Homemade sunflower seed tempeh is nutty and delicious. It is the perfect vegetarian and vegan protein. Since it is firmer and crunchier than traditional soybean tempeh, it is great for barbecues, stir-fries and sandwiches.
Basic tempeh information
- Culture: Look for tempeh spores at an Indonesian grocery store or find it online. You only have to buy it once because it’s easy to make your own tempeh starter.
- Fermenting Container: Tempeh needs to be spread out in a 2 cm thick layer in a vented container for fermentation. If you plan on making a lot of tempeh invest in a plastic container, otherwise, use a plastic bag. Use a pushpin to poke holes at 1 cm intervals so the container/bag is properly vented.
- Incubation: Tempeh needs to be incubated at around 85-90 F. I use a folding fermentation box for all my heated ferments. Other options include: incubating in the oven with the light on, near a radiator or a hot water heater. You could use a dehydrator set to the right temperature. The only trick is to measure the temperature after 12 hours, because tempeh starts to self-generate heat as it ferments.
- 2 cups of hulled sunflower seeds
- 2 tbsp white vinegar
- 1 tsp tempeh starter
- Bring the sunflower seeds to a boil and simmer until the seeds are soft (about 1 hour).
- Drain the sunflower seeds and allow them to cool to just above room temperature.
- Mix the vinegar with the sunflower seeds (to lower the pH so that unwanted bacteria won't grow).
- Sprinkle on the tempeh starter and mix well.
- Fill your fermentation container.
- Incubate at approximately 88 F (31 C).
- Check the seeds after 12 hours. At this point the mold will have started to grow and the seeds will start generating their own heat. Depending on what you are using for incubation, you may need to lower the temperature.
- The tempeh will be done sometime between 24 and 48 hours. It's done when the mold has thickened the sunflower seeds into a single dense mass. (There might be some grey or black mold too, but you want to stop incubation before there's too much black mold.)
- Refrigerate for up to 1 week. See notes below for information on how to steam tempeh.
-Black and gray spots may appear on the tempeh. These are the mold spores, and they are completely edible. The tempeh should smell nutty, mushroomy and it might have a hint of ammonia. I have never had a tempeh failure, however, if your tempeh smells bad, is mushy or slimy then throw it out.
– In general, it is tastier if you stop fermentation before the tempeh starts to spore. However, if you want to save mold spores for future batches, you can find instructions here.
Raw tempeh is creamy and delicious. The mold is reminiscent of Brie or Camembert. Fresh tempeh needs to be eaten with 3-5 days, because the mold will continue to grow, even in the refrigerator.
Generally tempeh steamed before eating. Steamed tempeh will last for a week in the fridge and it can also be frozen for up to three months. Steam tempeh either in whole blocks or cut into smaller chunks for 20 minutes. You can steam in a steaming basket or in a metal colander over a pot of boiling water.
Here’s a close up of freshly steamed sunflower seed tempeh.