How to Make Tempeh with Black Eyed Peas

by Kaitlynn Fenley

Tempeh is such a wonderful and unique way to prepare peas, beans, and other legumes. Use this recipe to learn how to make tempeh with black eyed peas. This tempeh has a light earthy flavor and pairs well with any recipe that calls for tempeh.

The History of Tempeh

Tempeh got its start in Indonesia, and it’s essentially just tender cooked legumes bound together by a dense mycelium of white Rhizopus mold. In Java, Indonesia tempeh originated as a byproduct of tofu and soybean oil manufacturing. When food crafters would press oils from nuts and seeds and liquids from soybeans, the resulting waste products were fibrous and dense seed, bean, and nut cakes that were to be discarded. This soybean waste is called okara. It’s speculated that the okara got contaminated with fungi used for soy sauce production. Accidentally inoculating okara waste with fungi brought about a protein-packed, fiber-rich food that is quite delicious… and quite economical. So, accident or not, if you love tempeh you can thank Indonesia for this delicious food!

Eating Tempeh for Gut Health

Now, this fermented food isn’t exactly probiotic because we cook tempeh before eating it. However, the fermentation process of tempeh is very beneficial for gut health.

The tempeh fermentation process helps to remove phytic acid from legumes making them easier to digest. The elimination of phytic acid through the fermentation process also means that the legumes will cause less gas production in the gut (so yes, you will fart less haha). I should note here, that cooking also reduces phytic acid in beans. So beans don’t have to be fermented to be good for you.

Tempeh is great for people transitioning to a more plant-based diet for the first time. Shifting the diet to more beans and legumes as protein sources can sometimes cause bloating and gas initially. However, these side effects are significantly less likely with tempeh since it is fermented. The Rhizopus fungi that ferment the legumes into tempeh also make nutrients and vitamins from the legumes more readily available.

Dehulling the Black Eyed Peas

I like soaking my legumes for about 12 hours. After saoking, I put the legumes in a bowl of cold water. Then I just rub them between my hands in the water until a lot of the hulls float to the top. The hulls are easily poured off. You don’t have to remove every single hull, the tempeh will still come out fine, especially since the hulls on black eyed peas are so thin. More hulls will come off when you cook the peas too.

When cooking, you want them to be tender but not mushy. The legumes should be firmer than if you were cooking them to eat right away. It’s important to not overcook.

someone holding tempeh made with black eyed peas

Drying Out the Black Eyed Peas

For this fermentation to come out delicious and safe to eat, you have to dry the peas that you just cooked. Do NOT put them in a dehydrator or anything, you are not trying to dry them out that much. I like to spread the cooked legumes out on a clean sheet pan lined with a clean towel and let them air dry for about 2-4 hours. Sometimes I’ll use a blow drier and blow hot air under the towel holding the peas to speed this process up.

The cooked legumes have to be more on the dry side, and the material the tempeh is wrapped in has to be breathable (either with holes or made from a porous material). The breathable material provides oxygen to the aerobic fungi, and in tandem with dryness prevents anaerobic spoilage microorganisms, like Bacillus spp. and Clostridium spp. These are the worst contaminant that we need to worry about with tempeh. These contaminants usually result from too much heat and too much moisture. You’ll know if the tempeh hasn’t fermented properly when you smell it. It’s very hard to miss.

Tempeh Starter Culture

Let’s talk a little bit about the fungus that makes tempeh! It’s called Rhizopus and it’s a pretty cool fungus. Rhizopus is a genus of filamentous fungi that are commonly found in nature, on food, and in association with animals. Rhizopus fungi are characterized by a body of branching mycelia composed of three types of hyphae: stolons, rhizoids, and usually unbranching sporangiophores. This complex mycelium is what holds tempeh together in a uniform, dense mass. Multiple species of Rhizopus can be used to make tempeh, but the most common species used is R. oryzae. CLICK HERE for the starter culture I like to use.

Equipment and Supplies for Making Tempeh with Black Eyed Peas

You have to tightly wrap the cultured legume mixture in a bag or something similar. Honestly, I absolutely HATE using plastic to make tempeh. I think the most problems arise when plastic is used because the plastic holds too much condensation and moisture. This leads to nasty results and undesirable microbial growth.

Banana Leaves work best since they are porous and you can sometimes find these at the Asian market. Another option is bamboo leaves. You can also use a plastic bag with holes poked in it (my least favorite), or cheesecloth (but you’ll have to wrap with a few layers and discard it after). You’ll also need something heavy like a large cutting board or a textbook to press the legume mixture into a dense cake. If you need to use a plastic bag, I suggest using plastic bulk section bags from the store like the one pictured here. I have a few of these bags from grocery store trips in which I forgot to bring my reusable bulk section containers. I get really great results using these because they’re more porous than a ziplock.

Recipes to Try with Tempeh

pieces of black eyed pea tempeh
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How to Make Tempeh with Black Eyed Peas

Tempeh is such a wonderful and unique way to prepare peas, beans, and other legumes. Use this recipe to learn how to make tempeh with black eyed peas. This tempeh has a light earthy flavor and pairs well with any recipe that calls for tempeh.

  • Author: Kaitlynn Fenley
  • Prep Time: 60 minutes
  • Fermentation Time: 72 hours
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 73 hours 15 minutes
  • Yield: 12 servings 1x
  • Category: Fermented Foods
  • Method: Fermentation
  • Cuisine: Indonesian
  • Diet: Vegan

Ingredients

Scale
  • 300 grams black eyed peas, dry
  • 30 milliliters distilled vinegar
  • 1 packet (1 teaspoon) tempeh starter culture

Instructions

  1. Soak the peas in water for about 8- 12 hours. 
  2. After soaking, rinse the peas a few times. Then add to a bowl of cold water. Rub the peas in between your hands to remove the hulls. The peas may break in half, and that’s perfectly fine. You do not need to remove every single hull.
  3. Add the peas to a stockpot.  
  4. Cover with water so that the water level is about two inches above the peas. 
  5. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
  6. Cook over medium heat, uncovered, for about 15-30 minutes. Check the peas every five minutes to see when they’re tender. You want them to be tender, but not as soft as canned beans.  Using a slotted spoon, remove any hulls that float to the top while boiling
  7. Once tender, drain the peas.  
  8. Spread the cooked peas out on a clean sheet pan lined with a clean towel to dry out for about two hours. You want the peas to be dry to the touch, but still tender. *see notes
  9. In a clean mixing bowl add the cooked peas, vinegar, and tempeh starter. Mix well.
  10. Place the tempeh mixture on a banana leaf, in a plastic bag (non-ideal), or on some cheesecloth. If using a plastic bag, press all of the air out of the bag to create a tightly packed, rectangular mass. Poke holes in the bag with a toothpick because the tempeh mixture needs oxygen. If you are using a banana leaf or cheesecloth arrange the mixture into a rectangle on top of the leaf or cloth, then fold over the leaf or cheesecloth to wrap it like a package around the mixture. It should be a tightly secured rectangular shape. Secure closed with twine. *If using cheesecloth, make sure to wrap it in a few layers of cloth so that it’s “breathable”, but not too much. 
  11. Place the wrapped tempeh mixture between two small cutting boards, or place on a cutting board and set a slightly heavy book on top. Keep it in a warm place for 12 hours. Ideally, tempeh should be at 85 to 91° F for 24 hours, then at 60-75° F for 24 more hours. *see notes on incubation
  12. After 12 hours the tempeh should be generating its own heat. This is part of the fermentation process. Remove from the warm location and set at room temperature for another 24-36 hours.
  13. Unwrap the tempeh, and you have a few options for storage. 
    1. You can vacuum seal, boil, then store in the fridge or freezer. This is how you get store-bought level tempeh. 
    2. You can just refrigerate and eat within 7 days. 
    3. You can cook and season it all, and store it as a meal-prep in the fridge for 7 days. This is best for keeping the flavor nice. 

Notes

*If you find that your beans are still kind of wet after the drying period, add two small spoonfuls of rice flour to the mixture to dry it out. (must be rice flour specifically)

*If you have an instant pot with a yogurt setting, you can set it to the low temperature for 91° F and place the tempeh on a rack in the instant pot for the first 24 hours, then move to room temperature for the last 24-48 hours.  

Keywords: tempeh, vegan, black eyed peas

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