Make Tempeh in Your Instant Pot!

Fresh tempeh right out of the Instant Pot!


In my quest to eliminate plastic packaging from our food, one item eluded me—tempeh! I’ve figured out firm tofu, silken tofu, soy milk, yogurt, and more, but I just couldn’t figure out how to do that with tempeh. Every reference I found said to ferment the tempeh in plastic zip lock bags. Some said to use banana leaves to avoid plastic, but banana trees don’t grow in Seattle so the only leaves I can get come in plastic bags from an Asian market freezer!

Then I watched a video from Love Your Belly Foods. They made their chickpea tempeh in a 9×13 glass baking dish, no plastic bag, no banana leaves! While they used a seed starting mat to ferment their tempeh, I wondered if I could do that in the Instant Pot, like I do to make my yogurt. I’d seen people making tempeh in ziplock bags in the Instant Pot, so I figured it was conceivable. Well…it works! You can make plastic-free tempeh in your Instant Pot! (Disclaimer, there is a little mylar plastic bag for the innoculant, but that’s significantly less plastic than when I buy tempeh at the store.)

It takes several days to make tempeh, but OMG, it makes the best tempeh you have ever tasted! I’m not kidding, we ate it right out of the Instant Pot when it was done, even before cooking with it! Its so worth making!

The Set Up

Here’s what you need:

  • An Instant Pot or other electric pressure cooker with the Yogurt setting (any of the Duo line, Viva, Ultra, Smart WiFi, or Max). Some Instant Pots don’t have the Yogurt setting and it’s necessary for this.
  • A trivet that fits in the bottom to hold your pans over water. I use the one that came with my Instant Pot.
  • Pans that fit inside the Instant Pot. My two 8¼-inch hand-me-down cake pans from my grandmother fit perfectly! You can buy stacking pans made to go into the Instant Pot but I’m all for using what you have.
  • Something to stack the pans, if you’re doing more than one pan of tempeh at a time (this recipe makes two 8¼-inch pans of tempeh, so halve the recipe if you don’t want to stack pans). I didn’t have another trivet, so I cut two bamboo skewers to fit to make a platform over the bottom pan. They worked great!
  • Tempeh starter culture. (More on that in a bit)

Soaking and Pre-fermenting the Soybeans

I decided to use whole soybeans for my tempeh. You can use all kinds of different beans and even grains, but I started with traditional soy tempeh. Love Your Belly Foods suggested a long soak before cooking your beans for tempeh so that they have an additional ferment to make them even more digestible and more flavorful. I soaked 2½ cups of dried soybeans in water for 2 days and they started to grow a little sprout, which is great! Sprouted beans and grains are much more digestible. They should be soaked for at least 12 hours. Use a big bowl with lots of water as the beans will expand!

Hull the Soybeans

Hulls from the soaked soybeans.

After soaking, the outer skin, or hull, loosens up. It’s the same thing as the skin on the outside of a soaked or cooked chickpea. It’s kinda fibrous and doesn’t make for great tempeh, so we want to remove as much as we can. Use your hands to massage the soaked beans to loosen the hulls and pull those off to compost. A lot of people find this part tedious, but I just kinda zenned out and enjoyed it. You don’t have to get every single hull off, just get what floats loose. If you don’t want to have to hull the soybeans, you can start with split and peeled soybeans instead of whole ones.

You can see the little sprout.

Cook the Soybeans

Cover with water in your Instant Pot.

Drain and rinse your beans really well and pour into your Instant Pot. Cover the beans with fresh water and cook on High Pressure for 40 minutes with a natural pressure release.

Drain the cooked soybeans really well and then spread out onto towels to dry. You can pat them off with towels and leave to dry off for about 30 minutes or use a hair dryer on low to speed up the process. It’s important that the soybeans are dry.

Drying the cooked soybeans. These are still damp and need a little more time.

Adding the Starter Culture

Roughly mash some of your soybeans.

Once your soybeans are dry, put them into a bowl and cool until lukewarm (about 95-98°F). Add 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, or other light-flavored vinegar, and mix well so it’s well-incorporated. Then use a potato masher and mash so about half of the beans are mashed. This helps the tempeh culture get into the soybeans.

Half mashed soybeans. Perfect!

Then sprinkle with tempeh starter culture (the packet I use has about 1 teaspoon of starter in it) and mix well so that the starter is completely distributed throughout.

I use tempeh starter from Northwest Ferments which I can get with my Azure Standard order.

This is the starter I use, from Northwest Ferments.

Set up in the Instant Pot

Now divide the prepared soybeans into your two pans that fit inside your Instant Pot. Pack the beans well with a spatula into a firm cake. You want about a 1-inch thick cake, the thickness you’re used to buying.

2 cups of soybeans are perfect for 2 8-inch cake pans.

Put a cup of water in the bottom of the Instant Pot and then your trivet. Put in the first pan, then top with a trivet or bamboo skewers.

This first pan is on a trivet over a cup of water.

Carefully place the second pan on top, set right on the bamboo skewers, or second trivet, if you have one.

Second pan goes right on top.

Put on the lid. The vent position doesn’t matter.

This next step is important. You need to put the Instant Pot into Less Yogurt Mode. Plug in the Instant Pot and hit the Yogurt button three times so it’s set on “Less.” Set the timer for 36 hours. Yep, it will actually go that many! It’s going to take about 36-48 hours to grow the mycelium throughout your soybeans to turn it into tempeh. You definitely want to time this for when you aren’t planning on needing the pressure cooker for a bit.

Make sure you use LESS yogurt mode!

Incubating the Tempeh

And now you just walk away and let it do its thing!

16 Hours

After 16 hours, white fuzz just starts to appear:

16 hours in, you can just barely see fuzzy white mycelium.

24 Hours

Lots more fuzz at 24 hours!

At this point I carefully rotated the pans from top to bottom as they were progressing at different rates.

31 Hours

Lots of fuzz!

One of my skewers slipped and pressed into the tempeh, but its all good. Do be careful not to drip water that collects under the Instant Pot lid onto the growing mycelium, it hinders its growth. The bare spots are where I dribbled water on the developing tempeh. Do rotate the pans occasionally if you see one pan growing faster than another.

36 Hours Later—And Its Done!

Beautiful tempeh!

The mycelium grew thick and lush, except for the spots where I dripped water from the lid and the bamboo skewer fell in. There’s still mycelium under the surface holding it all together.

I was concerned that the tempeh would stick to the cake pan.  I ran a knife around the edges, set the cutting board on top and flipped it over—it came right out beautifully, completely intact.

Running a spatula around the edge.

Sliced fresh tempeh!

It was so good that we ate a bunch right off the cutting board! I don’t know about you, but I’ve never liked the taste of raw tempeh I’d bought at the store. This is delicious, tender, and sweet.

Blackened tempeh.

We added some of my Blackening Seasoning and cooked them up for Blackened Tempeh Tacos.

Blackened Tempeh Tacos on Spinach and Sweet Potato Tortillas.

This made two big rounds of tempeh, way more than we usually buy. Your fresh tempeh will last about 4 days in the refrigerator unless you pasteurize it (described next). So I put one chunk into a glass freezer container and popped it in the freezer for later. Tempeh freezes beautifully, up to six months. Simply move the dish into the refrigerator and use within a day or two (don’t refreeze it).

You can pasteurize your tempeh to keep it from continuing to ripen in the refrigerator. This will keep it more sweet and prevent the growth of any other microorganisms that may have gotten into your tempeh. To do this, before removing the tempeh from the pans when you take them out of the Instant Pot, cover them with an oven-safe lid and bake for 30 minutes at 180°F. Cool and refrigerate. This will extend the time you can keep the tempeh in the refrigerator up to 7 to 14 days.

So is it worth spending five days on making tempeh? HECK YEAH! Most of the time is hands-off, so it’s not time-consuming. The only down-side is not being able to use the Instant Pot for 3 days. This is the best tasting tempeh I’ve ever had, and its guilt-free without all the plastic! Give it a try and let me know how it goes for you.

**Update**

You can watch Cindy demonstrate how to make this tempeh in this class during Bellingham Veg Fest!

I’m planning on trying some other beans and even some grain combinations to share!

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5 from 3 votes

Tempeh in Your Instant Pot

If you've got an Instant Pot with the Yogurt function, you've got the perfect vessel to make tempeh in! It'll be the best tasting tempeh you've ever had!
Course Dinner, Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine Gluten-Free, Indonesian, Oil-Free, WFPB, Whole Food Plant Based, Zero Waste
Keyword Tempeh
Total Time 5 days
Author Cindy Thompson, Trimazing! Health & Lifestyle Coaching

Ingredients

  • cups soy beans whole or split
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar rice wine vinegar, or other light vinegar
  • 1 packet tempeh starter Northwest Ferments or other brand, about 1½ teaspoons

Instructions

  • Soak soybeans in a large bowl with lots of water for at least 12 hours, up to 48.
  • Massage the soaked beans in water and remove as much of the outer hulls as you can. If using split soy beans, skip this step as they have already been de-hulled.
  • Pour de-hulled soybeans into the Instant Pot and cover with fresh water. Set for 40 minutes at High Pressure and do a natural pressure release.
  • Drain the cooked soybeans thoroughly and spread onto towels to dry. Leave to dry 30 minutes or use a hairdryer on low to speed things up.
  • Put dried cooked beans into a bowl, cool to lukewarm (95-98°F). Add vinegar and mix thoroughly.
  • Mash soybeans with a potato masher until half of the beans are mashed.
  • Sprinkle tempeh starter over and mix well so it is evenly distributed.
  • Divide prepared soybeans into two pans that fit inside your Instant Pot. Pack down well with a spatula into a firm cake, about 1 inch thick.
  • Add 1 cup of water into the Instant Pot and install a trivet. Place the first pan in, install a second trivet or bamboo skewers trimmed to fit over the first pan, then place the second pan on top.
  • Put the lid on the Instant Pot, vent in any position. Plug in the Instant Pot and hit the Yogurt button three times until it displays "Less." Set the timer for 36 hours.
  • Let the tempeh incubate for 24-36 hours. Rotate the top and bottom pans to even out mycelium growth. Take care not to drip water from the Instant Pot lid when removing it.
  • Tempeh is done when it is fully covered with a thick layer of mycelium. Remove from pan and refrigerate up to fours days or freeze for 6°months.

Notes

You can pasteurize your tempeh to keep it from continuing to ripen in the refrigerator. This will keep it more sweet and prevent the growth of any other microorganisms that may have gotten into your tempeh. To do this, before removing the tempeh from the pans when you take them out of the Instant Pot, cover them with an oven-safe cover and bake for 30 minutes at 180°F.
Cool and refrigerate. This will extend the time you can keep the tempeh in the refrigerator up to 7 to 14 days.

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6 Comments

  1. Dilip Barman on May 20, 2020 at 12:56 am

    Wow, Cindy, that sounds great. I had a few questions.

    * I occasionally cook with fava beans and have problems removing the skins; do the skins come out easier from well soaked soybeans?

    * For my homemade soymilk, I use Laura’s soybeans. We prefer organic, but when I started making my own milk a year or two ago, I read in a number of places that Laura’s soybeans are the best and that they do minimal spraying and no spraying after the crops germinate. However, we’ve found organic soybeans locally and have been using them; the Laura’s does come out better, but the ones we’ve found recently still make good milk. Do you have any recommendations on the kinds of soybeans that work well for tempeh?

    * Are there alternatives for tempeh starter or is the starter quite specific? I know that there are different kinds of tempeh like hemp and chickpea, so perhaps there are different starters. If I could use my soy yogurt I make in the Instant Pot, that would be great, but I bet it’s a very different kind of culture.

    * It looks like just doing one pan would work fine, no?

    I’ve never even thought of making my own tempeh, but maybe I should! I also don’t like it raw but love it cooked. My elementary school-aged daughter enjoys tofu but not tempeh, but maybe she’d like this. Thanks for sharing!

    • Cindy Thompson, Trimazing! Health & Lifestyle Coaching on May 20, 2020 at 9:21 am

      Thanks for you questions, Dilip!

      1. Yes, the soybean skins are easier to remove than fava beans. These are more akin to chickpea skins and really loosen with soaking. After soaking, you drain, add new water and agitate the soaked beans with your hands, just dunking your hands in, massaging the beans by squeezing handfuls and releasing, and a lot of the skins come right off. They kind of float and you pull them off. I do this massage and removal of floating skins about four times and then remove a handful of beans at a time, grab and discard any loose skins, and put those beans in the Instant Pot for cooking. You don’t have to get all the skins off, it’s ok. Some more skins will come off when cooked in the Instant Pot, and you’ll pull those out after draining as well.

      2. I use certified organic soybeans from Azure Standard, a drop ship bulk supplier (you can read more about my experience using Azure Standard here), because I can get a 25 pound paper sack from them. They have worked well for me for soy milk, firm and silken tofu, and tempeh.

      3. The starter is specific. Tempeh is cultured with the rhizopus fungus (either Rhizopus oryzae or R. oligosporus), regardless of the type of bean or grain you are using. It is very different than yogurt culture, which is bacteria-based (bifidobacterium, lactobacillus, etc.). As the rhizopus fungus grows in the tempeh, other fungi, yeasts, and lactobacillus bacteria grow as well, making tempeh a fungal ferment. Yogurt culture will not make tempeh, it is very specific. I like NW Ferments tempeh culture, because it’s from my local area, but it is also available nationwide.

      4. Yes, one pan would work, however, you don’t want the tempeh over 1″ thick (think typical store-bought tempeh thickness), as the density blocks oxygen and can inhibit fungal growth to an anaerobic state in the center. You may have to change the amounts of beans, vinegar, and culture to accommodate one pan. I tend to make a bunch of something at a time and freeze the excess to maximize output and minimize time! There was space in the Instant Pot for two pans, so I used it. But it’s not necessary to make that much if you don’t want to.

      We thought it was much better tasting than store-bought. I typically steam or simmer commercial tempeh before using, which helps assuage that raw flavor. This we could eat right out of the Instant Pot before cooking. I hope you try it!

  2. Nancy Scott on May 23, 2020 at 8:12 pm

    I’d like to make tempeh with white beans. Would the instant pot recipe be different? Also what is a trivet?

    • Cindy Thompson, Trimazing! Health & Lifestyle Coaching on May 23, 2020 at 8:32 pm

      Hi Nancy! I’ve not used white beans but it should work. You just may need to adjust the cook time on the soaked beans because you don’t want them fully cooked soft, more al dente. The trivet can be the wire stand that came with your Pressure cooker that fits inside the pot, like this:

  3. Laura Van Deusen on July 2, 2020 at 6:22 am

    5 stars
    Cindy, Thank you so much for these clear, concise directions for using the IP for tempeh. I followed them and now have 2 beautiful and delicious rounds of tempeh. Who knew it was so easy?! I bought 2 silicone 8″ cake pans, and used the 2 IP trivets that I have. When they were finished I pasteurized one of the rounds. I made some tempeh bacon, and today will make a tempeh sloppy Joe. I can’t wait to try this with other types of beans, too. Thank you!

    • Cindy Thompson, Trimazing! Health & Lifestyle Coaching on July 2, 2020 at 8:03 am

      That’s so wonderful to hear, Laura! Thank you for letting me know how it went and I’m excited to hear how your foray into other beans goes as well!

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