DIY Tempeh by Seth Tibbott, Tofurky Founder


Make your own tempeh! I was given these instructions from Seth Tibbott after my interview with him about his wonderful book, In Search of the Wild Tofurky. Have you made tempeh? If you make this recipe let us know how it turns out.

Tempeh Making Notes and Instructions

First off, tempeh making is easy.   Especially when you start with dehulled beans.  Just keep everything clean and pay attention and you will be making great tempeh in your home in no time.   And I promise you, this tempeh will be WAY BETTER than any tempeh, including Tofurky tempeh that you can buy in a store!

I first started making tempeh at home in 1977.   My first commercial batch of tempeh was made in December of 1980.   Today we make over 16,000 pounds of tempeh a week and we think it is some of the best commercial tempeh on the market.   Still, nothing compares in quality to the small batches of homemade tempeh that you can make at home with a few basic ingredients.  These notes are meant to be as a supplement to the Making Tempeh at Home chapter (page 10) in The Tempeh Cookbook by Cynthia Bates.

You will need for each batch:

8 ounces (228g) soybeans either whole or split

Tempeh Starter (available from Tempehsure Note: there are two types of tempeh starter.  Rhizophus Oligosporus  (24 hour fermentation, more common in USA) and Rhizophus Oryzae (48 hour fermentation, more common elsewhere).  Check which one you have!  The Tempehsure starter is the R. Oligosporus, 24-hour fermentation.

Two zip lock bags with pin hole perforations every ½ inch (1.25 cm) or two approx 4”x6” (10 cm x15 cm)  trays with tight fitting cover also perforated every ½ inch (1.25 cm)

Small Incubator. (not needed in warm climates) There are several good options:

  1.  Economy.  Place a 10 or 15 watt non LED light bulb in an industrial “trouble light” in an insulated picnic cooler approximately 30 quarts: Igloo-385-43295-Workman-Personal-Chest
  2. The $63 USD HB Life digital unit:
  3. Or the really trick fold up Brod Taylor Proofer for $153 USD
  4. Tempehsure makes really cool one that is around $400 online.

  5.  The easiest way to start is just buy a cheap thermometer and place in your oven. Turn oven light on and crack the door so that the oven stays at a temperature of 85*F to 88* F.  That way you don’t have to buy anything else to take up space on your counter.

Items you’ll need:
Colander, small cook pot, stove, tempeh starter, small measuring spoon, towels on trays, medium mixing bowl, incubation Ziploc bags with holes or tray with holes in lid.

Step 1. Splitting the beans. To make good tempeh it is essential that all the hulls be removed from the soybeans. If you have split, dehulled beans, I recommend that you also soak the beans in hot water overnight as per instructions below for whole beans.  If you are splitting whole beans, follow instructions on page 10 of the Tempeh Cookbook. If you don’t have the cookbook, bring the beans to a boil then let the beans soak in hot water overnight. After at least 12 hours rub beans between your hands until hulls fall off. Some foaming may occur but don’t worry.  Put hulls and beans into pot of boiling water and skim off the hulls which will float to the top when cooking. Note: this is your chance to be anal. Leave no bean unsplit and spend some time getting all hulls possible out of the split beans (it is okay to have a few but they serve no purpose and can hurt quality of tempeh if there are too many).

Step 2. Cooking the beans. I recommend cooking at a full boil for 60 minutes then drain into a colander and let cool naturally for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally with a clean spoon.

Step 3. Cooling the beans.   This is a critical step.  The beans must be cooled and dried in order for the tempeh to work.  Several methods will work here. Place cooked beans on baking sheet lined with paper towels.  Knead cooled beans with several clean dry paper towels and let sit out for 20 minutes or place baking sheet in front of small fan for about 30 minutes. You don’t want the beans to be too dry (they will discolor or look brown), just want to take off excess water to give a nice dry, not shiny, but still yellow, not brown in appearance).  You can also dry with a hair dryer but again, don’t over do it.

Step 4.  Inoculate the beans.   Add one half teaspoon (3 ml) of vinegar to acidify the beans (optional). Mix thoroughly with clean spoon. Then add the tempeh starter (consult directions for amount) and mix again.

Step 5.  Place inoculated beans into incubation bags or trays.   If using trays fill tray, no more than ½ inch (1.25 cm) cover with tin foil or tight-fitting cover perforated with pin holes every cm or ½ (1.25 cm) inch.    If using bags, perforate the bags with a small pin or size 7 sewing needle or thumb tack on half inch (1.25 cm) centers.  Keep cakes at ½ inch or 1.25 cm  in total height.

Step 6.  Incubate. Place tempeh into incubator. I recommend incubating at 86oF (29oC) which gives you some room for error.   You never want the tempeh to get above 94oF (34oC) because other molds or bacteria prefer those temperatures.   The best tempeh comes from incubators with a steady temperature between 85oF and 88oF (29oC to 32oC)   Check your temperature every now and then for first couple of hours.  If it stays in this zone, you are probably okay for next 12 hours.   After 12 hours, the tempeh will start producing its own heat.   If you overload your incubator, this can lead to spoilage so I recommend that you start out small, with 8 oz (228 g) of dry beans which will make about 1 pound of tempeh.  You can crack the lid of the cooler or incubator to bring temperature down below 90*F (32*C)

Step 7.  Harvest. After 22 to 28 hours, your tempeh should be covered in dense white mold with a clean, mushroomy smell. Plastic bag tempeh will have the texture of a paperback book when you pick it up.  Very firm. Tray incubated tempeh (or “free range” tempeh, my favorite), will have a beautiful thick white mold growing on the top of it approx. 3/8” (9 mm) or higher.  Beads of water will be built up on top of the mold. Tempeh should be able to be cut into very thin (1/16”, 2 mm) strips and still hold together when it is done.

Step 8.  Spoilage. You will know your tempeh spoiled if you see any of the following problems:  slimy texture, weak growth that does not cover beans, any color other than black growing on mold (green aspergillus “bread mold” and pink pseudomonas “blood of Christ” mold are two common ones) or it may smell like soiled baby diapers (bacillus).   None of these molds are toxic but the tempeh should be discarded.

Finished tempeh can either be cooked lightly in oil (see for more tempeh cooking instructions) or frozen for future use. It can also be refrigerated and eaten within 3 days.

Basic Tempeh 101

This recipe serves as the basis for stir fries, pasta sauces, sandwich strips and many other uses. We use this recipe in our quality control program. It makes a great appetizer when served with ketchup or other dipping sauce.


8 ounces (228 g) of Soy Tempeh
1/2 cup (120 ml) soy sauce or tamari
2 cups (480 ml) water
1 teaspoon (5 ml) grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon (5 ml) fresh pureed garlic
1 Tablespoon (15 ml) toasted sesame oil


Slice tempeh into thin 1/4″ (7 mm) or less strips.
Marinate tempeh for 20 minutes or more in soy sauce, water, ginger, garlic and sesame oil.
Sauté in 2 Tablespoons (30 ml) oil (safflower or sesame work best). Or broil 5 minutes on each side.

Option: Add 2 cups chopped veggies and 1 cup water to pan.
Steam five minutes until veggies are soft.
Serve over rice or pasta with your favorite sauce.

Happy Tempeh making!
Good Quality Tempeh
Poor Quality Tempeh


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