Tempeh, which is made from fermented soybeans, is becoming increasingly popular as more people turn towards a plant-based diet.
It’s a staple in Indonesian cuisine but is popular among vegetarians and vegans as it is an alternative source of lean protein that makes an ideal substitute for pork and beef thanks to its salty and meaty texture.
Tempeh usually only lasts a week in the refrigerator, so it can sometimes feel like a race against the clock to consume it while it's fresh.
However, tempeh can be frozen and freezes very well as it is frozen during processing, with many tempeh products sold frozen to preserve freshness. However, you shouldn’t refreeze any leftovers, as this will result in a change in flavor and texture.
Keen to learn more about how to freeze tempeh and keep it as fresh as possible? Keep reading and we’ll explain how…
How to freeze tempeh
Freezing tempeh really couldn’t be easier. If you’re freezing unopened packs of the stuff, simply place these in the freezer and remove them whenever you’re ready to use them.
If you’ve already opened the pack and want to freeze leftovers, then you’ll need to wrap the tempeh in a double layer of cling wrap, ensuring none of it is exposed and that it’s wrapped tightly to lock the freshness in.
Then you can put it in a freezer bag - squeezing out any excess air from the bag - before placing it into the freezer. It’s a good idea to write the date on the front so you know how long it’s been frozen.
How to defrost tempeh
Defrosting tempeh couldn’t be easier. Simply transfer the frozen tempeh onto a plate and leave it in the refrigerator to thaw overnight. Once thawed, you can cook the tempeh and add it to your favorite recipes.
You can also thaw tempeh by steaming it for about 5 minutes or defrosting in the microwave for one minute on high. You should then leave it to cool before cooking.
If you’re adding the tempeh straight to a recipe, there’s no need to thaw it out first, as you can cook it either from frozen or after thawing.
Things to consider before freezing tempeh
Types of Tempeh
Fresh frozen tempeh
This is rare in the US and is most commonly found in Indonesian food stores.
This type of tempeh is frozen fresh and should be pre-cooked for at least 20 minutes to relax the patty and enable it to absorb more flavors during cooking.
This is more common in the US, particularly in supermarkets and health stores, as it has a longer shelf life than freshly frozen tempeh.
It doesn’t require pre-cooking so it’s far more convenient and can simply be cooked straight away or frozen to prolong freshness. It’s advised that you don’t eat it raw though as it will have a naturally bitter aftertaste.
How Long Will it Last?
So long as you store your tempeh correctly in the freezer, it’ll last as long as 6 months, and some people insist it will last longer.
It’s great to have a supply of tempeh in the freezer as it’s nutritious and a great meat substitute for vegetarians and vegans alike, though it’s a good idea to label your tempeh with the date you froze it on so you can be sure of how long it’s been frozen.
Can it Go Bad?
Yep, tempeh can go bad, as, like most food, it’s not going to last forever.
It can be pretty tricky to tell when tempeh has gone bad though, as the fermentation process it goes through causes white molds to grow over it anyway.
However, these white molds that are present when you first buy tempeh are perfectly normal and are the reason for it being packed full of probiotics. Probiotics promote the growth of good bacteria in the digestive system and have many health benefits.
Because of this, knowing when tempeh is no longer edible can be tricky. Your best bet is to freeze it in its original packaging so it is not exposed to the air at all, or freeze it as soon as possible and keep it securely wrapped in the freezer. And of course, use it as soon as possible, and no later than nine months after freezing.
The tell-tale signs for knowing your tempeh has gone bad are discoloration, changes to texture, slimy liquids, and any weird smells. Your tempeh should be firm to touch and shouldn’t have any strong, strange smell.
What Can I Use Tempeh For?
If you’re new to tempeh, it can seem a little strange at first and it can be difficult to know what to do with it. However, tempeh is a nutritious source of protein and is great for all sorts of meals.
There are endless options, but a few ideas are BBQ sandwiches, curries, chili, and even as a bacon substitute in dishes such as carbonara. Find more examples here.
Tempeh is very easily frozen and can either be frozen in its original, unopened packaging or can be wrapped in cling wrap and sealed in a freezer bag to ensure it isn’t left exposed.
Defrosting couldn’t be simpler: either leave the tempeh to thaw overnight in the refrigerator or cook straight from frozen if you’re adding it to a recipe.
Tempeh will only keep for a week to ten days in the refrigerator, however, it’ll last for months in the freezer, the main thing is to freeze it as soon as possible after purchasing to ensure it remains as fresh as possible.
You should also look out for any changes in the texture, smell, and color of the tempeh if you’ve kept it for a particularly long time.
We hope this article has been helpful. Tempeh is a fantastic meat substitute and source of protein that can add flavor, texture, and nutritional value to any meal.
Plus freezing ensures you can enjoy the same level of freshness as the day you brought it home from the store.