How to grow your own tempeh

I’ve been growing my own tempeh for almost six months now and have the bugs almost ironed out of the equipment, the ingredients and the process. It’s more hassle than buying it from the shop but the flavour is much better (think aged cheddar versus laughing cow cheese) and it is far cheaper. So, for those of you interested: here’s what I do.
  • Incubator that will keep a steady temperature of between 29 – 32 C. See here for a good simple design using a fish tank heater and an esky. The image above shows a setup almost identical to mine, except I don’t use an air bubbler (I haven’t needed to) and I wrap my esky up in a blanket.
  • Either perforated sandwich bags (in a 15 mm grid) or a large rimmed tray with a minimum 100 mm in height – large enough that you can spread out your soybeans to a thickness of 20-30 mm .
(to make around 1 kilo of tempeh)
  • 500 grams dry soy beans
  • 2 tablespoons white or apple cider vinegar
  • 0.5 teaspoon tempeh culture. You can buy 200 grams on ebay here for around $20 AUD – enough to make 80 kilos of tempeh.
  1. Soak soy beans overnight and then hull and split them so that the skins are off. This is the most time consuming part of the job. If you can find hulled split soybeans, it’s worth the extra dollars.
  2. Boil them until they are just soft (you wouldn’t consider them edible)
  3. Before boiling, set up your incubator so it is warm and ready (29 – 32 C is the magic range)
  4. Drain and cool them until they are warm (29 – 32 C is the magic range)
  5. Drizzle the vinegar over and mix through. This will limit the growth of unwanted bugs until the tempeh establishes itself.
  6. Mix in the starter
  7. You can pop the soybeans into perforated sandwich bags or layer out them to about 20-30 mm thick in a pan. I started with bags and have moved to a pan as it is less work. The perforation and thickness is important as tempe likes air-flow. This is why some setups have an air-circulator as well.
  8. Incubate for between 24 – 48 hours or until dark spots begin to form. The dark spots are the start of tempe spores. If you keep incubating tempe long enough, you will get more and more of them which you can then use for the next batch.
  9. Eat immediately or freeze. It’ll keep fresh in the fridge for at least a couple of days.


  • You can use other pulses besides soybeans. I haven’t had a lot of success with them myself (my black bean tempe had to be thrown out) but many others have.
  • Apparently you can crumble a bit of fresh tempe into the next batch of soybeans and that should make another batch.
  • You can make more starter by incubating the tempe for longer until much of it is black, dehydrating the tempe and then processing it and mixing it with rice powder.

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