Where to Buy Tempeh: The Definitive Guide

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With all of the amazing health benefits, why don’t we eat more tempeh in the western world? The answer is simple: Not enough people know about its nutritional values or delicious taste! With this article, hopefully, we can change that! And since healthy foods like tempeh are gaining popularity, it’s becoming more common at your local grocery store and specialty shops.

Finding tempeh is an easy task when you know where to look. You can find it at your local grocery store, health food stores, food co-ops, and more. It’s a soybean product, like tofu, but it has been fermented and has a firmer texture. Tempeh’s firm texture makes it a great addition to sandwiches or as a meat substitute.

Table of Contents

What is Tempeh?

You’re here looking for where to find tempeh, so you may already be aware of its amazing health benefits and high protein content. But just in case, let’s first cover what exactly tempeh is.

Tempeh is an indigenous food from Indonesia, where it has been consumed as a staple source of protein for more than 300 years. It is a high protein plant-based food, made from fermented soybeans. The base ingredients are partially cooked, cooled, then inoculated with a fungal culture, usually rhizopus oligosporus, that ferments it. This is done in much the same way yogurt or cheese is fermented with bacteria.

This product is highly versatile and can stand-in for just about any type of meat, particularly with its absorbent nature and meaty texture. As meat consumption and production have been considered unsustainable in terms of public health and the environment are concerned (1), tempeh can be a favorable food source due to its health benefits, affordability, and sustainability. High in protein, this superfood often acts as a substitute for those weaning themselves off meat or simply those who follow vegan or vegetarian diets.

Tempeh is very high in protein and fiber while being low in carbohydrates, sodium, and fat. The protein is complete, the carbs are low in sugar, and the fats are polyunsaturated. And, because it’s a fermented food, It’s a good source of natural prebiotics, which are great for your digestive system!

Soybeans have been around for thousands of years so it’s also a great food resource; you could say that it has survived the test of time!

What Stores Carry Tempeh?

As veganism and other plant-based ways of eating continue to get more popular, grocery stores are stocking products that are vegan like tofu, tempeh, and other meat alternatives. Great places to start your search for tempeh are your nearest health food store, co-ops, large chain supermarkets, and even farmers markets.

If you can’t find it in any of these locations (which would be shocking at this point!), then check the internet for online stores. Even Amazon carries tempeh! Fresh tempeh, pre-marinated tempeh, tempeh starter cultures so you can make your own tempeh at home, they have a ton!

Let’s take a look at some of the places you can find tempeh, both locally and online.

1. Health Food Stores & Natural Food Co-ops

Health food and natural food stores almost always have tempeh. These are the little grocery stores that focus especially on gluten-free, organic, vegan, plant-based, and other natural foods. They offer a wide variety of organic products, including tempeh, that are made specifically for their store. While these are awesome, they aren’t always commercially packaged with ingredients lists, so you might not know exactly what has been added or how the tempeh was made. You will, however, usually be able to buy tempeh that is produced by different companies here as well, so you know exactly what’s in it when you purchase it.

2. Specialty Grocery Stores

You will also find tempeh at most specialty grocery stores. These are smaller stores that focus on organic, vegan, and vegetarian alternatives to foods, usually containing additives or preservatives. You can find many types of tempeh in these stores; you may even recognize the brand names because they are well-known soybean producers. Some commercially produced tempeh brands you will often find in these stores include West Soy and Lightlife.

3. Large Chain Grocery Stores

Many, in fact most, supermarkets now carry tempeh! Here are just a few of the large-chain grocery stores where I always find tempeh:

  1. Whole Foods Market. Tempeh is available at all locations of Whole Foods, a company that provides organic foods to grocery stores throughout America.
  2. Trader Joe’s. In classic Trader Joe’s fashion they have many different packages that offer more than just plain tempeh. They have different flavors as well as kits and packaged meals that are designed specifially to go with tempeh. And at $1.99 for a block of Trader Joe’s Organic Tempeh, in my area and from what I’ve found online anyway, the price can’t be beat.
  3. Safeway and Albertsons. Look for Whole Foods’ tofu and tempeh in the specialty or international section at your local Safeway or Albertsons store. They usually stock at least three or four brands of each, so you can find one to try out!
  4. Fred Meyer and Yoke’s are local grocery stores in my area. Fred Meyer is definitely large! They carry everything from groceries to clothes, office supplies, home and garden items, you name it! Yoke’s, on the other hand, is smaller, focusing on being more of a neighborhood grocery store with an amazing natural foods section. Both of these stores carry multiple brands of tempeh all the time.

If your area doesn’t have one of these major chains, a simple google search of the grocery stores in your area will tell you if they carry tempeh.

4. Your Local Farmers Market

You can also typically find it at your local farmers market if there’s one in your area. The ones that carry tempeh may vary from city to city, but they are definitely worth checking out. If you can’t find tempeh here, ask around. Many people that bring their products to the farmers market for sale are willing to make tempeh as well.

5. The Internet

Last, but not least, the internet is another great source for tempeh, especially if you live in an area where it’s difficult to find. Shopping online also allows you to research information about how different tempeh products are made and what is added to them. This helps you make informed decisions and gives you the most flexibility as far as price is concerned.

Where To Find Tempeh In The Grocery Store

Regardless of the store, tempeh is usually kept in the same basic location. Try the following locations first. If you can’t find it on your own, ask the first employee you see. They’ll point you in the right direction!

The Natural Foods Section. This is the most common place to find tempeh. It’ll be located right by the tofu.

Refrigerators in the Produce Section. Many grocery stores, especially if they don’t have a natural foods section, will place their soy, vegetarian, vegan, and plant-based products in the refrigerators of the produce section.

The Meatless Freezer Aisle. Tempeh can also be found in the freezer aisle near other vegan meats and meat-substitute products.

What do tempeh packages look like?

Tempeh is usually found in rectangular, vacuum-sealed packages. Pre-marinated tempeh may, however, be found in boxes. These will look similar to other Tofurkey products, like their deli slices.

Which Tempeh Should You Choose?

The first time I bought it there were only two or three different packages available in the store, which made choosing one quite easy. Now, due to the popularity of plant-based and vegan eating, there are a ton of options! And, when you’re shopping online, it’s not always as easy to choose a product since you don’t have any preferences to match with the product itself. So if you’ve never had tempeh before, here are some things you should look out for.

Plain Tempeh vs. Flavored Tempeh

Unflavored tempeh is usually sold in 8 ounce (225gm) patties that weigh about 1/2 a pound. These are perfect for slicing and eating cold on sandwiches or in salads, but you can also marinate it and bake with it to make some great tasting recipes! Tempeh that comes pre-marinated is usually sold in 1 pound (454gm) packages, but the flavors may vary from one type to another so make sure you read the label before buying it.

What about all the different varieties; regular, multigrain, flax, others? Regular tempeh is just soybeans and mold. All other varieties have additional ingredients mixed in and fermented along with the soybeans. These may change the calories and macros (usually not by much as any additional ingredients won’t be in a very high quantity), but also may add some great nutrients, like omega-3 fatty acids from flax.

My recommendation, try a few and see what you like the best, but always buy organic. Soy is one of the most heavily sprayed crops produced worldwide. And, because the United States government has approved the use of GMOs for human consumption, there’s a high likelihood that non-organic soybeans will be GMO.

How Do You Store Tempeh?

Tempeh should always be stored in the refrigerator. When left out, it will break down quickly and lose its flavor. Its texture becomes rubbery and softens when exposed to air for too long. This is why you will sometimes see tempeh in vacuum-sealed packages with a bit of liquid. The liquid and vacuum keep it from drying out or developing off odors so it retains its original flavor when you buy it.

The longer tempeh sits at room temperature, the more moisture is lost. For this reason, I do not recommend cooking tempeh more than a day in advance. If you want to save leftovers and make something later on, it’s best to wrap your tempeh in foil or plastic wrap after it’s been cooked, so that air doesn’t get to it as quickly. It can be refrigerated for up to a week after it’s cooked and stored this way. If you want to keep tempeh longer than that, place it in a freezer-safe container with no air space so that all the moisture stays inside until you are ready to use it.

While tempeh does turn brown when exposed to air, don’t worry about it! It doesn’t affect the flavor or texture at all.

What is the best tempeh brand?

There are many different tempeh brands to choose from. The most famous brand of tempeh is Tofurkey, made by Turtle Island Foods. You’ll find it in the refrigerated section of natural food stores as well as online at Amazon.com. This brand is amazing!

Tofurkey

Lightlife is the most widely available tempeh brand in grocery stores and the only ingredients used in their Original Tempeh are organic soybeans, water, and organic brown rice. This is the one I buy most often. I love the way it cooks up, it’s not overly expensive (especially when comparing it to any meat with the same amount of protein), and I can find it anywhere.

Trader Joe’s Organic Tempeh tastes amazing, is the most inexpensive brand that I ever find, and most places have a Trader Joe’s in their area.

Trader Joes

But don’t worry if you can’t find one of these brands! Look and see what your local store has, compare the labels to see what ingredients are in them, and start your tempeh journey.

How to Cook Tempeh

Now that you have your tempeh home, here’s how to prepare it. Cooking tempeh is simple and straightforward. You can boil it, bake it, grill it, fry it, or stew it! Here are a few of my favorite ways to prepare tempeh.

Sautéed Tempeh with Soy Sauce. I use two tablespoons of soy sauce and a tablespoon of water to sauté sliced tempeh for about five minutes on each side.

Sautee Tempeh

Crispy Baked Tempeh with Soy Sauce and Red Wine Vinegar. This is an easy one-dish meal that’s great with rice or pasta. Mix two tablespoons of soy sauce, one tablespoon of red wine vinegar, one teaspoon of garlic powder, and a half teaspoon of ground pepper. Sauté your sliced tempeh in 1/4 cup of water with the soy sauce mixture for five minutes on each side. Bake at 375° F (190° C) for 20-25 minutes or until it’s nice and crispy!

Cooked Tempeh

Tempeh Salad. This is another easy one-dish meal that makes a quick lunch or dinner. Mix plain tempeh with other ingredients such as red onion, celery, raisins, sunflower seeds, parsley, and soy sauce to taste in a large bowl until everything is well mixed. Serving size will depend on how big you want your salad. You can have it over lettuce leaves as an entrée or as a side dish with pasta or rice. Sometimes I eat the tempeh uncooked, but most of the time I like to steam the tempeh for 15 minutes before adding it to the salad.

Tempeh Shepherd’s Pie. This is a hearty meal perfect for the colder season, but it will go just as well during summertime served with salad and lemonade. Add carrots, onions, peas, and beans to your favorite vegan gravy mix. Spread the vegetable mixture over cooked brown rice and place it in an oven preheated to 350° F (175° C). Top it with sliced tempeh seasoned like your favorite fried chicken recipe, complete with breading! Bake until everything is heated through and browned on top.

Conclusion: Where to Buy Tempeh

Tempeh is definitely a food to consider adding if you’re vegan, on a diet, or just looking to add something new into your life. Because of the rise in popularity of vegan and plant-based lifestyles, finding tempeh is easier than ever! Check your local supermarket, health food stores, or farmers market next time you go. If all else fails, order online.

Want to add a bit more to your plant-based protein arsenal? Load up on some tofu or seitan! Discover how easy it can be to find these vegan protein sources here: Where to Buy Tofu and The Best Places to Buy Seitan.

*Author's Note: The content on this website is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. The content of our articles is not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. It's always best to speak with your doctor or a certified medical professional before making any changes to your lifestyle, diet, or exercise routine, or trying a new supplement.

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AUTHOR
Matt Walter, CHN, M.A.T
I studied Food Science and Human Nutrition at Washington State University and interned as a Strength and Conditioning Coach for the WSU football team. I am a Certified Holistic Nutritionist and former personal trainer and competitive CrossFit athlete. My mission is to make embracing and adopting a healthy vegan lifestyle simple and fun!