Tempe, an Indonesian Soy-based Superfood

“There’s no Indonesian who doesn’t know about tempe”. That’s how we describe how special tempe is, especially to foreigners. But did we really know about tempe? What makes tempe special? And is there any other way to serve tempe? 

Let’s take a look!

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1. An Indegenous food from Indonesia

Tempe is a fermented food made of mainly soybeans and is a nutritious, affordable, and sustainable functional source of protein. It has been consumed as a staple source of protein for more than 300 years in Indonesia. Globally, tempe is a widely accepted fermented product.

According to researchers, The word “tempe” has been hypothesized to be derived from the word “tumpi,” a white ancient Javanese food made of sago flour that tempe resembled the appearance of (Purwadaria et al., 2016).

In terms of production, tempe was first made using soybeans wrapped in leaves, for example, banana, teak, or waru (Hibiscus spp.) leaves, suggesting that tempe might originate from an accidental inoculation of soybean by Rhizopus spp. mold on the leaf surface (Harahap et al., 2018; Winarno et al., 2017)

2. What makes it so special?

In Indonesia, tempe is known as a “low-class protein” food commodity because of  its low price, high supply, and accessibility for people across the country, including those who could not afford meat (Karyadi & Lukito, 1996)

But, the fact is tempe has been known as a source of significant amounts of protein, Vitamin B12, and bioactive compounds (Babu et al., 2009; Nout & Kiers, 2005).

Based on the nutritional analysis, tempe can be considered as a nutritious source of protein given the high protein content, high fiber content, low saturated fat content, mineral content, and vitamin content. According to the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), the average protein content is about 19 g in 100 g tempe. It means consuming tempe can help you to meet the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for protein nutrition that is about 60 g according to Perka BPOM No.9 Year 2016.

Compared to beef, tempe was observed not to be inferior and potentially more favorable in terms of protein, total fat, saturated fat, fiber, cholesterol, calcium, iron, and sodium content.

3. Tempe Day

In 2013, the Indonesian Tempe Forum (Forum Tempe Indonesia/FTI) proposed June 6th as the world Tempe Day. This date setting is based on two things, first because June 6th is the birthday of the first President of Indonesia, Ir. Soekarno. Second, June 6th was the day where Tempe House Indonesia (Rumah Tempe Indonesia/RTI) was inaugurated in Bogor. So FTI was eager to set June 6th as World Tempe Day.

Ir. Soekarno once delivered a speech that told Indonesian people to not become a “tempe nation”, to motivate the Indonesian people not to be trampled on by other nations. This refers to the process of making tempeh, namely stripping the skin of soybeans by being stepped on before fermenting. 

Source : https://hmpg.che.itb.ac.id/index.php/2021/06/06/artifacts-hari-tempe-nasional

4. New "Shape" of Tempe

We usually serve tempe fried, stir fried, or dried. But have you ever imagined another way to serve tempe? It turns out there are many tempe recipe ideas on the internet that you can try. Here are some of them!

BBQ Tempe with Broccoli and Guacamole Bowl

Photo by : @Cookingforpeanuts


5. Make yourself Tempe at Home

Instead of buying tempe, you can try to make tempe at home with an easy method! Here’s a  reference for you to try!



As a young generation, it’s our duty to keep and develop this culinary heritage!

References :


Amadeus Driando Ahnan-Winarno, Florentinus Gregorius Winarno, John Gibbons, Lorraine Cordeiro, Hang Xiao. (2021). Tempeh: A semi-centennial review on its health benefits, fermentation, safety, processing, sustainability, and affordability. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety. 20(2) : 1717-1767.


 Babu, P. D., Bhakyaraj, R., & Vidhyalakshmi, R. (2009). A low cost nutritious food “tempeh”-A review. World Journal of Dairy & Food Sciences, 4(1), 22–27.

Harahap, R. H., Lubis, Z., & Kaban, J. (2018). Volatile flavor compounds of tempeh wrapped with banana leaf and plastic. Agritech – Jurnal Teknologi Pertanian, 38(2), 194–199.

Karyadi, D., & Lukito, W. (1996). Beneficial effects of tempeh in disease prevention and treatment. Nutrition Reviews, 54(11), S94–S98.

Nout, M. J. R., & Kiers, J. L. (2005). Tempe fermentation, innovation and functionality: Update into the third millennium. Journal of Applied Microbiology, 98(4), 789–805. https://doi.org/10.1002/jsfa.2740580308

Purwadaria, H. K., Fardiaz, D., Kardono, L. B. S., & McElhatton, A. (2016). Tempe from traditional to modern practices. In A. McElhatton & M. El Idrissi (Eds.), Modernization of traditional food processes and products (pp. 145-160). Berlin, Germany: Springer.

Winarno, F.G., Winarno,W., & Ahnan-Winarno,A.D. (2017). Tempe – kumpulan fakta menarik berdasarkan penelitian. Jakarta, Indonesia: Gramedia Pustaka Utama

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