Did you know that tempeh can be made from any type of lentil or bean? In fact, these other types of tempeh are so much easier to make than soybean tempeh, because they don’t involve the work of cracking and dehulling the soybeans. So, lentil or bean tempeh is perfect for beginners.
Making lentil and bean tempeh
I have already written a few posts on tempeh, so for this post, I am going to focus on how to specifically make lentil, chickpea, or bean tempeh. For information on the type of container to ferment in, and how to maintain the incubation temperature read my posts on sunflower seed tempeh or soybean tempeh.
Lentils tempeh isn’t as firm as other forms of tempeh. It has an earthy and rich flavor, so I usually serve lentil tempeh crumbled in tacos, on pasta, or as a layer in a lasagna. (It’s the dark grey/brown patty in the picture above).
How to prepare lentils for tempeh:
- Use whole lentils, not split lentils which tend to disappear when cooked.
- Boil lentils until just tender (about 15 minutes for brown, green or French lentils). The lentils need to hold their shape to create a nice firm tempeh.
- Lentils tend to hold onto a lot of extra moisture, so be sure to drain well, and continue stirring them while they cool so the excess moisture will evaporate.
Chickpea tempeh is very similar to soybean tempeh. It has a similar color, shape, and texture. The only trick to making chickpea tempeh is that you need to use small chickpeas, or it will be too difficult for the tempeh mold to penetrate the beans.
How to prepare chickpeas for tempeh:
- Buy the smallest chickpeas you can find (aim for the size of a soybean). Or sort through your chickpeas for the smallest ones.
- Soak the chickpeas for 6 to 8 hours.
- Boil the chickpeas until soft, but not mushy (about 30-40 minutes depending on the size of your chickpeas).
Bean tempeh is a lot of fun. Here’s where you get to be creative! Black beans will make dark grey tempeh. Navy or white beans make tan-colored tempeh. I like mixing my bean tempeh with a 1/4 cup of sunflower seeds or sesame seeds. The mix of seeds and beans gives the tempeh a delicious flavor and to turns it into a complete protein. The only trick to making bean tempeh is to avoid using beans that are too large or have thick skin as these will not culture very well. (See navy bean tempeh in the picture at the top of the post).
- Use small beans like black beans, black-eyed peas or mung beans. Large beans like kidney beans or great northern white beans won’t culture very well. Lima beans and broad beans have a thick skin which won’t allow the tempeh mold to grow.
- Soak the beans for 6 to 8 hours.
- Boil the beans until soft, but not mushy (about 50-75 minutes). If you are going to use sunflower seeds, boil them with the beans.
Lentils, Chickpeas and Bean Tempeh
Did you know that tempeh doesn’t always have to be made with soybeans? Tempeh can be made from all different types of beans and lentils. And bean tempeh is so much EASIER to make than soybean tempeh.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Yield: 2 cups 1x
- Category: Main Dish
- Method: Fermented
- Cuisine: Vegan
- Diet: Gluten Free
- 2 cups of dried beans or lentils
- 2 tbsp white vinegar
- 1 tsp tempeh starter
- Prepare the beans or lentils as described in the section above. They need to be cooked until soft, but not mushy.
- After cooking the lentils/beans, drain them, and allow them to cool to just above room temperature. Toss 3-4 times during the cooling process so that they dry as they cool.
- Mix in the vinegar, then sprinkle on your tempeh starter and mix well.
- Fill your fermentation container. See this post for details on what type of container to use.
- Incubate at approximately 88 F (31 C). I use this folding fermentation box (affiliate link).
- Check after 12 hours. At this point the mold will have started to grow and the tempeh will begin to generate its own heat. Depending on what you are using for incubation, you may need to lower the temperature. (The fermentation box will automatically keep it at the right temperature, but if you’re using a dehydrator or heat pad, you will need to adjust).
- The tempeh will be done sometime between 24 and 48 hours. It’s done when the mold has thickened the lentils/beans into a single dense patty. There might be some grey or black mold spores, but you want to stop incubation before there’s too a lot of spores.
- Store the tempeh in the fridge to curb fermentation. Either eat it raw within 3 days or steam it to completely halt the fermentation. (See notes for details).
- You can find tempeh spores online (affiliate link). If you plan on making lots of tempeh I recommend making your own tempeh starter.
- Black and gray spots may appear on the tempeh. These are the mold spores, and they are completely edible. Delicious tempeh should smell nutty and mushroomy. It might have a hint of ammonia, but it should never smell bad.
- To completely hault the fermentation, steam tempeh for 20 minutes. Steamed tempeh will last for 1 week in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer.
- The vinegar is necessary because it lowers the pH of the beans to the ideal level for tempeh mold.