Make Tempeh in Your 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
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.
Cook the Soybeans
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.
Adding the Starter Culture
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.
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.
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.
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.
Carefully place the second pan on top, set right on the bamboo skewers, or second trivet, if you have one.
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.
Incubating the Tempeh
And now you just walk away and let it do its thing!
After 16 hours, white fuzz just starts to appear:
At this point I carefully rotated the pans from top to bottom as they were progressing at different rates.
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!
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.
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.
We added some of my Blackening Seasoning and cooked them up for Blackened Tempeh Tacos.
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.
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!
Tempeh in Your Instant Pot
- 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.
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: three times better than amazing
Cindy wants you to be Trimazing—three times better than amazing! After improving her health and fitness through plant-based nutrition, losing 60 pounds and becoming an adult-onset athlete, she retired from her 20-year firefighting career to help people just like you. She works with people and organizations so they can reach their health and wellness goals. Cindy Thompson is a certified Health Coach, Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, and Firefighter Peer Fitness Trainer. She is a Food for Life Instructor with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and Rouxbe Plant-Based Professional, and Harvard Medical School Culinary Coach, teaching people how to prepare delicious, satisfying, and health-promoting meals.
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