, place the package in a bowl of room-temperature water until it's thawed. You can also freeze tempeh dishes after cooking, although it's best to use those within the month [sources: Knutson, The World's Healthiest Foods].