Home made soy and hemp tempeh: First attempt results

There are several things I enjoy about tempeh. The texture is nice an hearty and, unlike other concentrated sources of veggie protein, eating a chicken-breast sized chunk of tempeh is as filling and satisfying as eating a chicken breast.

What isn’t quite as great about tempeh is that its a little bland for my taste. There is something about soy that almost feels like an active non-taste. There are some commercial products that mix soy with other grains in a way that improves the taste… but lowers the protein content and raises the carbohydrate content; not ideal when attempting to use tempeh in place of meat.

But you know what other vegetable matter is high in protein? Hemp seed. Much like soy, hemp is a complete protein. As an extra bonus, hemp seeds are loaded with magnesium; most people’s diets is deficient in this mineral. This is unfortunately since it’s just as, if not more critical, for your health than calcium. But more on that another time.

Thus, it seemed like a logical extension of standard tempeh would be a mix of soy beans and hemp seeds.

Unlike yogurt starter, which is available everywhere, tempeh starter is harder to come by. Fortunately, Cultures for Health carries five packs for $5, which is a darn good price considering that tempeh costs about $3-5 per 2 serving pack and each pack of tempeh starter can make between 5-20 comparable sized servings.

The project involved following instructions (for a change), with the exception that the starting mixture was 1 part cooked organic soybeans to 1 part raw organic hemp seeds.

Placed the mixture on  cookie sheet, making a layer about a quarter of an inch thick. Covered with a damp cheese cloth and into the oven it went to sit at about 80 degrees Fahrenheit. 

After 24 hours, there was hint of something going on.
By 36 hours, there was a pleasant ‘woodsy nuttish’ smell, with a slight ammonia undertone (as expected)
This is what it looked like from the top (sorry, cellphone camera for now):


And from the bottom:


Clearly, the mycelium preferred to be protected from oxygen and having access to more moisture than expected from the instructions that came with the tempeh starter.

Since the instructions said that the whole process might take 48 hours, I decided to let the project run to completion. This was a mistake. A minor one but the ammonia smell increased over the next 12 hours (fortunately it dissipated quickly) and the tempeh acquired a slight hint of bitterness.

But overall, I’m quite pleased with how this turned out. Because the cooked soybeans had been dried out a bit and the tempeh had a chance to breathe, it turned out much lighter than the store bought kind. Which meant that after being put into a soy/shittake broth, it soaked up some of the tasty goodness.

So far, the soy and hemp tempeh is as filling and satisfying to eat as the pure soy from the store. But tastier and more versatile. Plus my homemade tempeh is cheaper and more nutritious than the stuff from the store. All in all, this project is a win.

After I finish eating this batch, the next one will be made with chickpeas instead of soy beans. But the hemp seeds stay, that’s for sure.


5 thoughts on “Home made soy and hemp tempeh: First attempt results

    1. Brassica Somnifera Post author

      I know exactly what you are talking about. While, for me, fortunately, the weird aftertaste is minor enough as to not be much of an issue, one of the things that I might try to figure out is to see if that is a necessary component of tempeh or incidental to how it is usually made (time cultured, legumes used, etc).

  1. Michel

    Many instructions say that it should be wrapped in plastic/put in a ziploc with the air squeezed out – perhaps because of the preference for less oxygen? I’d be interested to see/hear how your future batches turn out.

    1. Brassica Somnifera Post author

      Certainly the more solid growth on the side not exposed to air would suggest that the culture prefers an oxygenless atmosphere. The exposed side was the part that “bloomed” and and produced spores, so I wonder if the wrapping it up is to keep the culture growing as much as possible on the medium before it tries to fly the coop. Also wonder if that bloom or the spores that it formed were what gave it that bitter. Intriguing.


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