Make Even Better Tempeh by Steaming It First

Make Even Better Tempeh by Steaming It First

As much as I love tofu, I have to admit that tempeh might be the true champion of soy-based meat substitutes. It’s higher in protein than tofu, and while it’s a little less versatile, its rubbly texture and funky, nutty flavour are both delicious and unique. There’s simply no substitute.

With that said, tempeh is even more divisive than its smoother, un-fermented soy curd counterpart — which is saying something, given how aggressively anti-tofu people can be. Preferences are preferences, but I think most of this ambivalence can be blamed on poor preparation; when tempeh isn’t cooked right, its deliciously funky, nutty flavour has a bitter edge that many people (understandably) find off-putting. Its texture can also end up a little on the dry, crumbly side of things. But neither of these characteristics are inherent to the very nature of tempeh — in fact, you can fix both issues with a quick steam bath.

Steaming makes tempeh so much more delicious and pleasant to work with that I’m shocked it’s not somehow required to mention it on the packaging somewhere. (I have four bricks of tempeh from two different brands in my fridge right now and none of them instruct you to steam it first.) It’s a fast, easy bit of prep that eliminates any lingering bitterness and softens the texture significantly, while keeping the surface dry enough to crisp up in hot oil. Seriously, if you think you hate tempeh, you owe it to yourself to try the steaming trick. Here’s how.

First, cut your tempeh into whatever shape you like, then add it to a steamer basket set in a saucepan or Instant Pot with about half an inch to an inch of water. Cover and steam over high heat on the stove for 15-20 minutes, or use the Instant Pot’s “steam” function to steam on high pressure for 4-5 minutes. (You can use a natural or instant release here; whichever works best for your schedule.) You now have perfectly soft, tender tempeh that’s ready to soak up whatever delicious seasonings you have in store.

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